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  1. #1
    SitePoint Wizard Keriam's Avatar
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    Firefox...... really?

    There are a large number of threads here addressing adware, spyware and viruses. It seems that not a single one of them ever gets along with someone saying "Use Firefox". Personally, I find this annoying, because Firefox is not a Silver Bullet that will prevent these things. While I respect the opinion and judgement of most who post here, I think the constant "Use Firefox" stems more from ideology (anti-Microsoft) than actual fact.

    If you use an alternative browser--Firefox, Opera, Mozilla, or anything not named Internet Explorer--you may be feeling pretty smug these days. Every time you hear about another patch for IE or about another way hackers use that browser to attack unsuspecting Web users, you think to yourself, "I don't have to worry." Well, think again. The fact is, alternatives like Firefox have security problems of their own. And even if you don't use Internet Explorer for your everyday browsing, you still have to keep it patched: Those ever-creative hackers have found ways to enter your system through Firefox, and then exploit IE. (Andrew Brandt From the July 2005 issue of PC World magazine)
    The vulnerable programs include such usual suspects as Internet Explorer, along with increasingly popular apps like Firefox and ITunes. Recently, three holes were discovered in Firefox, the latest in a growing list for this browser. Two of the flaws could let an attacker control your PC, copy files, or plant a sleeper app (known as a bot) on your hard drive. You probably won't even know that your system has been infiltrated. The attacker could also use the bot to turn your machine into a so-called zombie, to send spam in league with other infected PCs. And your system could be used to infect other PCs or to send e-mail messages aimed at crashing other computers and Web servers--an exploit known as a denial-of-service attack. To get infected, you must click a planted link on a Web site. (Stuart J. Johnston From the October 2005 issue of PC World magazine)
    We found that Firefox is not necessarily a more secure browser implementation. It simply has fewer features to attack.
    (Rodney Thayer, Network World Monday, March 21, 2005)
    Full article.

    Search Symantec and you will find a number of exploits affecting Firefox.

    So why do people continue to give Firefox this mystical power that it obviously does not have? I think Mr. Thayer has hit the nail on the head, however, it goes further. The people that create viruses and spyware, among other things, want to hit the broadest possible target. Therefore, you go after IE as it is the dominant browser. As Firefox gains in usage, I firmly believe we will see more and more malware targetted against it (bigger target, more reason to create something). I am not alone in this opinion.

    Still, the fact that these browsers suffer far fewer attacks than IE could make them look like safe harbors, even if only for a little while. (Scott Spanbauer PC World magazine)
    I would just like to see a thread concerning adware/spyware/viruses focus on fixing the issue instead of automatically jump on the "Use Firefox" bandwagon. Like it or not, IE still has 90% + of the browser share, and that is not likely to change much until Windows is no longer the primary operating system out there.

    Yes, I am venting. I do not use Firefox, and likely won't since my job requires IE and I am too lazy to switch back and forth.
    Never put off until tomorrow what you can do
    the day after tomorrow. ~ Mark Twain

  2. #2
    ☆★☆★ silver trophy vgarcia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keriam
    It simply has fewer features to attack.
    How is this not a good thing in and of itself?

    I agree with the rest of your post though; "don't be stupid" is the silver bullet, not "use Firefox", but some people can't wrap their heads around that concept.

  3. #3
    SitePoint Wizard trampt's Avatar
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    Yeah .... use Firefox and a Mac.

  4. #4
    SitePoint Zealot Baron Ragnarok's Avatar
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    It IS safer now. One of the main reasons people target IE is that it's so thightly integrated with Windows that it just opens more doors and possibilities. There are many exploits just not possible on Firefox or any alternative browsers because of that.

    An O.S. integrated browser is a good idea. but...

  5. #5
    SitePoint Addict Sojan80's Avatar
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    While Firefox may not be a silver bullet, more secure, or may have less features to attack tha IE, there is no getting around the fact that when compared to IE Firefox is the better browser hands down...

    IE has gotten to the point where it is like Windows Me. Microsoft should actually just scrap IE like they did Windows Me and start from scratch because that is what it is going to take to get anywhere near making IE a standards compliant browser... not to mention eliminate the holes that bundling it right in with the OS creates.

