Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services

Browsers & Plugins

Downloads | Extensions/Addons | Plugins
Troubleshooting | Choosing a Browser

See also: Email Clients and Computer Basics & Terminology.

Current web browsers include Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera Safari and Chrome

Web browsers are multipurpose Internet applications that include the ability to view websites as well as interact with other software and services.

Many browsers have come and gone over time. Most modern browsers offer improved security and functionality, yet each have their own weaknesses.

Downloads

There are good reasons for choosing a particular browser. Learn more….

Use only browsers that are a currently maintained.

  • Be sure to always update to the current version of all installed browsers. (Learn about software versions.)
  • Uninstall obsolete browsers or those you don't use except where prevented by the operating system (e.g. Internet Explorer or Microsoft Edge or Safari).

Update Your Browser

Not sure what browser you're running? See What browser am I using?

Whichever browser you use, it is important to keep all installed browsers, plugins and extensions updated.

Newer versions tend to be more secure, run faster and display current web content as it was intended. How to beef up your Chrome and Firefox security in 2019.

The Main Contenders

Download Firefox: Fast, Fun, Awesome

Internet Explorer: Do Not Use

Internet Explorer (IE) is more vulnerable than most browsers and has NOT been upgraded to support current web standards and therefore is no longer tested by most web designers.

While IE has been a part of Windows since Windows 95 and continues to be a part of Windows 10, it is no longer a suitable browser.

Is Internet Explorer (IE) a browser? According to Microsoft, no. Today, it's a 'compatibility solution' for enterprise customers to deal with legacy sites that should be updated for modern browsers. — ZDNet

Microsoft Internet Explorer 11 is available only for Windows 7, 8.1 or 10.

  • Because it cannot be uninstalled, it MUST be maintained.
  • IE's behaviour can be controlled by group policy (which is why it is common in corporate environments).
  • After January 12, 2016, only the most recent version of Internet Explorer available for a supported operating system will receive technical support and security updates. — IE Blog
  • Internet Explorer is a component of the Windows operating system and the most current version will continue to follow the specific lifecycle policy for the operating system for which it is installed. — IE Lifecycle FAQ

However, IE may be your only choice if you wish to play Pogo.com's legacy Java-based games because other modern browsers no longer support Java.

Alternative Browsers

Watch out for alternative browsers that enhance Internet Explorer and therefore inherit all IE's vulnerabilities.

  • Opera is a slim yet full-featured browser.
    • Opera is now a Chrome-based browser.
    • Windows, Macintosh & Linux are supported.
    • Features include VPN, ad blocker, messengers and battery saver.
    • FAQ (Tutorials).
  • Vivaldi is fast, but also rich in functionality, highly flexible and puts the user first.
  • Firefox Developer Edition is beta software tailored for web developers.
  • Pale Moon is an Open Source web browser optimized for modern processors.
    • Based upon Firefox/Mozilla code, with carefully selected features and optimizations to improve the browser's speed, resource use, stability and user experience. It aims to provide close adherence to official web standards and specifications.
    • Pale Moon addons.
    • Windows and Linux are supported.
  • SeaMonkey is a community effort to deliver a production-quality browser suite.
    • Windows, Mac OS X & Linux are supported.
    • See SeaMonkey Download & Releases for known issues.
    • SeaMonkey Addons for extra features and styles.
    • Whereas the main focus of the Mozilla Foundation is on Mozilla Firefox and Mozilla Thunderbird, this group of dedicated volunteers works to ensure that you can have “everything but the kitchen sink” — and have it stable enough for corporate use.
  • SRWare Iron — Chrome advantages without any privacy and security problems
  • Maxthon5 serves you with a super surfing experience.
    • Provides high-performance cloud backup, synchronization & sharing capabilities, and advanced encryption to ensure user data security.
    • Windows PC, Mac, Android and iOS platforms are supported.
  • Avant is a standalone application designed to expand services provided by Microsoft Internet Explorer.
    • Since it's based on Internet Explorer, Avant Browser is as secure as Internet Explorer.
    • This means that Avant is subject to the same vulnerabilities as IE .
    • Windows 2000/2003, Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7 are supported (IE 6, 7, 8).
  • iCab is a browser for the Mac. iCab FAQ.
    • Macintosh OS X supported (older iCab versions support older Macs).
    • iPhone/iPad/iPod touch supported by iCab Mobile.
    • A single user license of "iCab Pro" costs $10 / 10 EUR.
    • Using it for free will pop up a shareware remainder box.
  • Lynx is a text-based web browser (no graphics) that predates the Web.

