A Beginners Guide to Web Browsers

“Internet browsers”, “web browsers”, or just plain “browsers” – call them what you want, but one of the most infuriating questions for seniors new to the Internet is “which one is right for me?”  They all serve the same general purpose – to provide you with the ability to view websites, videos, pictures and other content over the Internet, however they all do it in their own unique ways and often at varying levels of performance, security and quality. Luckily there is a plethora of websites available comparing browsers, measuring and going into all kinds of technical detail, e.g. speed, security, efficiency, memory usage, screen real estate, start-up times, etc, etc, etc. Unfortunately, this can become a bit overwhelming even for the most experienced and technical Internet users, so the answer still eludes us: for the absolute beginner which web browser do I need, which one will best fulfil my purposes, and are any more senior-friendly than others?

Luckily, you have come to the right place. The answer is below, and it may very well surprise you!

Now before you scroll directly to the bottom of the article for the conclusion, let me stop you in your tracks, because the answer is not there; it’s right here. The simple answer to the question of “which web browser is best for the beginning senior Internet user” is… any of them! That’s right, any of the major web browsers will do the job and do the job well! All of the five major web browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, and Safari) have come along in leaps and bounds in the last few years, and so long as you have the latest version of one of them, you will have a browser that will give you exactly what you need, totally fulfil your purposes, and provide any senior with pleasurable and worry free Internet browsing.

So what about all the comparison sights then? Yes, they provide great information, they will tell you to the hundredth or sometimes thousandth of a second how each one performs under any number of different scenarios, they will list and compare every feature or upgrade available for every browser, and list the exact percentage of viruses, adware or malware that can be expected to be blocked by each one. However, this information is really only needed by absolute technical wizards or simply for gloating rights. For the average user the reality is that the differences are small and the important functionality is available in all of them, so any further research is not required.

If you still want to get a very technical comparison, by all means, feel free to visit any of the great websites available – just search for “web browser comparison” on any of the major search engines (e.g. Google, Bing, Yahoo!, etc). However, if you don’t want to go that far, but perhaps you’re still curious about how they differ, as an added bonus I have included a very simple comparison of the major differences between the big five web browsers below, but whatever you decide, don’t forget to upgrade to the latest version of your web browser, and if you really want to, there’s absolutely nothing stopping you from choosing more than one!

Name of Web Browser: Chrome
Manufacturer: Google
Website: https://www.google.com/chrome
Top five reasons to use Google Chrome:

  • Was built specifically for security, stability and speed, and does a very good job of delivering it;
  • Performance is especially impressive when accessing graphics-intensive websites and web applications;
  • Has a nice, clean, easy to use user interface;
  • Any Google websites, such as Google Search, Calendar, Gmail, etc will run seamlessly as they were created by the same company as the web browser;
  • Provides a special feature called “sandboxing” that prevents code within websites from accessing other parts of your computer without your knowledge.

Top five reasons to avoid Google Chrome:

  • If the feature is not purposely deactivated, Chrome will send information on your usage back to Google without you knowing it;
  • Some people find the lean interface difficult to use;
  • Uses more of your computer’s memory than some of the other browsers, in some instances a lot more;
  • Does not allow a great deal of customisation;
  • Doesn’t have as many features as some of the other web browsers.

Senior friendly? No
Why? Is not as intuitive to use as some of the other web browsers.

Name of Web Browser: Firefox
Manufacturer: Mozilla
Website: http://www.mozilla.org/firefox
Top five reasons to use Mozilla Firefox:

  • Provides the highest number of customisation options of all the big web browsers;
  • Very impressive level of security (especially when making use of add-ons);
  • Is community controlled, rather than being built by a large corporation, meaning that more often than not it delivers what the people want;
  • You can customise the look and feel of the web browser itself;
  • Built in automatic spell checker.

Top five reasons to avoid Mozilla Firefox:

  • Uses more of your computer’s memory than some of the other browsers;
  • Some people would prefer a simpler, more basic web browser;
  • Does not seemlessly integrate with other applications as well as Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Safari do;
  • Takes longer to start up initially then some of the other web browsers;
  • Since the release of Google Chrome, it has dropped from second to third in popularity stakes.

