Lab 99 Web Design

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The Varieties of Web Browsers

A web browser is a program on your computer which allows you to view web pages. You’re using one right now!

Most people probably experience the web through the browser which came installed on their particular device: Edge or Internet Explorer on Windows computers, Safari on Macs and iPhones, or Chrome on Android phones. There are in fact many other browsers, many of which are safer, faster or more reliable than their default browser.

All web browsers are free of charge, and your computer or mobile phone is not limited to having just the one browser.

Why Bother Changing?

Most users of web browsers are probably happy with what they have. So why should you go to the trouble of trying out a different browser? There are two reasons why using a different web browser might improve your experience of the web:

Try Something Different

Each web browser has its own set of features:

On the subject of online privacy, there are advantages to using more than one web browser. The cookies that you accumulate while surfing the web are restricted to the particular web browser you happen to be using. By devoting one browser to specific tasks, such as logging into a Facebook or Google account, you will make it more difficult (though not impossible, sadly) for Facebook or Google to associate your personal details with the rest of your web behaviour.

New Techniques v Old Browsers

Things move fast in the world of web design: new techniques become available to designers all the time. But these techniques can only work when browsers are updated to accommodate them.

A browser’s useful lifetime is quite short: even a three–year–old version will be noticeably more limited and less versatile than the latest version of the same browser. Anything over five years old will not recognise some of the design techniques commonly used in modern websites, and should be considered obsolete.

Most browsers are updated frequently to take account of the newest techniques and, more importantly, the latest security features. Others get updated rarely or never. At the time of writing, Internet Explorer still exists on some people’s computers, even though Microsoft stopped supporting it some time ago.

A browser is the device through which you experience a web page. Using an old browser to view a modern, professional–quality website is like using a small black–and–white portable television to watch a high–quality DVD or Blu–Ray disc: you’ll get the basic experience, but you will miss out on most of the refined features. Web browsers, unlike televisions, are all free, so there’s really no excuse not to use the latest version!

Installed Web Browsers

These are the five web browsers which, between them, are installed on almost all current personal computers and mobile phones in the English–speaking world. You are very likely to be using one of these right now:


Firefox logo

Included with many GNU/Linux operating systems, and available for Windows, Mac and Android systems; good range of add–ons, including adblockers; accurate interpretation of web standards. Download from


Chrome logo

Included with (and impossible to remove from) Android phones; widely installed on desktops and laptops; good at slurping unwary users’ data and sending it to Google. Download from


Edge logo

Included with the Windows 10 operating system; available for earlier versions of Windows and for Android and iOS mobile operating systems; includes a PDF and ebook reader. Download from–gb/windows/microsoft-edge.

Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer logo

Included with earlier Windows systems; detested by web developers due to Microsoft’s appalling disregard of web standards. No longer available for download, and no longer given security updates by Microsoft.


Safari logo

Included with all Apple devices, and only available for Apple’s operating systems. Download from

Good Alternative Web Browsers

Here are six other web browsers, all of which have particular features that make them worth trying out.

Browser logos

The first three browsers each contain a built–in adblocker, and are available for all operating systems:

These three have other features to recommend them:

Other Web Browsers

The following browsers are mostly aimed at particular classes of users or are relatively small–scale projects, but all are worth investigating:

That’s more than 20 browsers for you to try out. There are others, many of which are for mobile operating systems only or are specialised versions of some of the browsers mentioned above.

Limitations of Browsers

There are dozens of individual versions of browsers currently in use, some of which are obsolete. Unfortunately, none of them agree on precisely how to represent every element of a web page. This is an insoluble problem for web designers; it is simply impossible to create an interesting design that works correctly in every version of every browser.

The compromise Lab 99 Web Design has chosen is to create websites that:

Websites that are guaranteed to display perfectly in certain obsolete browsers will normally cause problems for the vast majority of visitors who use modern browsers. We will not create websites in this way unless specifically requested to. Our Accessibility section discusses some of the legal and other implications of designing for obsolete browsers.