Resources Why Update? 

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The Problem

Outdated browsers:

Note, however, that updating to the latest version of a browser may not be wise if it has recently been released, as it may have more than the ordinary number of bugs: Be not the first by whom the new are tried, nor yet the last to lay the old aside.

Check for updates regularly. Some browsers may tell you when updates are available: but other browsers don’t, so you must check yourself whether an update is available. If you check the Browser News regularly, you can scan the News to see if there has been an update in your browser. The Browser News is published once a week, every Saturday.

Note: because Microsoft ended all support of Windows 98, 98SE, and ME in Jul 2006, ended all support of Windows XP in Apr 2014, and ended all support of Windows Vista in Apr 2017, those who use any of these operating systems are at special risk, and should seriously consider upgrading operating systems or PCs.

Note: because Microsoft has ended support for Internet Explorer older than IE 9, those who use older browsers are strongly encouraged to upgrade to a safer, modern browser.

Update Options

Now, if you decide to update, you have three choices:

When you decide to update, you can find out where to get the update from the Find Browsers page.

Which Browser?

The browser world has changed: once you had few choices; now you have many, including Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Opera, Safari, SeaMonkey, and Vivaldi.

Internet Explorer, which used to be the leading browser, should now be used only for legacy compatability purposes where compliance with modern standards is not essential.

Se­cu­ri­ty Issues

You must consider se­cu­ri­ty when choosing your browser.

One factor is how severe se­cu­ri­ty problems are, and how quickly they are fixed. Problems in Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Opera, and Vivaldi, for example, tend to be less severe and more quickly fixed than prob­lems with Internet Explorer. And if you use Windows or MacOS, be especially cautious of the less popular browsers, be­cause they tend to get se­cu­ri­ty updates later than more popular browsers.

A se­cu­ri­ty concern for the Opera browser is that it was bought by a Chinese consortium in mid-2016: there is therefore a risk that Opera will be modified to send details of its usage to the consor­tium or to Chinese government agencies.

Another factor is how well browsers can be configured to prevent se­curity problems. Internet Explorer, for example, can be made much safer by turning off many features, but this compromises some web pages and applications and therefore may not be right for you. Note also that all browsers are safer if you use an operat­ing system with restricted rights: e.g., if you use Windows with a limited (non-administrative) account.

Another factor is se­cu­ri­ty risks created by browser add-ons: use as few add-ons as you can, get the latest add-on updates, and pick the safest browser and add-ons which meet your needs.

Usability Issues

There are two very important, much overlooked usability features of browsers: text legibility, and user options:

Text Legibility

Windows versions of Chrome-based browsers — Chrome, Edge, Vivaldi, and modern versions of Opera — render paler text, which can be harder to read; whereas Firefox and SeaMonkey render distinctly darker text, which is easier to read.

User Options

Many browsers have been stripped of configuration features to make them easier to configure, but which make it impossible to configure many aspects of how they work. For the maximum in configurability, use the SeaMonkey or Vivaldi browsers.

Choices

The choices for normal users are different from the choices for website designers. Normal users may consider any of the choices listed below. Website designers are strongly urged to consider Vivaldi.

There are three popular, modern families of browsers:

The Blink Browsers 

Many browsers use the Blink browser engine, also called the Chrome browser engine. These browsers include Chrome, Edge, Opera, and Vivaldi. These brow­sers display pages much the same, but each browser has somewhat different features.

One factor to consider for the Blink browsers is that updates to the browser engine — for example, to fix se­cu­ri­ty flaws — appear first in Chrome, slightly later in Edge, and somewhat later in Opera and Vivaldi. Also, Chrome automatically updates itself. Chrome is therefore the Blink browser least vulnerable to se­cu­ri­ty flaws.

Another factor to consider — for Windows users — is that these browsers display paler text which is somewhat harder to read.

Yet another factor to consider is that these browsers tend to be more bug-ridden than, for example, Firefox-based browsers.

Recommendation: most people who want to use a Blink-based browser should use Edge; most website designers who want to use a Blink-based browser should use Vivaldi.

Chrome

This browser, produced by Google, is the most popular browser in use today. Chrome’s key feature is that it’s simple, but it achieves simplicity by giving the user few choices in configuring it.

One factor to consider — for Android users — is that Chrome updates for Android tend to be delayed by many days, and that Opera updates for Android tend to be delayed by many weeks, whereas Firefox updates for Android usually appear at about the same time as Windows, MacOS, and Linux updates. Firefox for Android is therefore somewhat more secure than Chrome for Android and much more so than Opera for Android.

Edge

This browser, produced by Microsoft, replaces the original Edge:: browser. One advantage of Edge is that, unlike all previous Microsoft browsers, it will work on multiple versions of Windows, as well as on non-Windows operating systems.

