Surfing around: Students share their preferences among Internet browsers

Once upon a time there was a graphical web browser called Mosaic. It was developed by members of the campus’ National Center for Supercomputing Applications in the early 1990s and paved the way for the array of modern browsers offered today. From Internet Explorer and Safari to Firefox and Chrome, there are several options for computer users to browse the Web.

Some offer features that others don’t. A few claim to have faster start-up, while others are known to block more viruses. Which browser is best for college students depends on personal taste, said University computer engineering and computer science students who were asked about their personal favorites.

*CHROME BETTER THAN FIREFOX?*

All the browsers come in handy in one way or another, said Scott Wilson, junior in Engineering. Wilson said he prefers to use Google Chrome and will open other browsers if he encounters any problems with it.

“It seems to crash the least,” Wilson said.

Google’s Chrome is one of the newest browsers to enter the mainstream market, having first released in 2008. Some users, like Wilson, like the browser for being fast and crashing less often than the Firefox browser, which is a common default browser in most campus computer labs.

Lab consultant In the Engineering Workstation lab of the Digital Computer Laboratory Jordan Arrieta, junior in Engineering, said one of his more common tasks is troubleshooting Firefox crashes.

“Sometimes it can be a pain because it will crash randomly,” Arrieta said.

This can happen when students log off while the browser is still running, in which case the browser becomes “trapped” the next time someone logs on, Arrieta said.

“It’s part of my job to unlock the browser,” Arrieta said.

This is why he personally prefers Chrome. In his experience, Chrome doesn’t crash as much and has less bugs, he said.

“Neither browser is perfect, but I guess Chrome crashes a little bit less,” Arrieta said.

*FIREFOX BETTER THAN CHROME?*

Firefox has tried to compete with Chrome’s appeal, mimicking some of Chrome’s features in its latest version, said Glenn Francisco, a junior in Engineering who recently switched from Chrome to the latest Firefox upgrade, Firefox 4.

“Chrome, in terms of its organization of its tabs and stuff, I thought was much better at the time it came out, but since Firefox 4 came out it pretty much copied Chrome’s tab layout which is nice.” Francisco said.

Firefox 4’s startup time is faster than Chrome’s and the browser runs slightly faster, Francisco said.

“The way it deals with HTML 5 is much better, so the quality of a lot of media is better, I think,” Francisco added.

Francisco’s classmate Ambika Srinath, junior in Engineering, said she didn’t bother using Chrome because she got used to the Firefox browsers being common in campus labs. Other users like her have not gotten around to using the new Chrome browser.

Isra Bhuthimethe is one of those users. A computer science student at the University of Illinois in Springfield, Bhuthimethe said Firefox offers security and a host of add-ons that he prefers.

“There’s this add-on called NoScript that stops all sorts of scripts from running without your permission,” Bhuthimethe said. “So I think it’s a little more secure.”

*ANYTHING BUT INTERNET EXPLORER?*

Internet Explorer was first introduced in 1995 as Microsoft’s competitor to Netscape. Today, many of the students think the browser is their least favorite. One reason is because stopping potentially harmful scripts from running is not as easy to do on Internet Explorer as with other browsers, Bhuthimethe said.

It’s also old-fashioned, said Srinath who prefers the “minimalistic” Firefox and Chrome design to the “clunky” Internet Explorer.

“There’s way too much going on,” Srinath said. “I feel like Chrome really looks sweet.”

Design and user interface can be just as important as speed and security, Wilson said. That’s one reason he doesn’t like to use Internet Explorer, he said.

“It was just kind of unfriendly to use — ugly interface,” he said.’

Though Internet Explorer is not terrible Srinath and Francisco said. Internet Explorer has improved over time and every browser has its pros, they said. Safari, for instance, tends to be more convenient for Macintosh (Mac) users because it is the default on Apple computers, Francisco said.

Bhuthimethe said, for him, security is the most important factor. Like Safari to Macs, Internet Explorer often comes as a default on Windows computers and offers its own virus protection, but Bhuthimethe prefers the virus protection features of other browsers.

For some the differences are only minor.

“For the everyday user, I’d probably say there’s not an overwhelming difference,” Wilson said.