Browser Archives

These archives are useful primarily to researchers, web designers and others wishing to see how older browsers display current content. Installation of these browsers can corrupt Windows settings (such as earlier versions of Internet Explorer) or not work properly at all. They also lack any security improvements, so using them makes you much more vulnerable to malware and other hazards found on today's websites.

Return to top

Extensions & Addons

Firefox Addons

Mozilla uses the term “add-ons” (referred to as “addons” on this site) to refer to three major forms of modifiers to Firefox:

  • Extensions add new features to Firefox or modify existing ones.
  • Appearance addons include complete themes which change how Firefox looks and background themes which only modify the title bar and tab strip with a background image.
  • Plugins provide support and access to "helper" applications that are already installed on your computer.

Watch for Obsolete or Insecure Addons

Watch for Mozilla “permissions” warnings, particularly on older and potentially unmaintained addons. When clicked, the following text appears:

Some addons ask for permission to perform certain functions. Since you're in control of your Firefox, the choice to grant or deny these requests is yours.

Please note this add-on uses legacy technology, which gives it access to all browser functions and data without requesting your permission.

Installing these addons is risky. Uninstall them if they are currently present.

Apple Enhances Safari Privacy

The newest version of Apple's Safari browser will push back hard against the ad-tracking methods and device fingerprinting techniques that marketers and data brokers use to monitor web users as they browse. Starting with Facebook. — Wired

Apple noted that one of the methods of tracking are the identification of the extensions in Safari and plans to stop allowing such extensions so that all Safari profiles are similar, defeating such tracking techniques. Firefox users may want to consider that when choosing whether to include addons.

Obsolete Extensions

Watch out for obsolete and insecure addons and extensions. Like any software, these can become unsupported or may contain elements that spy on you or are otherwise insecure.

Extensions Complete on Their Own

Unlike plugins, extensions are complete on their own.

I add these basic Firefox extension to enhance the user experience on most installations (some are available for other browsers):

  • HTTPS Everywhere is a Firefox, Chrome, and Opera extension that encrypts your communications with many major websites, making your browsing more secure.
  • Ghostery or Privacy Badger privacy extensions.
  • LastPass to replace the browser's potentially insecure password facility capability and to make it possible to share passwords with their other devices.

Firefox Privacy Extensions

Privacy is difficult to recover once it is lost. Marketing and advertising agencies are doing their best to downplay its importance, but they really don't want you understanding the value of what you're giving away for free. Most have NO privacy policy (i.e. they take anything they can grab and use it without any social conscience).

[T]here is another reason websites track you — It's because you're worth a lot of money. Websites record your activity so they can sell your information to third party advertising platforms, essentially delivering ads that they hope are relevant to you. — ZoneAlarm Blog

In addition, there has been a huge increase in malware in online advertising and ads play havoc with expensive data plans on mobile and some ad networks have been used to spread ransomware.

ZoneAlarm's Adblocking in 2016 provides a balanced look at the issue.

Test Your Privacy

Panopticlick is an online test that analyzes how well your browser and extensions protect you against online tracking techniques, even if you are using privacy-protective software.

These extensions are designed to protect your privacy. Look at the 27 trackers found on the Forbes.com website (shown in a legacy version of Ghostery).

