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Do I need more than one browser? Why?

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I run Windows 7, Internet Explorer 11 and Firefox 28 on a nearly new LG all-in-one with an I5 processor. I have two issues with Internet Explorer. When accessing a video link from an email, for example, I get sounds but no picture. When booking an online ticket, I can’t complete the process as when pressing “next” I’m returned to the first page. I don’t have either of these problems with Firefox. Any suggestions?

Honestly, I think you’ve answered your own question. If it works in Firefox, use Firefox.

Browsers are complex beasts, and websites can be complex beasts too. When you combine them, things get geometrically more complex. All three of the top browsers: Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome, are good, solid browsers, as are many others like Safari and Opera.

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Pick a favorite, and then add another

I have no problem recommending that you use any one of them as your primary browsers. Pick whichever one feels best to you; the one whose interface you feel is the most intuitive; perhaps the one you feel performs the best on the sites that you typically visit. Seriously, any of them will do just fine these days.

Then install another one. If you use and like IE and then have either Firefox or Chrome installed as well, make sure that you leave the default browser set to the one you like the most. However, I can pretty much guarantee that sooner or later you’re going to want one of the others.

Some websites work well in every browser, and some don’t.

Internet BrowsersCompatibility is complex

Cross-browser compatibility is a difficult thing to achieve with 100% success. While there are standards, there are enough variations in how things work that it’s not that hard to accidentally overlook something that works a little differently in one browser as compared to another. The site that works fantastic in Firefox just might not look good in IE.

On one hand it’s the website’s fault for not doing it correctly. On the other hand, it’s unrealistic to expect every single website to test against every possible browser. Stuff happens.

Internet Explorer had a reputation for a long time for not being standards-compliant. Websites that were written correctly would simply not display correctly in IE.

And it was, in fact, Internet Explorer’s fault. Period. And yet, it was the most popular browser by virtue of being included in Windows.

IE’s non-compliant legacy

IE itself has gotten a lot better in recent versions. They even added what they called a “compatibility mode” for websites that don’t display well. But there are people that still swear that IE doesn’t display many websites properly. All I can say is, that could be.

The other problem though is that for a long time, many websites were actually written to work specifically with that non-standards-compliant Internet Explorer. What that means is that even though IE was doing things wrong, websites wanted to work with the most popular browser, and thus they did things wrong as well in order to work with IE.

As IE, over time, did a better job of adhering to standards, now those old websites that were written to work with old non-compliant IE won’t work properly in other browsers or even later versions of IE.

The bottom line here is that you can see pretty quickly, it’s a bit of a mess. The practical, pragmatic solution for you as an average user is very, very simple. If the browser you use is not doing what you need it to, try a different one. It costs nothing to go back and forth.

11 comments on “Do I need more than one browser? Why?”

  1. You mention IE, Firefox & Chrome and give lip service to Safari and Opera. You also say that you have no problem with folks using any of the big 3 browsers. I’m a bit surprised that you completely ignore Maxthon Cloud Browser, being the computer guru type guy that you are. Maxthon has been around now for at least 10 years and you should have at least given it a try by now. I, and many others, find it to be superior to any of the browsers you tout so why not give it a tumble and add it to your list of viable browsers ? Oh, and I have no stake in it success just think it’s hands down better than any other offering.

    • I only just discovered Maxthon as well. It has a version that is significantly faster to use to browse on Kindle Fire and iPad. It does have some great features.

    • Have heard of Maxthon, have never used it. Have used the others. Last I heard (and this may have changed) Maxthon was a wrapper around the IE display engine, so it wasn’t a completely separate browser. Again, that could be outdated information. Honestly, I have to draw a line somewhere – there are so many browsers that simply can’t list them all. Glad to hear you’re happy with Maxthon.

  2. Recently moved from IE to Google Chrome which I find much quicker but does leave many tracking cookies.

    • Tracking cookies come from the sites you visit, not the browser, unless you mean that your previous browser has an add-on which blocks tracking cookies.

