State of the Browser Betas: A Technologizer Cheat Sheet

By  |  Thursday, December 4, 2008 at 12:02 pm

cheatsheetI’m hesitant to make any bold predictions about what 2009 will hold for technology, but this one seems profoundly safe: a lot of Web browser upgrades will ship. That’s because new versions of the current big five–Chrome, Firefox, IE, Opera, and Safari–are all in various stages of progress. And prerelease versions all except Safari are available for download right now. After the jump, a quick guide to what’s up with each of them. If you’ve been using any (or all!) of them, let us know what you think…


chromelogoDeveloper: Google

Current version of the beta:

How long has it been in public prerelease? Since 9/02/08

Reasons to download it: A pleasingly minimalist interface; fast performance for Web apps and ability to iconize them in your Start menu; Omnibar address bar; Icognito stealth (aka porn) browsing mode.

Reasons not to download it: Lots of basic browser stuff like bookmark management is really, really basic. Or missing altogether. Plus, you can’t get the Google Toolbar for it.

Overall, how promising is it? The current beta, paradoxically, is both incredibly rudimentary and very, very slick. I wouldn’t use it as my primary browser, but it wouldn’t stun me in the least if it becomes a big player in the long term.

When is final release expected? Google isn’t telling. Nor will it say when Mac and Linux versions will arrive.

Firefox 3.1

firefoxlgoDeveloper: Mozilla

Current version of the beta: Beta 1

How long has it been in public prerelease? Since 07/28/08

Reasons to download it: New JavaScript engine for snappier performance; <Ctrl><Tab> tab switching with thumbnail previews; special characters to refine searches in the Awesome Bar. A stealth browsing mode is apparently in the works, but I don’t think it’s in the current beta.

Reasons not to download it: Your beloved Firefox 3.0 add-ons may well not work.

Overall, how promising is it? I like the tab switcher, and faster JavaScript should make the Web more pleasing even if you can’t tell it’s the JavaScript that’s doing it. But this isn’t a radically new Firefox, and the .1 version-name increment is appropriate.

When is final release expected? March 2009.

Internet Explorer 8.0

ie8logoDeveloper: Microsoft

Current version of the beta: Beta 2

How long has it been in public prerelease? Since 03/05/08

Reasons to download it: Better support for Web standards; “Web Slice” subscriptions to snippets of information; “Accelerators” to send info between Web services; InPrivate stealth browsing mode; screens for malicious sites.

Reasons not to download it: Because you moved on from IE long ago. Or, you use an operating system that doesn’t have “Windows” in the name.

Overall, how promising is it? Anything that makes IE adhere better to Web standards is a good thing, since much of the Web is currenty jerry-rigged to work properly in IE 6 and IE 7. Web Slices and Accelerators look intriguing, but their success is contingent on Web developers embracing them, and Microsoft doesn’t have a great recent track record of getting the Web to climb on its bandwagons. Overall, though, this is a more timely and interesting IE upgrade than IE 7.

When is final release expected? Microsoft says it’s doing one more prerelease version in the first quarter, and will then release the final one.

Opera 10.0

operaicon1Developer: Opera

Current version of the beta alpha: 10.0 Alpha 1

How long has it been in public prerelease ? Since…let me check here…today.

Reasons to download it: Better support for Web standards; faster; inline spell checker; auto updates; rich text editor for mail; mail client can delete old mail.

Reasons not to download it: It’s an alpha–it’s crashed spectacularly once in the couple of hours I’ve used it, and I’ve noticed other quirks. Lots of them.

Overall, how promising is it? I’d never argue that improving support for Web standards or souping up performance is insignificant, but overall, it looks like this is Opera 10.0 not because it’s a huge deal but because the last version was 9.6. In other words, it’s only .4 of a great big upgrade. If that.

When is final release expected? Opera doesn’t seem to be saying, which is understandable given it’s just getting the first alpha out the door.