An earlier version of Ghostery's “alert bubble” displays a list of 27 trackers found on forbes.com
On the tools front, there are browser plug-ins such as Disconnect Private Browsing, Privacy Badger and Ghostery. Installing any one of these tends to administer a salutary shock, because they instantly reveal (and enable you to block) the startling number of snoopers who are covertly tracking your online activity. — The Guardian
  • Ghostery lets you see who is tracking you online (including information on their privacy policies). It stops beacons, ads, analytics services, page widgets and other third-party page elements from secretly tracking your every move.
    • Ghostery FAQs.
    • Ghostery can also delete Flash and Silverlight cookies on exit.
    • More recent versions of Ghostery use a simpler alert bubble than previous versions (shown on the right).
  • Privacy Badger blocks spying ads and invisible trackers by enforcing the Do Not Track header (you have to have “Do Not Track” enabled in your browser) and may be a better alternative if you're uncomfortable with Ghostery.
  • Mozilla's Do Not Track FAQ.

Blur

Blur replaced DoNotTrackMe. I no longer recommend it. ZoneAlarm installs Blur by default which may be required to meet the ZoneAlarm Extreme virus-free guarantee.

HTTPS:// Everywhere

HTTPS:// Everywhere is a Firefox, Chrome, and Opera extension that encrypts your communications with many major websites, making your browsing more secure. Learn more about HTTPS…

Password Addons

Passwords are unavoidable but present a risk to your privacy and security if not properly managed.

However, your browser's built-in password manager is not secure!

Creating Passwords

I use LastPass's password generator (or Ultra High Security Password Generator) to avoid repetition and LastPass to remember them.

LastPass Recommended

I liked LastPass because your sensitive data is encrypted locally before upload so even LastPass cannot get access to it. There are several options:

  • LastPass, a free online password generator and manager, can be used on all your devices, for free! LastPass Premium is only US$12 per year and provides even more.
  • A single installation on Windows, Mac, Linux and mobile devices can interact with all your installed browsers.
  • Firefox LastPass Password Manager is a free secure online password manager which uses your LastPass account.

Learn more about LastPass.

Addons for Web Developers

Web developers will want to check out my listing of useful Firefox extensions for web developers.

Return to top

Plugins

The Technology is Changing | Plugin Vulnerabilities
PDF | Flash | Java | Silverlight | VLC Player | QuickTime | RealPlayer

Plugins are addon software (helper applications) that enable your web browser to view and hear multimedia content. Unlike extensions, plugins are applications installed separately from your browser. Not all plugins are supported by all browsers.

Check Your Plugins

Out-of-date or misappropriated plugins leave you vulnerable. Check frequently for updates to installed plugins, removing obsolete or unused plugins.

Firefox has been expanding to support features that used to require extra plugins. Now, they're kept up-to-date automatically and managed through blocklisting for added security. — Mozilla

The Technology is Changing

While plugins were once the main method of adding functionality to browsers, they have extensive vulnerabilities and their reign is ending.

But as open standards like HTML5, WebGL and WebAssembly have matured over the past several years, most now provide many of the capabilities and functionalities that plugins pioneered and have become a viable alternative for content on the web. Today, most browser vendors are integrating capabilities once provided by plugins directly into browsers and deprecating plugins. — Adobe

Given that plugins tend to slow down your browsing experience, many of the plugins that were once considered mandatory like Flash and Java are now either no longer supported or disabled by default.

A sample audio control is shown below:

Source: Free Sounds (Public Domain)

Different browsers and mobile devices will display the controls differently.

The internet is full of websites that go beyond static pages, such as video, sound and games. NPAPI plugins, especially Flash, have helped enable these interactive pages. But they also make your browsing slower, less secure and more likely to crash. — Mozilla

Reader View Improves UX

Reader View improves the user experience by removing page clutter like background images, ads and other distracting content. Text is presented in a readable font size on a white background.

