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Straight forward advice on choosing which web browser to use.

An article by IT Form Developer.
Audience : Non technical/General.

Which web browser should I use?

If you want to start an argument amongst the geeks on the Internet try writing a post advising people which browser to use. If you are bothered to have an opinion then you've probably already worked out what is best for you and need to get out in the sun more. But what about the rest of us. Why should we care?

Well because if you use a web browser regularly then you want your browser to be fast, safe and able to display your web pages correctly. Consequently you need to update or even change your browser periodically and here's why.

The problem that web developers face when creating web pages is that there are dozens of web browsers and then numerous individual versions of those browsers. There are standards for how a browser should display a page. However it is up to each browser to decide how, or even whether or not, to conform to the standard. This introduces quirks in behaviour between different browsers. They don't all behave in the same way. It is a situation which effectively makes it impossible for the developer to test whether a web page is working properly on all browsers.

The solution developers adopt to this problem is to assume; firstly that people are using the most popular browsers and subsequently that they are using the latest versions of those browsers. They then test their pages against a handful of popular, recent browsers, and are good to go. As with any software there's an unspoken contract that the user should be using the correct version of the program or be prepared to live with the consequences. The 'are you using the current version rule' is something to bear in mind when you are preparing to speak to a help desk if you don't want them to get snotty.

When a browser makes a request for a web page the message which is sent contains details about the browser type and version. This allows statistics to be collected about which browsers people are using. This information is published at the W3Schools website. A linked page also shows a break down of the version numbers of browsers which are being used. This information is important because it tells the developers which browsers they need to test against. It is also a great indication of which browser it is best for you to use.

  • Browser statistics - [link].
  • Firefox versions - [link].

There's safety in numbers. Because a browser is popular doesn't necessarily mean that it is the 'geeky best' but it will definitely be a solid performer. You will be using a browser which lots of other people are using and this inevitably means that it is being well supported, is more secure, has lots of addons, has the latest features etc.

Consequently my recommendation is that you use the 'Help' - 'About' menu item on your browser to find out which version you have and periodically (say every 6-12 months) visit the browser statistics web site and make sure that you are using a current version of a well used browser. This is a quick job which is worth the effort and means that you can be confident that your browser will be performing at its best for you.


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