Choosing a Web Browser

Your web browser of choice doesn't have to be a mystery, even if the Web is a source of great knowledge, hard-to-find items, and untold mysteries. Choosing a Web browser is a matter of examining a few key features and following simple installation instructions. Once your new web browser is all set up, you'll be free to pursue the next great mystery.

Web Browser Security
A Web browser allows you to do anything online, from shopping to finding restaurant recommendations to meeting new friends-the possibilities are endless. But along with the good comes the bad. Retailers use the Web as another way to reach consumers. The Web sites you use to browse the Web and shop may also be sending your information along to partners to target you with special advertising. Some of the many plug-ins now available make it possible for Web sites to gather stored information from your computer. The ugly truth is that security is an issue when browsing the Web.

One of the main things to consider when choosing a Web browser is the level of security that the program offers. Proponents of Mozilla Firefox argue that the Internet Explorer Web browser is fully integrated into the Windows operating system, which may lead to possible security breaches. Paranoid rumormongers insist that Microsoft has a secret back door into Windows, which allows them to view any data on your computer and all of the Web browsing done through Internet Explorer. The truth is that Microsoft probably isn't out to get you, but unscrupulous programmers can and do exploit weaknesses in your Web browser to mine data and personal information.

Data mining is a reality. Identity theft is a valid concern for all consumers in today's connected society, where information flows like water over phone lines, through your cable modem, and across the Web to destinations unknown. Finding a Web browser with good security and regular patches to update any leaks or security breaches should be your first order of business.

What's Best for Your OS?
The three most popular Web browsers are Microsoft's Internet Explorer, independently developed Mozilla Firefox and Apple's Safari. Mozilla Firefox and Safari both support Windows and Mac OS, but Microsoft doesn't play well with others, releasing Internet Explorer only for Windows. If you have a Mac, options are limited. As a general rule of thumb, the Web browser that comes with the operating system works best with that operating system. The majority of Windows users also use Internet Explorer as their Web browser of choice, and the majority of Mac users prefer Safari for their Web browsing. The OS manufacturers are able to integrate special features that make their Web browsers work very well with their OS. However, Mozilla Firefox is fast becoming the Web browser of choice among the technologically savvy. With support for Windows, Mac and Linux, Mozilla Firefox is the most versatile Web browser currently available.

Internet Explorer
In the early days of the Web, two Web browsers reigned supreme: Internet Explorer and Netscape. A fierce battle for users ensued, and Internet Explorer won. Small Web browsers popped up here and there and tried to compete with Internet Explorer's dominant market share, but none of them had the features or the development to stick. As a result, Internet Explorer limped through several generations without much forward movement. IE released new versions with security updates and new plug-ins as Web content developed, but there was very little revolutionary overhaul until a new Web browser came to town.

After Mozilla Firefox came out, with its tabbed browsing and superior plug-in support, Internet Explorer released a new Web browser, copying several of Firefox's well-received features, to counter Firefox's growing popularity. For better or worse, Internet Explorer is fully integrated into many aspects of Windows operation. This integration means IE is useful for things beyond Web browsing. It is also still the most popular Web browser available, so Web sites are developed and tested using Internet Explorer. Some Web sites do not work with Mozilla Firefox. Bottom line: if you own a PC, Internet Explorer came with it, so you may as well leave it on your system. You may need it if a foolish developer hasn't recognized the growing market share of Mozilla Firefox.

Mozilla Firefox
Mozilla Firefox is the fastest growing Web browser currently available. Other small, independent Web browsers still exist, but none has managed to catch on as quickly and completely as Firefox. Firefox has fantastic security features and supports more than 1,000 add-ons to customize your Web browsing experience. Web sites load faster in Mozilla Firefox than in Internet Explorer. Firefox users are less susceptible to popup ads and dangerous embedded programming than IE users. Mozilla Firefox is better in almost every way, with one caveat: not all Web sites function in Mozilla Firefox. The best Web browsing configuration for Windows PCs includes Mozilla Firefox as primary browser, with Internet Explorer installed on the machine for use with Web sites that won't load in Firefox.

Safari is Apple's integrated Web browser. Like the other browsers, Safari has adopted many useful features, such as tabbed browsing, a Web search box, autocomplete and a bookmark interface similar to Apple's iTunes application. Safari still lags behind the other two providers in market share, although Apple markets it as the fastest Web browser available. If you have an Apple, you'll find the Safari interface familiar and easy to use. It's still worth looking into Mozilla Firefox to take advantage of the Web browser's customization options and advanced security features.

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