I was a Konqueror fanboy before I was KDE fanboy. Back then, I was using Konqueror as my file manager in the fluxbox window manager. THAT is a whole 'nother kind of awesome, especially in the days of KDE 3, when it was the default file manager. Lately, Konqueror hasn't even been part of the default Desktop in Kubuntu. There are people who still haven't gotten over the switch to KDE4, and Konqueror is usually the reason. In KDE3, Konqueror was the most comprehensive desktop application ever, a web browser as well as a file manager, but it was even more than that. It had (and still has) its own application menus, and unlike most graphical file manager, Konqueror could and still does support application launchers as well as file icons. This meant that Konqueror could turn a window manager like fluxbox into a full service desktop environment,
The KDE3 desktop seemed to be designed to complement Konqueror, but in KDE4, Konqueror was just too big for the more elaborately planned desktop, and so the new default file manager became Dolphin, Dolphin and Konqueror share a lot of DNA, but Dolphin fits more easily into the KDE4 Desktop. Butthurt Konqueror fans still say terrible things about Dolphin, but they're not warranted. The worst thing you can say about Dolphin is that it's the second greatest file manager ever. You can launch applications from it, and you can use it to access Konqueror's built-in applications menu.
In KDE4, Konqueror has been pushed toward an assigned role as KDE's web browser, but it's not a very good one. It's only recently supported flash, and when I try to use it for Gmail, I get a message to upgrade my browser. It has a way of being in default web browser mode that makes it awkward to use as a file manager, but you can overcome that by setting konqueror up to go straight to a file location, maybe by editing a launcher, keybinding or menu item with a command like "konqueror ~/Desktop", or by setting up a local url like "~/Desktop" as Konqueror's home page, instead of a web page like kde.org. Konqueror no longer mounts removable media, so if you want to use it as a file manager, you may have to mount your flash drives manually.
You know what? I've been mourning the decline of Konqueror for three years now, and it's not so bad, just not that big a deal. Kubuntu has replaced Konqueror as the default web browser with Rekonq. This may be a good thing for Konqueror fanatics. KDE would never drop Konqueror, as this would surely result in the first-ever incident of software-related mob violence. So maybe, once Konqueror is freed from its ill-fitting web browser role, the KDE team will let Konqueror stand on its own merit. Konqueror would make a great OS on it's own, sort of like a badass version of Google's chrome.
These days, when I talk about how much I love Konqueror, in my mind I'm often using "Konqueror" as shorthand for the powerful paradigm that Konqueror originated, and Dolphin continues. In Gnome, you can launch applications from the Desktop, and you can open files with applications with nautilius. You can't launch applications from Nautilus. You can, however, launch applications from Konqueror, and you can launch applications from Dolphin, and you can do it from anywhere in your filesystem. In many ways, the Folder View activity that gives KDE4 the impressive ability to support several discrete desktops for several different projects is an extension of the special ability that began with Konqueror. In some ways, what I was doing with Konqueror in my custom fluxbox desktop of a few years ago was a preview of KDE4. So why did KDE4 make me so mad?
I've just recently (over the weekend) discovered to my surprise that I sort of like Unity*, but that only means I will be using unity to open these amazing KDE applications. Wherever I go in the Linux desktop world I take Konqueror with me, and these days I also take Dolphin. And I'm always glad I did.
*false alarm! It's better than I thought, but I don't think I'll be switching to unity. maybe I'll go back to the super-powered pardigm of konqueror/fluxbox