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Browser Standards and Security

Introduction

When designing a Web site it is important to consider how the users will see the Web page. There are many browsers available that a user could be using to view your Web site. Consideration of the standards between each browser is important. There are so many browsers available on the market that the Web page that has been created could, and, most probably will look different on every browser. Some browsers handle certain scripting languages better than others e.g. Mozilla Firefox has no problems handling animated gifts as rollovers on buttons, whereas Internet Explorer 5 cannot handle them and will not display them correctly or may not display them at all. In section 2 of this report will discuss the standards between browsers, browsers available and how the browsers handle the HTML language in different ways. This section will also show the usage between the most popular browsers and will display the statistics as a pie chart with each chunk representing a different browser. In section 3 of this report, will discuss the security risks from both the client side and server side and will list the top ten vulnerabilities that a Web site must overcome to stay protected. This section will also display the statistics of security risks in a bar chart. Section 4 discusses how the information that is in this report will be used in the main project.

Section 5 is the conclusion of all the information that has been gathered to make this report and how it can be used to create a better compatible and secure Web site.

Browsers
As the internet was created to unite the world into one inter connecting community, the use of so many different browsers that view Web pages in different ways makes it harder for a Web designer to create a Web site and it can stop users seeing a Web page in the same way. When designing a Web site, the designer must test their pages in different browsers to check the outcome of that page. With so many browsers available, it is important to consider which browsers to test for and how many past browser versions need to be catered for within the designs.

As technology has advanced, the situation has improved to that of a few years ago but the problem has not been completely resolved. You can now be confident that at least 99% of users have browsers that support nearly all of HTML 4. However, there are still inconsistencies in the way Cascading Style Sheets are implemented and older browser versions pre-dating the current standards take a long time to fade away entirely. A Web site designer must now also consider the mobile user; phones, PDAs and other handheld media devices that have access to the internet. The browser that these devices use will be a variant of a standard browser but the user will view the pages on a much smaller screen. A mobile browser, also called a micro browser, mini browser or wireless internet browser (WIB) are optimised so as to display Web content most effectively for small screens on portable devices. Mobile browser software must also be small and efficient to accommodate the low memory capacity and low-bandwidth of wireless handheld devices. Typically, they were stripped-down Web browsers but as of 2006 some mobile browsers can handle latest technologies such as CSS 2.1, JavaScript and Ajax. Jennifer Niederst Robbins (2006) says;

“1996 to 1999: The Browser Wars begin.
For years, the Web development world watched as Netscape and Microsoft battled it out for browser market dominance. The result was a collection of proprietary HTML tags and incompatible implementations of new technologies, such as JavaScript, Cascading Style Sheets, and Dynamic HTML. On the positive side, the competition between Netscape and Microsoft also led to the rapid advancement of the medium as a whole.”

The World Wide Web consortium establishes the basic rules on how to translate a HTML document and the official HTML standards.

The HTML standards say that the Table tag should support a Cellspacing attribute to define the space between parts of the table. HTML standards don’t define the default value for that attribute, so unless you explicitly define Cellspacing when building your page, two browsers may use different amounts of white space in your table. HTML standards are usually ahead of what browsers support. Over the past few years Internet Explorer has done a much better job of this than Netscape Navigator, though Opera has done arguably the best job.

If you build a Web page and the user’s browser does not understand part of the language, then they will ignore that part and continue creating the rest of the page. This will cause some browsers not to display the page the way it was designed to be seen.

The best way to minimize these problems is to pay attention to browser compatibility when building your Web page. Avoid using HTML extensions and be careful about using cutting-edge features of the language that may not yet be supported by all the major browsers.

The major difference between two versions of the same browser is their support for newer portions of the HTML language. A new browser is generally better at displaying Web pages than an old one.

