Should I change my browser from Internet Explorer IE 6?Posted on
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 15 seconds
Internet Explorer IE is one of the oldest and best known web browsers in the world. This is largely thanks to the popularity of Microsoft software in general and the Windows operating system in particular, with which various versions of IE have been associated for years. However IE6, which was released in 2001 to coincide with the launch of Windows XP, is now of course 8 years old. It has long ago lost the title of the most widely used web browser and for good reason. Whenever a new version of IE is released it quickly becomes the most popular browser and as a result it is also a primary target for malicious groups of people building viruses and exploits. All of this means that when using an IE product, you are inherently the target for these malicious attacks. This is particularly true of IE6 which, as of 2007, has had some 142 documented vulnerabilities in its construction. Consequences have ranged from minor inconvenience through to crippling system damage.
Microsoft engineers have worked tirelessly to counter these vulnerabilities with a seemingly endless set of patches and upgrades to Internet Explorer IE 6. However, no matter how hard they may work, malicious attacks continue and there comes a point for every software producer where it starts to make sense to devote ever more engineering efforts to later versions of a product. It is not just the security issues and obsolescence that should put you off using IE6. It now lacks the features and functionality to be compatible with some of the most current content on the internet, including the popular Gmail service from Google to name but one example. It is also cumbersome for website designers to accommodate in the latest site designs because of its bug-ridden CSS rendering capabilities and sluggish performance. For this lack of rapidity alone most people should be convinced that a switch or an upgrade is necessary. IE6 no longer conforms to the guidelines set for by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and although some designers are still using hacks and clever coding to make content render correctly for the 37% of internet users who still use IE6, it is important that more people realise that this really is an obsolete version. Poor security led Microsoft to withdraw IE from Apple’s Mac platform, which has otherwise been fairly resilient when it comes to security.
Upgrading to Internet Explorer IE 7 – or Not
The solution to almost any Internet Explorer IE 6 woes lies in a simple, free upgrade. For many, this will be directly to the latest version of Internet Explorer itself, version 7. However, anyone who has made the switch to a rival browser will realise that even with Internet Explorer IE 7, Microsoft is still playing catch up. Mozilla’s Firefox browser has long been the preferred alternative to Internet Explorer IE for many. Firefox offers enhanced performance and tabbed browsing, eliminating the need for hundreds of open browser windows. It also includes much improved security. Many users have noted that even the latest version of IE is some 50% slower than Firefox.
Google has also recently released its own browser software, Chrome, which as with Firefox offers a much faster Java engine and compatibility with all of the latest internet functionality, some of which IE just cannot handle with sufficient speed or accuracy. That said, Chrome is still a Beta product and despite being almost frighteningly quick, even when compared with Firefox, it has a number of compatibility issues of its own. No doubt these issues will be addressed in the near future and for heavy internet users, Chrome’s sheer speed may offset any problems.
The Opera browser also has a modest but loyal following. Opera started life in 1994 as a research project at Norway’s telecom company, Telenor. It later became an independent firm Opera Software ASA. Today’s Opera Web browser supports a range of platforms, operating systems and embedded products. These include the Apple Mac, Windows-based PCs and Linux computers, together with mobile phones, PDAs and game consoles. There is also support for devices such as the Nintendo Wii and DS. Opera is billed as being fast and consumer feedback appears to support this, with concerns being around largely marginal issues such as a somewhat crowded user interface.
There are a number of further alternatives including Apple’s Safari browser, together with tried and tested (if a little outmoded) offerings such as Netscape Navigator. All have their own loyal followings but are unlikely to become a dominant force. Most development efforts are now directed at ensuring compatibility with IE7, together with the latest versions of Firefox, Opera, Safari and increasingly Google Chrome.
Research has shown that the majority of Internet Explorer IE 6 users are from the corporate sector, using the browser at work. However, even in this area the number of users of IE6 is now said to be in steady decline and the demise of IE6 cannot come too soon for many. There are plenty of alternatives, below are but a few.