Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Microsoft ready to launch security patch

Microsoft is set to launch an emergency patch to repair a large security hole that has become evident in all versions of Internet Explorer. While internet users wait to patch up their security many have turned to other browsers. There are several alternatives to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, but while most offer a secure browsing environment, all have their own faults, glitches and bugs.

Google Chrome, which recently came out of beta, has cleaned up some of the problems that existed in earlier versions but many users remain unsatisfied with the program. While fast, there are few of the features that users of other popular browsers will be familiar. There is no Google Toolbar which can provide quick shortcuts to regularly visited sites and there are bizarre anomalies when attempting to copy links from the address bar into documents. While attempting to copy and paste a link into Microsoft Works Word Processor a message greets the user: “The information you copied exceeds the size limit for pasting into the Word Processor. Try reducing the size of your selection and then copy and paste again”. However pasting the same into Microsoft Word does work, but many users of Microsoft’s new operating system Vista will find themselves without this much used programme.

Mozilla’s Firefox has gained a large user base, though still well below that of Internet Explorer, but not everything works swimmingly. Many websites simply won’t open properly in the browser, and web publishing through Firefox can cause problems in other browsers. Foreign language support is a particular issue that is failing in the browser. But in its favour Firefox is relatively fast, though start-up is still slightly slower than IE, and the browser does come with many of the familiar add-ons seen in IE. Some though remain unavailable including the ‘download video’ facility for the popular Realplayer.

Flock is perhaps not as well known but is popular amongst those who participate in a great deal of so called social networking. However, there are similar issues, as with Google Chrome, of copying and pasting links, even into the compose pages of blogger. The layout can also appear very complicated and perhaps overwhelming to many.

Safari and Opera are perhaps the least used of the Internet browsers. Safari, which started life as a Mac specific browser, has spawned its Windows version but has yet to be taken up in vast numbers, despite claims of being the fastest of all the available browsers. Opera is mostly seen in mobile phones and while it has achieved a positive reception amongst desktop users there remains a number of compatibility issues. It remains the 5th most popular browser after Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Chrome.
In usage terms Internet Explorer is the most popular browser with over 71% using the program. Firefox is second but only shares 20% of the market. Safari has a small but loyal 6% of Internet users though many are only on Macs. Both Opera and Chrome have less than 1% of the market share while other browsers fall well below that figure.

Despite the problems plaguing Microsoft’s browser, and with many making temporary use of other browsers, most will probably return to IE. There will be some who find Firefox fires up better, and some may find Chrome more shiny than expected. There may even be some who flocked to Flock and feel sheepish about returning to IE. Some might also start singing the praises of Opera. But most will return to where they feel most comfortable and where the surroundings are familiar. The next dilemma is whether to uninstall the half a dozen or so browsers that some have placed on their PCs [Mashable].

Microsoft is set to release the security patch at 18:00 GMT/UTC [13:00 EST] via all the usual routes [BBC / CNN / Sky News]

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