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Web browsers - they're for browsing the Web

Hi all, this month we're going to talk about web browsers, what they're good for, and which ones that aren't so good. If you want to go on the internet, you need a program to do it, and that program is called a 'web browser'. It's the thing people mean when they say "I just go to google", except what they're doing is clicking on a link to a web browser, and then going to the Google website. Okay. So you need a web browser to go on the internet- what's next? And how many web browsers are there? As it turns out, a lot.

But chances are you've only heard of the big Three: Firefox, Chrome and Edge. Edge is made by Microsoft but it's based on Chrome, which is made by Google. They're basically the same browser under the hood, but one is spying on you for Microsoft, and the other one is spying on you for Google. Firefox is made by Mozilla, a not-for-profit organisation, and it doesn't spy on you. There's a few other ones like Opera, Brave and Tor, but they're not well-known and so are beyond the scope of this article.

Overall I would recommend Firefox, because it doesn't spy on you. But from a purely functional point of view, I have to say Chrome causes the least fuss - it does it's job and gets out of your way. Firefox is great, but it's picked up a bad habit of telling you about all the cool things they're doing, which is fine for more advanced users, but can be a bit confusing for novices. From a usability point of view, Edge is OK but slightly more annoying to use than Chrome.

All three of them support 'addons' or 'extensions', which change or add to the functionality of your browser. Probably the most common extensions are ad-blockers, which remove ads from websites. Ublock origin is my favourite of these and is available on all three browsers. Occasionally addons can cause issues, so be judicious in your use of them.

Web browsers also do the onerous job of remembering your website passwords for you; a feature as fraught with problems as it is with ease. Usually people forget that they have passwords, because the web browser just 'puts it in' for them - meaning people often fail to write them down, and then lose them. Also, anyone who steals your computer can use certain tools to get those passwords out of your browser and gain access to your website accounts. Luckily, criminals are not typically smart enough to do that.

So that's web browsers, the programs you use to browse the web ie. the little colourful swirly logo in your taskbar. Hopefully that was useful.

- Matt Bentley, computer expert at Bentley Home PC Support.
Email info@homepcsupport.co.nz or phone 0211348576.

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