Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
Like many programs, IE is a bit of a moving target. I'll review where it is today, what version I recommend that you run, and what to do in case of problems.
Leo, I understand that Microsoft will be aggressively pushing IE8 and IE9 installation. I have been reading Ask Leo! for years, and when IE8 was first released, I recall questions like, How do I remove IE8? Users were, apparently, having many problems with IE8, so I have avoided it all this time. At the time, you recommended that readers use caution and perhaps not install IE8 unless necessary. Would you please revisit the question of upgrading to IE8 and/or IE9 in view of the fact that Microsoft is trying to get everyone off IE6 and IE7?
Can those of us with Windows XP skip the IE8 upgrade and go straight to IE9, and avoid the problems with IE8? I have XP with IE7. I have been having issues with a few websites not viewing properly, especially Facebook. They now have a permanent banner on my FB home page telling me to upgrade to IE8 or switch to Chrome.
Much like their push to kill Outlook Express, Internet Explorer 6 and of late Internet Explorer 7 have apparently come on Microsoft's radar for active abandonment.
Microsoft would like to see IE6 and IE7 disappear for a variety of reasons.
And, to be honest, so should you.
My rule of thumb with Internet Explorer versions is actually pretty simple.
Don't upgrade right away.
But do upgrade eventually.
As you've seen from the older articles that you reference, each new version of IE seems to go through sort of a slightly painful birth. For a small percentage of early adopters - and I do have to stress that it really is a small percentage - each new version of IE seems to cause problems.
So ... wait it out.
Wait for a month or two until any major problems have been identified and hopefully resolved. And then take the plunge.
IE8 is the last version of Internet Explorer that will run under Windows XP. IE9 requires Windows Vista or better.
At this point in time, there's no reason not to upgrade to IE8 on Windows XP. It's actually more stable, more secure, and in some cases, even faster than IE7. It's most definitely more secure than IE6, which should most definitely be avoided.
IE9 has been out long enough now that it pretty well had the worst issues shaken out of it. In general, I don't see a reason to avoid it.
In fact, IE9 has several security and speed enhancements that actually make it preferable to IE8.
Whenever I recommend IE, or specifically IE9, I definitely get negative feedback (occasionally with profanities included) from a few people.
Let me be clear: Internet Explorer works and works well for the vast majority of people.
However, the vast majority is not everyone.
And many of the IE problems that folks might encounter aren't even due to IE itself.
If you are having problems with Internet Explorer, these three tips will very often clear things right up:
Scan for malware with updated tools and make sure that your scan is clean. IE is a frequent target for malware which can easily cause IE to misbehave, run slowly, or crash.
Disable add-ons in IE. Many programs attempt to add features to Internet Explorer by using add-ons. Unfortunately, add-ons can occasionally cause problems, which often manifest as if Internet Explorer were itself having the problem.
Keep IE up-to-date. IE might be one of Microsoft's most important programs, and they are motivated to fix critical security problems as soon as they can. While it might not be soon enough for some, ignoring the fixes that they provide is a quick path to both malware infections as well as other issues.
If you're still of a mind to avoid IE...
In reality, the "browser wars" are pretty much at a dead heat. In my opinion, you can't really go too far wrong with any of the top three major players:
Each has its strengths and weaknesses, each has its (raving) fans and detractors.
Each of them works well for a large number of users.
If IE's not your cup of tea for some reason, give one of the alternatives a try.