For a long time we've been recommending that users take the opportunity to ditch Internet Explorer 6.0 and upgrade to a more sophisticated, secure browser. Firefox has been the main beneficiary of the Internet Explorer backlash, although a few other browsers (notably Opera) have enticing credentials.
But now, after months of anticipation, Internet Explorer 7.0 (IE7) is here. Was it worth the wait? Well, conveniently, the latest version of Firefox has also just been released, so we've put the two head-to-head. And the verdict? Suffice it to say that, with a new interface, sophisticated antiphishing, tab and RSS support, and a variety of other enhancements, IE7 is a step on from its predecessor.
Microsoft has even tackled a few of those irritating niggles which, while they are minor, can cause considerable nuisance on a daily basis. Like the fact that browsers currently aren't terribly good at printing web pages. Or that controlling or standardizing web browsers across the company can be an impossible task. (Microsoft's solved both.)
And IE does have one advantage over its rivals -- most of you will end up trying out version 7.0 even if you haven't specifically downloaded it. That's because Automatic Updates will download the new browser. It'll then ask you whether you want to install it. You can say no, but how many people will?
Firefox itself is at a tricky point in its development. Microsoft has drawn a lot of criticism for its browser being so full of security holes. But when almost every hacker in cyberspace is looking for a way to attack your product, it gets awfully difficult to keep out intruders. Firefox has slipped under the radar up to now, but as its profile rises, it becomes more of a target.
And, while version 2.0 was never meant to be a radical break from Firefox 1.5, it's still noticeable how little there is in the new browser that you haven't already seen and tried out. Which begs the question, can Firefox come up with any new features in the future that'll once again put clear air between itself and IE7. Or is it just a matter of time before Microsoft's in-built operating system advantage and huge marketing muscle serves to grind another young pretender into the ground?