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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Browsers make a difference in online searches

Genealogists are information workers and, as such, need to be aware of the various options available to quickly and safely find information on the Internet. Because of the overwhelming dominance of Microsoft Windows Operating System in the world of personal computing, historically most computer users defaulted to Microsoft's browser also. A few years ago, Microsoft Explorer held close to 90% of the market. This percentage has been steadily decreasing, until now, Microsoft Explorer has less than 50% of the browser market. The top browsers today include Microsoft's Explorer in various versions, Firefox, Chrome from Google, Safari from Apple and Opera. Chrome is the newcomer and has only been in use since about September, 2008 but it has already captured over 5% of the market. Firefox has gone from a small user base in 2003 to almost dominating the browser market entirely.

A browser is a program that translates the code used on the Internet into viewable images on your computer. Whenever I am asked to help someone with their computer, I frequently find that the person has done nothing at all to customize their browser and is using the same generic product that came with the initial installation on their computer.

All of the popular browser programs are "free" but come with biases that will lead you to their developer's products. Changing from one browser to another is rather simple at first, but after using the same browser for a long time, it may seem strange or difficult to adjust to a new one. The fact is that you can switch from one browser to another, just like changing programs running on the computer. In fact, you can run more than one browser at the same time in different windows on the computer. Usually, I find that a decision to change browsers is one of the first indications that a person has learned to use the computer effectively.

There is nothing wrong with using one browser over another. The browser police will not come and get you if you try a different browser, neither will it void your computer's warranty. I moved to Firefox a long time ago for the simple reason that it was a superior product to Window's Explorer. Firefox is a cooperative, open to any programmer who wishes to work on the program, so changes and updates are frequent and there are literally hundreds of thousands of add-ons and ways to customize the program.

Since modern genealogists and family historians spend so much of their time communicating on a computer, they should be aware of the options that may make their lives easier.

In future posts, I will show more Firefox add-ons that may help your computing experience.

1 comment:

  1. I've been using Firefox for a few years now and would never go back to IE. Even leaving aside the monster advantages in security and the wide selection of addons, FF is just so much lighter weight and more responsive. IE puts way too many hooks into the OS every time it loads. On the security front, Firefox + NoScript have saved me so many hassles its just not even funny.

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