Senior friendly? Yes and no
Why? Has always been a good alternative to Internet Explorer, but the sheer number of features and customisation can make for a confusing experience for some.

Name of Web Browser: Internet Explorer
Manufacturer: Microsoft
Website: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/internet-explorer/products/ie/home
Top five reasons to use Microsoft Internet Explorer:

  • Is the most commonly used web browser, meaning support (whether from Microsoft or from other users) will be easy to come by;
  • Available on all major operating systems, which is good for consistency if you have multiple computers or portable electronic devices;
  • Has a long history, which means you can expect a well developed, stable and well supported product;
  • Is completely integrated with Microsoft Windows for a more seemless experience;
  • Has a feature called “compatability view” for viewing older websites.

Top five reasons to avoid Microsoft Internet Explorer:

  • Due to it’s popularity, it is the browser that is most targetted (and hence most affected) by security threats;
  • Older versions do not follow web standards, so may not display some websites correctly;
  • Performance is not its strong point;
  • Doesn’t have some of the more user-friendly or trendy features of browsers such as Firefox;
  • Very little cusomisation available.

Senior friendly? Yes
Why? Comes pre-installed with Windows meaning no additional installation is required, is easy to use, and contains all required functionality without any customisation required.

Name of Web Browser: Opera
Manufacturer: Opera Software
Website: http://www.opera.com
Top five reasons to use Opera:

  • Has a nice, easy to use user interface;
  • Has a special “Turbo compression” feature to help speed up computers with slow connections, e.g. those in remote areas;
  • Is quite common on phones, smartphones, and personal organisers, so support for them is abbundant;
  • Has a popup ad blocker feature built in;
  • Has some funky features, such as note taking and page zooming.

Top five reasons to avoid Opera:

  • Is the least used web browser in the list, meaning support can be hard to come by;
  • Due to its lack of popularity, it doesn’t always experience the same high level of product improvement as some of the other web browsers;
  • New websites are not often tested against Opera, so it may not display all websites correctly;
  • Can be slow at times;
  • Is not available on all devices.

Senior friendly? No
Why? Very small market share means that support and continual product development is not as good as some of the other web browsers.

Name of Web Browser: Safari
Manufacturer: Apple
Website: http://www.apple.com/safari
Top five reasons to use Apple Safari:

  • Is the most commonly used web browser on Apple products, meaning support (whether from Apple or from other users) will be easy to come by;
  • Is completely integrated with Apple Operating Systems for a more seemless experience;
  • Has some great features like Reader (view multi-page websites in an uncluttered, collated window) and Reading List (tag your favourite sites for reading later on any of your Safari-enabled devices);
  • Easy to use;
  • Performance has improved with the newer versions.

Top five reasons to avoid Apple Safari:

  • Traditionally only available on Apple devices, meaning support for Windows devices is scarce;
  • Is distributed through Apple’s proprietary Software Update system, which can be “clunky”;
  • Poor security in some areas (e.g. Malware protection);
  • Very little customisation available;
  • Older versions can be slow.

Senior friendly? Yes (on Apple computers and devices in particular)
Why? Comes pre-installed on Apple computers and portable electronic devices, is simple to use, and has some unique features.

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2 Responses to A Beginners Guide to Web Browsers

  1. John Kellow says:

    Thank you for your new website.
    I do not want to be picky,but, you use the word ‘browser’ and this needs explanation. As I understand it it means searching action or similar

    • Caleb says:

      Hi John. Thanks for the question. I will be creating a glossary page very soon, but in the mean time I will explain here:

      In the Internet world ‘browser’ is short for ‘web browser’ or ‘Internet browser’ (two different names for the same thing). In simple terms a web browser is the program that you use on your computer to view web pages and other documents on the Internet. It displays the text, image, sounds, videos and other features you see on your computer screen. If you’ve ever viewed these kinds of documents over the Internet, you were almost certainly using a web browser to do it. The information above discusses the various web browsers commonly available, which one you should use, why you should use it, and why you may want to consider using another one.

      Hope this helps,