With everything we do today that is tied to the internet, internet browsers may be the most important program you use. What are they? What are they used for? What is the difference between them?
If you watched the video it would have answered these questions. But just in case, we will cover the questions once more. What is an internet browser? An internet browser is a program that allows the user to view web pages and information on the internet. The browser does not control your computer. It’s just a program with a purpose, similar to Word or iTunes. There are many browsers out there today, and all of them are free to download and try. Why so many? Well, each browser has features with pros and cons that are suitable to the different user’s needs. Each browser has its own look and feel and will perform differently, but they all perform the same essential function, allowing the user to view the internet. Here we will cover some of them and explain the differences.
IE (Internet Explorer) is the most common browser. Why? IE comes with every computer running Windows, is installed on any Windows machine, and is the default browser on any new Windows PC. IE is now at Version 8, commonly referred to as IE8. The advantage in using Internet Explorer is that your favorites are stored under your user profile on the computer so they can easily be backed up. Also there are some web sites that can only be viewed with IE. Internet Explorer supports skins to customize the look and feel, and add-ons to further customize the browser. There can be many problems with IE from cookie issues, virus/spyware/adware attacks, to temporary files. Also, IE does not follow the same web standards as many other browsers, meaning if you are a web designer IE will usually show your site differently. For more information visit Microsoft Internet Explorer.
- Some websites can only be viewed in IE
- Comes with any Windows computer
- Saves Favorites to be easily backed up
- Cookie and Malware problems
- Does not follow Web Standards
- Toolbars can become overwhelming
Firefox is probably the second most common browser and you’ve probably heard of it, if you’re not using it already. Firefox is available for both Windows PC and Mac OSX. Firefox is made to compete with other browsers, “the faster, safer, smarter way to browse the Web.” (Mozilla) Firefox is a great alternative to browsing the internet. Bookmarks are simple, but do require a manual backup to save them. With Themes and Personas, you have the ability to change the look and feel of your browser very easily. One nice feature is Private Browsing. Pages you view in Private Browsing will not leave any trace in the history or cookies. Firefox is fairly standard, so don’t worry about not being able to view too many websites. For the web designer, Firefox also holds to all web standards so your designs look flawless. For more information visit Mozilla Firefox.
- Great customization options
- Works well with almost all websites
- Great alternative to Internet Explorer
- Bookmarks must be manually saved to backup
- Too many options for the average user
- Toolbars can become overwhelming
One of the great features of Chrome, a newer browser, is that it is simple. Chrome is available for Windows only. In this case simple is good: it launches in a snap, loads web pages quickly, and searches the web right from the address bar. Chrome is based on the idea of keeping it simple, but it also has great options to customize with themes that allow the user to change its color and style. Chrome has the option of setting the homepage to show most visited websites, making your favorite web pages quickly accessible. One nifty feature is the incognito window. Pages you view in this window will not leave any trace in the history or cookies. Chrome, like Firefox, follows web standards so websites look great. Chrome doesn’t allow toolbars, so it won’t be cluttered by all the free ones you happen to download. For more information visit Google Chrome.
- No cluttered Toolbars
- Few options to work with
- May not work with some websites
Safari is Apple’s browser, and now works with Windows. Safari is most comparable to Chrome as a browser, but functions similar to iTunes. Safari works with web standards and will view most all web pages out there. Safari won’t get clogged up with toolbars and claims to be the fastest browser. Safari features include Cover Flow, Top Sites, and Windows Native Look and Feel. For more information visit Apple Safari.
- Easy to use
- Visually attractive features: Cover Flow & Top Sites
- Time to adjust to an Apple product
- Can be slower running on a Windows PC
The main 4 browsers have been covered in this article. There are many more out there, like Opera, Maxthon, and Flock, just to name a few. What should you choose as the user? That depends on what you want out of your browser and what you like. Personally, I like speed but use them all for different purposes. They are all free to download, so try them out and decide for yourself.