Most current browsers support reader view including Firefox, Safari, Opera, Chrome and Microsoft Edge.

HTML 5 Safer and Accessible

HTML 5-based technology is becoming widely used.

Unfortunately, big media companies have persuaded the W3C to incorporate DRM into HTML5, ensuring they can control what you watch and how you use it.

The commercial media industry is undergoing a major transition as content providers move away from proprietary web plug-in based delivery mechanisms (such as Flash or Silverlight), and replace them with unified plug-in free video players that are based on HTML 5 specifications and commercial media encoding capabilities.
Microsoft Edge Team [emphasis mine]

Learn more about how HTML 5 is changing Web content and replacing plugins.

Return to Plugins Intro

Plugin Vulnerabilities

Vulnerabilities and exploits in plugins are a significant issue because they make our computers insecure.

Most current plugins have security issues that will be better addressed by newer technologies built into current and future browsers.

Adobe & Java Responsible for 66% of Vulnerabilities

It has been know for some time that Adobe Reader, Flash and Java are responsible the majority of vulnerabilities in Windows systems exploited by malware:

A long-term examination carried out by AV-TEST has proven that Adobe's Reader and Flash and all versions of Java are together responsible for a total of 66 percent of the vulnerabilities in Windows systems exploited by malware. Such weaknesses enable Trojans and other forms of malware to invade PC systems, in some cases in an unstoppable manner. — AV-TEST

Mac & Linux User Now Insecure

Windows users have long been insecure. By running Flash and Java, Mac and Linux users now share that vulnerability. Reports like the following from 2015 are typical:

The currently unpatched vulnerabilities reside in the Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux versions of the most recent versions of Flash and allow attackers to remotely execute malicious code. — Ars Technica

Unsafe Plugins Disabled By Default

Current versions of browsers like Firefox, Opera and Chrome disable unsafe plugins like Java and Flash as well as providing a built-in PDF viewer.

Beginning in Firefox version 52, support for NPAPI plugins in Firefox has ended, except for Adobe Flash. Some of the plugins that will no longer load include Java, Microsoft Silverlight and Adobe Acrobat. — Mozilla Support

I recommend that you uninstall these vulnerable plugins:

If you need it only for a single activity, such as running Java for Pogo games or Flash for certain critical site, why not download a different browser so that your main browser is protected from vulnerabilities during regular surfing?

I strongly advise against using Internet Explorer but it may be your only remaining option if you wish to play Pogo's Java-based games as the other browsers no longer support Java. Newer HTML5-based games don't require plugins.

 

Return to Plugins Intro

PDF Readers

PDF is a format invented by Adobe that allows files to be viewed anywhere with the proper fonts regardless of the software it was created with.

Firefox & Other Browsers will Display PDFs

Most modern browsers will display these documents natively without plugins.

However, some features (like auto-fill) may not work, in which case you'll need to open the PDF in a dedicated PDF reader that can manage these extras.

Nitro Reader — Gone

Nitro Reader, my previous recommendation, is no longer available.

There is no free version of Nitro Pro and we have discontinued Nitro Reader. — Nitro Community Forum

Professional PDF Software Recommendations

I recommend Nitro Pro or Able2Extract Pro for users that need professional quality software:

  • Able2Extract Professional (free to try; US$149.95 to buy) is a powerful professional PDF program that allows you to do almost anything with PDFs. Available for Windows, Mac and Linux. Learn more.
  • Nitro Pro (free to try; US$199.99 to buy) allows you to create professional quality PDF documents that anyone can view, with any PDF reader, on virtually any device. Supports Windows only. Learn more.

Other PDF Alternatives

There are other PDF alternatives:

Adobe Reader NOT Recommended

Adobe Reader is known to be vulnerable. You should uninstall it and replace it with an alternative like Nitro Reader or a safer professional PDF program.

