With nearly 1.5 billion people having internet access worldwide, it isn’t a huge surprise that everyone has their favorite method of access. Sure, once you’re on the internet you’re on the same internet as everyone else (at least in the broadest sense), but who likes this regularity? If you want to get away from the same boring internet as all of the lesser-informed people in the world, there is one thing you can do that will set you apart and bring you into a new group of people. Now I’m not talking about anything too drastic, but it is something many people all over the world have been doing since the creation of the internet – use a different browser.
The popular choices are the standard Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, and Safari if you are on a Mac. If you’ve been using IE for your entire life, you’ve probably gotten a virus or some type of adware at one point in your browsing days. Sure, IE has come great leaps and bounds with the latest version, Internet Explorer 7, but many of these features you may love have been in other browsers for years. Though it is nice to have innovation come to the majority of people who access the internet, wouldn’t it be nice to have all of these features years before standard IE? This is where the other two browsers come in to play.
Firefox has been released as an open source browser since 2004, gathering a huge following in open source communities, as well across Windows and Mac. With the latest version, Firefox 3, browsing speed is faster than ever, along with more stability and less memory needed to function. With the release of version 3.0 a few weeks back it isn’t a huge surprise that it accomplished its goal of having the most downloads in 24 hours. New features, such as the ability to quickly disable third party cookies, a native skin built in for each major operating system, and as said before, major improvements on memory leaks.
Opera 9.5, released a few weeks before Firefox 3, didn’t gather nearly as much press. Opera, formerly a pay-to-use browser, has been around since 1996. Similar to Firefox, it has offered the ability for tabbed browsing and safe (relatively) browsing for quite some time. Unique features include Speed Dial, which allows a user to select from one of nine user-specified sites, essentially bookmarks. Though Opera is not as supported as Firefox or Internet Explorer, this can also provide a higher level of safety – at least for now.
Safari for Windows was released during the past year, and to many Windows users who use iTunes, it was an update that most did not expect. The Apple Update software automatically informed Windows users that they should download the new Safari browser, something not normal in the world of technology (such a way for downloading could almost be considered adware). Though a great browser on the Apple operating systems, the browsing experience on the Windows platform isn’t anything to be impressed by, considering the alternatives. However, if you are a fan of the OS X look, and you don’t want the add-ons that you would need for Firefox or Opera, then this is a browser you may consider. It is not overly supported, however, so if you need to use a site that requires a browser add-on, you should probably have a different option available.
Internet Explorer has been the dominating browser on Windows since it was introduced with the operating system. It has been the browser that hackers and other people wishing to take your information or money attempt to exploit. For a very long time, IE was extremely susceptible to such attacks. With IE7 and the current Beta of IE8, the susceptibility of such attacks is much lower. Security, when compared to other versions especially, is much higher. Combined with the added new features of tabbed browsing, multiple home pages, and the ability to use a no-add-on version of the browser, make Internet Explorer a more viable choice than ever before. Granted, all of these features have been available in Firefox and Opera for some time, it is still good to see these features available to those less-tech savvy.
As for the best browser, it ends up being up to personal preference. I used Internet Explorer for many years, and moved to Firefox when it was version 1.4 (I think…Somewhere around there anyway). I moved for safety reasons, and also enjoyed the tabs. I now have an add-on that I like, and I love the interface. Firefox is highly supported, with only a few primitive (or totally ignorant) sites not supporting with add-ons. If you want to use a different browser than IE on Windows, and you want the support of IE (with none of the bad targeting) Firefox is the obvious choice.
Second on the list would have to be Opera. I will admit, I have not used Opera very much at all, at least not compared with Firefox. Why switch browsers if you have no problems whatsoever with your current? With the short amount of time I have used Opera, I have found that it is, stock anyway, more cluttered than Firefox. Many features most users do not need, or at least would not miss if they were not included standard. Like Firefox, most/all features are able to be removed, and add-ons are able to be found to suit your liking. Opera is also a safe browser, given it is not widely used and unfortunately not supported as well as other browsers.
As said before, Internet Explorer 7 (or Beta 8 if you so choose) is much safer than its predecessor. However, having used Firefox for years, I have already been used to all of the added features of IE7 since I first began using Firefox. Though it is now a safe browser, and would certainly get everything accomplished without having many/any compatibility issues, I would rather recommend a browser (namely the previous two) given they have all of the features that Microsoft is adding to their browser, only years before. The added memory usage can also be a deterrent, though with modern computers with two-gigabits of RAM or more, memory usage usually isn’t a huge problem.
Last on the list is Apple’s browser, Safari. Though it is great on the Mac side, the Windows experience isn’t anything spectacular. It doesn’t blend with any Microsoft designing, and doesn’t offer anything that the other browsers do not have. It the newest of the aforementioned browsers, at least on the Windows platform, and it needs to be more widely supported for someone to take it seriously. It will be interesting to see where Apple takes their browser on the Windows platform, and perhaps it will become something worthwhile.