Marianne Plays With Computers

My Digital Adventures

Browser Wars — July 13, 2015

Browser Wars

In the 80s we had the cola wars. Then in the 90s, we had the the browser wars, and, if anything, people are even more passionate about their choice of browser than their beverage of choice. Sometimes you want a Coke, sometimes a Pepsi, and sometimes a Dr. Pepper. Sometimes, you may even crave a Pineapple Fanta. But lots of people, including me, are never going back to Internet Explorer. has browser usage statistics going back to 2002, when our choices were limited to Internet Explorer, Netscape, and (talk about a blast from the past) AOL. In those days, IE was the 800-lb. gorilla, with over 80% market share. Since then, however, usage has dwindled and now hovers in the single-digit range. I think AOL went broke sending people free CDs, but as broadband proliferated, plenty of other contenders entered the arena.

AOL disks from 1999 - 2003 for versions 4.0, 5.0, 6.0, 7.0, and 9.0. Thanks AOL for getting America online! via photopin (license)
AOL disks from 1999 – 2003 for versions 4.0, 5.0, 6.0, 7.0, and 9.0. Thanks AOL for getting America online! via photopin (license)

Today, the relatively new Chrome browser dominates. Mozilla’s Firefox is a distant second, and IEApple’s Safari (which is also available for Windows), and Opera round out the top five.

So which one to choose? Many Windows users just stick with IE, which comes conveniently pre-installed. Likewise, many Mac users see no reason to use anything other than Safari. Others, however, only use IE (or Safari) long enough to download their browser of choice.

Why? I’m a diehard Windows user (unless there is a Linux distro nearby), so I’m going to primarily talk about IE here. (Sorry, Mac fans.) IE has an unfortunate reputation of being bloated, insecure, and lagging in standards compliance. Microsoft has been doing a better job lately of making IE play nice with the rest of the web, but even they recognize that IE’s noteriety is hard to overcome. Windows 10, available later this month, will include a new browser called Microsoft Edge.

Firefox, and more lately Chrome, on the other hand, have reputations of being faster, more secure, and more customizable. They had features like tabs, plugins, and anonymous browsing long before IE did. But then every once in a while you get a bombshell like this one about Chrome sending your conversations back to Google.

So which should you choose? I say, pick the one that you like the best. Seriously. The most important thing you can do to have a safe browsing experience is to keep it updated. Set it to automatically update. If your browser tells you there is a new version available and asks if you want to install it, say yes. (After making sure it’s not just a scammy popup or something, of course. Go to the browser’s homepage or another trusted source rather than clicking on any links.) Some antivirus products will help you stay on top of this, too.

As long as you practice safe browsing, any modern browser will get you where you want to go.