    Don't get me wrong, I test in/use IE because I have to, not by choice, not because they have the biggest market share, and definitely not because I want to. I design for the standards compliant browsers first and then go back in and figure out how I need to break my design so that it works/looks right in IE, again, not because I want to, not by choice, but because I have to.

  6. #6
    SitePoint Wizard Keriam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sojan80
    While Firefox may not be a silver bullet, more secure, or may have less features to attack tha IE, there is no getting around the fact that when compared to IE Firefox is the better browser hands down...
    See, unfortunately, this sounds like ideology. You're right and 90% of the browser users are wrong. Mind you, I am open to the argument that Firefox may be better. But where is your imperic proof? What is there about Firefox that is so compelling that we all should change, and once we all do, what is to say Firefox will not be subject to all the attacks that IE is?

    Quote Originally Posted by vgarcia
    How is this not a good thing in and of itself?
    Maybe it is from a security standpoint. But as the web evolves into a more feature rich environment, using a browser that can not utilize all the features seems somehow counterproductive.
    Never put off until tomorrow what you can do
    the day after tomorrow. ~ Mark Twain

  7. #7
    ☆★☆★ silver trophy vgarcia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keriam
    Maybe it is from a security standpoint. But as the web evolves into a more feature rich environment, using a browser that can not utilize all the features seems somehow counterproductive.
    The only features being used in IE that aren't used in other browsers currently are ActiveX and VML (to my knowledge). As a counter to VML, other browsers have SVG which is basically the same thing but more developed and standardized. And as for ActiveX, well that's the main attack vector in the first place and not used nearly as much as it used to be.

  8. #8
    SitePoint Wizard Keriam's Avatar
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    I could be wrong, but I understood VML to be a subset of SVG or maybe better stated - SVG picked up where VML left off. Both have W3C standards associated with them. To my understanding, there is no fully implemented native support for SVG in any browser and IE does a better job of handling it through the Adobe SVG plugin.

    I would agree that ActiveX was poorly implemented, and is less in favor, but I am still amazed at the places that do use it. My solution has been to simply not let IE use ActiveX unless it tells me first and I approve it.
    Never put off until tomorrow what you can do
    the day after tomorrow. ~ Mark Twain

  9. #9
    ☆★☆★ silver trophy vgarcia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keriam
    I could be wrong, but I understood VML to be a subset of SVG or maybe better stated - SVG picked up where VML left off. Both have W3C standards associated with them. To my understanding, there is no fully implemented native support for SVG in any browser and IE does a better job of handling it through the Adobe SVG plugin.
    SVG and VML were competing standards at one time. Microsoft decided to implement VML (and I think they were its main creators) while it was still a draft at the W3C (Microsoft also implemented XSLT at the same time, also a draft at the time which left it incompatible with the final version). The W3C decided to go with SVG instead of VML, leaving Microsoft out in the cold on that one.

    Currently, Firefox 1.5 and Opera 8 support SVG of some type (Opera supports most of SVG Tiny 1.1, Firefox supports a subset of the full SVG 1.1 suite). Both support it natively, without plugins, though trying to write SVG that works in both browsers as well as Adobe's plugin is a major pain, which is why Flash is used (and probably will be for some time) more for vector.
    Quote Originally Posted by Keriam
    I would agree that ActiveX was poorly implemented, and is less in favor, but I am still amazed at the places that do use it. My solution has been to simply not let IE use ActiveX unless it tells me first and I approve it.
    Good idea, but not one that most people use unfortunately.

  10. #10
    SitePoint Wizard
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    Firefox is open source which is its biggest bonus. Bugs can be fixed quickly and openly so we don't have any of this crap with Microsoft where we have to wait till the second Tuesday of each month to get updates. But I agree, all software has security holes in it no doubt, but Firefox can fix them quicker.

  11. #11
    Employed Again Viflux's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ben
    Firefox is open source which is its biggest bonus. Bugs can be fixed quickly and openly so we don't have any of this crap with Microsoft where we have to wait till the second Tuesday of each month to get updates. But I agree, all software has security holes in it no doubt, but Firefox can fix them quicker.
    To play Devil's Advocate...

