If you’re not using a modern browser, it’s time for a recall. (Part 1)

on June 2 | in Featured Story, Technology, User Experience, UX | by | with Comments Off on If you’re not using a modern browser, it’s time for a recall. (Part 1)

This is a four-part series focusing on internet browsers. Parts I, II and III focus on the importance of using the most up-to-date modern browsers; the benefits of doing so and the risks of using unsupported versions. The series summary focuses on how you can update your browser as easily as possible and includes some specific information to help you decide which browser to use. To check what browser you are currently using, head on over to whatbrowser.org. You can check your current version and upgrade to newer ones if necessary.

Part I

This four-part post isn’t about which browser is the best of the modern browsers — and there are currently more than 11 browser brands to choose from — arguments and tests abound as to which is the fastest and the safest; and, depending on who administered those tests, the results vary. No, this post isn’t about which browser you should be using; it’s about the older browser versions you shouldn’t be using.

What if I told you that on average, car owners upgrade their car every six years, up from every four years about a year ago, but that some web browsers still on the internet highway are more than 13 years old? So let me get this straight. We upgrade our vehicle and lay down a serious financial investment (not to mention a serious chunk of time in most cases) twice as often as we upgrade our free web browsers?

I know, I know, how can I compare a car to a web browser? Well, I agree that’s apples and oranges on the surface, but let’s look at the similarities as to how we choose our cars and how we should choose our browsers.

Of the top ten reasons people choose a car, the number one reason is reliability and durability. Interesting — should I consider reliability and durability when choosing a browser? Reasons two and three have to do with comfort and style. OK, I know you’re wondering what correlation I could possibly make here. Well, wait for it. Next in the list: Performance and advanced technology. These should be a no-brainer when it comes to your browser. And last, but certainly not least, of the top reasons: Safety. You betcha — your out-of-date browser is as big a safety (security) risk as that jalopy you keep around to teach the kids about oil changes, filters and belts.

Let’s take a closer, combined look at reliability and security; performance and advanced technology; as well as comfort and style.

Reliability and Security. This should be first on your list of reasons to stay up to date. I think we all know what this means when it comes to our cars (or bikes, or shoes), but what about our browsers? Reliability is the ability of a system or component to perform its required functions under stated conditions for a specified period of time. When our cars stop performing required, expected functions we get them fixed, at least until the cost of that repair exceeds the value of the vehicle or the availability of newer technology we desire simply isn’t available on older models.

An unfortunate problem with some browsers is that they can’t be fixed, but are updated. In cases of browsers like Chrome, Firefox and Safari where the updates occur automatically, sometimes upwards of 70 times a day, those updates are often transparent to the user. Usually the only time a user knows when those browsers are updated is when they launch a major update or simply require you to restart your browser so new updates can take effect.

When a major browser update is launched, users should seriously consider upgrading. According to a study Firefox conducted when they released an update to Version 3, the two main reasons users didn’t upgrade were that they were content with the current version or that they had no time to upgrade. If you have time to fix or upgrade your vehicle every four to six years, you have time to update your browser.

Security is the degree of resistance to, or protection from, harm. Just like vehicles that continue to improve safety while in your vehicle (ABS, rear view cameras, parking assist, advanced seat restraint systems, crumple zones, blind spot awareness notifications, etc.), modern web browsers strive to protect you against all sorts of attacks, prevent annoying pop-ups, disable visibility into your browsing habits, provide secure password keychains, etc. Assuming a browser you installed ten years ago offers you the same security as a modern browser would be like assuming that clunker you drove in high school would provide your kids the same security and safety as a five-star safety-rated car of today.

Would you ignore a recall on your brakes or child-safety restraints? Of course you wouldn’t. So why, then, do we not take browser recalls just as seriously? The problem exists in our inherent understanding of an update. For many of us, it’s a non-required, time-consuming, sometimes scary task that looks like just another case of big browsers battling for user-share. For others, it’s a corporate or enterprise issue that is tied to site-wide operating systems and/or other corporate infrastructure, which makes upgrading difficult, tedious and seemingly too time-consuming.

Whether a browser has hundreds of little automatic updates or a major update, the update is essentially a recall of the current browser. The reliability and security of the current browser version have been compromised. Every day, major browser, software and operating system providers as well as third-party developers are developing new technologies, standards of practice and security protocols to improve and protect users’ experiences and information. A browser update, or recall, is a response to new demands that are driven by us as users, as well as to new and evolving threats. By ignoring an update or choosing to be content with what you think is still working, you are essentially restricting yourself from newer, better experiences; advanced functionality and improved services from your site or application providers. Not to mention, you are leaving yourself vulnerable to existing and new threats and attacks on your information, while — and this is the kicker — sometimes losing any reasonable expectation of support or recourse from your browser provider. To be as clear as possible, while this quote comes from Google, all major providers offer similar language when they release browser updates: “Each time a new version is released, we’ll begin supporting the update and stop supporting the third-oldest version.” Interesting to note here: It’s not unheard of for Chrome to go through three versions in a year.

Stay tuned for Part II, in which we’ll take a look at performance and advanced technology.

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