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If you are a Mac user then you could use one of the 4 major browsers (excluding Internet Explorer) such as the default Safari, Firefox and Opera.

These tie up 99% of the browser market but that doesn’t mean you have to be restricted to only these applications. There are a number of very viable alternatives, some built on the Trident or Gecko rendering engines and others from scratch.

Of the Mac browser alternatives I have recently discovered two recently which impressed me the most:

Shiira

Shiira browser

Shiira is a Japanese based browser with the goal “to create a browser that is better and more useful than Safari” (not too difficult in my opinion).

Keeping that in mind, Shiira is very similar to Safari in basic functionality and offers a lot of the same features but also offers a lot of enhanced functions and general usability improvements. Like Firefox, Shiira is open source and has been built upon WebKit (an open source application framework that provides a foundation upon which to build a web browser) and with Cocoa (Apple Inc.’s native object-oriented application program environment for the Mac OS X operating system) and runs on Mac OSX 10.4 and higher.

Shiira

Comparisons of speed, stability and performance between Safari and Shiira are about equal, I’m not sure how it compares to recent updates to Safari but the general impression I get is it’s hard to tell. The last update for Shiira was in January this year.

Shiira shines when you get to appearance customizations as it comes with two themes (Aqua and Metal) and plenty of options for tabs, appearance, icons and moving the interface layout around.

If you use Safari already I can’t see one reason not to use this instead, but I guess it’s all just personal preference. Definitely worth a look anyway.

Camino

Camino browser

A little more well known, Camino is built upon the powerful web-browsing capabilities of the Gecko rendering engine, which is also used by Mozilla Firefox. As such Camino can benefit also from developments such as the recent release of Mozilla Firefox 3.0. The advantage of using Gecko is quite significant compared to other browser’s such as Shiira which are developed by a very small number of people. Mozilla has a community of thousands of developers all helping to build a much greater browser.

Camino

Interestingly one of the Camino founder developers was later employed by Apple to work on Safari and it was his influence maybe which gave Camino an early reputation of rapid page loading and speedy browsing. Its other founder was hired by Google and now works on the Google Firefox team but also develops Camino in his 20% time.

In my opinion, Camino can make a very good browser as a Safari or even Opera replacement. On the other hand, Firefox 3.0 boasts better OS integration but for real integration Camino does a fair better job.

It will be interesting to see where these browser go in the future, they still have plenty of opportunities as Firefox managed to gain amazing success in a market dominated by Internet Explorer with 90% or so market share.