    The downside to the quick-bug-fixing of open source is that the software is not thoroughly tested before you upgrade.

    At Microsoft, it is.

    The difference?

    If the Firefox fix stops {insert your favorite program} from working, it's not a big deal. You don't care because you don't pay, thus you are unsure where the accountability lies.

    If the Microsoft fix stops {insert your favorite program} from working, it's a huge deal. Microsoft support will be slammed with calls, and a breakage drastic enough would be a major PR nightmare.

  12. #12
    SitePoint Addict Sojan80's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keriam
    See, unfortunately, this sounds like ideology. Mind you, I am open to the argument that Firefox may be better. But where is your imperic proof?
    Where have you been for oh... the last two to five years? Certainly not working in the web design field. Have you been hiding while CSS hack after well documented CSS hack has been written about, discussed, and even practiced here on SItepoint as well as other websites and e-zines? Just about everywhere you go these days you find out that a good 90% of the CSS hacks out there are because of IE's flawed implementation of this standard or that standard.

    IE is not, has never been, nor will be any time in the near future a standards compliant browser. This fact has been superbly documented by members of WaSP, and web dev folks like Andy Clarke, Eric Meyer, Jeffrey Zeldman, Tantek Celick and others.

    Based solely on "support for web standards" IE loses, has lost, and will continue to lose to browsers like Firefox that support web standards. Even after the release of IE7 which, by Chris Wilson (from the Microsoft IE7 team's own admission) will not come anywhere near making IE a fully standards compliant browser. In fact, I believe it was in this same blog that it was stated that IE would NEVER be fully standards compliant.

    So my question to you is this: Why not tout browsers that offer better support for web standards than IE can ever hope to do? Why not hold Microsoft's toes to fire for putting out such a medicore piece of software? Because they have market share? Surely there is a better reason than that..

    Show me its more stable. Show me its faster than any of the other standards compliant browsers. Show me it fully supports web standards. Show me this and I will happily use IE again, but the point is you can't show me any of things with regard to IE because they just don't exist.

    Yes IE has the market share now, but that is changing in the face of other browsers like Firefox, Safari, Knoquerir, Camino and others. Are we, as a society, so used to accepting mediocrity as the superior standard that we are that afraid of change?

    Look, don't delude yourself, IE is now, and will be for years yet to come a mediocre browser and nothing more.

    Microsoft said it couldn't make IE fully standards compliant because it would break the internet and then low and behold Microsoft's own argument gets torn apart... For proof the article is linked from here http://www.456bereastreet.com/archiv...aking_the_web/
    along with links to Molly Holzschlag's post about it as well.

    The simple truth is Microsoft hasn't got the stones it would take to make IE a truly decent browser. They want you to applaud them for mediocrity and I for one think that blows... The fixes they have planned for IE 7 are nothing more than lipstick on a pig. The list of things they won't be fixing with the release of IE 7 is a lot longer than the list of things they will be fixing.

    And to make matters worse Microsoft admits these IE only conditional statements will never go away because IE is special... its not special.. its just crap wrapped with a bow..

  13. #13
    SitePoint Wizard Keriam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ben
    Firefox is open source which is its biggest bonus. Bugs can be fixed quickly and openly so we don't have any of this crap with Microsoft where we have to wait till the second Tuesday of each month to get updates. But I agree, all software has security holes in it no doubt, but Firefox can fix them quicker.
    I have mixed feelings about open source. On one hand you have more people throwing their expertise against a problem, and I use several open source programs and find them highly satisfactory. On the other hand, when it comes to security issues, it also makes it easier (for the person wants to) to find the exploits and capitalize on them and maybe if they are really clever slip a nasty in the form of a "fix".

    I honestly do not know who is going to be the more motivated. A business whose survival may depend on the goodwill of it customers (i.e., make crap, lose business) or a group of dedicated volunteers.

    But the point of quick response is one that is well taken, and I think even MS is realizing. I have heard some rumblings that MS is going to release patches as soon as they are available. It is one of the reasons they are pushing so hard to make sure auto-updates are turned on on everyones computers.
    Never put off until tomorrow what you can do
    the day after tomorrow. ~ Mark Twain

  14. #14
    SitePoint Addict Sojan80's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Viflux
    The downside to the quick-bug-fixing of open source is that the software is not thoroughly tested before you upgrade.

