A collection of alternative Web browsers trying to hold their own

Obscure browsers Flock, Double Vision, Maxthon, SlimBrowser, and Comodo Dragon resemble the big five, but offer unique features while doing so.

Whether you are creating your own gaming Web site or simply checking out the latest Buzz Out Loud, trying to choose one of the dozens of Web browsers out there can be a massive waste of time. Among the big five of Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari, and Opera, there are still more than a dozen second-tier Web browsers that are trying to make a splash in cyberspace. These obscure browsers got a break in 2009 when the European Union settled the Internet Explorer antitrust case with Microsoft. As part of the settlement, Windows PCs sold in Europe now offer a choice screen of 12 browsers.

The lesser-known browsers on the second page of the choice screen include Maxthon 2, SlimBrowser, and Flock. Aside from these, CNET Download.com editors gave high ratings to other notable alternative browsers such as the security-centric Comodo Dragon and Double Vision.

Collection of browser logos (Credit: CNET)

Flock, which has recently released its Chromium beta version to the public, is an example of a browser with the potential to graduate from the minor league ranks. Social-networking-centered with great drag-and-drop capabilities, Flock combines people and places together into one space by integrating Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr into its streamlined interface. With the ability to share Web pages easily among your friends--who can be organized into personalized groups--more people may soon be flocking to this browser for their Internet needs.

Flock browser tool bar

(Credit: Screenshot by Polina Polishchuk/CNET)

Mixing work with entertainment is easy thanks to Double Vision, which allows people to watch videos while they go about their other computer tasks. "Double vision" takes place with a click of a button at the top-left-hand corner of the screen. Instantly the toolbar disappears and videos as well as other Web pages hide behind the other programs being used. The transparency of the hiding video screen is adjustable, and these preferences can be saved for later use.

Double Vision browser tool bar

(Credit: Screenshot by Polina Polishchuk/CNET)

Double Vision allows users to view videos and other Web pages transparently behind other programs.

(Credit: Screenshot by Polina Polishchuk/CNET)


Maxthon 2, based on the same Trident engine that Internet Explorer uses, is highly customizable and its features include drag-and-drop capabilities, split view between two Web pages, and bookmarking a group of tabs that open concurrently. Because they share the same rendering engine, Maxthon's interface heavily resembles Internet Explorer, making it a great alternative for those who love the feel of IE but shy away from Microsoft's grip. Via Net MarketShare, Maxthon reported that it holds 22 percent of the browser market share in China as of September 2009. The company is currently testing a beta version, Maxthon 3.

Maxthon 2 browser tool bar and split view between two Web pages

(Credit: Screenshot by Polina Polishchuk/CNET)

Flashpeak's SlimBrowser is also a customizable Web browser that has many unique functions, including multiple translating options, page-viewing options, and shortcut tools. SlimBrowser saves time with auto form-filling and the ability to open a group of Web pages simultaneously along the tab bar.

SlimBrowser tool bar

(Credit: Screenshot by Polina Polishchuk/CNET)

For people who are extra cautious about their Internet security, Comodo Dragon is a Chrome remix that does not send browsing information to a remote server. Dragon is strict on sites with unstable security certificates such as Facebook, pulling up a warning message when trying to access them. While being aesthetically identical to Google Chrome, Comodo Dragon offers a data-mining-free experience; users do not have to worry about Google collecting their browsing information, even anonymously.

Comodo Dargon browser tool bar

(Credit: Screenshot by Polina Polishchuk/CNET)

Choosing the browser that is right for you does not have to be a tedious experience. Before jumping to one of the big name brands, check out what these second-tier browsers can offer you.

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