The logic for switching browsers has never had a more attractive ROI.
The foremost reasons are security, reliability, speed and functionality
- wow, not just a few. If you or your organization
any Internet Explorer, Netscape or Opera browser IE 5.x or earlier version,
NS4.x or earlier, Opera 4.x or earlier - you are
surfing at great
risk. These early version browsers have a number of security holes
that have been patched up in later versions. But if you continue
to use them
- you do so at your own risk.
For reliability and speed/performance reasons, Netscape
users should upgrade past 4.x and 6.x.Likewise, Microsoft's
5.x and 6.x Explorer version has been plagued with security problems. So much
so that Microsoft and
the security industry have put users and Web administrators on
notice - if
you don't update the Internet
Explorer browser as soon as the next security patch arrives (about
one a quarter-April 2003 is the latest); you risk being a victim
of one of the many viruses targetted to attacking Microsoft's software.
has a well deserved reputation for very good performance and reliability.
It has always been the smallest and fastest download and install.
And through Opera 4-5, it has added features such as Java support
plus a CSS and
DOM implementation second only to the new Mozilla/Netscape browsers.
In sum, latest Mozilla
(1.31) and Opera
7.11 browsers provide security, reliability and performance improvements
over InternetExplorer that make very attractive ROI arguments on their own.
Simply put - not having to deal with infuriated clients because
of the trimester IE security breech/disaster or having to roll
out the quarterly updates because yet another critical flaw was
found in IE - this can mean substantial savings in staff time and
Benefits of the Switch
So far we have only spoken of the benefits of the switch and upgrade
in negative terms. If you don't you will suffer security , reliability
or performance problems depending
on which 5.x or earlier version browser you are using - not just Internet
Explorer. Now lets consider some of the positive benefits. Both
Mozilla/Netscape and Opera really shine because they have brought
a lot of innovations
to the browser world in the past two years. First, Netscape/Mozilla
allows users to open a new window 3 ways:
left mouse click;
2)open a new browser window with CTL+left mouse
3)create a tab and add a new browser window
there with right mouse click.
Opera has similar operations. But the most important capability
is having tabs on mutiple browse windows available for quick
context switching. The use of tabs is so convenient because one
can see what windows are open and immediately go to that Window with
a click of the tab. This tab feature is so helpful in surfing the
depths of a site or application - this not-in-IE feature alone
is a compelling reason to switch. And with the browser becoming
the application interface of choice, this argument has further
But there is more to the new browsers than tabbed windows.
For example, both Opera and Mozilla have much more verstile sidebars
with tabs for easily chosing a user-selected search engine, whats
related, history, bookmark and other options. As well its much easier
in Opera and Mozilla to customize not just the sidebar but the whole
interface including skins. opera has pioneered in mouse gestures
- where holding the right mouse button down and moving the mouse
down and to the left means minimize that tabbed window, but moving
to the right menas close the window altogether. Of course, Mozilla
is following suit and incorporating a number of these mouse gesture
- so CTRL+Scroll wheel up means zom in and enlarge the text and images
in a window, while CTRL+Scroll down means zoom out and shrink the
overall webpage contents. Both Opera and Mozilla/Nestcape have made
numerous enhancements to accessibility through keyboard clicks and
mouse gestures that duplicate and then go well beyond what is available
in Internet Explorer.
Finally one of the most popular plugins for Mozilla and Opera
is themes or skins. The Mozilla browser comes with 2 themes on download
and themes.mozdev.org has many others availale so users can sport their
own browser layout and look-n-feel. In fact one of the key features of
Moziilla's interface is the XUL(XML-based User interface Language)framework
users to customize the layoutof their Mozilla browsers quite easily.
In fact, the Mozilla design is so good that other software vendors and startups
are using the interface as a tool for delivering cross platform interfaces.
And this leads to the final benefit of making a browser upgrade.
Dynamic Functionality Benefit
One of the biggest benefits to switching is the new dynamic functionality
that can be delivered to your browser by Web developers. This is a sometimes
invisible benefit. Currently, many Web pages go through a whole series
of checks - if(NS4browser or IE4browser)do this; else if(Operabrowser)do
anotherthing; elseif (NS7browser or Mozilla1)do these_things; As
you can see this is quite complex code. It is necessitated by two things:
First, as browsers are still evolving fairly rapiudly - many new features and
coding practices don't work in the older browsers. But to maintain compatibility
with those 5.x and earlier browsers, web developers spend a awful lot of time
providing for workaround solutions or gentle degrades so that web surfers with
old browsers are not abruptly cut off from web services or sessions.
