Which browser do you use?

Topic difficulty: Beginners

Is this a question you can't answer?  Not sure what a browser is?   If you fit in this category, you're actually in the majority.

According to a poll made by Google, 92% of the people surveyed either didn't know what a browser was, or gave the wrong answer.  Check out the video they made:

What is a browser?

If you're using the Internet, you're using a browser.  In fact, you're using a browser right now to read this article!

Not knowing the browser you use is a bit like driving a car all your life and not knowing its make and model.  Knowing what browser you use is actually more important.  A browser is your portal into the Internet where there's the very real possibility of downloading viruses, accidentally giving away your bank account details and even exposing children to potential harmful material.

You can not afford to not know what browser you're using.  Let me show you why.

First you need to watch the following Google video that explains quite clearly what a browser is:

Put simply, a (web or Internet) browser is the program you use to access websites.  There are many types of browsers programs out there (Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera) and some are better than others at displaying web content.  Generally, you want to have the most up to date browser.

There are three main reasons why you want to make sure you're using the most up to date browser:

1. Security

A few weeks ago a friend's Facebook account was "hacked".  A website managed to trick her into giving away her password by presenting a fake login to enter her details.  This is called "phishing".  Most modern browsers have an in built detector that scans for this type of activity and automatically stops these events from happening.  The problem was, my friend was still using Internet Explorer 6.  The latest version at the time of writing is version 8.  Version 6 was made in 2001, before phishing was a problem online (it is rated by Secunia to have security holes moderately critical in severity).  So, her browser was unable to help protect her from this malicious act.  This wasn't the first time it happened, and upgrading to the latest version (which is free) she never experienced the same problem again.

Modern browsers are able to do things like detect blacklisted websites that may contain viruses and fraudulent activity.  They are more robust and safe to use whilst banking and sending documents online.  The Internet is actually very secure.  It is the use of outdated browser software that puts a lot of web users at risk and there are people out there who try to take advantage of that.

2. Speed

Modern browsers also take advantage of modern software technology and work much, much faster.  One of my clients worked every day on a content management system run on a browser that was installed on her computer eight years ago.  After upgrading to the latest version (upon my advice), she couldn't believe how much faster everything loaded.  It saved her a lot of waiting time and made her day more productive.

3. The Experience

There is a thing called "web standards" that define the rules of how browsers are meant to display website elements.  Unfortunately, many older browsers don't adhere to these and display web content differently from each otehr.  This is a problem because sometimes things many not work or display as they were intended by the web programmer.  Using the latest version of a browser increases your chance of viewing a website in the way that was intended.  To show you an example, this is what part of our footer looks like on Internet Explorer 6 compared with the latest version 8:

Rendering comparison between Internet Explorer 6 and 8

As you can see, the transparent effect is completely lost in version 6.  It fails to render the icons properly and it doesn't quite get the font right.  What a shame!

What browser are you using?

The browser you're using right now is:

Unknown Browser , released .

Are you using the most up to date version for your browser?  Is it more than a year old?  If you're still not sure, click on the picture below to find out more about the latest browsers and what they have to offer.

List of browsers: Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari and Opera

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