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MMObility: Battle of the browsers


Before I get too far in this new column, I need to take stock of my weaponry. I now have almost everything I need: an iPhone, an iPad, a new HTC Inspire Android phone, one basic laptop of choice, and a pretty decent gaming rig (if a little old). I have everything I need to test out games across different browsers and devices. I am prepared to slug these pieces of hardware wherever I need to; I am ready to walk with them in hand.

It's a tough job, but someone has to do it.

I could use some advice, though. I have my preferences, but I wonder what my readers think. Which browser do you prefer? Why? For example, I am in love with Chrome for various reasons, but some games have issues with it. Do I weigh the good against the bad and claim it as my default anyway? Lately, I have all the major browsers bookmarked on my desktop, waiting to go. What about security? I'll be honest: I'm not an expert.

Click past the cut and let's discuss. Maybe you can help me.

Chrome: This is my favorite, for so many reasons. Google does so many things right yet seems unafraid to admit when it makes a mistake. The company lets things die out when it is time. Google Lively was shelved for various reasons, but I sort of admired the company for knowing when to shut it down. There have been other examples, but it's obvious that Google is willing to experiment. Still, my love for Chrome comes mainly from its seemingly magic ability to sync with everything in my entire life. I love that I can open the browser and everything from one PC is at another. I worship the fact that the address bar actually works just like a Google search and updates as I type in anything. Yes, I could sign into Gmail from other browsers, but Chrome just feels magic. I use it for, quite literally, everything from my cell phone to my laptop.

I do have some difficulties with it, though. I've seen more than one game have issues with it, including one of my favorites, Die2Nite. The radar and map simply would not load, and the game would crash more often than not when running in Chrome. Also, I have some issues while writing for various sites. Even after the bugs and issues, however, Chrome is my favorite.

Opera: This is a browser I know very little about. It is sort of clunky and overdone but looks nice. Generally, I have few issues with games in this one. It does come in a "mobile" variety, claiming to be perfect for mobile phones. There is a "mini" version for "slower networks or when paying per megabyte of data used," but it seems to work the same on my Inspire as the mobile version does. Both have issues with certain games, but they work better with others. Ministry of War, one of games that is the hardest to operate on my Inspire, does noticeably better in Opera than the others. I'm just not particularly fond of Opera.

Internet Explorer: As I typed those two words, I knew full well that someone would giggle when reading them. Plagued with security issues, this browser is more often referred to in jokes than in any serious discussion about mobile gaming. I do have to wonder, though, how much of that talk is based on people making stupid mistakes by touring through insecure websites or by clicking on random email links? I have no problems with IE as of late, and I find that it has a certain old-school appeal to it, but the security it might have now does not do away with many years of security problems. I don't store anything with this browser and generally do not trust it without a handy security scan nearby, but it does work in general. Is Internet Explore much more than a joke to those people who no longer use it?

Firefox: Ah, Firefox, you poor thing you. I loved you for so, so long. I swore by you. Then you started to do stupid things. The shiny, clever ways of Chrome wooed me away from you -- the little things like the all-in-one address bar pulled my eyes the way of Chrome. I have to admit, though, that you are reliably yourself, and you seem to always be the backup for testing games. I can run almost anything in you without any hangups.

Firefox also seemed to come out of nowhere. I remember those days when the word got around that there was this new kid on the block that was not only more secure but faster and more reliable. To this day I have no idea who made you and why, but what you did to Internet Explorer seems to have been done to you by Google. That's life, I guess, the circle of browsers.

Safari: I've yet to spend some time with this one. To be honest, it seems so foreign that I am almost afraid of installing it and playing some of my precious browser games in it. I will get to it soon, though -- I promise. The question is how many of you actually use this browser? How secure is it, and how does it work with most applications?

In the end, we all have our preferences. Whenever I investigate security or ask questions over Twitter, I am guaranteed to hear many different variations of the "truth." I could start an argument at any convention if I brought up browsers, something I am definitely going to try at the next GDC Online. After 11 years of living my life on the internet, I can honestly say that security is more of a matter of knowing what you are using, investigating any issues that arise instead of fixing and forgetting them, and paying attention to what you are doing while you are online. I cannot tell you how many people have asked me about general internet questions only to find that the answer is "Yes, if you leave your teenager alone with your laptop, you will have some security issues."

Games need to be especially secure. We cannot rely only on the browser to keep us secure and running smoothly. I would advise any new browser MMOer to read up on what to do if his browser of choice starts to have issues. Be smart about it. Change your password, make it unique, and get some good protection.

Browser gaming is especially fun when you consider how portable and accessible it is, but the browser you use is the essential window into that world. What do you prefer, and why? What advice would you give to new players or computer owners?

Each week in MMObility, Beau Hindman dives into the murky waters of the most accessible and travel-friendly games around, including browser-based and smartphone MMOs. Join him as he investigates the best, worst, and most daring games to hit the smallest devices! Email him suggestions, or follow him on Twitter, Facebook, or Raptr.

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