Questions about the Internet, Internet Explorer and web browsers

  • What is the difference between the Internet and the web?

    • The Internet is made up of many things, far too numerous to list here.
      The web (originally World Wide Web, hence the ‘www‘ sometimes found at the start of a website address) is just one part of the Internet – a huge part of it these days, but one part nonetheless.
      You can probably also see now why we call websites “websites” (or these days more often just “sites”) – because they are places to visit on the web.
      Another commonly used part of the Internet is e-mail. Sometimes it will have a website, like GMail or Hotmail (these are known as ‘webmail’ interfaces, or ‘front-ends’), which allows you to access your e-mail via the web, but the e-mail system itself is a separate part of the Internet.
  • Why do I keep seeing warnings about Internet Explorer at the top of the pages on your website?

    • Unfortunately, until very recently, Internet Explorer was pre-installed as the default web browser on all Windows computers and was written in such a way that it ignored many of the standards and recommendations set by worldwide organisations. In doing so it has held back the development of the web by years, and added countless headaches and extra hours, days, weeks, etc. to the time it takes a web-developer to program a website.
      In addition, many versions of Internet Explorer have had security holes which were allowing viruses and malware onto unsuspecting people’s PCs.
      This is why you should always use the most recent version by visiting Windows Update and choosing the Internet Explorer with the highest version number – sometimes it will be listed in Optional updates rather than Important updates.
      If you are using Windows XP, we would highly recommend that you download and install an alternative web browser – the instructions are in the message you got near the top of the page – as the highest version number currently available is only version 8 which is now several years out of date. In computer terms, this is ancient.
      Microsoft refuse to provide more recent versions of Internet Explorer to the many people still using Windows XP. Whether this is to ‘encourage’ them to update to a newer version of Windows is is a matter best left to other websites to discuss.
      Internet Explorer is not alone in having security updates of course – whichever web browser you use, be it Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Konqueror or one of the many others available, always remember to update it to the latest version when available, as updates often contain important security fixes which are there to protect you.
  • What is a web browser?

    • A web browser is a program which enables you to see web pages on the Internet.
      Some common web browsers are Internet Explorer (especially on older Windows computers), Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari (particularly on Mac and iOS) and Konqueror (mostly on Linux computers).
  • But I thought Internet Explorer was the Internet?

    • No, it just another browser, a program which enables you to view web pages – this misconception has arisen partly because of the name of the program, and partly because Microsoft included it by default with Windows, and it became widely used. Not every vacuum cleaner is a Hoover, but they were so widely used that the brand became synonymous with the function.
  • So, installing a different web browser won’t break my Internet?

    • Unless your computer has some other problem, there’s no reason why it should.
      Often using a browser such as Firefox or Chrome will enhance your web experience as you can get add-ons for them which block pop-ups and embedded adverts on webpages.
      Many people worry about moving away from Internet Explorer, but would you continue to use a car which forced you to drive in a certain way, had holes in the floor and cracks in the windscreen, and for which no spare parts were available?
      Continuing to use it just because it’s what came with the computer is the same as never replacing the tyres on a car.
      Moving from Internet Explorer to a new browser is fairly straightforward (see the links to the BrowseHappy website in the message near the top of the screen), however if you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself though, ask a friend or relative.