Web Application Security
When creating any Web application such as an e-commerce Web site, security must be on the designers mind at all times. A design flaw in the application could cause a hacker to easily access the Web server through cross site scripting on the Web site. The Web server is a common target for hackers as it is a very powerful machine with a large amount of bandwidth and also allows anonymous users to access it. The Web wasn’t designed to be secure, nor was it designed to run applications or for businesses selling over a network. It was designed to be static and for users to gather information. As the Web applications become more powerful with what they are able to do, the security risks become greater for a potential attacker. As code is intermitted with data such as Javascript embedded in HTML, hackers use a malicious piece of code that gets mistaken for part of the Web site code which then gives a hacker more permission than they should be allowed, enabling them to alter securely protected data.

Checking Your Website in Multiple Browsers

As a designing and programming nerd, I am not one of the people who use Internet Explorer to browse the web. In a normal situation, I use Firefox. However, I’m not the only one. Statistics gathered on various websites show that as many as 30% of the visitors to your site might not be using Internet Explorer.

Just because your website looks fine on your computer doesn’t mean it will look okay on someone else’s. There is no way to completely control that, but you can do one thing to be safe. If there’s one piece of advice I can give someone designing a website for the first time, it’s to make sure you check your website in a variety of web browsers. In fact, I went so far as to purchase a Mac Mini just to check my clients’ sites on a Mac.

On Windows computers, the browsers you should check your site in include (of course) Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera and Netscape. Macs also run all those browsers, although Internet Explorer is no longer available for download. Another big one for Macs is Safari.

This task might seem time consuming, and it can be. Maybe you just don’t want to install all those browser. (I don’t blame you.) Perhaps access to a Mac just isn’t an option. Luckily, there is another option available. I have not used them myself, but http://www.browsercam.com will allow you to view screen captures of your website on a variety of different platforms, and even in a variety of resolutions. It is free to try out, but costs money if you decide to continue using it.

Two Leading Internet Browsers

Market shares are divided in the non-Windows platform by two leading teams: Mozilla FireFox and Internet Explorer. The two competed for a decade to overtake any advances undertaken by the other in business. At least, other web browsing applications also made part of the piece left by the two.

Although the development of the browser application was pointed to the different teams dedicated in developing it, only the two are taking serious competition in the market. Most people, today, use and enjoy the blessings of these two mainstream browsers. They run at least more than one browser, and stay intact it in only one. The advantage is it runs more and more efficiency in searching at a single time without compromising the speed and quality of being search. Besides, links are also automatically recall and restored for faster tracking of files and sites viewed. Another is you can assign the particular browser to a surfing type you want without opening the other. So, what’s the difference of the two?

To start with, Internet Explorer is integrated with the Operating System (OS) which means it is faster than all the others. Also, due to the wide usage by the consumer, more and more sites used to ensure compliance to Interest Explorer than the competitors, that is, compliance in its requirements since some uses Microsoft Multi-Media Software in the site. The Microsoft proudly created this to bring the comfort in searching the web. However, just like every creation, it has some weaknesses; the Internet Explorer is more vulnerable to viruses because of its integration to the OS. Also, it is more complex to be use and has deeper menus to understand, which is not also standard in a way, but it is still very excellent in a constant work.

On the one hand, the Mozilla is basically created to be open source, making it very convenient to work on. Good bookmark functionality is also their asset since the retrieving of the previous sites visited concerns much to them, so to say. It has also a Multi-platform design. Another is it has available email newsgroup and Internet Relay Chat (IRC) clients. The downfall of this browser, however, points to its “not quite” faster speed for some functions on Windows. Accordingly, it is less widely used on windows.

Some authority in the business used to prefer the latter over the former since it is well-coded, multi platform, complies with the web standards, and has the best tabbed viewing functionality. Furthermore, Mozilla has also developed in Internet applications making it better in every release. But for the sake of validity, a personal inquiry to experiences from friends serve best in choosing one over the other.

Features of the Free Web Browsers

If you are new to using the Internet, the first question you probably have in mind would be what are the free web browsers. You can start using the Internet once you have a browser. There are many free web browsers available online today. You can simply save it in your computer and install it easily. Some of them are Firefox browser and Mozilla.

