Internet Explorer is familiar to almost any computer user, because it comes bundled with Microsoft Windows. There is a common misconception that it is the only way to access the internet. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Internet Explorer is what’s called a Web Browser, or just Browser for short. All that means is that it’s a program that displays web pages. Internet Explorer (IE for short), comes bundled with Microsoft Windows, and thus is usually the first browser most people use. The problem with IE is that it’s not very customizable (Compared to other browsers), and, most importantly, it tends to be a bit brittle, meaning sometimes it breaks for no discernible reason, and simply refuses to work.
The problem then is, if IE is your only way to access the internet, you’re up the creek. You can’t search for a solution to your problem, or do anything else on the internet. Fortunately, there are a number of “Third-Party” (Not made by Microsoft) browsers out there, and even if you don’t use them, it’s a good idea to have them installed, just in case a Windows Update goes wrong and IE suddenly stops working.
The two browsers I like the most are Firefox and Chrome. Both are free. Both have great things going for them. Both are capable of installing add-ons called Extensions, which can do all manner of useful things like blocking annoying ads, giving you an instant weather forecast, warning you about unsafe web pages, and making it easier to download stuff.
All these browsers can happily coexist on one computer; I recommend installing at least one of them to try out and as a backup to IE.
Firefox is a product of The Mozilla Project, an organization dedicated to openness on the web. Mozilla is an Open-Source project, meaning that anyone can read the program code, alter it, and improve upon it. This may sound like a bad idea from a security standpoint, but actually it’s a very good idea. Why? Because anyone who knows what they’re looking at can read the source code, there are thousands of eyes looking for Malware, back doors, and other security holes, which usually get fixed very promptly. IE, by contrast, is Closed Source, as are most Microsoft products, meaning only the people who actually write the software are allowed to read the code. Firefox is my browser of choice, because I find it to be the most customizable. It often gets a bit slow, though, especially if you have a lot of extensions.
Chrome is a product of Google. It is also Open-Source and frequently updated. Chrome uses a very minimalist interface; The address bar is also where you type searches – Which, of course, are searched by Google. If you use Gmail or other Google services, Chrome gives you one-stop access to all that. Chrome is possibly the fastest browser, simply because it’s so minimalistic.
Try one or both of these. If you don’t like them, that’s OK, but leave one of them on your computer for that possible emergency when Internet Explorer decides to… Just Not Work.
Note: There are a few websites that require IE in order to function. Most Microsoft sites are in this category, including the Windows Update site. (Surprise, surprise!) If a site just doesn’t want to behave in a third-party browser, try loading it in IE.