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By By Erik Wong, GoDaddy

When I was on the phones here at GoDaddy, one of the most common troubleshooting questions I asked my customers was, “What browser are you using?” While plenty of people knew what I meant, I’ve had my fair share of customers who responded with, “The Internet.”

Internet Explorer is still the most popular, but Google Chrome passed Mozilla Firefox to take 2nd place. Apple’s Safari has a distant 4th place. Source: Netmarketshare.com

Of course, most of you know “the Internet” isn’t a browser. A browser is the program you use to access the internet. Statistically speaking, most of you use Internet Explorer® or Safari®, as they are the built-in browsers on commercial computers. The more adventurous of you have probably downloaded Google Chrome™Mozilla Firefox®, or even Opera™ (you rebel, you).

That’s nice, but what difference does it make?

Your web browser impacts your online experience.

If you’re using an outdated browser, here are some unfortunate situations you might encounter:

  • You’ll be vulnerable to viruses, spyware, malware and other bad things.
  • It will take longer for Web pages to load.
  • Your browser might freeze or crash (usually when you’re almost done paying for plane tickets).
  • You won’t be able to see all or part of websites programmed with newer languages like HTML5 and CSS3. If you do, the site will probably look wonky.

The good news is, many times after asking this one question — “What browser are you using?” — we can make a quick recommendation that fixes your issue. So how about it? Is your browser out of date?

To find out, open up your browser, go to the Help menu, and select the About option. If you are using Chrome, you won’t have a help menu, but you will see a wrench icon. Click that and then select About Google Chrome. Then compare your browser version to the latest available version found here. If your browser is out of date, upgrade to the latest software. This will not only ensure the smoothest operation, but will also make your computer more secure by plugging known security holes.

So let’s say you do upgrade to the latest browser version and you are still having issues. What else can you do? The next great troubleshooting step is to clear your cache and cookies. Your browser will regularly store little pieces of information about the sites you visit to help them load faster down the road. But occasionally, the browser will cache some old or inaccurate data, and when it tries to match it up against what is actually on the site, it can cause errors. In my experience, clearing your cache and cookies resolves well over 50 percent of all browsing-related issues.

What if not even that works? You might still have a relatively minor problem on your hands. Narrow down your issue by using a different browser entirely. You might find that sites that load flawlessly on Firefox don’t work at all on Safari, or vice versa. Even though browsers were built to read the same kinds of data, they can sometimes do it in different ways. Much like how different kinds of car engines require different grades of oil despite the fact that they are all the same sort of machine, the same kinds of program can do very different things with your data.

It might be time for a browser tuneup.

About the Author:

Erik Wong is a small business/tech consultant for GoDaddy and a freelance pop-culture writer. He has written a regular column for a current events blog, and his commentary has been featured on realclearpolitics.com. Connect with Erik on Google+. The world’s largest domain name registrar and Web hosting provider, GoDaddy gives small business owners the tools to name their idea, build a beautiful online presence, attract customers and manage their business. To get more tips for your small business—including articles, videos and webinars—check out the GoDaddy Training Hub.