Is it time to change your Internet browser

April 1, 2010

For many years Microsoft Internet Explorer has been the default browser of choice for many of us. But two issues exist that may change your thinking. Firstly Internet Explorer was recently exposed to yet another security flaw that even hit search engine giant Google.  Secondly a directive from the European Commission forced Microsoft to offer more browser choice because it felt they abused their dominant position in the market. So the question is do you need to change your browser?

The popularity of Internet Explorer stems from the fact that Microsoft has included a version of its browser with their operating systems for many years. This ended up pushing its biggest competitor at the time, Netscape, out of the market. Netscape was the original king of the web browser bringing the World Wide Web to the public’s attention in the 1990s but it charged for its product and Internet Explorer was free.

Move forward to today and the web has, without doubt, impacted the way we live our lives and the big businesses know this. We do more and more online with over 80% of our computer usage through the web browser and other web browsing companies thought that Microsoft had an unfair advantage by including its browser with the operating system. So the European Commission got involved and after a few years of legal argument passed a resolution to force Microsoft to send a “Browser Choice” popup window via its windows update service asking users to change.

Now those of you that update your Windows computers regularly would have been presented with this popup offering a range of browsers and may have been confused. The fact is that many people don’t necessarily know what browser they use to surf the web and probably more don’t really care. But you should!

So why change?

The simple answer is security. As mentioned above, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is the most popular browser and whilst there is a race for browser supremacy there’s also a great deal of attention from the criminal fraternity. These groups try to extract money and information from you and do so by exploiting bugs within the browser software and, despite Microsoft efforts, Internet Explorer’s popularity has drawn focus because their user-base provides the greatest audience for attack.

Which browser should I choose?

Surprisingly there are many free browsers available for download and if I were asked this question a year ago I would have simply said Firefox. This is a good browser but is made really great by the huge amount of add-ons on offer that gives extra functionality; especially the add-ons related to security. Adblock prevents the annoying adverts from being downloaded and displayed in the web page so it speeds up browsing as well as saving computer resources. Flashblock stops the intrusive flash animations allowing you to control what is downloaded; an excellent add-on because while Internet Explorer is a constant target for attack, Flash is for the same reasons and most PCs have Flash installed.

But as good as Firefox is I have recently made the move to Google Chrome and for one simple reason. It’s much faster. In fact, up against Internet Explorer it’s noticeably faster.  It has a very simple and slick interface, which can be themed, and offers a larger visible space to display the web page.

Given these browser are free to download and install, there is nothing stopping you from downloading Firefox and Chrome to test drive as they will work quite happily side-by-side.

Security, Security, Security

Whether you decide to change browser or not the one thing that must be forefront in your mind is security. When browsing the web, it is so easy to click an innocent looking link and before you are even aware your computer could be infected by a nasty virus, spyware or ransom-ware.

Recently we have seen a rise in a malicious type for spyware called Rookits, these hide in the operating system and are even invisible to your anti-virus software. This makes them difficult to detect and remove.

So if you decide to stick with Internet Explorer make sure you upgrade to the latest version (version 8) and that your PC is fully patched with all the priority updates.