Second, during the browser wars between Netscape and Microsoft, the two vendors
deliberately made new features incompatible. Since Microsoft won the war; all
parties agreed to stick to the W3C, ECMA, IETF and other web standards. So far
Mozilla/Netscape have been best in implementing almost all of the HTML4, CSS,
IE is remiss on two counts. First, IE is still lagging on 2 to 3 year old promises
the crime of omission, Microsoft IE continues to quietly push proprietary extensions
to the standards that either have been replaced by recommended standards (see
will be replaced shortly by new standards. Of course Microsoft continues to push
proprietary, closed-platform features like ActiveX over Java applets or Flash
- even though ActiveX will have a limited shelf life in the new .NET and Longhorn
total Windows rewrite.
The upshot is that because of lingering old browsers plus non-standard Internet
tough choices . First, they can use the lowest common denominator features. and
many do just that. Or developers can
to enable some of very nifty browsing features such as scaling text, hiding/revealing
sidebar window panes, allowing hover-point explanations, enabling SVG and other
animations, etc. Or developers can look for alternate delivery technologies.
been so remiss, these alternate technologies are starting to take hold in
the the market. Java
applets and applications
resurgence and with major vendors Dell and Compaq agreeing to distribute
Java with all their new desktop and laptop PCs , Flash animations with
their snazzy, cross platform interfaces and other cross
platform frameworks based on XML. such as XUL and XHTML/SVG.
But browser users can help despite the lingering belligerence
from Redmond. Simply by upgrading from old 3.x, 4.x and 5.x browsers
it is estimated that users not
only enhance the security and speed of their browsing; but also enable a
whole new level of dynamic, behind-the-scenes features regardless
of which browser
is chosen. So at a minimum do this - upgrade and use the latest version of
your favorite browser.
Switch to Mozilla.
But here is the clincher - in a world where Gartner analysts
see open standards, interoperability, and application integration
the top concerns of executive
management, Microsoft's browser falls well back of Mozilla and Opera on all
3 counts. IE has failed to provide complete support of standards
such as Java,
through APIs and gateways of Microsoft's choosing while cross
extends only to the Mac OS and even there the Windows and Mac versions of
IE differ notably. And because IE is barely cross platform and
is so remiss in
supporting W3C, IETF, ECMA and other defacto standards fully,
it is much more difficult
to build application inetgration into your systems when the browser is so "proprietary".
Worse there is the danger of Microsoft's rapid change in direction and support
based solely for competitive purposes as Microsoft has done in the case of
their Java, CSS, and DOM support. So in a reversal of fortunes from 2 years
best browser to choose from is not Microsoft Internet Explorer, but Mozilla.
And here are the Top Ten reasons to switch to Mozilla:
1)Like IE, Mozilla is free, Opera is $29US;
2)Like IE and Opera, Mozilla is very stable and reliable; but
unlike IE, Mozilla has had fewer security problems;
3)Mozilla is a 11MB, fast download; Opera is about the same; IE is 17MB;
4)The Mozilla install is simple and very, very fast in contrast to IE's slower
setup with many dialogs and registry settings;
5)Mozilla matches and surpasses Internet Explorer in browse, chat, edit,
and download features;
6)Although Microsoft Outlook trumps Mozilla Mail; the Mozilla browser works
fine with Outlook or Eudora or you favorite mail program; ditto for Opera;
7)Tabs and customization of the layout of Mozilla are worth the price of
8)Mozilla has more security and browser nuisance control features;
9)Mozilla is leading IE and matching Opera with new innovations like mouse
gesture recognition, themes, cross-platform support, etc;
10)Mozilla adheres much more closely to Web standards than IE greatly simplifying
web development and the features that can be offered to end users.
So let me repeat - if you are using a 5.x or earlier version
browser no matter whose - update it to the latest for the security,
performance and feature gains.
And when you do update, switch to either Mozilla or Opera. Opera cost $39;
but supports more platforms and languages; Mozilla has more functions
and better standards adherence. But most important of all, its
time to adhere to one of those famous Microsoft "calls for action"
- its time to switch.
Jacques Surveyer is a web developer and photographer, see his
photo work at www.neelsplace.com