Browse Month

September 2018

Alternatives to Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer, despite being the most widely used web browser, isn’t the only option out there. In fact, there are other browsers that may do a better job from a security, speed or resource-usage perspective. Up until the past year, the only web browser I used was Internet Explorer. However, I was tired of the constant updates, the script errors, the warnings over and over again that another hacker had found a way to use the browser to possibly cause harm to my programs and possibly even my business. Yes, I still use Internet Explorer occasionally, but I now use other alternatives and find that my web browsing is simpler, faster and possibly even safer.

Here are four alternatives:

Firefox – This is a free, open-source alternative to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer that is currently the second most widely-used browser in the world. For me, it has become my primary web browser. Because it is open source, the Firefox programmers routinely fix security issues as well as develop many useful plug ins to enhance its operations. I do not recommend you download and install every plug in, but there are now so many that have been written you will find a few very useful ones that will enhance and customize your browsing experience. It can be used with any operating system. Download available at Mozilla.com.

Google Chrome – This is Google’s entry into the realm of internet browsers. Chrome is a free stripped-down browser that is designed to run to “lean and mean.” If you are concerned about resource usage on your computer, this may be the browser for you. The layout of the browser is a little different from what you may be used to so try it for a few days to see if you like it. It also runs on all operating systems.

Safari – If you are reading this article on a Mac, you are probably using Safari as your primary web browser. Safari was designed for the Macs and offers a simple, intuitive free browsing experience. The good news, is that It is now also available free for Windows users. Download available at apple.com/safari/download.

Opera – The least known web browser, made by Opera Software, is free and works on all operating systems. It is one of the fastest browsers now available and has the added advantage of being optimized for use on mobile devices. It is also specially designed for users who have visual or motor impairments. Opera has also received very positive reviews and is winning industry awards for usability. Download available at opera.com.

All five of these web browsers have strengths and weaknesses. You don’t have to just settle for whatever was installed on your computer. You now have really powerful options and they are free! Try them out and give each of them a test drive. You will then be able to determine which of them you like, fit your web browsing style and are the most beneficial to you.

List of Browsers

The birth of web browsers

With the massive increase of Internet content — not to mention Internet usage — during the 1990’s, it became essential to create a software that could handily access and navigate the information superhighways of the Net. That’s why in 1991, the first web browser made its appearance. Called WorldWideWeb, it paved the way for the creation of the web browsers we see and use today.

Since then, dozens upon dozens of different web browsers, and the numerous iterations brought upon by some of them have emerged, all vying for the attention of Net users’ – along with the inevitable fame and fortune it’ll hopefully bring to the top contenders.

Here is a list of notable web browsers, compiled and arranged by the year they first debuted.

The pioneers of the industry

1991 saw the birth of the first web browser. Already mentioned above, WorldWideWeb became the pioneer of web browsers. During 1993, one of the first graphical browsers was added to the list of browsers. This was the NCSA Mosaic, and its release prompted a surge of web use.

Netscape Navigator – an offshoot of Mosaic (Netscape Navigator was created by the head of the Mosaic team from NCSA) – made its appearance in 1994. Among the list of browsers during that year, Netscape Navigator garnered the lion’s share of web usage.

Start of browser wars

Not to be outdone by Netscape, Microsoft released its web browser called Internet Explorer in 1995. This release eventually started the browser wars. Taking advantage of its lead in the OS market, Microsoft started selling Windows packaged with Internet Explorer.

To combat Microsoft’s dominance in the browser industry, Netscape created the Mozilla Foundation in 1998. This was done in the hopes of manufacturing a browser which would take advantage of the open source model.

Eventually, this project would lead to the birth of Firefox. It would take six years before the first commercial version of this browser, named Firefox 1.0, made its first appearance in the list of browsers. According to statistics collated as late as February of 2009, Firefox accounts for 21.77% share of browser usage.

The underdogs of the market

1996 saw the debut of Opera in the list of browsers. Despite it not garnering extensive use, it has remained as a powerhouse in terms of shares in the mobile phone browser industry. The video game console, Nintendo Wii, also comes embedded with Opera.

Internet Explorer Vulnerability

On December 11th an advisory was published that identified a problem in Internet Explorer that could allow someone to take control of a computer. It’s not at all unusual for this type of advisory to be released; modern software is highly complex and holes are not uncommon. Microsoft has released a patch for the issue and has rated it critical.

Technically, Microsoft describes the vulnerability as: “[it] could allow remote code execution if a user views a specially crafted Web page using Internet Explorer. Users whose accounts are configured to have fewer user rights on the system could be less impacted than users who operate with administrative user rights.”

In plain English, the vulnerability is a problem with the design of Internet Explorer. IE is used to view web pages. In the early days of the web, a web page was nothing more than a bunch of text and images laid out in a specified way in a web browser. Web designers used code to tell the browser where to put the text and images and whether or not the text should be bold, italicized, big, small, whatever.

