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Learn with iiNet – Choosing a browser

How-to-choose-a-web-browser

What’s blue, old and isn’t necessary for being on the web? Internet Explorer 6. After our last blog article on updating your browser, we thought we would look at some of the modern choices for web browsers. Most modern browsers maintain a number of common features, from the simple back and forward button to tabbed browsing (allowing you to keep multiple pages open)  and plugins/extensions (to give even more features).

Internet Explorer

Available on: Microsoft Windows

It’s come a long way since it was first released in 1995 and there’s been some rocky opinions about it recently. Although it’s now 2012, many people are still using browsers as old as Internet Explorer 6 which was originally released in 2001.

The older versions of Internet Explorer do cop a lot of flak for being bloated, not compliant with web standards, lacking in features or open to viruses, however Microsoft is really trying hard to change this opinion with its latest releases. Their current standard browser is Internet Explorer 9, which represents a massive change from version 8 in terms of capabilities, look and feel. It contains a single bar which you can use to type a web address or run an internet search  and the minimalist theme means more viewing area for the user.

Google Chrome

Available on: Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux

With the first stable release in 2008, Google Chrome is still a relative newcomer on the web but it’s quickly cemented itself as a popular browser with many users. It’s often touted as being incredibly fast and secure but at the expense of occasional bugs/crashes. Much like IE9 it retains a single bar for both typing in addresses and performing searches and sticking to a minimum area for the user interface.

Chrome also features the ability to “log in” on your web browser. This allows a user to sync history, bookmarks, apps, saved passwords and open tabs across any computer where the user signs in to Chrome. This especially makes it a breeze when setting up new computers or jumping between work computers or a desktop and laptop.

Mozilla Firefox

Available on: Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux

Although it’s version 1.0 release was in 2004, Firefox’s origins stem from the Mozilla Application Suite in 1998 and the Netscape Communicator suite before it. Although it has never shared the same market share, it has always been seen as a strong alternative to Internet Explorer and contained a collection of features with a focus on security and extensibility. This extensibility is driven by community-developed plugins and add-ons available online.

Safari

Available on: Mac OS X

While Internet Explorer is a default browser only available on Microsoft Windows, Safari is the default browser for Apple’s range of devices. It’s most recent release (version 6) follows Google Chrome and Internet Explorer into creating one bar for both searching the web and typing addresses.

Unlike the other browsers, it also contains a default “Reader” button which appears on some sites. This creates a small pop up with the focus of the page collected in an easy to read box.

What do we recommend?

Try out a few of the browsers available to you and see what you prefer. I personally use Google Chrome for most sites, but I keep Firefox as a backup if it crashes. You’ll probably find one really suits how you use the web and stick with it, just make sure you keep it regularly updated (even a sports car needs a tune-up).

37 comments

  1. Lachlan Hunt says:

    So you included the icon for Opera in the picture above, but you failed to give any description for it like you did for the other four major browsers. Why are you excluding Opera?

    [Reply]

    Adam O'grady Reply:

    I didn’t choose the picture for the header, but I didn’t include Opera in the article because of it’s low usage share in comparison to IE, FF, Safari, Chrome.

    Cheers,
    Adam

    [Reply]

    Tony Reply:

    @Adam O’grady,
    If you look at weekend usage (as opposed to week day – work – usage) my understanding is that Opera is up there and IE isn’t. Opera has come a long way and is worth a look.

    [Reply]

    Gareth Evans Reply:

    @Adam O’grady,

    As you are correct that not many people use Opera, perhaps this blog could have been a chance to introduce people to Opera. It is (in my opinion; reviewing web browsers for the past 10 years) one of the most stable, feature filled web browsers around and it’s multi-platform, too!

    Just my opinion though.

    [Reply]

    Lin M. Hall Reply:

    @Adam O’grady, I thought your answer to Lachlan Hunt– I didn’t include Opera in the article because of it’s low usage share in comparison to IE, FF, Safari, Chrome–bordered on insulting. Opera has existed for longer than has Chrome, it has integrated similar services such as email, and it is strictly standards compliant. Your excuse does not stand up to scrutiny.
    In the case of Firefox, you could have pointed out that Netscape existed from about mid-1985 and it has the longest history of being a malware-resistant browser.

    [Reply]

    John Knight Reply:

    @Lin M. Hall, The internet wasn’t yet born in mid-1985!

    [Reply]

    Clinton Reply:

    @Adam O’grady,
    Opera was one of the first browsers to introduce tabbed browsing, integrated search and webaddress bar plus many other features that have become standard across other browsers. They are the thought leaders on browsers as far as i an concerned.

