Many internet users might not be so excited about some freedom of choice coming their way.
Microsoft’s Windows operating system has begun offering users a choice of browsers when surfing the web, no longer limiting them to Explorer. The freedom might excite some, but the less tech-savvy could find the choices overwhelming.
Browsers are essentially the web surfer’s board. They are the programmes that make viewing websites possible. Nonetheless, they are an unknown quantity for many people.
“A lot of people use them without really knowing what they are,” says Tim Bosenick, Manager at Sirvaluse, a German company that evaluates technical products.
Until now, Windows users were more or less forced to use Explorer.
It was automatically installed on most PCs and appeared automatically as a light blue letter e in the toolbar. Anyone who wanted to use a different browser had to make a conscious decision to install and use it. But now the European Union has more or less ordered Microsoft to expand the choices offered.
Users will notice a change when they update their Windows operating system.
“The window automatically pops up,” says Microsoft spokeswoman Irene Nadler. It will show the five most common browsers. Alongside Explorer there will be Version 8 of Firefox - the newest - as well as icons for Opera, Chrome and Safari. Since Microsoft is blocked from promoting Explorer, the solution seems fair, says Jo Bager of c’t, a German computer magazine.
Scrolling right will reveal yet more browser options. Under each symbol is a clickable area where people can go for more information about the browsers - and how to install them. Anyone who wants to think before acting can opt to be reminded about the choice later.
But those who act quickly and then have buyer’s remorse will not get the window again, meaning they will have to manually track down a different browser at its website.
“All four browsers offered in the window are sensible alternatives,” says Holger Maass of Fittkau & Maass, a German information technology marketing research company.
Firefox, for example, can be expanded easily thanks to add-ons, giving it a whole new range of functions. Google’s Chrome also offers add-ons.
“Chrome has developed unbelievably quickly in the meantime,” says Bager. One drawback for users who care about information security: each browser is linked to a personal number that allows the browser operator to track every user and his surfing behaviour. Google has promised to shut that function off in its newest version.
“Fast” is the word most people associate with Opera, offered by the Norwegian company of the same name. The new version 10.50 is particularly speedy. Computer users who don’t have especially fast internet connections can also benefit from a special Opera setting for such computers.
The advantage of Apple’s Safari is its wide array of functions.
“For example, you can page back with a mouse movement.” But those functions could also make users unfamiliar with them nervous.
Indeed, at the end of the day, a lot of computer users have grown used to Explorer, which could be good news for Microsoft.