Some Microsoft users have found recently that upgrading to the software maker's latest version of its popular Web browser Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) can be an extremely frustrating experience. In fact, one of the most common complaints is that that the product has features that "nag" the user.
“IE7 works, but it has way too much in the way of security notifications that aren't actually doing anything but bugging the user,” says Peri Naccarato, computer technician and owner of The Computer Guys in Saugerties, N.Y. “In my opinion Mozilla Firefox 3.0 is far better at protecting you, and doesn't annoy with the kind of constant pop-ups IE does.”
For more than the last decade, Microsoft has had a death grip on the browser market, with more than 85 percent of computer owners using IE. In fact, in 2000, as part of a federal court's finding that Microsoft used monopolistic practices to maintain a hold over the computer operating system software market, the court also found the software giant attempted to monopolize the Web browser market.
But times have changed. A variety of new browsers are giving business Web users new choices in Web browsing. Many of these browsers put additional functionality into your browser, including e-mail, chat, photo sharing, and more. And despite the new security features in IE7, there are many who contend that the alternatives may provide higher levels of security -- one reason, of course, being that they aren't targeted by hackers as much as Microsoft's market-dominant IE.
“I'm a multiple browser user, depending on what I want to do,” says Michael Belfiore, tech writer and author of the book Rocketeers (Smithsonian Press, 2007). “The only thing I use IE for is watching Netflix Instant Viewing films, which requires IE.” Belfiore says that on a PC, he tends to use the Opera browser for large file downloads because it has BitTorrent, a file-sharing communications tool, built in. He also uses Firefox for research "because of the multiple search engines it has incorporated into the interface. On the Mac I use Safari, which is getting a lot of development from Apple right now.”
History of the browser war
The first widely used World Wide Web browser came along in 1992, in the form of Mosaic, the great-grandparent of many of today's browsers, including Mozilla and all its derivatives. Mosaic, developed in the academic environment, was the first browser to actually implement images embedded in the text, rather than displaying them in a separate window. Some of the Mosaic programmers went on to develop the first commercial Web browser at a company called Netscape. The Netscape Navigator browser was the most popular browser until Microsoft started incorporating its own browser, IE, into it's market-dominant Windows operating system software in the late 1990s.
Since then, of course, Internet browsers have grown to become one of the most necessary tools for anyone using the Web, and if you use Web-based e-mail, possibly the only tool used. Despite being overshadowed by IE, alternative Web browsers are finally making it less a Microsoft-dominated world of browsers.
While some are specific to certain computer operating systems, there are a few browsers that cross all boundaries. The primary alternatives to IE across all platforms are Mozilla Firefox and Opera, with Apple's Safari this past year bringing its particular brand of browser to Windows as well as Macs.
After Microsoft, Firefox appears to be the obvious leader, but Opera has been making some big strides recently. Opera has just formed a partnership with Haute Secure, a security vendor founded in 2006, to protect users from rogue sites known for drive-by malware and malicious links. This two-pronged approach takes browser security a step even further than Mozilla Firefox, which protect against malware but not malicious links. Haute Secure's protection is incorporated into Opera's version 9.5, currently available as a beta release.
There are quite a few other choices in the world of browsers, and the differences can be a bit confusing. So if you've been tempted to switch your business off of IE but haven't been too sure where to start, here's a list of the most popular currently available mainstream browsers.
In addition to Firefox and SeaMonkey, Mozilla's “Gecko” engine is the basis for a number of platform-specific browsers, including K-Meleon for Windows, Camino for Macintosh, and Galeon and Epiphany for Linux.