Safari 4

safariiconDeveloper: Apple

Current version of the beta: It’s been widely reported that Apple has distributed a preview version to developers.

How long has it been in public prerelease? The great unwashed can’t get their hands on it yet, but you might try signing up for a free Apple Developer Connection account if you’re curious about what developers may have access to and can reasonably claim to be one. (Note: If you do, you’ll have to agree not to write about what you find there–I did when I signed up.)

Reasons to download it: Apple, too, is said to be sprucing up its JavaScript engine. It’s also reportedly introducing support for various new Web features and adding the ability to run Web apps outside the browser (which sounds similar to what Chrome is already doing).

Reasons not to download it: Because you’re not a developer.

Overall, how promising is it? Too soon to tell.

When is final release expected? Only Apple knows, and it’s not acknowledging that the thing even exists–a search on doesn’t bring up any relevant results. Next year, presumably.


Read more: , , , , , , ,

33 Comments For This Post

  1. Wattsian Says:

    Great breakdown on the release/prerelease browser-war lowdown.

  2. titaniumtux Says:


    Text-only browsers such as Links are normally compared with eachother on separate posts.


    Epiphany is no beta (though I use it myself 99% of the time). Konqueror might be worth looking at, but purely for its layout engine (seems obvious enough that webkit is getting worked at, especially considering the engine itself doesn't support SSL, meaning webkit browsers that wanna support it require work-arounds).

    If there's a browser worth adding, I'd say it would be Midori. I wouldn't use a beta browser as a primary browser myself (and I never liked FireFox but Gecko seemed like an obvious choice for a layout engine), I have Midori installed to test my website in webkit (I know Epiphany can be used with webkit but it just seems too weird to me). Midori is an XFCE browser, it's really fast and should eventually offer all the necessary functions of a browser. After the version 1.0 milestone, if it gets SSL and other things I couldn't live without (RSS, decent Greasemonkey compatibility…), I'd consider using it as a primary browser.

  3. Adam Says:

    Apple might not be allowing the general public to see Safari 4 builds, but you can always download WebKit nightly builds ( which should be as cutting edge as anything you’d get from the ADC.

  4. Jai Says:

    Would love to try Chrome…on Linux…

  5. steelrealm Says:

    I’m sorry, but Opera 10 being an ALPHA should mute this review. It’s only a “small upgrade” because the Alpha stage is to give a test run to the Browsers Engine, fine tune it and work out bugs and kinks. Thats the reason it is only a “.4 upgrade”. Beta will test features.

  6. DonnyDarko Says:

    These article always seem to miss OWB for AmigaOS 4.1.

    It gets 100/100 on ACID3, check the screen shots on the site.

    Geez!! 🙂

  7. Jai Read This Says:

    Jai, Try searching for chromium. It is the open source part of chrome (like Iceweasal vs ff)

  8. Matt Kukowski Says:

    Firefox is making huge head way into the browser market. Month after month mozilla continues to chip away at IE market share, which all the other browsers seem to be growing too, except Opera.

    Apple safari is growing due to the massive Mac Books sold, in revolt of the Vista ‘downgrade’ riots.

    But, Firefox runs on all three platforms, and continues to impress with Add ons and the all important AD BLOCK PRO.

    Firefox also has a very good chance at being, at least a close second, in the javascript ‘speed wars’.

    So, overall, Firefox is my default browser, on windows, linux or mac.

    Chrome looks promising, but I think by the time google gets around to making a MAC and Linux version, both FF and Safari will have already ‘borrowed’ all of Chromes Web App short but features, incognito PORN browsing and everything else, like optimized speed.

    In MHO, Chrome has done nothing but produces what a browser should do (as extras) and kicked the asses of apple and mozilla to optimize their browsers for speed. Which is evident in the Javascript engine speed races and overall resource hogging.

    Thanks Chrome! But, Firefox will not be waiting to see how far ahead you will get.

  9. steelrealm Says:

    IE is, wait, growing? Last I checked if all browsers are growing, doesn’t that eat away at IE?

