Alternatives to Internet Explorer
A lot people aren't aware exactly what a web browser is, some people see the internet explorer icon and automatically assume it's "the internet". I've seen a few people in my time with this opinion, but if you're a novice with computers, or perhaps if you've never thought there were alternatives to the poor excuse of an internet browser that's shipped with Windows, it is understandable. Others are just not willing to change their browsers for a better browsing experience; "It works, I'm not changing it". I don't agree with this, since you're only holding yourself back in this case.
Whatever the reason, I'm writing this as I've noticed a large amount of visitors to this site are using Internet Explorer*, and it's understandable given the market share IE holds on the competition. However compared to other browsers currently available** (you may have noticed them in the link above) IE is severely lacking in both features and web standards. Luckily changing browsers is as simple as 1, 2, 3 and in return for a few minutes of installing a new browser you will get the satisfaction of enjoying every web page to a much higher standard as browsers and the internet continue to improve.
I will suggest 2 popular alternatives, and one twist for those who may find use in the extra features offered by the 3rd browser. Please note that I am writing this to gain interest in alternatives to Internet Explorer, details of the browsers and what they can do have been mentioned many times before, and the vendors have their own product pages to entice you into downloading their software which I have supplied.
I'll start with Chome, simply as it's my favourite. Chrome is currently the fastest, and most secure (after results from the latest Pwn2Own competition) browser available to the market. Out of the "big three" browsers (IE, Firefox, Chrome) it holds the lowest market share, but hopefully with the recent update to 4.0 and further updates to come that will improve.
Chromes interface is built on simplicity. You only use Chrome to browse the internet, so it attempts to stay moderately invisible and out of the way, giving you, the user, a better browsing experience.
It automatically supports most standards "out of the box", that means there is no need to continuously install and update "plugins" such as is the case with other browsers, though should you be interested in extending Chrome's functionality there are plenty of extensions available, some have even become a part of Chrome's installation (for example; Automatically translate pages) and for those not keen on Google blue, there are different themes also available. Each "tab" runs in it's own process, basically this means that if one tab crashes, you can close it and re-open it without having to close the entire browser. Something I feel was revolutionary!
For the above reasons Chrome is my favourite browser, and the most promising in my opinion for future web standard integration. Now I've hardly listed all of the features of Google Chrome, and I don't intend on doing so as Google themselves have a page dedicated to demonstrating Chrome's capabilities. I am just giving my seal of approval for using Chrome, as I feel it's the best available for my needs - Simple, secure, fast, and open to new web standards.
Firefox holds the 2nd largest market share of all browsers available to the public. They are a well established, tried and tested web browser with a plugin for every occasion. I use firefox personally for when I'm administering my websites due to the countless plugins that are available for web designers and editors among other things. It is a browser that I feel looks and feels quite similar to Internet Explorer with it's navigation, file menus and toolbars (when you compare it to Chrome, so you know where I am coming from) which for those who are wanting to change browsers, but at the same time wanting to stick with what you know, would be a perfect move. There are a multitude of themes also available for Firefox, not simply just a browser background theme, but each individual button is cusomisable if you don't like the standard theme (though it looks better than IE, so I can't see it being a problem!)
Out of the box, it will require some additional plugins, but don't fret! If you come across a page that requires a plugin to view the content (such as Flash) a small bar at the top of the browser will pop up to ask you to install the plugin. In some cases you may be prompted to restart the browser, in which case it will restart and take you back to the page you were viewing, but with the content that required the plugin now playing perfectly.
On the subject of plugins, once you install firefox you should immediately point your browser to the Firefox Addon Directory. Firefox is famous for its thousands of Addons and Plugins used to improve useability of the browser, from Spam and Pop-up blockers to Plugins designed to make Gmail run better. A simple keyword search will bring up more plugins that you'll ever need.
Mozilla have worked hard to make sure the browser is as user friendly as possible, and support all modern web standards with regular updates. It isn't as fast as Google Chrome, but it is still, impressively, much faster than Internet Explorer. Once again, for a specification page look here.
The Twist: Flock
Are you an avid social networker? Perhaps wanting easy access to your photobucket, flickr, picasa etc picture upload services? Wanting quick access to your mail, and want to publish to your blog instantly from the browser window? Perhaps Flock is for you.
Flock is fairly unknown in the browser war, but it has some really interesting features so this is why I've decided to include it in my post. Every version of Flock is built on the latest version of Firefox upon release which means that everything I've stated about firefox above is true for Flock. The difference with Flock is that it's designed for Social Media - so quick access bars, upload tools and instant email are all part of it's design. This browser is definitely for the avid social network junkie.
I don't need to say much more about it, as I covered pretty much everything talking about Firefox, just check out the Flock tour here
These are just three alternatives to Internet Explorer. There are a whole lot more such as Opera which I've mentioned in previous posts, Safari the Apple browser and a few more!
If you're interested in learning about what else is available please head over to Google's WhatBrowser.org (broken) website. They have a multitude more information on current browsers and more. Hopefully the information provided here is enough to convince even the most reluctant surfer to ditch that shabby version of Internet Explorer and get with the latest and greatest.
*Using the Counterize II plugin I can see how many visitors and which browsers have come to the site, if you use wordpress I highly recommend it.
**This is, as I said, a comparison of the browsers currently available. If you're using Vista SP2 or Windows 7 Internet Explorer 9 is en route to being released. I have not tested this version (yet) and so cannot comment on how good it may be. The comparisons I've made today are in relation to IE 8 and lower.