Re: IE vs FF
First and foremost I'll say up front that I use Opera
, so I don't really have a personal stake in the IE vs FF
Second, a sysadmin friend once replied, when asked what the best operating sytem was, "None, they all suck. They just suck in different ways." The
same holds true for browsers. Heading tech support for an ISP, this is painfully clear to me
Now, on to the meat:
IE has a number of advantages right now: It's still the market leader, which means that it's the browser most web pages are written for. You can
be pretty sure that any web page viewed in IE will display properly, any extra things (flash, java, etc) will function correctly, and so on. In
addition, as the dominant browser, it's the one that all the "How to get around the Web" tutorials are written for. It's also free and comes with
most new [Windows-based] computers, so you don't have to go out and find it. Finally, since most tech support call centers offer only minimal
training, instead relying on poorly-paid kids who only really know how to read the answers off of the computer screen in front of them (yes, I'm a
), with IE you've got a reasonable guarantee that if you have to call tech support, whether it's your ISPs or some web site's, that
you'll get a good answer.
The drawbacks of IE are also numerous: First, as a free product, Microsoft spends a lot less time fixing any bugs that appear. Since they're not
making money on IE, the motivation to constantly update it is somewhat limited. Second, IE support for older OSes is minimal: If you're using
anything before Windows 2000, or ME (ghod help you), you're probably using now the most current version of IE you'll ever have. MS recently backed
down on their pledge that they weren't going to update IE until Longhorn's release, but they're still not very quick with this stuff. Third, and
most important to this discussion, is the reason that IE seems to have the most vulnerabilities:
IE is the current market leader. With still over 60% of web users using IE for their browser, if you're a malicious punk who wants to see his
exploit on the news, you'll aim at one of IE's vulnerabilities. As FF has grown in popularity, though, we've seen more and more exploits taking
aim at FF's vulnerability. Opera, with something like 5% market share, is almost never hit unless it's a vulnerability that crosses the browser
barrier, not because it's so much better programmed (it is
), but because nobody cares.
FireFox also has it's strong and weak points. The quick response to vulnerabilities falls into both categories, ironically. Because of the nature
of the Open Source community, it's pretty much guaranteed that any vulnerability will be identified and fixed in a matter of days if not hours.
Because of this, however, new versions of the browser seem to be constantly coming out. A lot of casual users will skip multple updates simply
because they don't want to deal with it every week. Were FF to impliment something like Microsoft's Automatic Updates, this may be fixed somewhat.
Still, in the short term, a lot of casual users will stick with their 6 month old browser, never even knowing about the vulnerabilities. This is
dangerous because it can lead to the "IE is the only vulnerable browser, with FF I'm completely safe" attitude. This false confidence will bite
them in the end if FF ever becomes the dominant browser.