1. Mozilla’s Firefox is one of the answers to the question, what are the free browsers. This is a standard web browser you can get for free online. It has several features which are all useful. You can open multiple pages at one time when you browse. This web browser also ensures the safety of the users by having developer and privacy tools. The pop-ups are blocked first and the user is asked to allow it to be opened first before it appears. The Firefox is much safer because the ActiveX support is disabled. This is the feature is usually the thing that spyware utilizes to give infections to computers.

2. The Opera browser is the second answer to the question,what are the free web browsers. This browser has an engine for rendering which other browsers does not. Another useful feature it has is the multiple tabs you can open at a time. It also blocks illegal pop ups. It has provides a chatting feature as well as an email feature. It has anti-phishing tools that can detect spyware and block it at the same time. It also blocks websites that seem to contain viruses. Opera has a function where you can use your voice to do commands. You can also have it read the texts to you.

3. Maxthon Tabbed is the third answer to the question,what are the free web browsers. This is a web browser that lets you open multiple pages. Users can customize the engine’s interface because the IE or Internet explorer is embedded. Some of its features are auto-scrolling, plug-in tool, form filling and other tools for external use. It also blocks pop ups and lets the Unicode have extensions. You can also choose your own skin.

4. Fine Browser is another browser that lets you open many windows as well. It has a blocker for pop-ups. It can also track deleted websites and lets users to save websites into a certain category. You can also take screenshots and see the last date that it was used. You can also have a translation for other languages with this browser. You can n also have fillers as well as a feature where you can keep private notes.

Alternatives to Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer, despite being the most widely used web browser, isn’t the only option out there. In fact, there are other browsers that may do a better job from a security, speed or resource-usage perspective. Up until the past year, the only web browser I used was Internet Explorer. However, I was tired of the constant updates, the script errors, the warnings over and over again that another hacker had found a way to use the browser to possibly cause harm to my programs and possibly even my business. Yes, I still use Internet Explorer occasionally, but I now use other alternatives and find that my web browsing is simpler, faster and possibly even safer.

Here are four alternatives:

Firefox – This is a free, open-source alternative to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer that is currently the second most widely-used browser in the world. For me, it has become my primary web browser. Because it is open source, the Firefox programmers routinely fix security issues as well as develop many useful plug ins to enhance its operations. I do not recommend you download and install every plug in, but there are now so many that have been written you will find a few very useful ones that will enhance and customize your browsing experience. It can be used with any operating system. Download available at Mozilla.com.

Google Chrome – This is Google’s entry into the realm of internet browsers. Chrome is a free stripped-down browser that is designed to run to “lean and mean.” If you are concerned about resource usage on your computer, this may be the browser for you. The layout of the browser is a little different from what you may be used to so try it for a few days to see if you like it. It also runs on all operating systems.

Safari – If you are reading this article on a Mac, you are probably using Safari as your primary web browser. Safari was designed for the Macs and offers a simple, intuitive free browsing experience. The good news, is that It is now also available free for Windows users. Download available at apple.com/safari/download.

Opera – The least known web browser, made by Opera Software, is free and works on all operating systems. It is one of the fastest browsers now available and has the added advantage of being optimized for use on mobile devices. It is also specially designed for users who have visual or motor impairments. Opera has also received very positive reviews and is winning industry awards for usability. Download available at opera.com.

All five of these web browsers have strengths and weaknesses. You don’t have to just settle for whatever was installed on your computer. You now have really powerful options and they are free! Try them out and give each of them a test drive. You will then be able to determine which of them you like, fit your web browsing style and are the most beneficial to you.

List of Browsers

The birth of web browsers

With the massive increase of Internet content — not to mention Internet usage — during the 1990’s, it became essential to create a software that could handily access and navigate the information superhighways of the Net. That’s why in 1991, the first web browser made its appearance. Called WorldWideWeb, it paved the way for the creation of the web browsers we see and use today.

