Internet Exploder has been hit by the cyber-criminals again. Yawn. Actually, this time it’s serious. It affects all versions of Internet Explorer since six, and it’s going to take Microsoft a while to fix it, and I suspect they won’t for earlier releases (anything less than version eight).
Continuing to use Internet Explorer in the mean time is risky, so using an alternative would be a good idea. But which one?
There are strong opinions as to which browser to use, more often related to the companies that produce them than to their technical merits. In the circumstances I thought a quick guide was in order.
Produced by Micro$oft and therefore beyond the pale. Actually, it’s pretty good although slow and cumbersome. It trails behind the others in innovative features. A lot of kid web designers specify that their sites are “optimised” for Internet Exploder, which is a reason to avoid such web sites – or use Internet Explorer. As it comes pre-installed with Windows, it’s the most common web browser out there and is therefore the one attacked most often by criminals. However, I’ve seen no evidence that it’s inherently less secure.
It’s Windows-only, and the current version requires XP SP2 or newer.
Download Internet Explorer if you must
This one comes from the Mozilla foundation and is championed by the anti-Microsoft brigade. They claim that Internet Explorer is full of bugs, insecure and bad. Firefox is all of the above, but “good”. More bugs and security problems turn up in Firefox than IE, and it has very regular updates to fix them.
Firefox, like Internet Explorer is big and slow – and some of the versions will cause your PC to grind to a halt. The current release (3.5.7) seems okay, but the writers tend to break it too frequently for my liking.
However, Firefox is on the leading-edge of browser design and pushes forward with useful new features before Microsoft has thought of them. It’s also very good from a security perspective in dealing with encryption and suchlike, and is probably the professional browser of choice for this reason.
Firefox is also cross-platform – available for UNIX, Linux, Windows, Macintosh and so on.
This is a wonderful, small, efficient browser from Google. It follows the web standards very well, which means web pages produced to work around problems with Internet Explorer will not look the same on Chrome.
It has one big weakness: it will remember web site passwords, but not in a secure way. Therefore don’t use Chrome for logging in to anything secure. I do hope they’ll fix this soon, but it’s taken a long time.
If you like Norway, you’ll love Opera. It’s available from Windows, Mac, Linux, Nintendo Wii and various handheld devices. Its users seem to like it, although it doesn’t have a significant desktop market share except on the Macintosh. I haven’t tried the latest version as I’m happy with Firefox and Chrome, but it’s worth a look if you’re not.
This is written by Apple and only runs on a Macintosh (or iPhone &c). I would mention the fact it’s proven pretty insecure, but that would upset Mac aficionados, who don’t take such criticisms seriously anyway.
They’re all insecure. Take your pick. Just avoid IE for a month or so, and be careful if you have to use an earlier version as they might not get around to fixing it.