Edge:: was not popular, whereas the Blink-based Edge is much more popular.

Opera

This suite, produced by Opera Software, is both a browser and an eMail program. Its browser gives the user more configuration choices than Chrome, but renders pages the same. Note that very old ver­sions of Opera — prior to version 15 — use a different browser engine, the Presto engine, and are no longer maintained.

NB​: Opera is owned by a Chinese consortium, hence may become un­trustworthy; Chinese law requires Chinese companies to provide Bei­jing’s se­cu­ri­ty apparatus with access to any data touching their networks or equipment, which could include any information passing between Opera and the Internet.

Vivaldi

This browser, produced by Vivaldi Technologies, is a browser that gives the user more configuration choices than the other Blink browsers, but renders pages the same.

Get Firefox!

Note: I urge website designers to consider testing websites using Vivaldi, since Vivaldi is a modern, highly customizable browser. For example, using Vivaldi, you can set all of the generic CSS fonts, including cursive and fantasy fonts, something you can’t do with any other modern browser.

The AppleWebKit Browsers 

These browsers use Apple’s AppleWebKit browser engine for MacOS. NB: the Chrome and Opera browsers used to use this engine as well, but have not done so for a long time.

iCab

This is a little used browser with few — but loyal — MacOS users. iCab is not often updated, so it often uses an older, less secure version of the AppleWebKit browser engine, and may not render pages as well.

Safari

This is Apple’s official browser for MacOS. NB: the latest version of Safari works ony on the most modern versions of MacOS; older versions of Safari are no longer maintained.

Security issues are fixed more slowly than security issues in most other browsers.

The Gecko Browsers 

These include Firefox, Firefox ESR, Galeon, K-Meleon, Pale Moon, SeaMonkey, Waterfox, and more.

Some browsers use engines which were forked from older versions of Firefox’s browser engine, so will not display pages very much like older versions of Firefox.

One factor to consider for the Gecko browsers is that updates to the browser engine — for example, to fix se­cu­ri­ty flaws — appear first in Firefox. Also, Firefox can be configured at installation to automatically update itself. Firefox is therefore the least vulnerable to se­cu­ri­ty flaws.

Caution: it may be especially risky to use minor browsers such as Galeon, which tend to be updated less often and are more likely to have se­cu­ri­ty bugs.

Recommendation: most people who want to use a Gecko-based browser should use Firefox.

Firefox

There are two editions of Firefox: 1 Firefox, and 2 Firefox ESR. Both editions are supported, with frequent bug and security updates. But Firefox also enjoys frequent minor upgrades which add or change features; whereas Firefox ESR enjoys rarer major upgrades which add or change features. Firefox ESR is made for corporations which don’t want to cope with frequent changes in features.

Firefox (Mainstream Version)

The mainstream version of Firefox uses the latest version of the Gecko browser engine, so it best supports the browser standards and best displays pages. This makes the mainstream version of Firefox a key tool for website designers.

Two key advantages of Firefox are that 1 Firefox for Windows displays darker, easier-to-read text that the Windows Blink-based browsers, and that 2 Firefox is generally less bug-prone and more standards-compliant than other browsers.

For most people I recommend the normal, mainstream version of Firefox.

Get Firefox!

Firefox ESR

Firefox ESR uses a version of the Firefox browser engine which is older, but which is supported for a longer period of time than the mainstream version of Firefox. Several times a year Firefox ESR is upgraded to the latest version of the Gecko engine, which briefly makes Firefox ESR match the mainstream Firefox , with the two diverging again when the mainstream Firefox gets its next feature change.

Firefox ESR is best for companies which want less frequent changes in Firefox’s features.

A disadvantage of Firefox ESR is that, because it uses a somewhat older version of the Firefox browser engine, it may not render pages quite as well.

K-Meleon

The latest version of K-Meleon uses the Goanna browser engine, which was forked from an older version of the Gecko browser engine. It therefore does not support the latest browser standards or display pages as well as Firefox does.

SeaMonkey

Those considering Firefox should also consider SeaMonkey: SeaMonkey is a full browser suite, not just a browser, and can be more fully customized.

Get SeaMonkey!

A disadvantage of SeaMonkey is that, because it uses a much older version of the Firefox browser engine — Gecko 60 — it may not render pages quite as well.

Waterfox

The latest version of Waterfox uses the Goanna browser engine, which was forked from an older version of the Gecko browser engine. It therefore does not support the latest browser standards or display pages as well as Firefox does.

Note: The current version of Waterfox has CSS defects which result in pages not being rendered properly, and often result in pages being unusable … including all pages in this site. Until these defects are fixed, I cannot recomend Waterfox for most users.

 

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