Most of you probably know Wayne Casper, the guy who teaches at and runs the Computer Education Center in Lincoln. On my Wednesday trips to Lincoln to teach, Wayne will often put little reminders on the white board, if someone has asked a question that perhaps I can answer.

This past week the note simply said “Upgrade to IE 9.0?

Of course, what Wayne was referring to was the fact that Microsoft was now making their newly revamped browser, Internet Explorer 9.0, available for upgrade, and he and some students were asking if they should do the upgrade or stay with what they had.

Good question.  So I thought it would be worthy to talk about here.

First a bit of history. Internet Explorer has been around a long time, almost since the beginning of World Wide Web. No, it certainly wasn’t the very  first browser out there (one called Nexus was first), but along with an early contender called Netscape, Internet Explorer was already dominating the browser world by the mid to late 1990’s. At one time, it even had about 90% of the market in its pocket, and even had other browser companies bringing up monopoly lawsuits against it.

Was it the best browser out there? No, probably not. Netscape was a great browser, and it’s offspring, Firefox was even better. But since Internet Explorer CAME with Windows, and Windows was the predominant PC operating system, Internet Explorer became the most popular browser by default. (CLICK HERE to see a great “browser war” history article over at Wikipedia).

Today, Internet Explorer has slipped a ways in popularity. As of March of this year, the combined market share of Internet Explorer versions 6, 7, 8, and 9 was about 54%, still pretty sizable, but much lower than during it’s 1990’s heyday. Other browsers such as Firefox (21%), Google Chrome (11%), and Apple Safari (7%) have come along with arguably better features, giving Internet users lots of choices when it comes to how they navigate and use the Internet. (CLICK HERE to see a good market share comparison).

So, that leads us to Internet Explorer 9.0, and if it’s worth upgrading to.

This latest version of IE actually came out in March, but it’s only now that Microsoft is making it available as an OPTIONAL download with Automatic Updates. This means that when your copy of Windows does it’s regular check for updates, Internet Explorer 9.0 will be offered as an optional update that you have to first approve or disapprove. It won’t just automatically be downloaded and installed. Also keep in mind that Internet Explorer is only available for Windows Vista and Windows 7, NOT for Windows XP folks, who will have to be content with Internet Explorer 8.0, and no farther.

So, for you Windows Vista and 7 users, should you upgrade?

Well, I guess my answer is… Maybe. (Don’t you love it when geeks are so decisive about things?)

The truth is, IE 9.0 does have a lot of new features that I like. It has a very clean screen, with a minimalist toolbar that gives you a lot more space to see the web page you are looking at. It also has better support for what’s called HTML 5.0, an upgraded way that web page developers make pages that are more interactive. And it does seem to work faster, both in loading up and in displaying pages. And there’s even more stuff that will make it a pretty good competitor in the current browser market. (CLICK HERE to see what Microsoft says about Internet Explorer 9.0 and all of it’s new features).

BUT, I’ve also found that it has some quirks. Not all the pages I routinely visit display correctly. In fact, when I got on to DiscoverSkills to write this article, I tried using IE 9.0 and the program I use wouldn’t let me insert the pictures that you see here. I had to go to another browser to do it.

So here’s my advice.

I think you are OK to upgrade to Internet Explorer 9.0, but I wouldn’t make it the only browser on my computer. I would also go ahead and download both Firefox AND Google Chrome, and have them ready for when Internet Explorer doesn’t display a page correctly. In fact, I bet if you started using one of those other browsers, you might even find yourself liking them so much, you’ll forget about Internet Explorer (like I have most of the time).

So that’s my take. I’d love to hear YOUR take on the subject of browsers. Which one do you use? Why?, etc.  Just leave a comment below this article.

Oh, and Happy Browsing!

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