  3. MS decided we could not turn off Tabs in IE 11, Win 7 version and probably the others as well. Like it or lump it. I did what I could to make tabs less pesky. If you like using tabbed browsing, you won’t care. I prefer a new window.

    I had some problems with IE 10 so don’t want to go back.

    I decided if it takes Firefox to get rid of tabs, so be it. I just liked IE better but do also like FF.

  4. The person who asked the question should be addressing what type of file was sent, not her browser. There are programs to install that add on capabilities to parts of Windows, especially Windows Media Player. If you cannot play the video correctly in your email I would save the file and find what plays it to start with.

    I may also be as simple as updating that program you haven’t updated in a while…perhaps you had an option as to how to do this and simply picked no updates. For an example, the Flash Player used by several sites has been updated several times in the last year alone.

    If you have trouble viewing videos correctly in a preview pane of your email browser then you might just want to turn that feature off. In my experiences it slows mail browsing down as you are forced to wait for the preview to load and you might want to just zip through are see things later. The certain video site we all know of already has a link to that video so there is probably no reason to have it there TWICE.

    Now to address the vicious circle of the ‘non-standard browser’ theory. The first version of IE I came across was 5. The oldest I’ve seen (from an older computer) was 3. It’s true, I agree, that IE was rather horrid into version 4, and 5 was much better. IE6, now decried and derided as the worst thing since worst things, was somewhat of a real relief when it came out.

    Things change. W3C wasn’t there at the beginning (standards for browser/website compatability) and there simply was a lot of newbie work out there (remember Geocities and music that would just start blaring after the minute or so it took to load, freaking you out, making you wonder if you had a virus or else just scare you good)? They were newbies because the internet was a newbie.

    They made the same basic mistakes as the software writers that saw you could do this trick or that and save some bytes, critical in the early days of Windows and PCs. I would say that hindsight is always myopic to some degree because there was no way you could know without doing and finding out then. It’s nice to know better now but it’s highly irrelevant to the past.

    Should you really have several browsers? Not in my opinion. Find one that you can adapt the best, keep your programming and hardware in the best condition you can manage and reassess what you actually need from your computing experience. Don’t let your everyday needs mutate into a ‘me-too’ situation. There is usually no reason to be a first adopter if you don’t understand it. Free stuff will usually find a monetary structure if it’s big enough, whether it’s advertising or a fee. They are using you to check things out anyway : )

    Oh and I guess VOIP ultimately failed for me years ago because I wanted to call mom without long distance charges and I found out recently she was losing her hearing some at that time (and it kept bouncing back too). Sometimes it goes beyond the realm of the computer.

  5. Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
    I use WaterFox (http://www.waterfoxproject.org/). It’s intended for 64-bit machines, so it must be good…
    WaterFox and FireFox have some kind of mind-meld going on. They use the same control/parameter/configuration files, so you can have either WaterFox or FireFox, not both.

    My bank won’t let me log in via WaterFox. When I complained, the pleasant customer service person asked their web geeks about it. They hadn’t heard of WaterFox.

    Closed-captions won’t work on PBS videos in WaterFox. Work fine in IE.

    Adobe Flash seems to work differently everywhere. If a Flash video is a black rectangle in WaterFox, it might run in IE or Chrome, and vice versa.

    This is fun!

  6. I switch back and forth between Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox but one of my banks only allows online transactions to be done using Internet Explorer. I can view the account in any browser but the Transaction button is only available in IE.

    For printing, I prefer the Google Chrome dialogue box, plus it includes printing to Google Cloud and also to PDF which I can’t seem to get in Mozilla Firefox.

  7. Firefox has been a steady performer for many years (for me) but lately seems to suffer from performance problems and is also a “resource hog” ( takes almost 25% of avail CPU). Does anyone else notice these items and if so what browser do you suggest ? I’m running Win 7 Home Premium 64-bit SP1 with 4 gig RAM.

    Bob

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