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What's in Your Browser?

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There's a 40% chance that it's not the latest security updates; in fact, not even the latest browser.

IBM, Google and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology recently published the results of an exhaustive 18 month study of who's browsing with what on the Internet. Some 60% of surfers are doing so with the latest version of their browser. That leaves 40% who are not.

Why is this a bad thing? Three reasons:

Security. Security. Security.

Old browsers don't include the latest security patches, for obvious reasons. Just under 80% of all surfers worldwide are using Microsoft Internet Explorer (Oh how the mighty continue to fall! But, that's another story.). Out of those IE users, 48% are still using IE 6, and not IE 7. Just a reminder, IE 7 was released in 2006 and IE 8 is already out in beta. This gives you an idea how quickly the average bear is jumping on those new browser versions.

In other words, a good chunk of people in the world don't bother ever updating their browser. They just wait until they buy a new computer, most likely.

I'm sympathetic. I do have IE 7 and it drives me crazy. It's so secure that I can't login into my own domain hosting company for my professional site and update pages. I have to do so on an older version of Internet Explorer or another browser.

Other interesting nuggets from that study. While Internet Exporer's market share has eroded to 80%, it's not Apple Safari or Opera that is gaining ground in its place. It's Firefox. Firefox now takes up more than 16% of the browser market and those figures pre-date the recent version 3 release that saw more than eight million downloads in the first 24 hours.

So why don't more people (and businesses) update their browsers more often?

Shooting from the hip, here are my best theories:

- If it ain't broke, don't fix it. The older versions serve their purpose and you can't salivate over slick new features you're not aware of in the first place. It's not like driving down the road and seeing the latest Ford Mustang and wishing you had one, too.
- We've all been burned enough times with new versions of browsers and other applications to know they often arrive buggy and too bloated to function well on our current system. I will give a nod to Firefox 3. It does actually run faster than version two. I can't say the same about IE 7 compared to IE 6.
- Not everyone reads technology headlines (unfortunately for writers like me). A great many people simply don't know there's a new version available.
- For the average IT department, checking each computer on the network to see what browser they are using ranks on the priority list somewhere between writing a employee manual on good ergonomics and cleaning bagel crumbs out of all the keyboards.

Last updated: Aug 5, 2008




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