This page is about my experience with various web browsers and their various pros/cons, as well as a bit about various Internet service providers.


Part I: AOL

My first Internet experience was back in the dial-up days with my parents' AOL subscription. Thus the (egregious) AOL browser became my first reference point. Back then AOL (I think version 9.0, but we always called each version "x-point-slow") used the old "window within a window" interface for handling several things at once. It quickly got rather cluttered and confusing if you tried opening more than a few sites.

Historical technology note: Much of the slowness and annoyance of AOL was due to the internet access being dial-up. For those who are unfamiliar with it, dial-up is Internet access via the old "land line" phone system that was state-of-the-art around a hundred years ago (Wikipedia lists 1915 as the year of the "First U.S. coast-to-coast long-distance telephone call"). Back then, phones were stuck in whatever building they were installed in. They were physically wired to "phone lines" that connected to the phone company to provide just calls. Typically, around the year 2000, an American household would have one phone line for everyone. Dial-up Internet worked by using a modem in the computer to make a "call" to some Internet server's phone number and then transmit data via, essentially, really fast computerized Morse code. This meant that not only was dial-up Internet access really slow, but you could only use it on one computer at a time and no one could make calls.

Part II: Internet Explorer

One day in 2005 my parents moved us to some place out of town where there weren't even reliable phone lines. This meant that they had to sign up for satellite Internet access via WildBlue. Since AOL's browser and dial-up Internet service were more-or-less tied together, this was my first chance to try a different browser. Not knowing any better, I went with the default browser pre-installed on the Windows 2000/XP systems my parents had: Internet Explorer 6. At least it wasn't AOL. Also, the one-real-window-per-site thing was easier to work with than the one-fake-window-within-a-window-per-site of AOL. At least I could use the OS's taskbar to see what sites I had open.

Historical technology note: Satellite Internet uses satellites to send signals back and forth between the user's and the service provider's locations. Since this is separate from the phone service, satellite Internet can be used with the old land-line phone system. Also, the satellite modem had standard ethernet output, so my parents use a generic router to make this Internet access available to all devices in the house.

Because satellite Internet is not limited by an archaic system designed only to transmit human voice, it can also have much higher bandwidth. However, because of satellites being way up in the sky and the speed of light only being so fast, there's an extra unavoidable round-trip latency of about 290 milliseconds. Somehow, WildBlue ended up managing to quintuple this latency, taking a whole second and a half for any page to begin loading. Also, despite the higher per-second bandwidth (after waiting the 1500 millisecond latency time), WildBlue decided to meter the usage, limiting the household to only a few gigabytes total monthly usage.

Part III: Firefox

After starting at a nearby high school, I learned from fellow students about a new browser called Firefox. I decided to check it out and it was a much smoother experience, mostly because of the tabbed interface. While reading something I could open a tab in the background, keep reading, and not be bothered about the slow load times. Throw in pop-up blocking, add-ons, and general extensibility, and Firefox became the clear choice for me and eventually my family. So IE6 lasted us about a month.

Part IV: Chrome

In the fall of 2008, I again heard from classmates about a new browser. This time in college and before the browser was declared stable.... [TODO: finish writing this....]

Why Chrome/Chromium is better

Why Firefox/Iceweasel is better