The Firefox and Internet Explorer showdown

One of the hottest topics today is Internet browsing. New versions of both Firefox and Internet Explorer have been appearing more rapidly in recent years.
Written by Chris Clay Clay, Contributor

One of the hottest topics today is Internet browsing. New versions of both Firefox and Internet Explorer have been appearing more rapidly in recent years. Since all of us use the Internet almost daily, using the right browser for our needs is important. And, along with features, using a secure browser is equally as important. It can only take a few minutes for an attacker to gain access to your computer or obtain your passwords, by taking advantage of a browser exploit. So which browser is the best one?

Personally I favor Firefox. But I admit part of that favoritism is because I've used Mozilla-based browsers since 1996. Back then I used Netscape, which was a truly great browser for its time. Since then, I've stayed with Netscape and eventually switched over to Firefox after AOL dropped development of Netscape a few years ago. Firefox is a great browser. It's filled with great and straightforward features, and the number of add-ons and plugins available is amazing. Internet Explorer has addons as well, although they don't seem to be as numerous as Firefox. And one of the best features that I like about Firefox is that all of its data is stored in a single folder. In Windows XP it's in "C:\Documents and Settings\yourusername\Local Settings\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles". In Linux, it's in "/home/yourusername/.mozilla". I frequently back up this folder and have migrated from computer to computer. In Linux, simply restoring the ".mozilla" folder on a new computer is a snap, just open Firefox and everything is there, your bookmarks, history, saved passwords, everything. Internet Explorer is tied so tightly to the Windows operating system that I've found that all of the settings and data is spread throughout folders, registry entries, and a whole slew of areas. I couldn't even begin to say where you would find everything to back up.

Staying secure is also very important. Even though Microsoft has been forced to allow the Browser Ballot (in Europe) and make Internet Explorer less prevalent, Internet Explorer is still tied tightly to the Windows operating system. This to me is bad for security. It gives exploits more access to Windows, and I can't see this as being a good thing. Firefox is not tied directly to Windows, it's installed and acts just like any other program, and it has an advantage in this regard. Either way, exploits come out for both browsers, although those for Internet Explorer are quite a bit more frequently announced. I'm not sure what the exact ratio is, but it seems to be around 1 Firefox exploit announced for each 8-10 Internet Explorer exploits. Mozilla and Microsoft are both usually pretty quick about releasing patches to fix the exploits. And both have had some delay in releasing some patches, too. One thing to note, is that I have also noticed that a lot of Firefox vulnerabilities are only present in Windows, and that Firefox on Linux has fewer vulnerabilities. This is irrelevant with Internet Explorer since it's only available on Windows.

With all of this said, there is one drawback that I have found with Firefox. Some websites just don't work. They are coded only for Internet Explorer and aren't tested against other browsers. This to me is just lazy coding. Websites can be created to be feature-rich, and maintain the same functionality across multiple browsers, if they are created that way. So, the workaround is a great add-on for Firefox called "IETab". It essentially opens what sites you specify using the Internet Explorer rendering engine in the Firefox browser. It works great on Windows, however this addon is not available for Linux. The only workarounds I know of is to either run Firefox in Wine, or use a Windows virtual machine (with VirtualBox) and run Internet Explorer or Firefox in the virtual machine. Either way, it's a pain dealing with some of these sites. Hopefully they will get the clue if enough people write and complain that the site doesn't load.

There are many more topics to cover on the two browsers, including backwards compatibility, and others. It will be interesting to see where the two end up in 1, 2, 3 years and more.

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