    At Microsoft, it is.
    Really? Thorough testing at Microsoft? In what universe?

    Microsoft wants to integrate every piece of software they make with every other piece of software they make (including operating systems, which I personally think is a REALLY bad idea [and one the supreme court said trhey couldn't do with IE if I remember the anti-trust suit correctly]) and yet they know that by doing this it will only lead to more holes in the security for attackers to get through.

    I don't care how thorough you test something there will always be a hole somewhere, some chink in the armor...

  15. #15
    SitePoint Wizard Keriam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sojan80
    Where have you been for oh... the last two to five years? Certainly not working in the web design field. Have you been hiding while CSS hack after well documented CSS hack has been written about, discussed, and even practiced here on SItepoint as well as other websites and e-zines? Just about everywhere you go these days you find out that a good 90% of the CSS hacks out there are because of IE's flawed implementation of this standard or that standard.
    On this you will find no arguement from me.

    But using the rest of your argument, if we all go to a 100% standards compliant browser, we all abandon IE, would that not be the same as MS fixing IE and "break the web" because of all the sites out there that would require having the hacks undone?

    I have often conjured the mental image of the W3C as being David vs. Goliath or the tail wagging the dog. Yes, MS has tried to run roughshod, but on the otherhand I feel that some of standards adopted have been adopted merely as a reflexive "no" to MS.

    While standards are worthwhile and needed, I would like to draw a comparison between the W3C standards and oh, say, the ICC Building Codes. Both are a set of standards designed for a specific reason, mainly uniformity. With building codes, I can move from one state to another, or another country for that matter, and know that if my house was built to code, it should not fall down around me. The one big difference, however, is that building codes specifically allow for a locality to adopt a lower standard (within limits) or a higher standard than the published standard. In other words, they are more guildline than absolute cut an dried. The W3C, on the other hand has taken the view of "my way or the highway" with no allowance for variation.
    Never put off until tomorrow what you can do
    the day after tomorrow. ~ Mark Twain

  16. #16
    SitePoint Wizard Keriam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sojan80
    I don't care how thorough you test something there will always be a hole somewhere, some chink in the armor...
    A statement that can be applied to Firefox, Opera, Safari or any other brower.
    Never put off until tomorrow what you can do
    the day after tomorrow. ~ Mark Twain

  17. #17
    ☆★☆★ silver trophy vgarcia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keriam
    The one big difference, however, is that building codes specifically allow for a locality to adopt a lower standard (within limits) or a higher standard than the published standard. In other words, they are more guildline than absolute cut an dried. The W3C, on the other hand has taken the view of "my way or the highway" with no allowance for variation.
    Not really. The W3C's recommendations have sections on what is required for compliance and what is optional or a nice-to-have feature, just like building codes. Also remember that the W3C makes recommendations, not standards, so in reality they don't have to be followed. It just makes everyone on the web's lives easier when everyone does follow the recommendations, so everyone knows what to expect

  18. #18
    SitePoint Zealot Baron Ragnarok's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Viflux
    The downside to the quick-bug-fixing of open source is that the software is not thoroughly tested before you upgrade.

    At Microsoft, it is.
    I've had too many problems with bugs and Microsoft. Sorry, but your comment is like totally bogus.

    I can't even count how many bugs I've had with ALL MS products. Even Notepad has needed fixes in the past. How you screw up NOTEPAD is just beyond me. I've written one in C++ in my college years... how just don't see how.

  19. #19
    SitePoint Zealot Baron Ragnarok's Avatar
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    All this discussion is really not oriented the right way. I can't even count how many people I've installed Firefox to. They kept using Internet Explorer not because they liked it, because they have no IT knowledge and often, installing a software, can still be scary for some people. Who knows, maybie most.

    I don't recommend using IE or Firefox over another. I USE IE. Ihave Firefox, Opera, Mozilla, Netscape and many more installed on my PC. I use IE, not cause it's secure, I know it isn't. But I'm used to it and frankly, breaking a habit is for many (my-self also it seems) can be either annoying or actually painful.

