Web browsing beyond Internet Explorer

Some of Internet Explorer's earliest critics were the same people who took great pride in cracking its code, the hackers who had no problem finding the holes in earlier versions' security. Of course, IE's dominance made it a juicy target for cybercriminals. Today, in a security-focused review, MSNBC warns that Chrome has a bull's-eye on it thanks largely to the publicity around its rapid growth. However, TopTenReviews.com and PCMag.com tout Chrome 10's improved security.

While the top browsers discussed in this report have robust security features, it's still recommended that computer users install security software for full protection. See our reports on anti-spyware, antivirus software, firewalls and Internet security software for the best products.

Experts suggest considering the following when choosing a browser:

  • How old is your computer? If you have an older computer or you haven't updated your operating system in a while, you may find it difficult running the latest versions of any browser. Reviews recommend Opera if you have slow connection or a shortage of memory. This is a better option than running an outdated version of a browser like Firefox or Chrome, as you could run into problems loading some web pages, streaming videos or running other applications. You'll also miss out on security updates.
  • How much web surfing do you do? If you only use your computer to check email, shop on Amazon.com and socialize on Facebook, you may not notice much difference between browsers. Speed and overall performance are crucial if you use run web-based software, stream video, or visit Flash-heavy sites. For example, Opera isn't compatible with some popular sites and doesn't support Netflix's Watch Instantly feature.
  • How important is customization? Firefox leads the field in the number of available add-ons, plug-ins and other enhancements, according to reviewers. Users who value utter simplicity will find Chrome and Opera their browsers of choice.
  • How many devices do you use? If you use more than one computer -- say, one at work and one at home -- you might like to sync your bookmarks and other features from one machine to the next. Reviewers favor Firefox and Chrome for syncing across machines and from a Windows operating system to a Mac OS. Firefox, Safari and Opera have mobile versions that are compatible with smartphones and tablets.
  • Privacy and security features are essential. Users share tremendous amounts of information about themselves on the web, whether they realize it or not. Reviewers like the private-browsing features on Firefox, Chrome and Safari. These browsers make it easy to clear your browsing history and personal data. A secure browser will display a warning when a user navigates to a questionable site or tries to download malicious content.

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