As of January 12, Microsoft has officially stopped supporting all older versions of Internet Explorer, its flagship web browser. While previous browser versions will still be functional, the end of support means anyone using Internet Explorer 8, 9, or 10 to access the web is now vulnerable to major security threats, such as hacking and malware.
The company’s most recent offering, IE11, will continue to be supported for at least the next five years. However, the end-goal for Microsoft is to push all users to upgrade to their entirely new browser, Edge. It’s a massive risk to take considering IE still leads all browsers in usage statistics, with nearly a quarter of all Internet usage coming from the browser (Google Chrome is second in popularity at just over 21%), but a necessary one given the issues that have accumulated over 20 years of strain on the same core browser technology. If you think back to what the Internet was like 20 years ago, you can probably see that an update is long overdue.
If you’re using Internet Explorer haven’t already updated your browser, you should at the very least upgrade to IE11. However, there are a number of better options out there in terms of security, speed, and (most likely) longevity that you should know about before you commit yourself to another 5 years of Internet Explorer use.
Given the ubiquity of Google products over the past decade, I was shocked to see that Internet Explorer still accounted for more web usage than Chrome. Part of that can be attributed to IE being the default browser for nearly every PC on the market since the ’90s, but nevertheless it is surprising to find an area where Google participates and is not the leader.
That’s all set to change now, though, and that’s a great thing. Google’s reputation and stature is a direct result of the success of their search engine, and the Chrome browser has been developed to suit that search engine perfectly.
Every browser provider will claim their product is the fastest (with good reason since load time is everything in this world of instant gratification), but where Chrome excels is its symbiosis with Google’s search platform. The URL bar in the browser literally is the Google search bar, meaning you don’t have to take the extra step to go to google.com or a separate toolbar to get your search results. Google’s auto-complete suggestions carry over here as well, making searching from any website as fast as it is from the Google homepage.
Chrome also has a massive library of helpful add-ons called Extensions that are simple to install and activate, and are generally there to make your life on the Internet easier. If that’s not what people are after with a web browser, I don’t know what they are. Hopefully you’re sold by now, but if not you can read up on a bunch more information about Chrome before deciding to download it.
Remember Netscape Navigator? No? Anyway, NN was a browser that competed with Internet Explorer in the ’90s and early 2000s, but ultimately fell by the wayside. Not before their community played a part in creating the Mozilla Community, though. Mozilla went on to create a new browser, Firefox, in 2006, a couple years ahead of the release of Google Chrome.
At the time, Internet Explorer had a major stranglehold on browser usage, though to be fair it deserved its place ahead of Navigator and AOL Explorer. Firefox was introduced to great acclaim as a better browsing experience and grabbed a fairly significant share of web users ahead of Google’s release of Chrome in 2008.
Firefox is a fast and reliable browser with a focus on privacy, and also provides a lot of flexibility for you to decide which features you’d like to bring to the forefront and which you might like to keep hidden away. While not quite as streamlined for instantaneous searching as Chrome, Firefox offers a competitive web browsing experience with few issues. Check out the features of Firefox and compare it with Chrome to see which is the best fit for you.
As I mentioned earlier, Microsoft has developed a brand new browser that comes with a plethora of modern features and capabilities. There is a catch for the time being, however, as Edge only works with Windows 10, the latest operating system released by Microsoft in 2015. Microsoft has been heavily promoting the new operating system, though early reviews have been mixed at best.
If you have taken the plunge and updated to Windows 10 already, Edge does offer some pretty interesting features in addition to the improved performance over IE. Some of the most notable features are the ability to “write on the web” and communicate with Microsoft’s Siri-alternative, Cortana. Aside from these luxuries, however, there doesn’t seem to be much, if any, of an improvement over either Firefox or Chrome, which will work with just about every operating system out there.
What about Safari, Opera, and IE11?
If you’ve been searching for other browsers to use, you’ve likely also come across mentions for Safari and Opera, and while both are capable and reliable browsers it’s not too likely that you’d be making the switch from Internet Explorer to either option. Safari is Apple’s default browser, so unless you’re planning on switching from PC to Mac (or for some reason downloaded IE to your Apple computer), Safari’s probably not going to be your favorite. Opera is another option, but has not been as widely adopted as Firefox or Chrome.
As for the latest version of Internet Explorer, while it is a vast improvement over earlier versions, keep in mind it is still running on that 20-year-old engine that doesn’t have the latest technological capabilities to keep up with the changing online environment. It’s a suitable upgrade for security purposes over the now-deprecated past versions, but any of the other options will be better in the long run for security, compatibility and reliability.
What if I want to keep using an older version of Internet Explorer?
As mentioned previously, you don’t technically have to update to a new browser. However, in addition to the security threats that will leave your personal information at risk, many newer websites will not load properly in these older browser versions. Most web designers and developers (our own company included) have stopped providing compatibility checks for any IE versions before 11, so you can count on more and more websites failing to load properly as time goes on.
If you’re not updating at this point, you’re robbing yourself of all of the wonderful new websites being designed and developed, while also leaving yourself vulnerable to some of the worst features of what the Internet has to offer. Do yourself a favor and make sure your browser version is up to date, then get out there and enjoy the world wide web!