    But, when I go somewhere I KNOW might not be safe, I open Firefox or Opera and I go. I know IE is more vulnerable when it's NOT CONFIGURED with a minimum of security. But using IE when it's configured for security (or as much as it takes for me to call it slightly secure) becomes annoying.

    For users, security and ease of use (or experience), have not always been major factors... it used to be, simply, just a question of experience. IE beeing pre-installed has a major advantage over the competition. Most people won't want to install something. Hell, I still have my Gigabyte lan card in it's box from christmass.

    You won't see IE drop before the old generation that adopted it and won't let go of it (somewhat unfortunatly I'm in there) just wither and die.

    Now, this would not usually be a big issue with me, but, I have to say that it might be a good thing for the internet.

    MS as always been a defiant thorn in the side of W3C(don't try and pretand it's the other way around). All standards the W3C have maintained in the face of MS (GOD BLESS THEM) have been much appreciated from my part. I've actually found them rather leaniante on MS behalf when it comes to screwed up standards.

    In the beginning MS had some good ideas, but I think many here can recall approximatly when MS started proposing weird unthought standards.

    I mean only people who think
    Quote Originally Posted by Keriam
    fixing IE and "break the web"
    are synonyms could actually appreciate all (notice the all, not all MS standards are bad, some are few and proud(if I remember correctly), just can't recall one right now) MS standards.

    When you program your site with some modifications for certain browsers (by browsers and version usually). Fixing IE won't screw up the net or your website. I'd be happy not to have to had IE 7 to my list of exceptions, already having IE 6 and 5-. Structure and planed web programming takes in account that things WILL change, not might, WILL.

    See how your webpage renders now? Well that's gonna change. Sorry, it will. If I learned something is that MS especially has a habit of screwing things that worked too.

    But, where did we start. Yes. Security.

    Flaws, security holes, virus, scripts.

    Whatever browser you use, you have to be carefull, protected, knowledgeable.

    I've tested a while ago how some Anti-Viruses faired. Wanted to check things out, be able to recommend the best one to my customers. I've tested several AVs with several browsers not knowing if there would be a difference (1 AV beeing better for 1 browser).

    I did not find any conclusive data on 1 AV beeing better for 1 browser. But I did realize that, on the tests performed, Opera seemed to have picked up the least... BUT, probably mainly because of all the script errors reported and screwed up pages.

    Firefox, Mozilla were pretty good. Netscape was fair. IE was awful!

    BUT NONE OF THEM SAVED THE COMPUTER. The security software packages did the biggest of the job.

    A good threat DOESN'T NEED IE. It helps for reasons I've specified over:

    Quote Originally Posted by Baron Ragnarok
    It IS safer now. One of the main reasons people target IE is that it's so thightly integrated with Windows that it just opens more doors and possibilities. There are many exploits just not possible on Firefox or any alternative browsers because of that.

    An O.S. integrated browser is a good idea. but...
    The main problem with all the exploits is Windows. The fact that someone can write a program that takes over your computer... IE's flaw? Indirectly I'd say. What IS runing IE and giving IT the possibility to start such a malicious process... WINDOWS.

    You can discuss Browser Security all you want. You'll turn in circles. You'll get many opinions, many people talking.

    Use the browser you want to use. But like everything you do use in life. Be aware of how you should use it. Be aware of it's flaw (like a car can't stop on a dime or magically fly before hiting the wall). They all have Pros and Cons. Just choose the one you like and stop enforcing your decision on others (are you listening Bill?).

    Baron out.
    Last edited by Baron Ragnarok; Jan 12, 2006 at 16:48. Reason: error

  20. #20
    Employed Again Viflux's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sojan80
    Really? Thorough testing at Microsoft? In what universe?
    When you write the software that EVERY other piece of software runs on top of, there are bound to be a nearly limitless number of bugs.

    I assure you, Microsoft puts all their products through rigorous and thorough testing procedures. I shudder to think what would happen if they didn't.

  21. #21
    Employed Again Viflux's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Baron Ragnarok
    I've had too many problems with bugs and Microsoft. Sorry, but your comment is like totally bogus.

    I can't even count how many bugs I've had with ALL MS products. Even Notepad has needed fixes in the past. How you screw up NOTEPAD is just beyond me. I've written one in C++ in my college years... how just don't see how.
    Just because there are bugs in their code doesn't mean they don't test.