The long-term examination carried out by AV-TEST…clearly shows that Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash and Java are together responsible for two thirds of the vulnerabilities in Windows systems exploited by malware. Users who rarely update their software and use insufficient security software have virtually no chance when faced with specially prepared malware. — AV-TEST
  • If Adobe Acrobat Reader is installed, be sure to update it regularly.
  • Many computers have obsolete (unsafe) versions installed, including Adobe Reader version 11 (support ended October 15, 2017).

Adobe Acrobat Reader DC focuses on access to documents from anywhere using Adobe Cloud (subscription required). It has a flat look more suitable for touch systems and mobile:

Adobe Acrobat Reader DC icons

Adobe Acrobat DC (Pro) has more capabilities than the Reader and can access documents from anywhere (including on portable devices) but requires a subscription.

 

Return to Plugins Intro

Adobe Flash Player

Adobe Flash was the standard in creating animated clips and videos in the early days of the web. Back in the good 'ol days, it was a fan favorite for developers and designers alike, as it was very functional and easy to use. But as technology progressed, Flash did not. This made it a prime target for hackers who saw Flash as an easy entry point. — ZoneAlarm

There are several issues with Flash Player that you should be aware of when deciding if it is necessary for you to install it:

  • Flash has been noted as one of the three addons that account for 66% of Windows vulnerabilities (the other two are Adobe Reader and Java).
  • It requires frequent updates to keep ahead of vulnerabilities (six of the top 10 vulnerabilities in 2017 involved Flash).
  • Flash is nearing its supported lifespan and will be phased out at the end of 2020.
  • Newer HTML 5-based technology just works better than Flash and is safer.

Flash has other issues including the high level of energy consumption and lack of performance especially on mobile. As Google began to penalize sites for poor mobile performance this became a critical issue.

Uninstall Flash if Not Needed

Unless you frequent Flash-based sites, I recommend that you uninstall flash. If installed, be sure to update it regularly.

Set Flash to "Click to Play" and Activate Only Where Necessary

Set Adobe Flash to "click to play" on Firefox and only enable Flash (allow it to run) where necessary for the functioning of the site.

Not only can your computer be infected by Flash vulnerabilities, but many sites use Flash ONLY for advertising or tracking purposes. Enabling Flash on these sites invades your privacy without giving you anything of value in return.

Allow Flash only for trusted websites and content providers. Avoid activating Flash for ads or third-party content, or on sites you don't trust. — Mozilla Support

Downloading & Updating Flash

Download Adobe® Flash player

There are three different Flash installers for Windows, each supported by the indicated browsers. The difference in the installer name is in bold (the version number will change as Flash is updated):

  1. ActiveX (Internet Explorer: installation not recommended): flashplayer32ax_xa_install.exe
  2. NPAPI (Firefox — no longer supported by Chrome and Opera): flashplayer32_xa_install.exe
  3. PPAPI (Chrome and Opera): flashplayer32pp_xa_install.exe

Internet Explore is vulnerable enough without Flash so I don't recommend using it with or without Flash (nor does Microsoft).

NPAPI Plugins Unsafe

NPAPI-based Flash plugins make Windows insecure (see US-CERT Alert TA15-195A).

  • NPAPI Flash plugins are now blocked by Firefox (the "Always Activate" option for Flash plugin content has been removed from Firefox 69.0 and later).
  • Flash support will be completely removed from Firefox in early 2020.
  • NPAPI Flash plugins are no longer supported in Chrome or Opera.
  • Flash can be turned off via the settings in Microsoft Edge.
With the deprecation of Adobe Flash Player, there is no longer a need to identify users on 32-bit version of the Firefox browser on 64-bit version operating systems reducing user agent fingerprinting factors providing greater level of privacy to our users as well as improving the experience of downloading other apps. — Mozilla

Verifying Flash Version in Windows

Windows users can verify the Flash version for each type of installation by opening the Flash Player Settings Manager in Control Panel and selecting the Updates tab.

 

Return to Plugins Intro

Shockwave Player

You should uninstall Shockwave Player.

