The European Union forced Microsoft to display a “Browser ballot” to all EU citizens in order to avoid an Internet Explorer monopoly. I’m not overly fond of the idea of Microsoft being forced into doing this, but it does have the benefit of informing more people about alternate web browsers. I think we, as Mac users, can take a cue from this.

Every year or so, it is in our best interest to try out a couple of different browsers. For example, I wasn’t a huge fan of Safari when I first switched the the Mac, but when Safari 3 came out, I fell in love. I’ve been a full-time Safari user since then, but I still keep other browsers around.

Stainless is a really neat little browser that uses the same rendering engine as Safari. It started out as a technical demonstration of the multi-process model à la Chrome. Since then, it has become my secondary browser of choice. It launches in a snap, and it allows you to spin off multiple sessions for the same site. This is a showcase of what a small offshoot can accomplish.

Opera doesn’t get enough credit. There has pretty much been an arms race between the WebKit team and the Opera team to see who can make their web browser the most standards compliant the fastest. Mozilla and Internet Explorer are taking a laid-back approach in that regard. I commend the Opera team for aiming for the fences. Let’s not count them out yet, folks.

Firefox, in contrast to Opera, gets way too much credit from the nerd audience. Yes, it did help break away from the reign of IE 6. That was a great thing for us as a community, but there has been stagnation on Mozilla’s part. Firefox has become very bloated and slow in the last few years. It’s not too late to right the ship, but there are more problems than solutions out of the Mozilla camp lately.

To be fair, Firefox is hands-down the most easily customizable browser available today. You can tweak it ten ways to Sunday, but the major problems of performance and standards compliance still remain.

Speaking of overrated, Chrome has all sorts of adoration from the nerds because of the branding effort. One could make a very good case that Google took a very good rendering engine (WebKit), broke it, and then spent the next two years fixing it. We also have the issue of Google treating Mac users like second class citizens. Features have pretty much always launched on Windows first, and then slowly trickled to OS X and Linux. There are too many options out there for me to use a browser from people who think of me as an afterthought.

Whatever browser you choose, just make sure you try out a couple every once in a while. You’ll thank me later.

Photo Credit: indi.ca