    [Reply]

    Eric Brodrick Reply:

    @Lachlan Hunt,
    I’m another Opera fan. I’ve been using it since V5. I’ve tried other browsers (Firefox, Chrome etc.) but have always come back to it because the others just don’t have the features I’ve become used to using such as being able to zoom the web page anywhere between 20% and 300% and the “Fit to Width” function. Opera was also the first browser to have tabbed browsing and has the best downloader of the lot

    Sorry Adam this was a very poorly researched and lazy article

    [Reply]

    Gregg Faulkner Reply:

    @Eric Brodrick, I agree with you Lachlan that this article was poorly researched and superficial to the point of being useless.
    A better planned and more in-depth analysis of browser options would be very useful for a lot of people, so please Adam, how about a Version 2.

    [Reply]

  2. Colin Brock says:

    I use I E 8 do they have any updates for that
    cheers Colin

    [Reply]

    Adam O'grady Reply:

    Hi Colin,

    IE 8 is the highest version of Internet Explorer available for Windows XP, but if you’re on Windows Vista (SP2) or Windows 7 you can upgrade to Internet Explorer 9. Alternatively, you can download and try other browsers like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.

    Cheers,
    Adam

    [Reply]

  3. Safari is primarily a Mac browser, but it’s available for Windows too (and maybe other platforms, I haven’t looked). Just mentioning for completeness.

    If you still use IE6, get a better browser NOW! IE7 is also too old to keep using. Get off them and get onto something better – I personally use and like both Chrome and Firefox.

    [Reply]

  4. Lisa says:

    I use Opera to reduce SPAM as hackers seem to target MS, so I try to use everything that is not MS.

    [Reply]

  5. sven christensen says:

    I don’t know why they not using Opera its the best browser on the net

    [Reply]

  6. BerniE says:

    Hi Adam,

    In your article you discuss the Safari browser for use on Apple MAC OSX.

    You may not be aware of it but Safari is also available for Windows…
    See Safari 5.1.7 for Windows at:
    https://support.apple.com/kb/DL1531

    Works fine for me on Windows XP.

    Another interesting browser you missed is SeaMonkey a Mozilla derivative that has extra facilities, like editing Web pages and other useful features.

    Cheers,

    BerniE

    [Reply]

  7. William Seville says:

    Oh come on!
    Opera is in the top two not-installed as standard browsers. Given google’s hard push on it it’s probably the #1 “chosen by actual users” browser.
    It still is the trend setter in features and standards compliance, with Chrome playing catch up and Mozilla still fixing 10 year old bugs.
    Finally – you are supposedly providing advice to ii.net users, following actually reviewing the the software yourself. Not sheepishly following installed base trends.
    Poor, poor excuse Colin.

    [Reply]

  8. Ian Mackereth says:

    OK, I’ll write about Opera then!

    Opera always performs well in benchmarks, especially for speed, and seems to have new features in every release that appear months later in FF, Chrome, et al!

    The lack of market share means that websites probably aren’t optimised for it, and this occasionally causes a problem on feature-rich sites (although there usually ways around this.)

    It has a news reader, an email client and a Bittorrent client built-in, provides cloud syncing between machines (including mobiles), and can run extensions and provide widgets for the desktop.

    Definitely worth a look…

    [Reply]

  9. Matt Rigby says:

    Safari is on Windows too. And you’d be surprised how many use it (probably because it is offered with iTunes?).

    And, yes, where is Opera?

    http://www.opera.com/browser/features/

    As an avid Opera user (fanboy?), it was a little disappointing to see it left out. 1% is still a lot of people! :P

    Opera has long been ahead of the game in speed and standards compliance.

    It is quite possibly the first browser that had Page Tabs (back in the 90s!). And none of the others have the Tab Stacking feature (a great way to organise your browsing experience).

    They also had a mobile browser before Safari, Firefox & Chrome.

    Opera Link lets you log in to keep your data synchronised between devices (even mobiles!). They’ve been doing this before the others too. I’ve kept the same set of bookmarks for years now across more devices I can remember, including all my mobile phones since I started using Opera Mini (which I started using before there even was an iPhone).

    Opera’s desktop version has Widgets & Browser extensions too.

    Opera’s Turbo Mode built in so that if your internet is running slowly, the Opera Browser uses much less bandwidth to deliver your content to you.

    If you want a browser that is portable across devices, try Opera on Windows, Mac OSX, Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris (that’s just the desktop versions).

    Mobile versions include: iOS (it’s in the App Store), Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, as well as Symbian & Java enabled phones.

