Microsoft should simply package all four of these alternative browsers with Windows and let PC buyers choose the one they like best.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983


Alternative browsers shine

March 14, 2010

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2010, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2010, The Post-Standard

   You're probably aware of my disdain for Microsoft's swiss-cheese-security-hole Web browser, Internet Explorer, which is so unsafe even some of the software experts at Microsoft avoid it. Although Microsoft has made security improvements in the latest version, Internet Explorer 8, I'm still not willing to trust the company's sloppiness with my personal data.
   As far as I'm concerned, Microsoft ought to get out of the browser business. There are four non-Microsoft browsers that are much better, and they're all free. The company should simply package all four of them with Windows and let PC buyers choose the one they like best.
   The four Web browsers I'm referring to are:
      Chrome, from Google, at www.google.com/chrome.
      Firefox, from the Mozilla organization, at www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/firefox.html.
      Safari, from Apple, at www.apple.com/safari.
      Opera, from www.opera.com.
   All four are available for both Windows and modern Macs. All but Safari are also available for Linux PCs.
   I must digress for a moment. Geeky readers can skip the next paragraph.
   For years, because Internet Explorer is built into Windows, unsophisticated Windows have assumed that Internet Explorer is the only way to browse the Web. This locks them into an unsafe browser, with disastrous consequences for Windows users in general. Many of the viruses, worms and spyware infections that plague Windows rely on weaknesses in Internet Explorer to propagate.
   Opera has been around the longest of the four alternative browsers and is a good choice, but Firefox may be the best browser overall. If I awarded points for safety, extra features and speed of opening Web pages, with 10 being the highest, Firefox would get a 10 in everything except speed. Opera is the fastest browser, with Chrome and Safari close behind. (Chrome, Opera and Safari would also get a 10 in safety.)
   Firefox's biggest advantage is called "extensibility" -- the ability to take on various functions such as blocking ads or warning of unsafe sites. You can easily choose from thousands of browser extensions and an almost limitless number of "skins" -- color and button schemes that can customize the way Firefox looks.
   Chrome also has extensions, although not as many. The number has been increasing week by week, however.
   The biggest advantage of Safari is surely its cross-platform nature. As the main browser for Macs, Safari is a good choice for Mac users who have to use Windows occasionally. Safari works exactly the same way on Windows as it does on a Mac.
   Opera has a lot of fans and has improved greatly in the last few years. It lacks many of the features of Firefox, the leader of the pack, but its speed makes it a pleasure to use.
   As for Internet Explorer, if it's already installed on your PC, just leave it alone. Try not to run it. In the odd chance that you need to use it for a clueless Web site, you'll be able to fire it up for that session only.