The code that described where to put things and whether they are big, bold, whatever was referred to as Hypertext Mark-up Language or HTML. When you visit a web site, your web browser (Internet Explorer in this case – there are others, Firefox being one of the big contenders) requests a web page from the server and the server replies with a web page encoded as HTML.

The web browser, understanding this HTML intimately, takes instructions from it and lays out the web page as the HTML instructs it to. HTML is still an integral part of the World Wide Web but it has been superseded greatly by other technologies that make the web much more interesting.

In essence the web has grown from a simple way to display information to an interactive medium that can act very much like any other program on a computer – like a word processor, spreadsheet, database, the sky’s the limit. Just consider web sites like facebook.com that elicit user interaction and deliver an experience rather than just information.

And facebook.com just touches the surface of what the web can do today, many businesses are moving toward having their software hosted somewhere on the Internet rather than being installed on their own computers, there are major benefits to this approach.

The web is moving that way so much in fact that Google recently released its own web browser “Chrome” that is built from the ground up to accommodate web applications.

This new generation of web browser isn’t meant so much for web browsing as it is for delivering programs. Google sees it evolving into its own operating system. In other words your computer wouldn’t load Windows with all of its built-in programs but would load Chrome and Chrome would connect to the Internet to deliver programs.

All this complexity leads to vulnerability however and the Internet is a much less forgiving place than it was in the days of plain Jane HTML. Those who profit from spam, adware, and other malware, have many more avenues to exploit in order to spread their malice.

Become A Skilled Internet Searcher

You can buy almost anything or learn almost anything from the Internet. Would you like to get really good at doing this? If yes, then read on. It is easy and it is fun.

Communication on the Internet world-wide-web (www) is done with a language called HTML. A software program called a browser converts HTML to text and images, all properly sized, typeset, colored, bordered, and placed, for the computer’s video display. Your computer operating system came with a browser: Internet Explorer (IE) for Microsoft, Safari for Apple. (Actually, Safari and IE are available for both MAC and PC.) Other popular browsers include Firefox (Mozilla.com), Chrome (Google.com), Avant (avantbrowser.com), and Opera (Opera.com). The author is partial to Google’s Chrome browser. It is fast and uses less computer resource, thus leaving more computer resource for the user’s actual problems.

The Internet contains far more material than the largest library in the history of mankind. The challenge is to find what you seek from this immense cornucopia of online data. It is neither practical nor possible to search hundreds-of-thousands or even millions of documents manually, so we call upon a search engine (SE) to search for us. For our very first search, we will use Google, the most used SE, to search for more SE’s. We make a search happen by feeding a search string (SS) to a search engine (SE). Google is the chosen SE (automatic with Chrome; other browsers offer a drop down list to pick the SE). Our search string is [search engines]. The square brackets are for you, the reader; the SE neither requires nor notices them. Google returns the results and tells us it has found about 247 million documents which contain the words [search] and [engines]. Note that the SE assumes you want things with ALL of the SS words in them.

Do not talk to your SE. They do not speak English nor any other human language. They only match words in the SS with words in the document. Full matches with words that are prominent in the document get listed first. Less prominent matches and partial matches come later. The SE may use quality parameters to rank its output list. There will be an elongated text box at the top of the browser page, center for Chrome, right side for most browsers, to enter the SS. Type in [search engines] and hit enter or mouse the word search or a search symbol (such as a magnifying glass). SE’s generally ignore capitalization and singular versus plural; sometimes ignore articles (the, a, an), and other connective words, prepositions, etc., but we will also find exceptions.

The fourth item in our search return is “Comprehensive list of Search Engines – The Search Engine List”. We click on it and wow, are there ever a lot of search engines. We are at the site [www.thesearchenginelist.com]. Some of these search engines are general purpose and some are specialized. The far left column tells us the category. If your target is narrow, such as financial, find a specialized SE. If your target is general, use an all-purpose SE.

The term search engine, which we have shortened to SE, covers the entire search process from the software robots that crawl the web to make up the amazing indexes which feed our searches, to the servers which receive our SS, find the correct indices, and shoot us the results.

Staying with Chrome and Google, we enter [who]. The first item returned is “World Health Organization”. Google is good at recognizing acronyms and initial sets. Now if we enter [the who], the first return will be, the rock band site. Google is also good at recognizing social and cultural names, and it paid attention to the word “the”.

Suppose we want to find some edibles, so we try [candy]. Candy is very broad. After some thought, we change this to [chocolate candy]. This tells the SE to look for sites which mention both chocolate AND Candy. SE’s assume that all words are connected with AND. We decide we would also like toffee, so we need an OR. The SS becomes [(chocolate OR toffee) candy]. The OR must be in caps with a space before and after, and the parentheses ( ) makes clear to the SE what we are OR-ing. We decide that we would like to get rid of gifts, recipes, and places to shop, so the SS becomes [(chocolate OR toffee) candy -gifts -recipes -places]. The minus, which is a hyphen with a space in front of it, to assure the SE that we are not creating a hyphenated word, says to the SE, give me nothing with this in it.A