Web browsers battling it out to be number one

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Web browsers battling it out to be number one

The current evangelism regarding web browsers is reaching such a fever pitch I'm half expecting to see Mozilla fanatics knocking on the door like double-glazing salesmen. Mind you, considering the flame wars that used to rage on Usenet about text editors I suppose it shouldn't come as much of a surprise.

I remember being somewhat obsessed myself in the days of Netscape 4, singing its praises over the (at the time) vastly inferior Internet Explorer. But times have changed, and the lengthy farce that was the initial release of Mozilla led me to the dark side and I became an Internet Explorer zealot for a while. Indeed for some time IE's compatibility with the Web Consortium's standards was streets ahead of Netscape.

These days with the new Mozilla and Firefox alternatives, things are less clear cut. Security is often discussed as a major advantage of non-IE browsers, but I'm not convinced.

Sure, IE has had a history of security issues, but recently there have been some far less well-publicised issues with Mozilla and its derivatives. Phishing is of course the flavour of the month. One notable Firefox flaw allowed the entire user interface to be rewritten, the proof of concept page showing a completely bogus PayPal page complete with certificate.

Fortunately, it was fixed before any of the crooks took advantage, but it had been floating around for five years before it was fixed.

There have also been other problems. One allowed an SSL certificate to be installed silently with no user intervention. This would make it possible to create fake site certificates, ideal ammunition for phishing scams. Amazingly this was described as a denial of service issue (as you could overwrite existing certificates). There have also been a number of buffer overflows and issues with tabbed windows reminiscent of IE early cross site scripting problems.

I don't want to give the impression I'm a paid-up member of the Gates fan club however. Firefox certainly has some usability and performance benefits over IE. Tabbed browsing is a real bonus and in general use Firefox seems a lot less bloated than IE, and you can't beat it for cross platform support.

It may well be the case that Firefox and Mozilla are more secure than IE. Unfortunately though many users seem to equate "more" with "totally."So pick your browser with care, and whichever you use, keep it patched and don't be too complacent.

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