Sometimes I have to think long and hard to find reasons for why things are like they are, and sometimes I can’t find any sensible reasons no matter how long and hard I think. One of the questions that have roamed around in my head is why people continue to use Internet Explorer. That question belongs in the latter category.
OK, I know it is straight forward and hasslefree to start using – after all, it’s already installed and ready to be used. There also still exist some sites that for some reason is coded to need IE. That’s two reasons in favour of IE, but is it enough to stay with that browser, and not switch to another? Will switching bring more hassle than staying with IE?
What is involved in switching? Well, there is the downloading part. This is a painless operation, both for Opera and FireFox, two of the most popular alternative browsers on the Windows platform. Installing? Just doubleclick on the downloaded file icon, and off you go, easy as a breeze. The most hassle involved in this switching operation, would be to get the finger out and just do it. It’s not hard. Of course, I must admit that it is a little bit more hassle than not doing anything, so this far IE may be at the top of preferred browsers.
Let’s start using this alternative browser we’ve downloaded – what can we expect? It depends. FireFox looks more familiar to IE users than Opera do, which can be an advantage to FireFox, but Opera can be configured to change appearance more than FireFox (unless I’ve missed something) so that it can suit your needs as you want. Both of them support tabbed browsing, popup-killers, and much more. Opera has some features that FireFox don’t and vice versa. Both of them have many more features than IE has.
Personally, I would at this point place both alternatives ahead of IE, just because of the extra features. However, if you haven’t tried these and not realised how useful many of them are, you may not look at them as advantages. IE still works well and do what you want, right?
So how does the browsers hold up against each other when actually browsing net sites? Well, there still exist some sites that require IE to be used, but these are luckily fewer and fewer in between. But don’t be too hasty in giving the points to IE here – more and more sites are beginning to utilise the capabilities CSS gives them, allowing every browser to access the content, but older browsers will get a visually downgraded version. IE belongs now in that category – it is an older browser, and is beginning to lose out at new sites. As widely used it is, many will do as much as possible to give IE users the same experience as the rest – but it’s not always possible, or wanted. At this point, the alternatives are ahead of IE, without doubt. For the rare sites where IE is required – well, IE is still installed, right? It can be used as a last resort, if those sites are important enough.
Some may want to wait for an update to IE, to keep what they’re familiar with. It will be a long wait: MS has said that there will no longer be any updates to the browser. Not as a standalone, downloadable program – only as part of future Windows (Longhorn.) Updating to a free browser now is cheaper and faster than waiting for Longhorn to come out.