Dan's Web Tips | Brand X Browsers | Introduction

Dan's Web Tips:

"Brand-X" Browsers -- Introduction

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The Web was envisioned from the start as an open-standards-based, platform-independent medium. Users wouldn't be locked into a proprietary format requiring a specific vendor's products, but rather could pick the server and browser software that suited the user's needs, from a multiplicity of sources. This vendor independence has been largely lost as the "browser wars" produced massive domination first by Netscape and later by Microsoft. Since a vast majority of Web users use browsers from the same vendor, it feels it can introduce any nonstandard "enhancements" it wishes without regard for compatibility with the standards. However, the "Evil Empire" hasn't totally driven out all other browsing software. While it's difficult for anyone else to compete with a browser that is given away free, some others can find a niche by creating client software that serves special needs and preferences that aren't covered by the more popular browsers. A "Brand X Browser" may be designed to meet the needs of handicapped people, speakers of foreign languages, users of obscure computer platforms not supported by the mainstream browsers, or those with limited resources who need browsers smaller in memory, disk, and bandwidth usage, or "cutting-edge" technophiles who wish to bring the Web to places where normal browsers don't go, like their TV set, telephone, or Dick-Tracy-style wrist computer.

This section of my site describes a number of alternative browsers and links to where you can obtain them. Web authors may find it useful to obtain as many of these browsers as possible to see if their sites achieve browser-independence by functioning on them. And remember that today's "Brand X Browser" might be tomorrow's dominant one, and vice versa. In fact, when I first created this site, Netscape was the dominant browser, but as of late 2001, I've decided to add Netscape to the "Brand X Browsers" list, because that's the status it's fallen to. But if the "next big thing" turns out to be non-PC devices with embedded browsers, the browser there could be any of a number of entries on this list which are promoting themselves for such uses, and thus one of them could suddenly find itself part of the mainstream.

A resident "troll" on the HTML authoring newsgroup (who seems to have finally gone away) liked to refer to these as "cheesy Brand X browsers" when he attacked them and the "purists" who allegedly prefer them. Actually, purists, like anyone else, use whatever browser best suits their needs, often a mainstream browser, but sometimes something else. In some cases, "Brand X" browsers actually do a better job of following the HTML specs than the popular ones. But in other cases it may be the less-popular browser's rendering that's deficient. But anyway, these other browsers illustrate the wide range of browsing situations a Web author should be aware of.

Incidentally, although the troll was always saying that members of the "purist camp" always say nasty things about the "mainstream" browsers and never about the others, I prove that either he's wrong or I haven't made it into the "purist camp", because I have both positive and negative things to say about many browsers.

See my listings: A-G -- H-N -- O-Z

But can it view its maker's own site?

One unexpected observation I made while investigating a variety of alternative browsers is how distressingly frequent it was for their makers' own Web sites not to be well-functioning in their own browser. You'd think that those companies, in particular, would be attentive to issues of multi-browser accessibility, but their management and marketing people seem just as prone as other companies to assign Web design tasks to people seeking only to impress with flash, and clueless about the creation and maintenance of logically-structured content. Perhaps they feel a particular need to make outsiders (who are overwhelmingly not using that company's alternative browser) think this company is at the "leading edge" of high technology. At any rate, some things I've encountered in the course of checking out the sites related to alternative browsers include:

  • Sites describing cell-phone and palmtop text-only browsers which consist largely of big blocks of text in the form of graphics, with no ALT text, and which also contain tech-specs and developer docs in the form of PDF files.
  • Sites from the makers of TV set-top boxes with Web browsing capability using home pages containing graphics carved up into pieces which are supposed to fit together just right, but fail to do so on their own set-top browser (which needs to resize and rearrange things to get them to fit on the limited screen).
  • A speaking browser for the blind which can be downloaded free, but to get to the download you must complete a form that requires JavaScript, which isn't supported by their browser.

C'mon, alternative browser makers... you can do better!


There are yet more browsers out there, and more are popping up all the time. The availability of several open-source browser engines (e.g., Mozilla's Gecko) makes it easy for new browser-development projects to get started.

Another page listing various alternative browsers (mostly Unix-based) is at:
(this URL used to be much shorter, but for some reason they re-arranged their site and produced such godawfully long, and seemingly-redundant, URLs. Perhaps they could take a few tips from my page on directories and default index files.)

Some other browser lists:
Small Web Browsers

Information on Macintosh browsers:

Information on Amiga browsers:

Information on PalmPilot browsers:

Browsers for the visually handicapped:

And the Evil Empire too...

Just in case you haven't tried the Evil One's dominant browser:

Hall of Shame

Make your site better by looking at other sites that show, by example, what not to do!

NOTE: The inclusion of a site in my "Hall of Shame" links should not be construed as any sort of personal attack on the site's creator, who may be a really great person, or even an attack on the linked Web site as a whole, which may be a source of really great information and/or entertainment. Rather, it is simply to highlight specific features (intentional or accidental) of the linked sites which cause problems that could have been avoided by better design. If you find one of your sites is linked here, don't get offended; improve your site so that I'll have to take down the link!

  • UltraBrowser's site, allegedly the site of an independent browser (though it's probably just an MSIE skin), has some of the most clueless browser-sniffing I've seen. When I tried to go to their site with a current build of Mozilla, I got told "Our site is optimized for version 4 and above browsers. We have detected your browser does not meet our requirements", and asked to download MSIE.



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This page was first created 24 Sep 1998, and was last modified 23 Oct 2011.
Copyright © 1997-2011 by Daniel R. Tobias. All rights reserved.