  • Shockwave Player is obsolete, vulnerable and contains obsolete Flash components.
  • The recommendation is to update it regularly yet the March 2017 security update was the first since October 2015 (Flash has had over 15 updates since then).

Download Shockwave or Test Your Installation

I advise against installing Shockwave Player, but you should maintain it if you do.

Download Adobe® Shockwave player

 

Return to Plugins Intro

Microsoft Silverlight Animation & Video

Download Silverlight, a free plug-in, powered by the .NET framework. Windows and Mac (Intel only) platforms are supported.

Probably Unnecessary for Netflix

NetFlix works without Silverlight on newer browsers (it may be required when using older browsers). Check the Netflix system requirements for HTML5 Player.

 

Return to Plugins Intro

Java

Java Support Ending

Public updates for Oracle Java SE 8 will remain available for individual, personal use through at least the end of 2020. Public updates for Oracle Java SE 8 released after January 2019 will not be available for business, commercial or production use without a commercial license. — Oracle

Java Makes Your Computer Vulnerable

It has been known for some time that Java makes your computer vulnerable.

Oracle has released a massive Critical Patch Update (CPU) for July [2018], addressing 334 security vulnerabilities covering a vast swathe of its enterprise portfolio. Of the 334 vulnerabilities covered this month, 61 are rated critical, with a CVSS rating between nine and 10. — ThreatPost

Remove Java if you don't need it (most people don't). LibreOffice & OpenOffice may require Java only for extended functionality (my system hadn't used Java for over 6 months, even with LibreOffice, so I uninstalled it).

By uninstalling Java you can determine if it is really necessary. It can be quickly reinstalled if you really do need it.

If installed, be sure to frequently update Java and to ensure you remove older versions (you may need to manually remove these).

Java Gaming Sites

Gaming sites like Pogo.com require Java for Java games to function. Like many sites, they are moving away from Java to embrace the new HTML5 capabilities.

Future Browser Support Deprecated

Oracle has deprecated all support for browser plugins starting with version 9 (released in September 2017).

For help, see Oracle's How do I enable Java in my web browser?

Browsers that Support Java

Version 8 is the last Java version with browser support, mostly because browsers removed Java support across the board except for Internet Explorer (generally unsafe to use) for Windows users and Safari for Mac users.

Oracle has deprecated the Java browser plugin in Java Standard Edition Development Kit 9 (JDK 9). Deprecation is a warning for developers to stop using this technology. JRE 9 will continue to provide the Java Plugin and support launching applets on browsers that still offer standard plugin support, but is only available for limited use and not recommended. This browser plugin will be removed from the Oracle JDK and JRE in a future Java SE release. — Java.com

Java Support Ended for Browsers

Download Java or Test Your Installation

Download Oracle® Java

Download Java | What is Java? | Verify your Java version.

More about Java installation and security.

 

Return to Plugins Intro

VLC Player

Browsers are beginning to either disable or stop support for many multimedia plugins. I strongly recommend VLC player rather than any of the alternatives, particularly for Windows.

Get VLC

VLC Player, a free and open source cross-platform multimedia player and framework, plays almost all multimedia files (including QuickTime and RealPlayer) as well as DVD, Audio CD, VCD, and various streaming protocols.

I recommend that you uninstall these multimedia players and replace them with VLC Player:

 

Return to Plugins Intro

QuickTime

QuickTime for Windows is Unsafe

You should uninstall QuickTime for Windows. It contains dangerous vulnerabilities:

QuickTime 7 for Windows is no longer supported by Apple. New versions of Windows since 2009 have included support for the key media formats, such as H.264 and AAC, that QuickTime 7 enabled. All current Windows web browsers support video without the need for browser plug-ins. — Apple Support

QuickTime for Mac

QuickTime is supported for macOS and iOS. Update to the latest version or uninstall it.

If you're using Quicktime Pro, save your registration key before uninstalling it.

