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Safely Browsing The Internet

Most PC users use Microsoft's Internet Explorer to browse the Internet. I don't have a problem with that. But I do have a problem with people messaging me at 3am in the morning with complaints about Internet issues only to find that those issues were caused by browser vulnerabilities.

It really sucks to be a technician sometimes, and people calling at ungodly hours is just one of the many things I have to put up with these days. I'm just going to put it bluntly when I say that Internet Explorer pretty much sucks in many areas. It's a memory hog, it has more security holes than Swiss cheese, and it has the stability of  a giraffe on crack.

So, in this section, I'll teach you a thing or two when it comes to safe browsing on the Internet.


Get A New Browser

Not all Internet browsers are created equal and that's a fact. Some are just inherently more stable, faster or safer than others due to their characteristics and code base.

Everyone knows Internet Explorer, but do you know any alternative browsers? Let's take a look at two Internet browsers currently favoured by those who are looking for an alternative to Internet Explorer.


Mozilla Firefox

Firefox was originally conceived as a solution to the obvious bloating of the original Mozilla and Netscape browsers (the former being open source, and the latter proprietary). As such, Firefox is meant to be a lean, mean machine that will do the job well without all the weight and bloat to hold it down.

Firefox is, by all means, much more stable than Microsoft's Internet Explorer. It is also a safer browser due to the fact it was built upon the more secure Netscape code base. Best of all, if you are of the paranoid persuasion, Firefox is built by the open-source community, which pretty much rules out hidden backdoors that may be used by nefarious governments to breach the security of your system.

Firefox is designed around a utilitarian philosophy. Getting it to work on as many PCs as possible and with the highest level of performance has always been its top priority. When it comes to maximum performance on a wide variety of operating systems and computers, you can bet that Firefox delivers the goods.

When it comes to compatibility, and a need to get it working ASAP on an office PC, Firefox stands out as my personal choice... for now anyway. Besides, Clint Eastwood was in a movie with the same name, wasn't he?

• Extremely stable.
• Less compatibility issues than Opera
• Much more secure than Internet Explorer
• Automatic patching and built-in bug reporter which are less annoying than Opera's.
• Awesome live bookmarks
• Greasemonkey handles broken code better than Opera's browser.js
• Latest version is quite fast
• Anti-phishing system
• Easy-to-use options and menu system
• Semi-decent download manager
• Less resource-hungry than Internet Explorer
• Allows for the use of ActiveX, which can be exploited by hackers.
• No built-in usability options and optimizations, like Opera's zoom or voice-browsing capability.
• Some versions are known to suffer bad memory leaks, which consume vast amounts of resources.
• Does not come with built-in widget support.
• Default shortcuts are hard to use sometimes.



Unlike Firefox, Opera wasn't built with a lean utilitarian philosophy. I'd say that it has a wee bit loftier goal of interactivity and usability, a good example being their support of widgets and voice command browsing. Its prime concern is therefore the user experience.

Opera isn't open source and is an in-house project. But that certainly hasn't stopped it from gaining features that other browsers would kill for.

Combining the best qualities of Firefox and its own philosophy of user experience, Opera has broken out of the stereotypical box that people have assumed that all commercial software projects possess. With a dedicated team of programmers and a code base as secure as Fort Knox, Opera certainly is a good example of the fun and good you can get after ditching Internet Explorer.

Opera itself has also tried to further consolidate its place in the Internet by concentrating on other endeavours like global compliance towards the WC3 standards (including passing the ACID2 Rendering test). In layman terms, this means that as the world moves towards a standardized Internet, Opera will become more relevant and compatible.

However, while Opera does come with nearly every imaginable feature , I do have a few gripes with it. Its Java-based code morphing system, especially browser.js which deals with broken code, seems to crash everytime it loads Google Mail or a few other sites I visit. This makes the browser crash on a regular basis.

Aside from that though, Opera is my current choice for Internet browsing, and for use on computers which have the basic fundamentals to run its various options.

• Widget support
• Keyboard-only control compatible
• Intelligent zooming
• Voice control
• Least amount of security holes, compared to other browsers
• Fastest browser out there
• Small memory footprint
• Nice tabbed browsing features
• Anti-phishing System
• Very fast and great HTTP pipelining
• Very broad standards support
• No built in Bug Reporter
• Terrible RSS implementation, totally annoying and hard to read
• Confusing menus, should be simplified like Firefox
• Widgets have their own places on the task bar, which is annoying, unlike Konfabulator's less intrusive system
• Not Widget access hotkeys
• Stoopid Browser.JS makes Opera crash every 20 minutes for me.
• Trades off Active X for more security, but renders some sites unusable

<<< Tier 2 : User Applications : Previous Page   |   Next Page : Knowing Thine Browser's Vulnerabilities >>>


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