First off, it is important to clarify what a web browser is, and it is summed up beautifully by the Open To Choice website.
The Web browser is the lens through which we look at the virtual world, and the medium by which we connect, learn, share and collaborate. The browser you choose is responsible for providing you with the necessary tools to manage your online life, and to protect your privacy and security.
As of the beginning of this week Microsoft have unleashed, what will be for many, a confusing little screen that tells them to install something they don’t quite understand. The problem with this is that they don’t quite understand what they are being asked to choose, and there is nothing on that little screen to give them the information they need to know.
In this, admittedly long, blog post, I will attempt to help clear things up and explain to you, just what it is that you are being asked to choose and why it is important. As a Mozilla Community Volunteer it is obvious that I will have a certain bias towards a certain browser that you have / are going to be asked to choose from. So I will also do my best to keep bias out of this post as well.
So what is a web browser. Well it is for many, nothing! They simply don’t know what it is. When you ask someone to go to the internet, most of the time, many people will click on a blue “e” and that is it! That blue “e” is the internet to them. It may even be what you believe the internet is. This is not your fault. Until now there has not been this ease of choice and so many have had no need to know what a web browser. Nor have you.
The web browser, as mentioned at the very beginning of this post, is the tool that you use to view the internet. The internet is not the blue “e” it is a complex and complicated series of cables circling the globe, and running around on these cables is information. This information, in whatever form it be, is what most of us know as “The Internet”. The blue “e” is the tool you use to make the Internet make sense, and make it easy to use. Without needing to know how all the complicated jiggery-pokery behind the scenes is working.
So, we now know what a browser is, but why is the choice so important?
This question is a little harder to answer, but here goes.
The choice on which browser you make has a big impact on how you will experience the web. With different browser having different leading strengths and features, it can get confusing. Don’t be scared by this though, when you boil it down, it turns out that this choice is easy.
The best way to make your choice is to visit the “Tell me more” button just beneath the options presented to you, and visit them all. Sum up the pros, and cons, the things you like and dislike, and go on your preferred option. Not only that but go with the people who make you feel more comfortable. Finally, don’t just choose Microsoft Internet Explorer because you know it, and it is made by the same people who make your operating system (find out more) or your office applications. Take serious note of the other options that are given to you.
What does this screen you talk of look like? I have not seen it yet!
If you haven’t seen it yet do not be alarmed, you will at some point soon. It will look like the following, however the choices may be in a different order. This is a good thing, as it means that no one company has an advantage over the others at this point in your decision making, allowing you to make a more informed choice.
Note that if you click on the above picture it will take you to the actual page.
Some advice (this bit will be a little bit bias)
Without telling you which to choose I have some further advice for you. On the whole, the open source options are safer, more up-to-date, faster, and more reliable. This is due to them being open. There are many people, all over the world working on these browsers to make them the best that they can be. This is not true with the closed source options as they don’t allow people other than a small group of individuals, to work on and contribute to the browser.
Which of the choices are open source then?
Out of the first 5 options you see only Mozilla Firefox is completely open source with Google Chrome and Safari both being partly open. Opera and Internet Explorer are the least open of them all, being completely locked down.
Note: This section was updated as soon as I realised that I had left it in complete disarray from the many changes I made to it. My apologies go out to all those that read this before the update as well as to those of you who received this in your feed readers.
The internet is not the blue “e”, it is the tool you use to see the internet. It is a vital tool in day to day life now and knows a lot about you. When making the choice about which browser to choose don’t just go with what you know, go with what seems the best based on the information you can gain from the internet and from the “Tell me more” buttons on the choice screen. Finally, if you need any more information, or a good place to send your friends and family to help them understand the choice that they also will be presented with, visit www.opentochoice.org.