Browser wars, round 12 or so

Woo-hoo, browser wars! Many of you reading this won't remember the days when Netscape V. Internet Explorer was the hottest battle in technology. Nowadays, things are much more complicated, with IE battling it out not just with Firefox - sorta the successor to Netscape - but also Google's Chrome, Apple's Safari and Opera's, er, Opera.

But for the next couple of weeks it's going to be like BC (before Chrome) all over again, as Internet Explorer and Firefox dominate everyone's attention. Last week we told you that Firefox 4, which has been in beta since the Clinton administration, was finally ready to go. And now, Microsoft has launched Internet Explorer 9 on an anticipating public. (Not eagerly anticipating necessarily, but definitely anticipating.)

Let's review what's on offer, shall we? IE has had a much-needed interface overhaul, aping Firefox 4 in having crammed most functions into a very narrow toolbar to save space. The address bar also acts as a search bar, much as Chrome's does, though this being Microsoft it of course searches Bing.

More importantly, there's speed improvements under the glossy skin, with IE finally catching up with Chrome speed-wise and in some cases overtaking it. And OH MY GOD, they've finally added a download manager, only ten years late.

Even if you've largely abandoned IE, we'd say this latest slice is well worth taking a look at. And it's free, of course. The day they start charging for browsers is the day our interest in the browser wars comes to a crashing halt.

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