Why do we use Internet Explorer when the endless releases of patches confirms that even Microsoft are aware that IE is a rotten product? The answer is simple, it is there. Things have got a little better on the security front with the release of Service Pack 2, but that still leaves over half the Windows users vulnerable. So is "being there" enough or shouldn't we be looking elsewhere? We put up with other inferior products, Word in particular, but that in fact is not such a problem as IE. Word is just annoyingly inferior and buggy, but IE is a back door which allows corruption to be spread, not only into the individual PC but possibly throughout the network. The time is ripe to actively look for a replacement and an improvement in functionality at the same time.
Personally I am a simple Internet user, so my opinion on any sophisticated features of any browser is irrelevant. However I cannot ignore all the adverse comments that are written about IE. Quite apart from the ActiveX problems and the security flaws, IE apparently has not progressed functionally since it became the de facto standard. It is for instance nothing like as good from the users perspective as Apple's Safari although that is to be expected.
When the Web first took off it was start-up company Netscape that dominated. A big commercial fight ensued between Netscape and Microsoft, a very acrimonious one, which Microsoft won by packaging IE with Windows. Users like me couldn't be bothered to buy the better product when IE would suffice. It's an old story. Netscape was absorbed into AOL and is today a very small division, but not a dead one. They developed a new product called Mozilla, the basis for the poorly received Netscape/AOL version 6 browser. AOL has even talked of a specially tailored version of IE, presumably instead of Netscape, but nevertheless version 7.2 of Netscape is a big step forward.
For once however, the inferiority of the Microsoft product and its tie into Windows has opened a door for alternates. As well as Netscape there is the Norwegian product Opera and the Apple browser, but Mozilla has been placed in the Open Source market (http://www.mozilla.org) and is about to make a big impact in a product called Firefox.
This new development must be put in perspective. Microsoft and IE still have a dominant 93% of the market, but that is down 2.5% in the last few months. It is not a big percentage but it is a significant pointer to near future developments. The biggest reason for this change is Firefox. Firefox runs on Windows 98 and above, Linux and MacOS, the Windows version being the important one in terms of current market share, but the availability of a common Browser on multiple platforms is the most welcome feature in the longer term. Firefox is free; simply download a 5MB install file and let it configure itself from the existing IE settings and data. IE does not need to be uninstalled, either browser can be used so go ahead and try it!< BR>
Martin Healey, pioneer development Intel-based computers en c/s-architecture. Director of a number of IT specialist companies and an Emeritus Professor of the University of Wales.