  10. Fred Says:

    Um, IE8 “is a more timely and interesting IE upgrade than IE 7”? I humbly submit that there will be nothing about IE8 that is more significant than tabbed browsing.

  11. Ricardo Says:

    Just to point out that Safari has had Private Browsing for some time now, and the Webkit nightly builds all pass the acid3 test. Plus, it’s fast, really fast.

  12. Stealther Says:

    Firefox 3.1 beta 2 (my name link) got rid of the Ctrl-tab feature, and does have private browsing, along with Color Profile Management, javascript worker threads, VIDEO and AUDIO tag support

  13. John Dale Says:

    Nice job. Thanks for taking the time to put this together. My wife has become addicated to Google Apps. First came green screen dumb terminals. Then came distributed desktop apps. Now google’s finishing what our techie ancestors started, but the screens are just smart enough, and not (thank goodness) green.

    Google. Wow. Interesting that they were founded by a Sun Micro founder. Ever notice that Apple comes with Java native? Looks like the big three are ganging-up on poor little Microsoft.

    I’m posting this from ubuntu running firefox … and loving it.



  14. Saphira Says:

    Firefox now has 3.2 in Alpha if you check their nightly builds:

  15. mrbene Says:

    Matt: Adblock Pro is an IE Add-on. You were looking for Adblock Plus, the free extension for Firefox.

    Fred: IE8 with inPrivate Browsing (incognito), as well as inPrivate Blocking + Subscriptions (regex exclusion of download, available as RSS subscription, very similar to early versions of ABP with some newer features) make IE the first major browser to ship with ad blocking capability shipped with the browser and not as an extension. That’s pretty significant.


  16. Chris Says:

    Just a note regarding Chrome and Safari:

    They use the exact same rendering engine – the Apple-supported WebKit open-source project.

    I think Chrome’s a few revisions of WebKit behind that which you get if you download the latest nightly from

    Still, it’s good to see Apple and Google both contributing to an open-source renderer.

  17. teknosapien Says:

    you forgot links and konquer

  18. Marc Says:

    And what about Konqueror or Epiphany?

  19. Anonymous Says:

    Reasons not to download it: Because you moved on from IE long ago. Or, you use an operating system that doesn’t have “Windows” in the name.


  20. Stephen Says:

    Anyone can download the Safari 4 beta, you just need an ADC account (they’re free).

  21. Bugz Says:

    K-Meleon is fast.

  22. g g Says:

    Go Opera go! I may be one of three people that use it, but I can sure browse fast with a lower memory footprint.


  23. gwspazz Says:


    Sorry fred but to say that tabbed browsing for IE7 was a significant upgrade, and that IE couldnt do better in the future is said. FF and safari were tabbing a LONG time before IE finally got around to it. IE 7 was sad, and if windows plans on not losing any more marketshare in this ‘war’ they really need to step it up

  24. titaniumtux Says:

    Konqueror and Epiphany are not in alpha/beta stage. I primarily use Epiphany myself, and it just uses Mozilla modules once they’d be finalized/released. As for Konqueror, I’ve only briefly used it but going be the repos (at the time of this comment) Konqueror is at version 4.4, so I’d figure it’s a released version. If there’s any relevence to Konqueror, it would be its layout engine. Epiphany could be considered for the reasons in favor and against using the given browser (but so could any fringe browser), but it’s no beta and we’re not anticipating Gnome to go beta on us for at least another while.

    Links is a text-based browser and it’s anything but web2.0-ready, and that’s what these browser comparison articles are for. There are articles specifically for comparing text-based browsers, if that’s what you’re into.

    I would argue that Midori should be included in the browser list. We’ve already got two webkit browsers listed (Safari and Chrome, one for os ten and the other for win-deuce), why not a beta of an XFCE webkit browser for Linux? It is indeed in beta stage, making it quite relevant and ought to be compared head on with the big guys.

