Alternatives to Internet Explorer?

You buy a new computer, plug it in, connect to the internet, then double click on Internet Explorer and start surfing. Then you ask yourself, is Internet Explorer my only option?

The answer to that, thankfully, is no. There are many reasons people have for wishing to use another browser. These reasons range from cosmetic to functional. You may not like the feel of the default Internet Explorer, or you may not want to have to worry about keeping up with security patches. For whatever your reason is, there are alternatives.

Lets look at the first one, Netscape. Netscape has been around since before Internet Explorer and at one point was the standard for web browsing. Netscape started lose its popularity around the time Windows 98 came out with Internet Explorer 4 integrated. Today, Netscape is up to version 7.02. This latest version of Netscape is built off the Mozilla code (more on that later). Netscape 6 was the first version to use code based off of Mozilla. There were mixed feelings when Netscape 6.0 came out. Most people waited until the next update before they upgraded. Netscape still releases periodic updates of its Communicator 4 series, as there is still a decent user base.
Why do people use Netscape? Here are some responses from the newsgroup:
1. Troll says he uses Netscape version 4.8 because he likes the integrated email client. He also likes the ability to remove toolbars that he doesn't use.
2. Jonnyk likes Netscape 7.01's ability to use tabs. Tabbed browsing is when instead of needing separate windows to view multiple web pages, you can use separate tabs in one window. He also likes that there is only one file used for cookies. This way, he can use the operating system to set it as read only, while accepting all cookies. This way, only cookies that he wants to be permanent are.

Now, lets take a look at Mozilla. Mozilla is an open sourced web browser that was spun off from Netscape. The whole idea behind Mozilla was to allow the development community to all contribute to the Netscape browser to come out with the next best browser. The first recommendations were to dump the Netscape code and start from scratch, so they did. The result was a leaner browser full of features that most users want. As of the latest public release version, 1.3, these features include a pop-up blocker (also present in the latest Netscape), the ability to limit graphics and java/javascript, a spam filter in the email client, cookie control, and the list goes on. Odds are, if you saw a feature in Netscape, it was in Mozilla first. Mozilla is not an "official" browser, it is meant to be a base to other browsers so there is a chance you will find bugs. In which case, you just download the source code, fix the bug, and recompile. Here is what some people have to say about Mozilla:
1. Bob Proffitt likes the tabbed browsing. He also likes the ability to download the entire program, burn it to a cd, and take it with him, as opposed to the default way of downloading Internet Explorer.
2. [Samwise] likes the ability for tabbed browsing, junk mail filtering, the ability to reject cookies on a site by site basis, the ability to block pop-up windows, block images in the mail client, and the ability to set his home page to a set of tabbed pages, not just a single page.
3. Diamond Dave says the main reason he uses Mozilla is because he just doesn't like the feel of Internet Explorer.
4. I like Mozilla for the above reasons, but I also like the ability to restrict email so that it is only displayed in plain text. This way I can choose to read an email if it is sent in HTML. As a criticism, the junk mail filter needs a little work, but its better than nothing and after some training, works pretty well. 

The next one to talk about is Opera. Opera comes in a free version that has ads, and a pay version that is ad free. Even though Opera is a lean browser, the inclusion of a lot of commercial links and bookmarks makes it a turnoff, according to daWabbit. He also recommends the text only browser Lynx for a lean browser.

There is one thing to be worried of if you do use one of these browsers, is that a lot of web designers specifically write their pages for Internet Explorer. You may run into times where you need to load up Internet Explorer to see certain pages. Hopefully, as other browsers become more popular, this trend will become less and less.

Now which browser should you use? Well, that's up to you. If you're happy with Internet Explorer, stick with it. Otherwise, download a new browser and try it out. Both Mozilla and Netscape are free to download.


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