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Why You Should Keep your Browser Up-to-Date
Keeping your web browser up to date may seem like an unnecessary chore, but even minor updates can make a considerable difference to all sorts of factors of your browser experience.
We've all been there: you launch your browser, eager to look up a definition, read your RSS feeds or check your webmail. Instead of your homepage, however, you're faced with a little window that says that an update is ready for you to download and install. It may be tempting to click "Skip this update" or "Remind me later" and get on with things, especially when you've recently had a whole slew of updates that don't seem to be doing anything.
However, updating your browser is very important, because all sorts of little fixes can be included in updates, many of which are behind-the-scenes.
The most important reason to keep your browser up-to-date is for your own safety and security, and that of your computer. There are many different sorts of security threats that you can be subject to when you're browsing the web: identity theft, phishing sites, viruses, trojans, spyware, adware, and other sorts of malware. Many browser updates will be issued to combat just these problems.
If you are using Internet Explorer, or are running any browser on a Windows operating system, these updates are particularly important. Windows and Internet Explorer have more vulnerabilities than many other operating systems and browsers, and are a particular target of hackers and virus writers because of their ubiquity, as well as because a lot of people just don't like Microsoft.
Another reason to keep your browser up-to-date is that you won't necessarily be getting the best browsing experience otherwise. You won't always know when you see a web page that isn't displaying properly – a well-designed site degrades gracefully so that you don't suffer unnecessarily with an old browser – but for the most up-to-date functions and features, you will need to update your browser regularly.
A related point is that you should also upgrade your plug-ins wherever possible. If you're a Firefox user, your browser will remind you to update your add-ons whenever new versions become available. Internet Explorer can be less helpful, so it's often up to you to make sure that everything is up-to-the-minute. Media plug-ins such as Flash and DivX will prompt you to upgrade when you come across their applets, so these are usually less of a problem.
Finally, keeping an up-to-date browser is the best way of encouraging improvement and innovation in web design. If no one takes up Mozilla or Opera on their offer of a new feature or additional support for particular elements, no one will want to use those features in their websites.
By Iain Ford