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Mailbag: Browser Security, Microsoft Layoffs

Readers are in disagreement over which browser makes for safer surfing -- Firefox or Internet Explorer:

I wasn't sure whether or not to chuckle or just shake my head at some of the reasons people prefer IE. I acknowledge that IE has some advantages, such as the remote install to large numbers of workstations, but that is just a reminder that no one product is the best at absolutely everything. Given the overall pros and cons, however, I much prefer Firefox.

I have a number of friends and family who have all been hit lately by various viruses and worms that came in through the browser, and (you guessed it) all are using IE. None of my Firefox-using friends and family were affected. Now, I am not certain if this is because Firefox is inherently more secure than IE, or if it is because people who use Firefox are more informed to begin with and thus take more steps to secure their PC. Aside from that, Firefox has a lot more features and is much more configurable, but the the deal-maker for me is the multi-platform support. IE is Windows-only, whereas Firefox works on all our platforms (including various Linuxes and Mac). Using a browser that only works on half of our systems doesn't make sense to me.

I don't agree that Firefox is more secure than IE. As the network admin of a small firm with about 30 client PCs, I can open the WSUS console and immediately verify that IE is fully patched on every user's PC. I have no clue of the status of the Firefox installs on those same machines unless I visit each one and check it manually. I know there are enterprise products that serve this purpose for Firefox, but for businesses whose IT budgets don't support such tools, IE is much more likely to be patched, making it the more secure option.

I would rather browse in Firefox than IE 7 in almost every instance, but I'd much rather support IE. I hope IE 8 is improved enough that I can get Firefox off the client PCs permanently, or at least until they develop a no-cost way to manage it.

And Gerry wonders about the motivation behind Microsoft's decision to pink-slip 5,000 of its workers:

OK, I just don't get it. We have a new, popular president asking our nation to work together to get through this economic mess we're in, asking everyone to help each other. Then we have an immensely profitable U.S. company raking in $4.1 BILLION in the last quarter and putting 5,000 people out of work!

What is wrong with this picture? Am I the only one seeing a huge disconnect here? Why isn't the press beating up Microsoft for showing 5,000 people the door in tough economic times when it isn't anywhere close to bankruptcy? The fact that greed drives Microsoft so relentlessly and causes it to have no thought for the welfare of our economy or for human beings ought to be a huge turn-off to Americans. Will the message of our new president continue to fall on deaf ears, or will people and corporations rise up and start showing some compassion?

Check back in on Wednesday for more of your letters. In the meantime, share your own thoughts with us by writing a comment below or sending an e-mail to [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on February 02, 2009