Most people know nowadays that Microsoft's Internet Explorer is a poor choice for a web browser due to its inherent lack of security, instability, and the fact that it is very proprietary in a number of ways (which lead to websites not looking the same through it as they do through other web browsers), so what other options are available? There are several: Opera, Google Chrome, Firefox, and many others that are less commonly used. So, if there are so many, which one is most recommended? That depends on who you ask. In this article, I will discuss each of them and make my recommendations for the way that you might want to use it.
First, let's talk about Firefox. Firefox was to be an alternative based on open-source technology and was started by some of the people at Netscape. Thus, they took the program code of Netscape and redesigned it into a new product that would allow for there to be the security of closed-source for Netscape and still have the same functionality and capability to use just about all the extensions available to Netscape without having to reinvent the wheel. This open-source option is one of the reasons that I do not recommend it.
Firefox is the browser that a large number of computer magazines, amateur technical support websites, radio talk show hosts (such as Kim Komando), and "neighborhood hackers" recommend. As a professional, I tend not to recommend it for many reasons. First, it is nearly as insecure as Internet Explorer especially because of the fact that it is developed as an open-source project. Open Source means that anyone who wishes to contribute to the development of Firefox can do so and it also means that one can get the actual programming code used to create and compile the executable file that is on your machine. Now, why might this be a problem? Because a nefarious person could easily insert a procedure into the internal structure of the program to make your browser go out to download various infections to your machine, log what you type when entering passwords, etc. and no antivirus program would be able to detect it since it is part of the program itself rather than a separate program that "attaches" itself to the browser or operating system. While it has not been discussed openly in the media, this has happened in the past with other open-source programs and could easily happen again with Firefox.
Second, Firefox is known to have memory management issues. A particular weblog I monitor actually has over 500 comments about that issue and the fact that it has been getting worse since Firefox first came on the scene in 2003. For those who have plenty of RAM, that may not seem like much of an issue. (For example, on my primary administrative machine, I have 16GB of RAM while running Windows 7.) However, for those who bought their machines "off the shelf" will frequently have only 4GB of RAM and Windows will use much of that by itself, typically leaving only about 1 or maybe 1.5GB of RAM available for running programs. Therefore, memory becomes quite a valuable commodity in such computers. Most users want to be able to run multiple programs at the same time, such as antivirus (which runs in the background), MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, iTunes, or other such utilities. Those all need RAM but when one tries to use Firefox to load a single webpage, it utilizes as much as 80MB just to load a simple page such as the one you are reading now. Opening more tabs means that Firefox uses even more RAM. A wonderful example is when I have used it in the past, I had six tabs open in Firefox and after only three hours, it was using 2GB of RAM. Completely out of line and excessive! Running my most commonly used browser, Chrome, I frequently have as many as two dozen tabs open and the amount of RAM used is about 750MB. In other words, four times the tabs and one-third the memory.
Third, Mozilla Corp. refuses to do anything about the memory management (also called memory leak) issue despite being informed about it repeatedly over the past several years. They refuse to acknowledge that there is any problem whatsoever. Instead, they blame the users for the problems, saying that the issue has to do with the add-ons that are used with Firefox, failure of the user to understand how to install Firefox correctly, and other such excuses. If the complaints were coming only from people who were stereotypical end-users, that would be one thing but these complaints come from people of all backgrounds, including those who are much more heavily into the programming aspect of the IT world than I am. Thus, ignoring the commentary is not good for Mozilla and is the biggest red flag that is risen against them in my book. So, I must say that I vote a thumbs down in regard to Firefox.
Next up for evaluation is Google Chrome. We all know that Google has taken over the world in regard to web search engines. Before Google came around, there were Dogpile, AltaVista, Ask Jeeves (now called Ask), Yahoo, MSN Search (aka Live Search, aka Bing), and countless others. However, when Google came along, they did things efficiently and accurately, so they earned themselves a big name while making all the others go running for cover while their worlds crashed down around them.
Since that time, Google has branched out in a number of directions, such as free online applications that have much the same functionality as the expensive Microsoft Office and an online email website (GMail) that puts others (such as Yahoo Mail and Hotmail) to shame and so, of course, they had to throw their hat into the ring for web browsers. Their answer is Chrome. It is supposedly small and fast. In practice, I must agree and it is much more stable than Firefox and much more secure than Internet Explorer. Thus, if you want a good alternative, Google Chrome is something to consider.
Opera started years ago as a research project for a Norwegian telecommunications company but then was spun off into its own company a couple of years later. The first several versions of the software were "try before you buy." In other words, you got to use it for 30 days and then the software would no longer function until you paid for the license and input the code to unlock the software (which was a common scheme back in those days and still is in use today with a number of products). The company moved away from that licensing model in 2000, moving instead to advertisement-based support. Thankfully, as banner ads and such are so annoying as we all know, they discontinued that in 2005 and, instead, have obtained most of their funding through an agreement with search engine giant Google. Though they are still independent, they cooperate with Google and, as such, use Google as their default search engine.
In regard to the printing issues, there are times when it will print normally, such as a typical text document such as this page, but if it has graphics, then it seems to throw Opera for a loop. If you try to print a PDF document (such as a tax form from the IRS through the Adobe Reader plugin in Opera, then forget it: what you will get will be a page with only the header and footer information and an outlined rectangle. This is a big failure on their part as far as I am concerned since the printing issue has been known for at least a few years now and, like the people at Mozilla in regard to their memory handling problems, the developers of Opera have yet to make any headway in getting it resolved.
So, there you have it: a long-winded review of the most commonly used browsers and the recommendations from Best Deal Computers as to what will make your browsing enjoyable, easy, and safe. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment to help you migrate from one browser to another (a process that typically takes only a few minutes), please give us a call or drop an email to us (see Contact Us in the menu on the left). We look forward to giving you the Best Deal on your computer support.