Browse clever

In the light of this ‘news’ story, I would just like to confirm that my browser use over the 15 years I’ve had net access at home has been as follows:

  • 1996 – c.2000: Netscape (installed initially from a CD sent to me by my first ISP, Demon Internet; ah, Demon Internet, remember them?);
  • c.2000 – 2009: Opera (after being intrigued by an exciting ‘new’ idea called tabbed browsing that I read about in a review in a computer magazine; ah, computer magazines, remember them?);*
  • 2009 – present: Firefox (partly on recommendations, plus a wide range of plug-ins).

I’ve really only ever used Internet Explorer for a few purposes:

  • visiting websites that didn’t work under Netscape (there used to be a fair few of those, because Microsoft used its dominant market position to persuade corporate websites to make use of proprietary ‘technologies’ that didn’t run on other browsers; ah, remember those long-lost days when MS were the undisputed villains of the tech world?);
  • testing web pages (back in the days when I used to build web pages; i.e. back in the days before things like WordPress became ubiquitous);
  • and after reinstalling windows, in order to download Netscape/ Opera/ Firefox.

So, anyway, if this story is to be believed – and it really, really shouldn’t; the ‘study’ is so full of holes even the BBC’s technology journalists (unofficial motto: why bother thinking when you can just reprint the press release?) have spotted some of them – I suddenly became less smart in 2009, when I switched from Opera to Firefox.  Which is weird, because I switched away from Opera because it was no longer letting me do the things I wanted to do.  On the face of it, it would seem to have been rather more dumb to put up indefinitely with a browser that used to be great, but was getting left behind.

I dare say some of the issues that were making Opera seem old-fashioned have been ironed out since I moved away, and if I’m honest I still do sometimes miss the way Opera resolves webpages (which makes them load faster than other browsers; a big deal in the days of dial-up, but only really an issue now if the page is being fetched from a slow server).  But I’m likely to stick with Firefox for a while – until it becomes untenable, anyway – because I’m really rather a fan of the open source movement; given my political leanings, I pretty much have to be.  I certainly think it will be a cold day in hell before I migrate to Chrome: as cold a day as it would need to be to make me resort to IE or Safari.

* – Wikipedia reckon that up until 2005 you couldn’t get Opera without either paying a subscription or putting up with banner ads.  Yeah, like anyone with the nous to switch to a browser like Opera wouldn’t know how to get round that little wrinkle…

[Edited to add: the story referred to in this post has been subsequently revealed to be a hoax: see here for more.]

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