    One of the main reasons it is overlooked is that it is often overlooked. ;^)

    [Reply]

  10. Joseph says:

    I was using Firefox when all of the sudden it stopped working and re-installing it didn’t work either (error message). I am using IE but when downloading attachments (dbf) it doesn’t open them. ???

    [Reply]

  11. S Lang says:

    Hi Adam,
    At my end Firefox is very prone to crashes, an experience I never had with Google Chrome. I now use the latter for browsing and if I need Downloadhelper (on Firefox only)I have to “cut-and-paste” the address and keep my fingers crossed. Intriguing.
    Cheers,
    Stephen

    [Reply]

  12. David Reid says:

    Why do you show Safari as only available on Mac OS? That is a very Windows-centric, blinkered view, and wrong!

    [Reply]

    Adam O'grady Reply:

    I was only including compatibility for the latest versions. Apple hasn’t developed a Windows version of Safari 6 (yet?) so didn’t include it in the list.

    Cheers,
    Adam

    [Reply]

  13. Rob Black says:

    So I can sfely upgrade my browser to IE8 without any operation problems, is that correct? ( Last time I did that my computer crashed because you were only using IE7.)

    Cheers,
    Rob

    [Reply]

    Adam O'grady Reply:

    If you’re on a compatible operating system you should usually be able to upgrade Internet Explorer to version 8 without any hassles.

    Cheers,
    Adam

    [Reply]

  14. Arthur Sale says:

    Safari is also available to run on Windows, and this may be useful for people who use both Macs and Windows machines.

    Personally I use both Chrome and Firefox, but have Safari and IE installed for compatibility testing.

    [Reply]

    Adam O'grady Reply:

    Hi Arthur,

    I did discover Safari used to develop a Windows version of Safari, however didn’t include it as they haven’t done so (yet?) for Safari 6.

    Cheers,
    Adam

    [Reply]

  15. Tim says:

    Opera does have distinct advantages/disadvantages by having the email client integrated into the browser program now. Worth a review I would have thought.

    [Reply]

  16. Jol Parslow says:

    Hi Adam,

    Safari is available for Windows also. Here is the link: http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1531?viewlocale=en_US&locale=en_US
    I used it for some time on Windows before switching operating systems to Mac. In fact it helped me in my decision as to whether to switch to Mac.

    [Reply]

    Adam O'grady Reply:

    Hi Jol,

    I did discover Apple used to develop Safari for Windows, however this seems to have been discontinued with Safari 6. Since the current version of Safari is not available on Windows, I decided against including it as compatible with Windows (much like Internet Explorer for Mac).

    Cheers,
    Adam

    [Reply]

  17. Michael Silverstone says:

    I have used Opera for years and I’m sad that you missed this one out. It is a great browser and I wouldn’t consider anything else.

    [Reply]

  18. ray street says:

    I like to use IE9, but have to use firefox to get into tool box. IE9 will not show usage graphs

    [Reply]

  19. Rob White says:

    In the word processor wars of the 1990′s I remember a comment made, and it was this: The best word processor is the one you are used to. It is the same with browsers and email programs. Give the other programs a try, but please don’t browbeat me if I happen to differ.

    [Reply]

    Mel Reply:

    @Rob White, Seems to me the only one getting browbeaten here is poor Adam…

    [Reply]

  20. Joy O'Grady says:

    I tried Internet Explorer 8 but found it prevented me using Webmail in Paperport so returned to Internet Explorer 7.

    [Reply]

  21. Andrew says:

    There are 2 major problems with constantly keeping your browser updated.

    1. Internet security programs seem to take a while before the security program will work the new browser sometimes this takes many weeks. During that time you no longer have the security toolbar working in your browser.

    2. If you have a very old computer updating the browser or any other program can use more resources then you have available in your computer and the program or browser will not work on your old computer.

    This is commonly called the upgrade trap and is the reason most computers are thrown out and no longer used simply because the software is no longer supported and the new version will not work with the hardware in the old computer.

    Regards
    Andrew

    [Reply]

  22. Werner de Bruin says:

    Wow people sure complain if you add a comment box to the bottom of a page.

    As a web developer I can only say – thank you Adam. For taking the time to let people know they should keep their browsers up to date. It will better everyone’s browsing experience and online security.

    Personally I’m a Opera fan, but I work across them all. In my opinion IE is the sloth that everyone ends up with and should get rid off – it’s always behind in standards compliance, a malware target and slow.

    [Reply]

  23. David says:

    Also a little disappointed you didn’t mention Opera.

    I used Firefox for years but Mozilla lost me when they went through their rapid version revisions with no noticeable improvements.

    [Reply]

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