Many of the more popular browsers, namely Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox, are not considered “open source” browsers. This is because they are not developed by or developed for the community. Their code is not released under an Open Source license but instead is released under a Commercial License. These licenses can be a bit restrictive, especially in terms of the license requirements. In this article, I will explain what Commercial Licenses are and how they affect non-Microsoft browsers.
A Commercial License is a type of royalty that allows the manufacturer to charge a fee for use in the developer’s program. While this is the most common licensing arrangement for web browsers, not all of them employ this mechanism. The most common example is Sun’s OpenOffice suite, designed as an open-source project but heavily commercialized. This is similar to Microsoft’s Office Suite, which is also based on an Open Source project. Microsoft’s ActiveX and Adobe Flash are also based on Commercial License programs.
There are two main limitations of Commercial Licenses when it comes to non-Microsoft browsers. First, they can be expensive. Microsoft has designed its own engine from scratch and has no competitors to support it. Due to its proprietary nature, this engine cannot be shared with any other browser and must always be included with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. In short, if you want a non-Microsoft browser, you’re going to have to spend more money – though it is worth it.
Second, many of the Commercial Licenses include clauses that limit the browser’s distribution to specific parties. These are generally the carriers and manufacturers of Microsoft’s products and restrict browser distribution. Some clauses are so limiting that many organizations, such as universities and schools, choose to implement their own browsers instead of Microsoft. This is not recommended. The Internet is an open platform, and everyone is free to implement any technology they deem appropriate.
The WebKit-based Browser from Apple is one example. Apple’s Safari is based on the same codebase as WebKit and is not a fork of WebKit. Neither is it an alternative and in fact, it is not even really a browser at all. The primary difference is that Safari uses WebKit for most elements, such as web navigation. It also includes a new WebKit-based key-board layout much like what you’d see on the Mac OS X platform.
Open Source-based browsers, such as Mozilla Firefox, are not based on any license agreement but instead are derivatives of the Mozilla codebase. This means that the code is available for anyone to change and customize, while the licensing terms are much more permissive. Although this type of browser doesn’t come pre-installed with Microsoft, it can still be used with Microsoft applications if you buy a license for it. However, it has its drawbacks, such as lacking many customization options available with commercial non-Microsoft browsers.
Opera is also a popular browser and is similar to Safari in many ways. It is a fork of the Linux operating system. While the commercial version has many advantages, such as the ability to use most of the Microsoft Office software pre-installed, Opera is often seen as lacking some of the features available with Microsoft. For instance, it lacks the password manager and some of the other Microsoft-related tools. However, the software does have an excellent user interface and is the preferred browsing application for many developers and designers.
Finally, there are third-party browsers available for Chrome. These browsers are less expensive than Microsoft-based browsers and have many of the same features available with Microsoft browsers. Some of the Opera features, like the password manager, can also be found in a third-party browser. This gives users of all operating systems more freedom to choose which browser they want to use for their surfing needs.