  25. Alex Stansfield Says:

    > These article always seem to miss OWB for AmigaOS 4.1.
    > It gets 100/100 on ACID3, check the screen shots on the site.

    I did and I just threw up in my mouth

  26. Gerard Says:


    Webkit is a rendering engine and has no reason to support SSL or any other transport mechanism.
    If you want SSL, VPN UDP or any other transport system to be involved, that should happen at a different OSI level than the rendering engine.

  27. Alexander Rehm Says:

    Thanks for the cheat sheet, very nice work! 🙂

  28. Ariel Bravy Says:

    Thanks for the status updates. That was very helpful. If you keep doing that over time, it’d be super helpful. Just a thought. 🙂

  29. tedlarry Says:

    I’m sorry, but Safari is a complete turd.

  30. werdbomb Says:

    Just to quickly dispel a myth.

    Current webkit nightly (at least of a couple of nights ago) _does not_ pass the acid3 test.
    It fails to pass it consistently. Give it a go yourself. Run it four or five times in a row and see whether it gets to 100/100 each time.

    Opera 10 alpha consistently gets to 100/100 each time but does not run smoothly so it doesn’t really pass it either.

    But people should stop saying that webkit passes the acid3 test – it simply doesn’t.

  31. hackingthemachine Says:

    I personally love Firefox and wonder why anyone would use IE since is a security risk and the only browser on the list that is not cross-platform or will be in the future. Firefox 3.1 beta 2 is due out soon and I will try it out on my work computer which use for testing beta software. 🙂

    Hacking the Machine – Trying to take back control in our increasingly technology driven world

  32. Kevin L. Says:

    Interestingly enough, the Ctrl+Tab previews were pulled from Firefox in the current Shiretoko, maybe two or three weeks ago, yet private browsing is in there. Complete flip.

  33. DaVince Says:

    “Reasons not to download it: Because you moved on from IE long ago. Or, you use an operating system that doesn’t have “Windows” in the name.


    No. Windows Vista has “Windows” in the name, after all.

9 Trackbacks For This Post

  1. Top Posts « Says:

    […] State of the Browser Betas: A Technologizer Cheat Sheet I’m hesitant to make any bold predictions about what 2009 will hold for technology, but this one seems profoundly […] […]

  2. - Gadgets & Tech » Blog Archive » Next Year’s Browser Releases Says:

    […] versions in development due next year. Along with the new contender from Google, Chrome. There is a brief but interesting roundup of when each will be out and what new features and improvements they should be […]

  3. 2009 - the year of the browsers | Soft thinking Says:

    […] that is now, what is next? I ready a post about current state of browser development, and many of the major browsers have a beta our that will maybe go live sometime during the next […]

  4. Matas blog » Blog Archive » Truputis tikrai gerų straipsnių Says:

    […] apie naršyklių betas, tiem kam lėtai veikia naršyklė, arba tiem kurie kuria saitus […]

  5. Analysis of popular browsers « Openbook Says:

    […] the article here . Tags: Cheat Sheet, Chrome, Firefox, IE, Opera, […]

  6. Podcast Episode 63 - 12-10-08 - With less Cough - Says:

    […] TCT Podcast – The Personal Soundtrack Shirt TechTweak – State of Browser Betas […]

  7. Versions beta dels navegadors web * L’home dibuixat Says:

    […] Comparativa dels diversos navegadors web que actualment estan en fase beta: Google Chrome, Firefox 3.1, Internet Explorer 8.0, Opera 10.0 i Safari 4. […]

  8. Why journalists use Firefox « Inky Binary Says:

    […] State of the Browser Betas: A Technologizer Cheat Sheet […]

  9. Opera 10 Hits Beta, Adds Turbocharged Dial-Up Mode | Technologizer Says:

    […] which is out today in the first beta release of Opera 10, the next version. An alpha has been out for months, but this beta is smoother and slicker, and packs some new features. In my brief time with it so […]