Since then, dozens upon dozens of different web browsers, and the numerous iterations brought upon by some of them have emerged, all vying for the attention of Net users’ – along with the inevitable fame and fortune it’ll hopefully bring to the top contenders.

Here is a list of notable web browsers, compiled and arranged by the year they first debuted.

The pioneers of the industry

1991 saw the birth of the first web browser. Already mentioned above, WorldWideWeb became the pioneer of web browsers. During 1993, one of the first graphical browsers was added to the list of browsers. This was the NCSA Mosaic, and its release prompted a surge of web use.

Netscape Navigator – an offshoot of Mosaic (Netscape Navigator was created by the head of the Mosaic team from NCSA) – made its appearance in 1994. Among the list of browsers during that year, Netscape Navigator garnered the lion’s share of web usage.

Start of browser wars

Not to be outdone by Netscape, Microsoft released its web browser called Internet Explorer in 1995. This release eventually started the browser wars. Taking advantage of its lead in the OS market, Microsoft started selling Windows packaged with Internet Explorer.

To combat Microsoft’s dominance in the browser industry, Netscape created the Mozilla Foundation in 1998. This was done in the hopes of manufacturing a browser which would take advantage of the open source model.

Eventually, this project would lead to the birth of Firefox. It would take six years before the first commercial version of this browser, named Firefox 1.0, made its first appearance in the list of browsers. According to statistics collated as late as February of 2009, Firefox accounts for 21.77% share of browser usage.

The underdogs of the market

1996 saw the debut of Opera in the list of browsers. Despite it not garnering extensive use, it has remained as a powerhouse in terms of shares in the mobile phone browser industry. The video game console, Nintendo Wii, also comes embedded with Opera.

Internet Explorer Vulnerability

On December 11th an advisory was published that identified a problem in Internet Explorer that could allow someone to take control of a computer. It’s not at all unusual for this type of advisory to be released; modern software is highly complex and holes are not uncommon. Microsoft has released a patch for the issue and has rated it critical.

Technically, Microsoft describes the vulnerability as: “[it] could allow remote code execution if a user views a specially crafted Web page using Internet Explorer. Users whose accounts are configured to have fewer user rights on the system could be less impacted than users who operate with administrative user rights.”

In plain English, the vulnerability is a problem with the design of Internet Explorer. IE is used to view web pages. In the early days of the web, a web page was nothing more than a bunch of text and images laid out in a specified way in a web browser. Web designers used code to tell the browser where to put the text and images and whether or not the text should be bold, italicized, big, small, whatever.

The code that described where to put things and whether they are big, bold, whatever was referred to as Hypertext Mark-up Language or HTML. When you visit a web site, your web browser (Internet Explorer in this case – there are others, Firefox being one of the big contenders) requests a web page from the server and the server replies with a web page encoded as HTML.

The web browser, understanding this HTML intimately, takes instructions from it and lays out the web page as the HTML instructs it to. HTML is still an integral part of the World Wide Web but it has been superseded greatly by other technologies that make the web much more interesting.

In essence the web has grown from a simple way to display information to an interactive medium that can act very much like any other program on a computer – like a word processor, spreadsheet, database, the sky’s the limit. Just consider web sites like facebook.com that elicit user interaction and deliver an experience rather than just information.

And facebook.com just touches the surface of what the web can do today, many businesses are moving toward having their software hosted somewhere on the Internet rather than being installed on their own computers, there are major benefits to this approach.

The web is moving that way so much in fact that Google recently released its own web browser “Chrome” that is built from the ground up to accommodate web applications.

This new generation of web browser isn’t meant so much for web browsing as it is for delivering programs. Google sees it evolving into its own operating system. In other words your computer wouldn’t load Windows with all of its built-in programs but would load Chrome and Chrome would connect to the Internet to deliver programs.

All this complexity leads to vulnerability however and the Internet is a much less forgiving place than it was in the days of plain Jane HTML. Those who profit from spam, adware, and other malware, have many more avenues to exploit in order to spread their malice.