Explore the Internet freely

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Last week, Google was the victim of intellectual property theft at the hands of a group of sophisticated Chinese hackers. It is unclear who was responsible for the malicious attack, but Google is now considering exiting the Chinese market. Following the attack, the governments of Germany and France issued warnings to citizens to stop using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer web browser. The notice was issued because the attack on Google was a result of a bug in Internet Explorer. This is not the first major security flaw discovered in Internet Explorer’s code, and it probably won’t be the last. In addition to its security flaws, Internet Explorer has several other shortcomings that make it one of the worst browsers available.

Internet Explorer currently has the largest user base of any Internet browser. This is in part because it ships pre-installed with any Windows operating system, which controls about 90 per cent of the home computer market. Many less-advanced computer users – like former senator Ted Stevens, who claimed the Internet is a series of tubes – view Internet Explorer as the only way to access the Internet. Like all browsers, Explorer is only responsible for translating your requests into computer-level requests, and translating the Internet sites into something you can read.

Alternative browsers have different abilities. Two main concerns are rendering (how accurately a browser displays what it is sent) and speed. The ACID3 test is a check of the browser’s rendering of document object models and JavaScript (two key components of website representation). While most browsers achieve a perfect 100/100 on the test, Internet Explorer scored only 21/100. Opera Mobile, the browser used on most smart phones, achieves a 98/100. Speed is also important for many people, and Internet Explorer 6 is significantly slower than most browsers available, while IE 8 does not fare much better. These results are surprising, considering about 60 per cent of Internet users are browsing on Internet Explorer.

The browser you use is your choice, but I would suggest thst you do a bit of research before deciding to make the switch.

Firefox: Firefox is best known for extensive add-ons to let you do just about anything inside of your web browser, such as incorporate social networking directly into the browser and automate downloading tasks. Firefox was the first major web browser to feature tabbed browsing, as seen in any browser today. Firefox currently has a 25 per cent market share.

Chrome: Chrome is blazing fast, due to custom JavaScript handling and document object model bindings (which provide the transition from web content to computer display), and DNS pre-resolution (when you load a website, Chrome starts figuring out where all the links go before you click on them, while other browsers wait until you click a link to determine the appropriate address). The downside is that it has very few add-ons and extensions. About five per cent of people on the web are using Chrome. The German government warned its citizens against Chrome as well as Internet Explorer because Google collects usage data from Chrome’s users during browsing. While there is no evidence to suggest Google uses this data in any adverse way, its purpose is still unclear.

Safari: Apple’s web browser ships with all Mac computers, and was ported to Windows in 2007. Like most Apple products, it focussed more on the user interface and good looks rather than strong performance. Nonetheless, it is a strong browser, and easily passes ACID3.

Opera: Opera is a very feature-rich browser, supporting chat and email clients, mouse gestures, themes, speed dial, notes, and turbo, to name a few. While Opera’s mobile distribution is the most popular on smart phones, its desktop variant only has about one per cent market share.

Konqueror: Konqueror is one of Linux’s main browsers. Konqueror is fairly quick and it doubles as a fairly good file manager, similar to Windows Explorer.