The two main characteristics by which we might classify a browser are:
Here, Internet Explorer wins easily. I have 'pressed' the capabilities of each to their limit and find that Netscape 'poops' out long before IE 3.02. It will display things (particularly in frames) that Netscape chokes on. Clearly, Microsoft has chosen to be 'more thorough'. It upholds the logic of html to a much tighter degree and so can go the 'extra mile'.
Internet Explorer is the tortoise.
Speed is another matter. Netscape wins hands down. If it can display the page at all ... it will display it faster than IE3. Apparently, those at Netscape are willing to sacrifice some measure of functionality in exchange for speedy display of the preponderance of pages offered on the internet.
Netscape Navigator is the hare.
Internet Explorer 3.0 takes forever to load from disk. It takes forever to 'decide' what to do with a frame page it encounters. Netscape Navigator 3.0 loads fast and puts up a simple frame in a couple seconds seeming not to have to figure out what to do with it, merely trusting that it will be uncomplicated. The impression I get is that Microsoft has told its programmers to subsume more possibilities than Netscape and so requires more code to load and check through.
If you want to put lots of, or big animations on a page your best bet is to view it with IE 3.+ and not with Netscape. I recently had to remake my largest page (~320K with gifs) to accomodate Netscape users because the animations running behind the view screen in that page were causing Netscape problems (writing to hard drive, swapping, etc.). There were however no problems with my copy of IE3.02.
I have always found myself trying to stay within the boundaries of Netscape but not IE.
Again, the difference is a legitimate one of philosophy. Netscape wants the greatest speed for the most users. Internet Explorer wants the greatest coverage of the "yet to be written web pages" as well as those already here.
Both viewpoints are important and the goals are equally laudable. For this reason, they are both likely to be around for a long time to come. So if you want speed ... go with Netscape. If you want to do big, complicated things ... go to Internet Explorer.
I personally use both equally depending on whatever ...
Actually, I often use three browsers at the same time.
I have to use the AOL thing to send e-mail since AOL does not support email from outside its "truncated" window. However, they do make it easy to use another browser. You just 'open it separately' and go.