For the not-as-technically initiated, you are currently reading this post with a web browser. Back in Windows 98, Microsoft made a decision to mesh their web browser (Internet Explorer) into their operating system. The end result was that most people just clicked that blue “e” on the desktop and were whisked away to “the internet,” blissfully unaware that Microsoft had robbed them of choice.
This would not have been a huge problem if Internet Explorer (IE) was a good web browser. It wasn’t. It’s full of security holes and is responsible for a large number of the viruses that plague computer users today. As a quasi-web designer, I’ll also say that its support for web standards is pitiful, making it very difficult to design good looking and functional web sites. After IE destroyed its competition, they stopped working on improving it. The IE that most people use today is five year old technology – practically ancient history by web standards.
There have continued to be several other web browsers, but they mostly sucked. Enter a little program called Firefox. I won’t diverge into any more history here, but it was a slick product that was easy to use and much better than IE at security and being innovative in the web experience. Long story short: IE used to have 98% marketshare of the web, but Firefox is up to around 12% and growing.
The best part is that Microsoft got off of their lazy asses and updated IE. Just this past week, they released their first update in over 5 years, releasing IE7. It still has a lot of problems, but it’s a good step in the right direction. Firefox today released version 2 of their own web browser. It’s not a massive departure from their previous browser, but it has spell checking, which is very handy for making blog posts!
The reason all of this matters is because more and more of our life is happening online. A good, reliable and secure browser is key in this. IE6 was none of those things, but Firefox is all of them and has also made Microsoft have to improve its product. As these browsers keep improving, expect there to be more and more “web applications” available. You can already do all of your word processing (goodbye MS Word), email (goodbye, MS Outlook), instant messaging (goodbye, MSN Messenger), calendar-ing (goodbye, MS Outlook) and a ridiculous amount of other things right through your web browser. This means that you don’t need to shell out money for Microsoft Office anymore. You might not even need to use Windows-or a Mac-at all. There’s something called Linux out there: it’s free, and it runs Firefox too.
Not having to pay for either of those things could result in a savings of $600 no problem! This is good news for me and people like me: idealists pursuing the Kingdom of God, not caring for material things but wanting both feet firmly planted within this world. Translation: we’re learning how to love people, and it doesn’t always pay well!
So, my advice to you: go download and install Firefox. I know you all love to go against the flow anyways. Thanks to any of my non-techie friends who have stayed with me this far! ;)