Browser wars? Check. Operating system battles? We got those, too. Web mail skirmishes? Search engine sorties? Nothing new there, except for a slightly drawn-out metaphor. We can also add to the list of hotly contested software the Internet Explorer toolbar. Having sort of fallen by the wayside in the past few years as Web-based widgets have replaced browser-based ones, the somewhat-ignored toolbar is seeing a resurgence, thanks to Google and Yahoo.
Google has just released Google Toolbar for IE version 5 beta of its feature-rich and ready-to-use toolbar for Internet Explorer, and Yahoo has also recently updated its powerful Yahoo Toolbar with Anti-Spyware that comes bundled with antispyware. How do they compare?
The short version: They do pretty much the same things, but in slightly different ways. I suspect most of what will make you prefer one over another has more to do with your Web mail account than anything else. If you use Gmail more often, you're probably going to find Yahoo less useful, and vice versa.
Aesthetically, they share the same layout. The Search box lives on the left, while a series of preset and user-defined buttons follow after it. Just after loading, though, there are noticeable differences. The Google toolbar comes preloaded with buttons and ready for use. Gmail, Google News, Google Bookmarks, Google Notebook, local page searching, spellcheck, AutoFill, and AutoLink all come with the basic installation. Yahoo, on the other hand, comes only with a Bookmarks link.
Both provide easy access for adding, editing, removing, and creating customized buttons, and neither hampers loading IE. Both also have an adjustable search box size for users who feel the need to cram their toolbar with options. Only Google lets you to save your toolbar settings to your profile for portability, one important distinction; and the new version of the Google toolbar is compatible with IE 6--good for that small percentage of users who're stuck in eolithic times.
The biggest distinction, though, is that the Yahoo Toolbar comes with antispyware. I haven't seen any statistics on how it compares to other full-fledged security programs, and it's very limited in its features. It can download virus definition file updates, scan for tracking cookies, launch at startup and that's about it. The current iteration of IE hasn't been as lax in security as its predecessor, but I would recommend only using Yahoo Anti-Spy as a secondary or even tertiary scanner. Still, for those who are paranoid about malware picked up while browsing, it's nice a feature to have accessible via toolbar button. Do note that it doesn't come preinstalled and must be added like any other button.
Overall, these differences tend to be small weapons in the great catalog of ordinance that the two companies are lobbing at each other in an attempt to grab your attention. They're more like shields to protect your attention from the search giant you're not using rather than truly innovative tools.