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Internet Browsers

These days, using Internet Explorer for the Internet is like running through no-man’s-land with a bulls-eye painted on your chest.  Ever since IE won the browser wars against Netscape back in the 90’s, Microsoft has done little to update its flagship-integrated-into-Windows browser for the new century.  Lets face it!  Internet users have new demands that reflect shifts in attitudes over the last decade.  IE is something of a dinosaur and there’s no reason to use it unless you are masochistic at heart.  Almost all major viruses and spyware programs are targeted specifically for IE’s well known vulnerabilities. 

The best thing you could possibly do for yourself is switch to an alternative browser.  While doing so may not prevent all of the viruses and spyware from hitting you, it WILL improve your Internet experience as a whole.  That’s because all of the new alternative browsers sport a feature called ’tabbed browsing’.  The idea is that most modern users like to open several pages at once, rather than follow hyperlinks like in the old-school days.  With IE, this is a problem because every page will open in a new window that shows up in your taskbar.  Tabbed browsing opens all browser windows within the main browser window, and can be easily switched back and forth from there.

Another standard feature for the new wave of alternatives is built-in pop-up protection.  Pop-ups suck.  Why doesn’t IE do anything about them?  Get off that train and try out a real built-in pop-up blocker.  It makes a WORLD of a difference 

Most alternatives also feature integrated tools like searching and e-mail.  Direct access to google without actually surfing over to google’s website is a great tool.  Built-in email programs also help consolidate the clutter of your workspace.

Without further ado, let’s discuss a few of the world’s best and brightest  Intrernet web browsers!  Most are free while some are ad-supported.

Opera – www.opera.com

While not the most popular alternative right now, the Opera Browser (made by Opera Software based in Oslo, Norway) is my personal favorite.  It sports a streamlined look that maximizes your viewing area.  ’Mouse gestures’ allow you to perform every critical web function (refresh, open link in new page, back, forward) with simple clicks and movements of the mouse! 

Custom skins can also change the look of the browser within seconds of downloading.  The standards are all here: on-the-fly pop-up blocking, integrated google search, and tabbed browsing.  Additional goodies include an integrated e-mail browser that functions on a database system similar to gmail.  Opera is ad-supported unless you wish to purchase it for about $20.  It’s worth the money though!

Avant Browser - www.avantbrowser.com

Avant is a free browser advertised as ”a standalone application designed to expand services provided by Microsoft Internet Explorer.”  This means that Avant is not particularly innovative in bringing in new features.  It does have a streamlined look but essentially maintains everything that is offered in IE.  All Avant seems to bring into the fold is pop-up blocking, tabbed browsing, and integrated searches.

Additional features include Opera-style mouse gestures (but only two of them, one for back, one for forward), a download blocker for flash animations, and an easy interface to control every tabbed browsing window from one simple interface.  Avant is completely free and relatively small to download.

Mozilla FireFox - www.mozilla.org

Currently the champion of IE alternatives, FireFox has an installed user base of over 7 million people and the list is growing each day.  The reason why I think FireFox has remained popular over my own fave, Opera, is that FireFox is geared towards more of an IE feel so that users don’t have to become accustomed too much to the new browser.  Of course, FireFox is great in that it’s streamlined, has all the standard features, and is completely free. 

If you’re a grassroots kind of web user, then the fact that Mozilla is an open-source organization may appeal to you.  The browser is a work-in-progress that anyone can help out with.  Unlike Opera, which is handled by a company in Norway, Mozilla is an international effort.


This venerable old beast is now in its version 7.2, is currently owned by America Online.  It’s based heavily on Mozilla code (as the two are in cahoots, despite Mozilla’s open-source organization) but is eerily similar to IE’s interface.  You’ll find all the standards here like pop-up blocking and tabbed browsing.  I don’t see a point in using an AOL-owned browser.  That’s just distasteful.

Slim Browser – Flashpeak.com

Slim Browser is just one of the many other free, tabbed browsing, pop-up blocking browsers out there.  It has some neat features like a form filler, site groupings, auto logins, and on-the-fly translation, but on the whole I found the interface to be extremely cluttered to begin with.  If you value your screen real estate, then consider using FireFox or Opera.  Slim Browser is free, and available in a quick download.  It requires IE to begin with since it’s really just an extension of the code.