If you watched our video Just what IS a Browser?, now you know the answer. So which one are you using? Is there something better? In this article, we'll show you how to check and then walk through the choices, and our recommendation.
How to Check Your Browser
If you're on a Windows computer, you'll probably find an icon for your browser on your desktop. It might say "Internet" instead of the name of the browser. If you're on a Mac, it will be in your Dock at the bottom of your screen.
Here are the 5 most popular for desktop and laptop computers.
Chrome is the browser made by Google. It is updated automatically every few weeks. As this is being written, Chrome version 35 is the current one. Chrome is available for every popular computer Operating System -- Windows (from Windows 8.1 all the way back to Windows XP), Mac, Linux -- and it basically is the operating system (Chrome OS) in the Chromebook and Chrome Box. Chrome Mobile also is the browser for most new Android tablets and phones.
Firefox is made by the Mozilla Foundation. It is the descendent of Netscape Navigator which was the original #1 browser. It also is updated automatically on a regular basis, every few weeks, and at this writing, Firefox 30 is current. Firefox is available for every popular computer Operating System -- Windows XP to Windows 8.1, Mac, and Linux. Like Google's Chrome, Mozilla is also making a Firefox OS but it is currently only available in smartphones.
Internet Explorer is the browser that comes with Windows. If you have a Windows PC, you'll probably see that blue e on your desktop. Depending on your system, you might click an icon that says MSN or AOL or Yahoo, but they all are some (slightly modified) version of Explorer (aka "IE"). Internet Explorer is only available for Windows.
Ah, but what version? Unlike Chrome, Firefox and Opera (next), Microsoft only releases a new version of Internet Explorer every few years, If you are using Windows 8 or 7, you can install IE 11 (although the original Windows 7 came with IE 8, and you have to update manually if you want a newer IE version). Windows Vista users started with IE 7 and can update themselves to IE9, but no further. If your PC uses Windows XP, Microsoft has left you behind, with Windows 8 being the most advanced version of IE that you can run. That's not very advanced, and it's also not very secure.
Are you on Windows, and now you're confused? Don't worry -- you can have more than one browser on your computer. They're easy to download and install, they're free, and Chrome, Firefox and Opera are all up-to-date, good browsers.
Opera is the red O icon. It's a fine, up-to-date browser that runs on any Windows from XP on, as well as on Mac and Linux. It's not as well known as Chrome and Firefox, and not as popular, but it's a nice alternative if you don't care for Chrome or Firefox. Opera also has a "mini" version in some Smartphones and tablets, but it is not 100% compatible with a lot of modern pages (and games). Opera has a TV browser in the latest model TiVos.
Safari is by Apple, and is the official browser for the Mac. Mobile Safari is the browser in the iPad and iPhone. There is an old version around for Windows, but it was never the best (as opposed to Safari for Apple, which is excellent) and Apple no longer makes or supports Safari for non-Apple platforms.
Tablets and Phones
All of these browsers have mobile versions, and there are other mobile browsers such as Dolphin which you can install on your mobile device, in addition to the browser it comes with. But unless there is a specific reason to install a different browser, most tablet and smartphone users stay with the browser that was designed for their platform.
Why Would You Want More than One Browser?
If you're using Internet Explorer, there is a very good reason. Microsoft has had some really serious security holes and, in June 2014, both the US and the UK officially recommended that Internet Explorer not be used until the security problems were fixed.
But in fact, from time to time, there can be other reasons that you don't, or do, want to use a particular browser. Chrome is particularly advanced in HTML5, and you'll see some of the newest, neatest stuff on it. Firefox is a great browser for developing web content -- it's what I use to make Games4TV. And I even keep Internet Explorer around for when I want to access an official Microsoft site and see it as they intended.
And sometimes, you might come across a web page that looks ... well ... strange. Or maybe you're trying to get a page that just won't load. Try it in another browser. Just as you have more than one pair of shoes in your closet, you'll find it handy to have more than one browser on your computer.
We Recommend Chrome
If you're on a computer, and you're not currently using Chrome, it is our #1 recommendation that you get it. If you're on an older Windows system, especially Windows XP or Windows Vista, it will change your Internet life very much for the better!
There's another reason that we like and recommend Chrome if you're on a computer: there are lots of free web apps in the Chrome Web Store, and we're going to be talking about the best of them in our Chromebook series. When you use the Chrome browser on a computer, you'll be able to use all those web apps, too!
The reason that I say "on a computer" is that Chrome on Android or iOS is a bit different, and the web apps aren't available. It's still a nice browser (especially on Android), but on iPad, it isn't the "must have" that it is on Windows.
By the way, Firefox is a fine browser, too, and is the one that I use because it has nice development tools that help me make games.
Ready to Upgrade your Browser?
Are you ready to download and install a new browser? It will just take a few minutes. Read on for How to Download and Install a New Web Browser.
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