The web browser is your window to the Internet. The application you run to access your favorite websites may seem like an afterthought – something you are so used to opening and forgetting about while you peruse Facebook or search for a local pizzeria. But recent shifts in how people are accessing the Internet and with what software they are doing it raise some points for consideration.
According to recent statistics, for the first time in the 21stcentury, the number of people using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer web browser is below 50%, while other popular browsers such as the free Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome have continued to grab their respective pieces of the pie. Chrome’s popularity has even passed that of Apple’s Safari browser.
What does this mean to you?
Well, if you have been used to clicking the blue ‘e’ in order to get to the Internet, you have been using Internet Explorer.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but other web browsers have much to offer which you might want to know about. Among these:
The latest version of Chrome is very fast: fast to open, fast to load pages, and generally fast to use because of its simple interface. Firefox too has some speed improvements over Internet Explorer, and Firefox 4, which is due out in January, is promising to equal or surpass the speed of Chrome.
While no web browser is ever completely secure all the time, Internet Explorer is at a distinct disadvantage from the start due to the way it is integrated with Microsoft Windows. Running Chrome, Firefox, or Safari you are providing a smaller window of attack (and damage) when surfing the web. Also, Chrome and Firefox have extensions (aka add-ons or plug-ins) which you can install to enhance your security even more, such as NoScript and Adblock Plus.
And when vulnerabilities are discovered, Firefox and Chrome get patched very quickly (a few days), whereas Internet Explorer can take weeks.
My personal favorite browser is Firefox because of the large number of add-ons available. To enhance my day-to-day Internet use, I take advantage of add-ons such as Better Gmail2, and Firefox Sync. Better Gmail2 provides an enhanced interface to my Google Mail account, letting me hide things I don’t want to see and manage folders of mail better. Firefox Sync lets me synchronize my bookmarks, history, and saved passwords between my desktop, my laptop, my iPhone, and my iPad.
A continuous stream of social networking add-ons are being made available nearly every day for Firefox and Chrome. These add-ons provide you the ability to monitor Facebook, Twitter, and more, from a sidebar in your web browser.
There are thousands of more add-ons available in Firefox’s add-on center and Chrome’s extension center.
So many great tools are available for free which you can add to your web browser should you choose to venture away from Internet Explorer. If you find you can’t get used to a new browser, or you don’t like the idea of straying too far from what you are used to, at a minimum you should make sure you are using the latest version of Internet Explorer.