Diplomatic Technology: PC 101, Internet Browsers

IT personnel, computer enthusiasts, subscribers of MaximumPC – this post isn’t geared towards you guys, because what I’m going to talk about, you live with it everyday.  This article is about bridging the gap between geeks and non-geeks, and reaching out to those perhaps not so computer savvy, less experienced, or gun-shy when it comes to working on their machines.  Full disclosure; I’m writing this for people like my parents.

This… is Diplomatic Technology.

Software is a wonderful thing.  It is what tells that hardware you spent all that money on what to do and how to do it.  Without it, your computer would be an incredibly complex paperweight that eats electricity for no reason.  Just about everything you use on your computer is software, or software driven.  Your browser, your e-mail client, your instant messenger, your music players, your antivirus – all software.  Today, we’re going to be focusing on browsers.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not talking down to you here.  I’m certain that the vast majority of you know this already.  What you may not have known is that for whatever you’re using, in all likelihood there’s a different version of it out there that people have developed, and it may have extra features, work better, and be a vast improvement all the way around – and oftentimes, you can find it for free.


Do you use Internet Explorer?  Probably.  It is the most widely used browser on the planet, as it comes with Microsoft Windows.  The first tip of the internet is: Don’t use Internet Explorer.  Why?  Because it is the most widely used browser in big businesses, and because it is the browser that comes packaged with every Windows PC.  Distributors of viruses, malware, and hackers all know this, and thus make it their primary target when performing their dastardly deeds.  Also, Internet Explorer is lacking things that other browsers (Yes, there are other browsers!) provide or can provide that you’ll soon wonder how you’ve ever lived without.  Two such browser alternatives are Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome.

A Firefox window with a Persona activated. Aren't my little Androids cool?

Firefox, a product of the Mozilla open-source Project,  was born in 2004 when Internet Explorer dominated the market share with over 75% of people using it.  Today, it is the most widely used browser around the globe, with over 38% of people using it*.  It is a fantastic browser, with a ton of amazing add-ons such as AdBlock Plus, NoScript, and DownloadHelper that are free and easy to use to help bolster your security and enhance your browsing experience; it is also highly skinnable, and you can have anything from cute puppies to your favorite band integrated into the background across the top of the browsing screen.  It works essentially the same way Internet Explorer does, but with a lot more bells and whistles.  The options it has built in can be a little intimidating, but not too bad; the main difference for most people is that instead of “Favorites” you have “Bookmarks” instead, and the Personas (skins).

Google’s Chrome is today’s 2nd most popular browser, for many of the same reasons as Firefox – with the additional help of 1.) being a product of one of the richest, most powerful, and widely known companies on the globe and 2.) being lightweight and innovative in terms of how it uses resources such as memory on your computer.  Like Firefox, Chrome is skinnable, has excellent add-ons, and is more secure than Internet Explorer – with the bonus that it has the Chrome App Store, so you can do things like play Angry Birds right in your browser.

Personally, I use both of these browsers on my machines constantly, and never use Internet Explorer.  Once you get used to Firefox and Chrome, you find there’s no way to go back.  I strongly recommend any PC owner to download these free browsers, figure out which one they like best, and stick with it, and leave Internet Explorer behind.

Absolutely Free! No Obligation! Operators are not standing by, because these are downloads! Servers are standing by, 24 hours a day! See your LOLcats in style with a new browser!

* = For contrast, my source lists Internet Explorer as having 21.2% of the market share – but these numbers are a little arbitrary, and subject to a lot of factors.  Internet Explorer is a big part of the corporate world, hence why you often hear people say they only use it at work.

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