In the last month or so Internet Explorer® (IE), Firefox® and Chrome® all released new versions of their browsers, creating an excellent opportunity to take a look at the web browser landscape and make sure that you’re using the best browser for your business and your personal surfing.
Both Windows® and Mac® computers come loaded with a web browser—Windows comes with IE and the Mac comes with Safari®. The default browser may be convenient at first, but its not always the best choice for security or browsing experience. There are many web browsers to choose from, but the main browsers in the United States are: IE, Firefox, Chrome and Safari.
When choosing a web browser the most important aspect to pay attention to it security. There are numerous ways in which the bad guys can compromise your computer (and your privacy) with a poorly constructed browser. Even if you’re diligent, it’s easy to run across a site that has been set up to compromise your computer for nefarious purposes. Firefox, Chrome, and Safari are more secure than all previous versions of IE hands down, although IE9 is showing security improvements.
Beyond security, consider the functionality of the browser. Is it easy to use? Can you customize it to meet your browsing habits? Do the web pages you view look and work okay? Some websites are developed only for IE and don’t work well in other browsers, although this is becoming less and less common.
IE still has the largest percentage of market share in the U.S. (but not in Europe). I’ve found that most people use IE because it came with their computer, not because they actively chose it. The latest version, IE 9, is far superior to earlier versions, but it is only available to Windows 7 users.
Despite improvements over the years, Web Designers and Developers generally have nothing but disdain for IE. Microsoft is more likely to veer from standard practices in constructing their browser and the end result is that most websites appear and work differently from the other browsers. This is a nightmare for Web Designers and Web Developers. We create a website that works and looks beautiful and in Firefox, Chrome and Safari, only to have it appear wonky in IE. From our perspective, if Mozilla (Firefox), Google (Chrome) and Apple (Safari) can get it right, why can’t Microsoft (IE)?
If you decide to continue to use IE be sure that you are using the latest version, IE 9, to protect your privacy. Outdated browser versions do create security risks, but people continue to use outdated browsers just the same. For example, IE 6 is more than 10 years old, yet many people refuse to upgrade. As a result, the IE 6 No More campaign started in 2009 and many large sites like Facebook and Google quickly jumped on board. It has gotten so bad that Microsoft had to get on the bus as well and the IE 6 Countdown site is their fact filled attempt to get people to update their browsers. Developers have been trying to get people to move on since IE 7 came out (October 2006) because IE 6 is so insecure and out of alignment with standards.
If you can’t updgrade to IE 9 because you’re on Window XP or Windows Vista, consider one the other major web browsers—they’re far more secure than IE 6, 7, or 8. Don’t forget, even if you choose not to use IE, you’re stuck with it on your Windows machine. Microsoft uses IE to update your operating system and any other Microsoft software on your computer. So update IE already!
Firefox is the second most widely used browser in the Unite States. It works on both Windows and Mac computers and is a very secure web browser. Its speed and the hundreds of add-ons (maybe thousands) that allow you to customize Firefox are a great bonus. Firefox is the browser of choice for Jo Golden, Chaos To Clarity’s Content Maven.
Since Google’s foray into web browsers a few years ago, Chrome’s share of the U.S. web browser market has increased to 14%. It is fast and, in true Google fashion, has a simple interface and solid security. There are tons of extensions (add-ons) to customize your web experience. The most popular Firefox add-ons generally have a Chrome extensions too at this point. If you are a heavy user of Google services like Google Reader, Gmail, and Google Docs, you’ll have a better experience with Chrome (not shocking since they are all in the family). I made the switch from Mozilla Firefox to Google Chrome on both my Mac and Windows machines over a year ago and I’ve never looked back.
Safari® is the forth most popular web browser in the U.S. and it’s the default Mac browser. Like IE, many use Safari because it comes already installed on Mac computers (it is also available for Windows). It’s a fine, secure browser and it loads web pages fast but it doesn’t have as many extensions as Firefox or Chrome. If the ability to extensively customize your browser is important, then Safari isn’t for you. However, if you just want to view web pages and don’t need the customized experience that Firefox or Chrome can bring, then Safari is a good browser choice.
In the end, after taking securing into account, web browser choice is mainly about personal preference. As more and more tasks are offloaded from our desktops to the Web, it’s important that our browser of choice provides a secure and enjoyable experience. Just remember to protect your privacy you MUST keep your browser updated and use the latest version.