Browser Wars

Did you know there are wars being fought inside your computer?  We call one of them the “browser wars”.  In this post, I am going to try to answer the questions ‘What are the browser wars?’, ‘How do you know when you are losing?’ and ‘What can I do about it?’.

What are the browsers?

The best known is Internet Explorer, which comes standard on Microsoft Windows computers.  It is the “Big Blue E” on your desktop or taskbar.  This is the one that lets you get to all those webpages out there.  But there are other browsers out there like Chrome (Google), Safari (Apple), Firefox, Opera, and others.  This is a quick picture of who the players are (and which ones are winning):

A few years ago, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer was the dominant browser.  It was built into Windows and you almost had to use it.  But they got sued (and lost) to several companies who wanted people to be able to use different browsers.  That opened up the market to competitors.

Which browser do you use?

Which browser you use means big business to lots of people.  That is why they fight so hard to get you to use their browsers.  And, once you have chosen one, the war is not over.  There will still be efforts to get you to switch back or to yet a different browser.

You will find lots of people who want to install stuff into your browser.  The stuff they want to install are usually called “toolbars”.  These people include:  Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Alexa, and many more.  There are even toolbars that specialize in certain things like news, sports, weather, education, business, etc.  Why do people want to install their toolbars in your browser?  It’s because the toolbars can select which search engine you use, which websites you use, and many other things.  The toolbar makers make money when they can influence us to use their customers’ websites.

How do they get into my browser?

This is big business, and the toolbar people have lots of paid allies.  The biggest ally group are the software manufacturers.  They get paid to include toolbars with their software and encourage you to install them when you install their software.  You can usually avoid installing toolbars and other unwanted stuff by selecting “Custom Install” instead of the “Recommended Installation” (or some such wording).  In the Custom Install, look for boxes you can uncheck for all the unwanted software.  There will usually be at least 2-4 things you do not want.

Why avoid the toolbars?

The biggest reasons to prevent toolbars from getting into your browser are:  1) it makes your computer slower, 2) it represents potential bugs and site conflicts inside your browser, 3) they take up space on your browser so you see less of the website you want, 4) your searches may be directed toward their customers instead of giving you all the possible choices, and 5) some toolbars will track what you do on the net to build up user records for targeted advertising.

What can you do to get rid of the Toolbars?

The best thing, of course, is to stop them from being installed.  But once the toolbars have been installed, there still ways to remove them.  The most reliable is to go into the Windows Control Panel and use the Add/Remove Programs feature to uninstall the programs.  This is generally the most efficient because you see all the programs listed there.

Another way, sometimes easier, is to go to Internet Explorer > Settings > Manage Addons.  Here you will find the toolbars that managed to get installed on your computer.  You can disable them here.  They are not removed, but they shouldn’t cause any problems if they are disabled.

Don’t forget the Home Page War

Another battle is over who gets to control your “home page” setting.  The home page is the website you go to when you open your browser.  EVERYBODY wants you to go to their website first.  And there are lots of ways for them to change your setting (although they don’t usually do it without your permission).   There is a way to take back your home page and set it to any website you want it to be.  In the Internet Explorer, go to Settings > Internet Options > General.  That is where you find the website your browser will go to when you start it up (or you click the home button in the upper right of your browser).  You can type in whatever other address you want here.  That will become your new home page.

Which Browsers and Toolbars Do I Use?

I use Microsoft Windows Internet Explorer (usually called IE).  This is a very good browser, comes installed with Windows, and I really don’t have many reasons to change to a different one.  Since it is the #1 browser, all the websites make sure their sites work with the Internet Explorer.  The other browsers may have difficulty displaying certain websites.  The Apple browser, for example, does not accept Flash, which is used by lots of sites; this means you won’t be able to view or display Flash elements on website.  On the other hand, Chrome (made by Google) does a better job of displaying some of Google’s online documents than the Internet Explorer.  So if you use Google’s online document sites, you probably want to use their browser for enhanced viewing.

Personally, for toolbars, I do not use any.  I am not willing to give up an extra row of space at the top of my browser for things I do not use.  Nor am I willing to have my browser slowed down by all the add-ins that come with the toolbars.  Some of you may like them and find them convenient; it is a matter of preference.

I hope this has been helpful!

Top Ten Reviews

One of my favorite sites over the years has been  They started out reviewing internet and computer-related items like website hosting services, email services, virus protection software, etc.  Since then, they expanded into a broad range of topics.  It is an internet version of Consumers Report, and I think it is better.  And its free.

This is one of the first places I go when I want to see if something has been reviewed.  They identify the top 10 products in each category.  They have a useful description of the important features of the products so you can figure out what is important.  They tell you how the products compare on a number of different criteria.  And they give you the price.

To give you an example of the range of reviews, these are some of the reviews you can find at their site:

    • Best Selling Laptops
    • Best Robot Vacuum Cleaners
    • Digital Camera Reviews
    • Top 10 Phones and Plans
    • All-In-One Printer Reviews
    • Best Washing Machines
    • Internet TV
    • Online Stock Trading
    • and much, much more…

At the bottom of their website is the opportunity to join their mailing list.  This is one I have been on for a long time.  The most important thing, of course, is they send you the new reviews they have completed.  They even include little blurbs about things like:  how to speed up your computer, why smart phones are turning us into work-a-holics, the “doomsday virus”, and more.

I highly recommend it.