Return to Plugins Intro

RealPlayer

You should uninstall RealPlayer. RealPlayer plugin is unsafe.

RealPlayer plugin has been flagged as unsafe by Firefox and Chrome. The plugin has been replaced with a cloud-based service.

Return to Plugins Intro | Return to top

Troubleshooting

These resources will help you if something goes wrong during the install or operation of your web browser.

Can't See New Content?

Sometimes you'll have problems viewing what you expect on a webpage. Either updated content isn't showing or something is displaying incorrectly.

This is usually because the browser is displaying cached (locally-stored) content rather than refreshing the content from the website. Browsers use caches to avoid having to repeatedly download similar content from the Web such as style sheets, graphics, etc.

If reloading the page doesn't work try clearing the cache or a hard reset (forced refresh).

Backup and Recover Mozilla Profiles

MozBackup is a freeware program which allows you to create backups of Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird profiles, including your mail, favorites, contacts, etc.

Unfortunately, MozBackup is no longer developed and the developer has indicated there are problems with the program (I've never experienced any).

Mozilla has documentation on how to backup, restore and recover data in Firefox profiles:

Disable Annoying Video Autoplay

You land on a site and all of a sudden a video is playing. You're annoyed for many reasons including

  • clicking on the pause button distracts you from the reason you went to the site in the first place;
  • these unwanted videos waste your bandwidth (especially when using expensive cellular data); and
  • videos can be disruptive late at night or in your work environment if your sound isn't turned down or off.

You can stop Flash from running simply by disabling it (there are built-in settings in most browsers), but HTML5-based video is newer and unaffected by Flash settings. Recent versions of Firefox either disable autoplay or mute the sound.

  • Older versions of Firefox contain an “off” switch in the about:config settings (search for media.autoplay and toggle the setting to false). Be careful when changing other settings.
  • There is an extension available for Opera (Disable HTML5 Autoplay).
  • Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer and Safari currently don't have any way to disable autoplay.

The following sites have more details on how to work with these settings:

Disable .NET Framework Assistant in Firefox

Microsoft surreptitiously installed the .NET Framework Assistant addin to earlier versions of Mozilla Firefox using Windows Update.

Websites can take advantage of this addin to quietly install software without the user's knowledge, making your computer more vulnerable to malware.

If .NET Framework Assistant is present and the Uninstall button is grayed out or unavailable, follow these instructions to remove it.

Internet Explorer Particularly Vulnerable

All browsers suffer from vulnerabilities and need to be updated regularly but Internet Explore (IE) is so tightly tied into Windows that Microsoft has used IE updates to provide additional functionality for Windows.

Unfortunately, ANY Internet Explorer vulnerability is a Windows vulnerability.

Internet Explorer has been long known to be vulnerable to the covert downloading of software from malicious Web sites…Merely visiting the corrupted site is all it takes. — BusinessWeek

No other browser is as tightly integrated into Windows, although some (like Avant) simply enhance Internet Explorer rather than replace it.

Always Update Internet Explorer

Always update to the latest version of Internet Explorer available for your system (even if you're using another browser) because it provides the best security and features.

Windows 10 includes IE along with Microsoft Edge, however it was not intended to be used as your primary browser:

"You see, Internet Explorer is a compatibility solution," wrote [Microsoft security chief] Jackson in the blog. "We're not supporting new web standards for it and, while many sites work fine, developers by and large just aren't testing for Internet Explorer these days. They're testing on modern browsers. — ZDNet

Use Another Browser

Internet Explorer vulnerabilities allow “remote code executions” which can allow an external user to take control of your computer, especially because of the tight integration with Windows.

I strongly recommend moving to Firefox or another modern browser.

All trademarks, company names or logos used on this page are the property of their respective owners.

Return to top

Choosing a Browser

Each browser has strengths and weaknesses. These can change.

Both 32- and 64-bit versions are available for most current browsers (64-bit versions are generally faster and more secure).

