Pop quiz: what browser do you use to access the Internet? If you’re like many computer users, you may have answered “Google,” or “Yahoo,” but while the company Google does have a browser (Chrome), Google and Yahoo are search engines. A browser is the piece of software on your computer that you use to navigate the Internet and view web content. You use your browser to go to webpages or to a search engine like Google, Bing or Yahoo. The search engine acts like an online yellow pages.
Your choice of browser can effect whether sites load properly and your likelihood of getting a virus while you surf the net. Here’s what you need to know about the software you use to surf the net.
The major browsers that support the majority of the world’s Internet traffic are Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, Google’s Chrome, Mozilla’s Firefox, and Apple’s Safari. Head over whatbrowser.org to discover which browser you’re currently using and if your browser’s software is up to date. The site also offers links to download a new browser if you’d like to switch – they’re all free, so explore your options.
It’s important to use the most recent version available of your browser of choice. Newer generations will support more coding languages, allowing for fewer broken images and better performance on interactive and recently updated sites. Also, the longer a browser is around, the more time virus-writers have to find its security flaws. Using an older version of a browser leaves you vulnerable to malware.
Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is the conduit for about 40% of Internet access in North America. It comes pre-installed on Windows PCs, so it’s the default browser for most Windows users. While the most recent version, Internet Explorer 10, is faster, more reliable and less prone to virus attack than previous generations of IE, it won’t work on older versions of Windows Operating systems like Vista or XP – users with older versions of Windows should switch to Chrome or Firefox. Unfortunately, IE’s popularity makes it a target for hackers, so it’s attacked with viruses and malicious code more than other browsers.
Google’s Chrome supports about 30% of North American Internet access. Since the latest generation of Chrome is compatible with all versions of Windows, it’s a more secure choice for those running older versions like XP or Vista. It utilizes “sandboxing” to contain code encountered on one tab from effecting others, leading to a safer browsing experience. It has a wide variety of cross-platform compatibility, meaning that there are versions for your computer, tablet and Smartphone, allowing you to sync bookmarks across your devices.
Mozilla’s Firefox is used by about 15% of North Americans. It’s got tons of available add-ons, making it the most customizable of the major browsers. Its unique Panorama view allows you open lots of tabs and then move and group them however you like. Firefox 24 (its latest version) works with XP, so it’s another option for users with older computers. Compared to Chrome, it lacks a built-in Flash player and Instant page view.
Apple’s Safari is the default browser for Mac hardware, including iOS mobile devices like iPhones and iPads. It’s most recent version, Safari 6, is compatible only with Mac OSX so Windows users wanting to utilize Safari are forced to use older versions of the browser. While Safari works passably well on Apple devices, its startup time and hardware acceleration are behind the competition and its performance slows when you have multiple tabs open. Consider installing Chrome to see if your surfing improves.