Friday, May 4, 2007

Friday Freebie - The IE Alternative That You Should Really Already Have

I'm going to guess that a lot of our more seasoned readers already have this freebie, but for all the rest, it's worth the feature. The majority of the world surfs the net with whatever browser came preloaded on their PC, and that usually means Internet Explorer. And while Microsoft did step up its game with the (long overdue) release of IE7, that piece of software still isn't necessarily the best browser for the job. Not to mention the new interface is downright ugly. But fear not - an alternative is at hand, and it is named Firefox:

Back in the late 1990s, the browser war was a big deal. The internet had just exploded (not literally - that won't happen for a few months yet at least), and Netscape Navigator was king. But thanks to some alleged unfair business practices, MS was quickly gaining ground with its buggy but upcoming IE. So what was Netscape to do? Put a hex on Bill Gates? No! They decided to completely redo their browser, using a project known as Mozilla. Unfortunately, it was too little too late for the company, and they lost their market share before a meaningful new browser could be born.

But that wasn't the end of the Mozilla project. That team kept chugging along, slowing building a better browser. And eventually, after a few naming problems, Firefox was born. At first, few people took notice. Over time, though, people grew tired of IE's inherent flaws and MS's lack of innovation in the browser market, and began to look elsewhere. That's when Firefox really took off. So to speak.

The truth is, even with all the support Firefox receives from the web elite, IE is still used by over 80% of all web surfers, just because it's there and it's what people are used to. But if you're willing to give something new a try, Firefox is worth the download. The interface is clean, but customizable. Plus, there are plenty of add-ons for the browser, so you can incorporate a whole bunch of additional tools right in one window. It's also very fast, due to Mozilla's minimalist approach to coding - always a good thing. And the best part, besides the lack of a price? It's stable. Aside from the occasional memory leak, the browser isn't going to crash on you two or three times a day. That alone makes this a must have.

As for downsides, there's really only one. Many web pages today are designed specifically for IE. What that means is they follow IE's coding requirements, and not necessarily web standards. So, it's possible that a few of your favorite pages won't look quite right when viewed through Firefox. This has improved over the years, as web developers started to realize how popular Firefox was becoming. But you'll always have IE to fall back on for those few pages if necessary. And the truth is, it's a small price to pay for a slicker, faster, more stable browsing experience.

Downloads for Windows, Mac, and Linux machines can be found right here. They've even got our foreign friends covered, with versions available in multiple languages. So next time you visit the Atomic Playground, I expect you to be viewing it through Firefox. Don't worry - the site looks just as good through it as it does IE.

Note - no foxes were set on fire during the making of this browser, or during this review. Well, not on purpose at least...

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