    Yes, you wrote a Notepad variation in college. Congratulations.

    Was it being used on billions of machines around the world? I guarantee you had numerous exploits that were just never discovered.

    If you believe that a simple text editor should be easy to create bug-free, I challenge you to find one successful such editor on the Internet. An initial release only. No patches, no new versions. A write-once and never have to fix piece of software.

    Anyways, that's far enough from the topic now.

    To return to the question of web standards, I've often wondered about something I find rather intriguing.

    I understand that the W3C is the world-recognized governing body and 'chief guru' when it comes to these things; I won't dispute that.

    It also seems odd to me that the browser in use by 90% of the world-wide market ISN'T the de-facto standard. By the very definition of the word, whatever 'rules' IE adheres to should be, rightfully or otherwise, defined as standard.

    Note that I'm not endorsing IE's rendering engine, as a lot of it baffles me a lot of the time, and more W3C-compliant engines seem more logical. I'm merely wondering why the browser used by the vast majority of the Internet hasn't redefined the standard.

    Off Topic:

    I can smell the burning already.

  22. #22
    SitePoint Wizard Keriam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Viflux
    It also seems odd to me that the browser in use by 90% of the world-wide market ISN'T the de-facto standard. By the very definition of the word, whatever 'rules' IE adheres to should be, rightfully or otherwise, defined as standard.
    That was actually where I was leading, when I said

    Quote Originally Posted by Keriam
    I have often conjured the mental image of the W3C as being David vs. Goliath or the tail wagging the dog. Yes, MS has tried to run roughshod, but on the otherhand I feel that some of standards adopted have been adopted merely as a reflexive "no" to MS.
    Believe it or not, IE is favored by the corporate world, not because it is necessarily the best browser, or the most secure, but because it is a known entity. When you look at the number of servers that are Windows-based in the corporate world, and you know that IE functions relatively seemlessly with them, you stick by IE.

    Perhaps there should be no reason why other browsers will not work, but trust me, they won't. Not even the "personalized" versions of IE (like those from MSN, SBC and others) will function correctly in many instances.

    As has been said by others, (and pardon the anology) but safe browsing is like safe sex - protection is required. Keep Windows patched, use a good anti-virus program and firewall, scan your system regularly with reputable anti-spyware software, keep clear of shady sites and you should never have a problem - no matter which browser you use.
    Never put off until tomorrow what you can do
    the day after tomorrow. ~ Mark Twain

  23. #23
    Employed Again Viflux's Avatar
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    On a semi-related note...

    At a very large financial institution where I used to work, Netscape 4 was the standard and de facto browser until early 2005. Everyone there used it. They thought it was great.

    When they made the switch to Internet Explorer, all those lovely Intranet sites no longer looked the same. They immediately came to the conclusion that Netscape 4 was superior to Internet Explorer since their sites looked better in it.

    The people in that office still refer to it as "Internet Exploder", although for a vastly different reason than most of us ever have.

  24. #24
    SitePoint Enthusiast sa seba's Avatar
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    Aw, in every forum I go this topic comes up...
    IE will always be more vulnerable, because it's core hasn't really ben updated at all since many years. Same engine, just patching this and that hole.
    I am using firefox and opera, both good and fast browsers, less vulnerable also because they aren't as deeply integrated in windows as IE is. But also because there are lot's of people that try out certain szenarios and then submit the fixes for the holes they found.
    Cleaner and smaller code is another feature. The more code=more possible bugs.

    But anyway, there is a reason why certain products are recommended in secuity communities/fora and some not.

    *still smiles about symantec having to patch their systemworks 05, after some things gotinto the open*
    Pug's World!
    cricetus crustulorum

  25. #25
    l 0 l silver trophybronze trophy lo0ol's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sa seba
    IE will always be more vulnerable, because it's core hasn't really ben updated at all since many years. Same engine, just patching this and that hole.
    Well, never say, erm, always. IE 7 could always come through and solve a lot of problems (I'm sure it will, too). Whether it will become safer than Firefox is still up in the air, but I'm sure Microsoft's putting some really bright people on it.


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