Why you need not use IEFirst things first: this is not an anti-Microsoft tirade. Notice that I don't say you *shouldn't* use IE. There are no moral arguments being made here. This is simply and plainly, a recommendation for switching to alternatives, or more specifically, to spread the word about Mozilla's Firefox browser.
This isn't about displaying tech savviness. I know several people in the software profession who do not use Firefox. I find that on most occasions this is because of plain ignorance. Which is fine. For I'm willing to bet that most people would switch to Firefox from MS Internet Explorer if they knew what was different. So this is a small effort to acquaint people with Firefox and giving you the knowledge to make a choice.
The Help of Firefox has a very clever little page listing the differences (of which many are improvements really) between Firefox & IE. Here are some of them, to which I have added other points:
* Tabbed Browsing: Instead of opening a separate browser window for each site you want to visit, you can open multiple sites within the same window and tab between them. This is the one major difference for most users.
* Pop-up Window Controls: Lets you allow or suppress both popup and popunder windows.. Go back to plain IE after using this for a while and feel the difference.
* Download Manager: Manages all your downloading for you.
* Extensions: Once you are into Firefox full-time, you can choose different extensions (that people contribute) that do a variety of little things. One such is Adblock - something you can so train as to do away with a variety of java/shockwave/image ads. My Rediff or Cricinfo views are now less cluttered as a result. Another popular extension is the ability to add searches for a variety of sites, such as Google | IMDB | Wikipedia etc.
* Searching: A search textbox appears as part of the browser - you don't have to get a Google toolbar (whose privacy issues can be a little discomforting)
* Clean & light: The interface is neat and simple, and you can make it more complicated only if you wish. It also seems "light" (an intangible quality that is somewhat akin to a similar property of one's stomach). It also seems faster
* Easy to install
* Customizable: i.e. make it behave the way you want to. Themes are often available that change the appearance of the browser
* Relatively secure: Considering that miscreants prefer going after IE vulnerabilities (of which a lot has been said in the past). Is open source (which can be a double-edged sword), so if you believe in that philosophy, even more reason.
* Goodies: Hidden here and there (ok, I added this to make a list of 10 :-)). But it does provide a way to get support for RSS Feeds and more. And you have multi-platform versions. And if you have Firefox, type "about:mozilla" in your location bar and hit enter.
Now even the most ardent proponent of IE would not be able to wave away most of these improvements. You can get add-on *ware that provide these additional features on top of IE, but with Firefox, you get them all together. Plus why use a browser that steadfastly refuses to provide these cool features de rigeur ? In my opinion, the only reason most people use IE is because it comes bundled with their copy of Windows. Awareness of alternatives would, I think, definitely lead to users switching over. Perhaps you could choose Opera, but it has ads in its free version.
There is no doubt that most Windows based users still use IE - stats from websites (look at this blog's stats link if you want a quick comparison) clearly show that. But provided access & information, there is no reason why people wouldn't switch. If you still don't want to move over, you might as well turn up at Wimbledon today in long sleeved shirts and trousers with a wooden racket. Or opt for a hand-cranked Ford only because it came free with the house, when you could be driving the latest SUV which is also free. Now sadly, several web content providers put out stuff that is IE-friendly (which in many cases is inimical to other browsers). In that case, it's not really your fault. Even software organisations show such myopia in their in-house software tools, which really is unfortunate. But this is no longer the prevalent landscape (or so one would like to think).
This reminds me of the debates between Infinite Rebounds & Direct-and-Passing: almost anyone who has experienced the former will prefer it over the antiquated version, for the disadvantages far outweigh the advantages. Still, several people still stick to D&P in some sort of extremist zeal, which I find puzzling. I'm afraid I'm digressing there, but unless someone can prove the efficacy of the D&P over IR, and show that IE is better than Firefox, I will remain opponents of both.
It comes down to inertia in the end. Break it. Switch to Firefox. Give it a try.