Net trouble with a capital IE? Take the Firefox cure
By Steve Shinney
Madonna may have lived in a material
world, but these days most people live in a world of
the digital variety.
Like computers before it and cars
before that, the Internet is here to stay, leaving naysayers
and old people in the dust ever since its inception.
Those who do catch hold of the new technology aren't
always happy with their online experience.
Most people who use the Information
Superhighway express concern or frustration with pop-ups,
viruses, spyware, slow loading times, identity theft
and online predators. Unfortunately, half of these problems,
and the more serious half at that, can only be prevented
by smart surfing. No program in the world can tell if
the guy your daughter is talking to is 14 or 40, and
if you send your bank account information to the "Financial
Prime Minister" of Nigeria, you deserve what ever you
However, relief does exist for a
lot of the other problems out and it's a lot easier
than you may fear. Firefox is a browser -- a program
used to view Web pages -- that is safer, faster and
in the eyes of almost everyone who's tried it, better
than the more commonly used Internet Explorer and Safari.
To make things even better, Firefox is completely free.
Firefox was release officially in
November, 2004 and has been downloaded 200 million times
since then. It's a quick download, it's easy to install
and is user-friendly enough for anyone who has used
At the computer lab where I work
we have Firefox installed on all the machines. This
has worked out great for those of us paid to troubleshoot
people's every problem. I can't count the number of
conversations that have gone along the following lines:
"I have a stupid question,"
the lab user tells me.
"Nonsense, there's no such
thing," I reassure them, because that's the kind of
lab consultant I am.
"I can't get (insert some Internet
based problem here) to work," they say.
"Are you using Internet Explorer
or Firefox," I ask, usually feeling smug because I think
I know the answer.
"Internet Explorer," they tell
me, confirming my suspicions.
"Try it in Firefox, if still
doesn't work, come get me," I tell them, and go back
to my work.
There are occasional times when someone
will have the opposite problem. The only time I've ever
seen something work in IE and not in Firefox is when
a program on the page you're looking at doesn't recognize
As more people join team Firefox,
the more other companies will take note and accept it.
Pop-up ads can be more than an annoyance,
they can lead to sites that install spyware on your
machine. I've had better luck with Firefox's built in
pop-up blocker than any add-on for IE. Firefox is also
more secure than IE. While no program is entirely safe.
Firefox developers take security very seriously. IE
can take months to patch a known issue, while the team
at Firefox are usually have a much faster turn-around.
Some say this is because they have
less holes to deal with in the first place.
These bugs also turn up quicker because
Firefox is open source software, meaning anyone with
the desire and knowledge can take a look at the computer
code that makes it tick. With more eyes looking for
bugs and trying to fix them flaws are patched quickly.
With IE once someone finds a flaw only Microsoft employees
can find it, when they get around to it.
Since the Net became publicly available,
various corporate and government organizations have
tried to limit illegal activities such as piracy, passing
viruses and child solicitation. While these groups are
doing well in their respective spheres, they don't address
the way the Net works, only how it's used. The problem
is while most people know how to send e-mail, scan e-bay
and download naked pictures of anybody who's ever been
naked, they have no idea how the whole process works.
The truth is there is an organization
who looks to bring order and civilization to the online
world. Dubbed the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), this
group has create a list of standard rules for Web pages.
A Web page in reality is nothing more than a page of
text with special sections of code, called tags, that
tell the browser how to display the content. W3C has
create list of standards of how browsers should interpret
Firefox, and other alternative browsers,
follow these standards. For some reason IE does not.
Because IE is so popular, Web monkeys have to add extra
code to make their pages look right. Extra code that
slows the Net as a whole down.
Is this extra code the only thing
slowing down your download of the video of the cat running
face first into the wall? No, but it's not helping.
Cubicle dwelling programmers and
anti-social geeks aren't the only ones encouraging a
switch to Firefox. Google recommends Firefox for faster
searching. IBM's corporate helpdesk recommends employees
use it. Major computer distributor Dell has even started
shipping machines with it preinstalled to the United
So go install Firefox. It won't end
world hunger or cure cancer, but neither will anything
else that you can do in the two to five minutes it takes
to download and install the browser. What it will do
is make your life a little more easy, a little more
secure and a little more serene.
That and thousand of Webmonkeys will