What browser are you reading this with? Have a peek. Is it Internet Explorer? Any version at all? If it isn’t, good for you, lesson over. Otherwise, continue on.

I’m assigning you a New Year’s Resolution: ditch that clunker and get a proper browser.

This stems from more than my general dislike of Microsoft products. If I were forced to defend my dislike of some Microsoft products, I’d find myself on shaky ground (though Vista provided continent-spanning areas of solid footing). No, Internet Explorer is what Winnie the Pooh would call a Very Bad Idea.

  • It’s a less secure browser than the alternatives. Microsoft can be slow to patch security holes. And since IE is integrated into Windows, security flaws are even more dangerous. Heck, the German government recommended abandoning the browser.
  • You might not have the latest version. Microsoft themselves have told people to protect themselves by not using older versions of their browser. It seems that lots of people don’t know what version they’re using, or even that there are possible upgrades. Go to Internet Explorer’s Help menu and click “About Internet Explorer.” If it’s version 7 (or heaven help you, 6) then you need to do something. You should upgrade, since its tendrils are in your operating system. But while you’re at it, install and start using one of the better choices (see below).
  • IE is not standards compliant. Standards should mean that a website has a similar appearance and performance no matter what the browser. Ask a Website developer about trying to make sites work both with standards-compliant browsers and with IE, then watch the blood begin to boil. The fine folks at Microsoft thumb their noses at some of those standards and try to impose their own rules in other cases.
  • IE is slower. I won’t get into the whole horserace comparison thing or the arguments over testing methodologies. Let’s just say that time and again, Google Chrome and Firefox easily outpace IE in page loading and script processing speeds.

So what are your alternatives? Lucky you: they’re all free and simple. There are many alternate browsers, but I’ll recommend two of them.

  • Google Chrome, a zippy and clean browser. Whenever I have to use a different browser, I miss it. If you use multiple machines, it automatically syncs bookmarks and settings, which is a major selling point.
  • Firefox, another great choice, and useful for those who like to trick out there systems with fancy add-ons.

Some people work for companies that require using IE on their computers (which seems insane but I digress…). You have an option thanks to the good people at Google: Google Chrome Frame. It may not be ideal, but it’ll help whip that bully IE into a somewhat better tool.

Internet Explorer used to have a 90% share of the Web browser market, but they’ve been declining steadily for years. By some measurements, it dropped below 50% in October of 2010. I hope you’ll join the crowd who continue that trend.