Recommendations

I strongly recommended using Firefox as your primary browser. It is the only major independent browser that protects and respects your private information.

The Firefox Browser has built in tracking protection. That makes it harder for politicians, advertisers, and disinformation disseminators to find you. And with the free Facebook container extension, you can isolate your Facebook session from everything else you do online. More privacy means more democracy. — IRL: Democracy and the Internet

You don't have to sacrifice speed for that security.

Google's Monopoly

Most people running Chrome are doing so because it was surreptitiously installed or perhaps because it was once faster than Firefox (it isn't any longer).

However, Google's monopoly now threatens the future of the open Web. Why we fear Google reveals how powerful Google has become and how it now threatens the digital economy.

Google's share of the search market is now pegged at over 90%, its Chrome browser at over 63%.

[I]f one company is 90% of the searches in our country, they kind of represent truth to our country. — IRL
The Statement of Objections alleges that Google treats and has treated more favourably, in its general search results pages, Google's own comparison shopping service…. — European Commission
Microsoft moving to Chromium leaves just Mozilla Firefox and Apple Safari as the remaining Chromium-free browsers to influence future web standards. — ZDNet
Break up with Google. Use a web browser you have more control over, and which has more plug-ins that you can use for privacy, such as Firefox. — Windows Secrets

Apple Enhances Safari Privacy

Apple just announced significant changes to fight ad-tracking and digital fingerprinting at WWDC 2018.

The newest version of Apple's Safari browser will push back hard against the ad-tracking methods and device fingerprinting techniques that marketers and data brokers use to monitor web users as they browse. Starting with Facebook. — Wired

Beta Versions

Beta (or pre-release) versions of various web browsers are sometimes available. Only experienced users should test beta versions.

32- or 64-bit?

Most browsers are now available in both 32- and 64-bit versions. 64-bit browsers are faster but you can only run them on 64-bit systems.

You can install 32-bit browsers on 64-bit systems, but not the reverse. Better support for 32-bit plugins has kept many folks on 32-bit browsers but that is changing.

64-bit support has improved but plugins are being replaced with with HTML5-based technologies, making plugin support irrelevant.

Choose Your Startup Page

Browsers come with a default startup page but that can be launched when your browser starts. It can be changed in the browser's settings.

Hundreds of Portals

There are hundreds of startup pages. Most ISPs, news services, search portals and domain resellers provide a portal.

Quicker is Better

For quicker launch times I recommend choosing a simpler one that doesn't load all the news, weather and gossip every time you start your browser.

Watch for Unexpected Changes

Be wary of plugins, software downloads, etc. that automatically change your default startup page.

Avoiding Problems

Modern browsers usually provide some method for adding extra functions or customizations so you can make them your own. However, avoid problems by being selective.

Plugins, Extensions and Addons

Addons do everything from customizing the look of your browser to providing specialized tools:

  • Plugins typically add access to external "helper" applications.
  • Extensions add features or simply customize what is there.

Whenever you add these features into your browser, there is the potential for problems ranging from the inability to start your browser to slowing or freezing your browser or computer.

If your computer or browser is running slow, check to see if disabling or removing extensions helps.

Be Wary When Downloading

Carefully review the options when downloading and installing software from the Web.

Many users found that they were unexpectedly running Google Chrome as their primary browser after installing other software.

Security Concerns

Web browsers have known security issues that vary from browser to browser (sometimes depending upon the operating system).

Internet Explorer is particularly vulnerable because it is so tightly integrated into Windows.

Moving to the Cloud

Chrome runs much of its functionality in the cloud rather than on your computer (called Software as a Service).

This can have serious privacy and security implications since you have no control over what is being done with your data once it leaves your computer.

Return to top

Related Resources

Related resources on this site:

or check the resources index.

Return to top


If these pages helped you,
buy me a coffee!


RussHarvey.bc.ca/resources/browser.html
Updated: November 2, 2019