Should I Upgrade My Web Browser?

By Bryan Lambert - Sunday, May 3, 2009

The car I drive is a beautiful bright yellow Mustang convertible with big bold racing stripes, while the car that my neighbor drives is a small, economical silver Toyota Prius. While the cars will get you from point A to B with no problems, they do it in different ways. The Mustang looks “cool”, it drives “cool” and it gets you to point B in “cool” while the Prius drives solid, is an engineering marvel and gets you from point A to B with quiet, fuel efficient “coolness.” Internet browsers are very much the same, they (for the most part) will get you from point A to B – but how you arrive can be totally different factors of cool.

While a lot of this Tip may be more subjective than objective, it will give you a good idea of different ways to arrive at point B (so to speak) with your internet browser.

Internet Exploder

IE*Where else to start the discussion of browsers than with the defacto standard for browsers – Internet Explorer (currently with nearly 67% of the browser market share). The reason that it is the biggest (much to the European Unions consternation) is that it is bundled with Microsoft’s Windows operating system. While it’s not necessarily the first browser available, or (in many persons' opinions) the best browser available, it is still used by many, many people. Microsoft just recently launched Internet Explorer version 8, and now they are starting to include it in their automatic updates for Windows (no need to fear if you are in love with version 7 of Internet Explorer, the update is an “opt in” type, where you get to choose if you want it installed). The newest incarnation of Internet Explorer offers some very nifty “innovations.” You’ll note that the word innovations is in quotes – this is because they are innovations for Internet Explorer, but not necessarily browsers in general. These innovations make it well worth the upgrade over Internet Explorer 7. A word of caution though, Internet Explorer 8 will run rather s.l.o.w.l.y on some “lesser” (read that slower) processors.

As a side note, if for some reason you are still running Internet Explorer 6, do it a favor and put it out of its misery
– upgrade to another browser – ANY OTHER BROSWER than Internet Explorer 6. The faster that this malware loader masquerading as a browser with its antiquated HTML (the basic language of the web) rendering engine goes away, the better off the whole world will be. Now that Internet Explorer 8 is out, it has some users wondering just what else is out there. Fortunately, there are terrific alternatives to Internet Explorer.

Alternative Browsers – AKA: Browsing the Browsers

firefoxlogoWhen running Microsoft Windows (or really whatever operating system you have), it is good to remember that there are always alternatives to the browser that your computer shipped with. The really cool thing about internet browsers is that several can be loaded onto a computer at the same time. Though they may try to vie for being the top dog (that is, the default browser), they will peacefully coexist. This means that along side Internet Explorer you can run one or more of the alternative browsers (even at the same time as one another). Some of the major browsers that you may want to consider are: Mozilla’s Firefox, Google’s Chrome, Apple’s Safari or Opera (made by Opera – Chrome logowho also make a popular mini version of their browser that can be used on many cell phones). A really nice thing about running multiple browsers is that if a particular browser may have a problem rendering (displaying) a web page, you can always launch another browser to see if the problem is that web page or perhaps the browser.

Speaking of other operating systems, if you are running Apple's OSX, then your default browser is Safari, and if you are running some version of Linux (like Ubuntu), then your default browser is usually Firefox. In addition to these browsers, there are several smaller builds as well as "skins" that go over existing browsers. What do these browsers' offer that Internet Explorer may not offer? Where do we start? All are pretty much faster; all are highly customizable, and all are innovative. In fact, many of these browsers innovations usually show up in Internet Safari_logoExplorer a little down the road. All are free to download and use, and as mentioned all can run on the same machine at the same time. If you have not had a chance to run them, I’d highly recommend downloading them all and giving them a whirl. When you install them, they will even conveniently import your favorites and other options directly from Internet Explorer – so you don’t have to waste time “rebuilding” them.

Another terrific feature that these alternative browsers offer is that most of them are built with cross platform use in mind
, thus while Internet Explorer (from version 6 forward) only runs on Windows machines, Opera and Firefox will run on Windows, OSX and Linux machines; Chrome and Safari currently have OSX and Windows versions (note that Chrome is still in beta for OSX). But, whatever browser you choose, be sure to get the most recent update for that version so that you have the latest security fixes installed. This is much less of an issue than in years past in this age of automatic updates – but it is always worthwhile to check every once in a while. For a list of some other alternative (and lesser known) browsers available, you can always check the terrific Wikipedia article on “Comparison of Internet Browsers.”

Final Thoughts

While this Tech Tip offered a quick overview of internet browsers in general, we also have some older Tech Tips on specific browsers (such as Chrome) that are worth a look. It is true that while these browsers will get you from point A to point B (figuratively speaking), they all do it a little differently and with their own version of “cool”. Also, while reading about a browser may be good, we encourage you to go ahead and give some of the alternatives a test drive – you may be surprised that you like what you find and that you’re happy trading in your current browser for a different "set of wheels".