We spend a lot of time picking out options when we buy a computer. We do our homework when hunting for internet service providers, too. But there is something most of us take for granted in our cyber experience... browsers.
Whether you operate on a PC or a Mac, you probably don't think much about that familiar blue 'E' icon that's most likely on your computer screen.
Michael miller, Editor-in-chief, PC Magazine: "90-percent, or maybe even more, of all the machines out there are running a version of internet explorer."
Internet Explorer. By far the default browser of choice...it does the job for most of us launching onto the internet. But it's no longer the only game in town!
"The average computer user just doesn't know that there are choices."
Choices like.... Mozilla's Firefox, Opera and Apple's Safari, now free to download. They all have built-in features, like tabbed browsing, where you can have multiple web pages open in one single window making it easier to navigate between sites. Some other perks?
"New alternatives for installing software, new shortcuts. Google searching is built right in."
And, for the most part, hackers haven't gotten around to the newer options yet.
"We see viruses and worms aimed at the standard browser, so people have decided that they want to try other browsers that maybe aren't as much of a target."
Security is the main reason web surfer Chris Anderson made a switch. He's also thrilled that his new browser comes with a built-in program to block all those pop-up ads.
Chris Anderson: "I haven't gotten a single popup since i switched."
PC Magazine enlisted four testers: three trying out the alternatives, one Internet Explorer. How did the new browsers measure up?
"We would give Opera a three-and-a-half star rating out of five because it adds things like tabbed browsing, and a lot of shortcuts that people like. Firefox we'd give four stars to because it has the tabbed browsing and it's very fast." And Safari, a bit slower than the others, gets three stars, although our tester insists browsing was a cinch.
Mike Wall: "Just had tabs that you can click on, on the top, instead of typing in a url."
There were some small hitches with a couple of the new browsers.
Adam Shuvall: "Some images weren't displayed correctly, but that's because, I guess, it's a newer browser and a lot of the web sites are made for the standard browser."
And some additional software was necessary at times to view animations. As for the standard browser, our tester admits she did get some popups but that didn't bother her one bit.
Margo Blonde: "in the future, I'm pretty sure I'm going to stick with the standard browser, 'cause it gets the job done."
But Chris says he'll never go back to basics: "I think I'll be sticking with them for good now."
But, switching could be a little pre-mature. With Service Pack 2, Internet Explorer now has built in pop-up-stopping - it also reduces unwanted downloads, and browser hijacking abilities that made "phish" messages hard to detect. And, since some web sites are designed specifically for internet explorer, you might want to run dual browsers.