Web Browsers: You don’t need a Ma Bell telephone to use Ma Bell

More browser commentary from the New York Times: Sampling a World of New Ways to Grapple With the Web

At the moment, at least eight different Web browsers reside in my computer…. The number and diversity of these browsers is, to me, a very hopeful sign…. What’s refreshing about these programs is their diversity. The best of them are astonishingly nimble. They are almost absurdly adaptable to the tastes and needs of the user. Most are free, and many are open source. They have none of the monolith about them, none of that feeling of being shackled to a leviathan.

Microsoft argued that only a browser tightly integrated with the rest of the operating system could deliver the seamless, gratifying Web-browsing experience most people hope for. … But Microsoft was wrong. These days, nobody wants to have anything tightly integrated with the Windows operating system, which has come to seem surprisingly troublesome. Windows takes a lot of care and feeding, more than most people want to give it. As for Internet Explorer, it has grown into a problem in its own right. Software developers complain about it. Ordinary users get sick of the pop-up fireworks. Even in corporate America – which finds its allegiance to Microsoft routinely tested – business users are being asked to switch from Explorer to the Mozilla Foundation’s Firefox for security reasons.

… It taught me that market share means nothing in terms of quality. It made me wonder whether there was any inherent advantage in a browser that happened to be the same brand as the computer that was running it. The answer, it turns out, is no. These days, there is an array of agile, interesting browsers.