It's the browser battle of the future: Some time in the next year or so, Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox 2.0 will battle head-to-head for the hearts and minds of Web surfers.
Right now, however, it's more like a kindergarten scuffle in the sandbox, as Microsoft's IE 7 is still being beta tested and Mozilla's Firefox 2.0 is at its first alpha stage.
And while eWEEK Labs likes the direction that these not-ready-for-prime-time browser releases are taking, neither currently looks like it will seriously shake up the way we use the Web.
The release of a refresh of Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2 at Microsoft's MIX conference the week of March 20 shows that IE is moving closer and closer to its final form—this is likely to be the essential "look and feel" and feature set that the release version of the browser will have.
While there haven't been major changes made since our first review of IE 7 Beta 2, there have been changes to the look and feel of the browser, as well as improvements to features that were then unfinished.
The latest version of Beta 2 boasts new tool bar elements, including a Page drop-down menu for saving and mailing a Web page, and RSS feed handling has been improved. With the refresh we could add most major search engines to our integrated search bar, and a new feature in this release let us restore our tabbed windows from a previous session.
As an alpha, Firefox 2.0 has even less to show in the way of changes than the refresh of IE 7 Beta 2. One of the most significant new features is a Places window for managing feeds, bookmarks and history.
The alpha also shows that Firefox has caught up to other tabbed browsers, finally adding the Close Tab button to the actual tabs as opposed to having it on the end of the toolbar. Many other features, such as Extension blacklisting, are planned but can't be tested in this release.
Users who want a new browser to use every day should steer clear of both of these if they like their systems stable and crash-free. However, if you need to test for development purposes or just like to check out unfinished products, you can download the IE 7 Beta 2 refresh and Firefox 2.0 alpha.
Labs Director Jim Rapoza can be reached at email@example.com.