Security flaws have long plagued Internet Explorer (IE), the market-dominating web browser from Microsoft. IE won the early browser wars, not only because it was free and bundled with Windows, but because it had some features and capabilities that its only real competitor, Netscape, didn't have. But the behind-the-scenes programming that makes those features possible is the very coding that also leaves wide gaps in IE's defenses against viruses and malicious scripting. Among several browser alternatives for Windows users, the Opera browser stands out in functionality and integration, and is gaining a wider following as a safer surfing alternative to Internet Explorer.
To be sure, there are other browsers such as the one from Mozilla and their newest release, Firefox. There are several flavors of IE "overlays", which use the core IE programming for web page display, and thus aren't any safer than the original IE. (You should of course always use anti-virus software to protect your PC, regardless of browser. Many viruses arrive as email attachments, and opening those on a Windows-based PC will cause problems). Among non-IE browsers, it seems to be down to a two-horse race between Mozilla and Opera.
Opera, from Oslo, Norway, based Opera Software ASA, provides many popular features. An integrated email client, contact book, bookmarks with searchable notes, tabbed multiple windows, a built-in password manager, a pop-up blocker, multiple language support, saved sessions, privacy controls, built-in chat, and the ability to read RSS feeds from within Opera mail make the Opera browser a very powerful and worthwhile IE replacement candidate.
Unless you have special need for IE, such as a browser toolbar or web interaction software that you use, there is really no reason not to give Opera a try if you're worried about safe surfing. While Opera does have a paid version, you can also download a sponsored version (with ads unobtrusively placed in the browser control area), which is free.
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Jakob Jelling is the founder of http://www.sitetube.com. Visit his website for the latest on planning, building, promoting and maintaining websites.