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This Week’s Thoughts: Choose your favorite browser

12 March 2010 by J.M.

Since several days, many Windows users boot their computer and get a strange ballott dialog on their screen: They may decide which browser they want to work with. The European Union Commission wanted it like that—and now it is there: From 17 March the latest, each Windows computer in the EU has the free choice.

Opera, Firefox, Internet Explorer—everybody may and must decide which program to use for surfing.  Professionals are glad, for newbies this can be messy.  What now, which program to pick?  Let’s talk about the backgrounds—and get some tips.

Many Internet Explorer alternatives

Probably every Windows user is familiar with Internet Explorer, as the Microsoft browser was pre-installed by default on every Windows computer.  Just there.  And that is why most people went online with it.  At least for first.  However, there are so many alternatives: Opera.  Firefox.  Safari.  Chrome.  Just to mention some.  But not every Windows user knows about these alternatives, or hesitates in switching because he doesn’t know how to install them.  There are still such people.

Ballott Screen

That is why the EU Commission has forced Microsoft to leave it up to each and every Windows user in Europe to choose a browser they want to use for surfing the Web.  Now this user choice has come reality: All Windows computers are about to get such a choice.  After updating, you are presented with a selection dialog, called ballott screen, listing the five most popular browsers, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, Safari and Chrome.  The order in which these browsers are displayed is by random—and determined from scratch each time the dialog is displayed.  This is how it looks like:

Microsoft–EU browser ballott

Exploding download counters

One mouse click is sufficient for installing a different browser and setting it to be your new default application.  You can also install and use multiple browsers in parallel—no problem at all.  Obviously, many users make use of this.  Since days, Firefox and Opera notice exploding download figures—good for competition.  Here in Germany, Firefox is the most-used browser anyways since a while.

Just one mouse click

Important: It has never been that simple to use a different browser on your Windows computer —and you should make use of it.  To install one of the suggested browsers, one mouse click is sufficient—and all the rest happens automatically.  It is also possible to install multiple browsers and use them in parallel.  Here’s a tip:  Only five browsers are displayed—but there are more to choose from.  Simply drag the scroll bar to the right, then more alternatives are shown.

Manual Windows Update

However, only the first five browsers are really interesting, the others are not well-known.  And if you know them, you are able to get them without such an aid, too.  If you want such a choice dialog as well, but you cannot see it on your Windows computer yet: Launch Windows Update from the Control Panel.  You will get a corresponding update that you can download and install to get the comfortable browser choice window.  All newly sold Windows computers get shipped per default with the browser selection.


Browser summary

Some like the new freedom of choice—others are overwhelmed as they do not know which browser to use.  So, here is a short summary what the five most important browsers are like:

Firefox

In Germany the most popular browser.  It is fast, reliable—and customizable.  What I like most: You can easily extend the browser and thus integrate new features.  The optimum for individualists.

Internet Explorer 8

I think Internet Explorer is better than its reputation, at least in the most recent version, and it is relatively fast, too.  However, there are still too many security issues—that are often not removed fast enough.

Opera

Insides like it very much, as it is very fast and innovative.  Opera offers many interesting features.  However, its usage can be thrilling to get used to.  I don’t have to use it—but a good browser without a doubt.

Safari

Apple’s browser used to be much faster than other browsers.  In the meantime though, the others have gained speed—and I don’t know any good reason why to use Safari in Windows.  Unless you are a real Apple fan.

Chrome

That’s Google’s browser.  Extremely fast and very ordered.  Pages display with high speed really.  If you surf much and get impatient quickly, you should take a look at Chrome.  But only if you trust Google.

The good thing is: It has become much simpler to try out other browsers—and to stay with the browser you like most.

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