Microsoft has launched its new Internet Explorer 9 browser with a survey revealing fresh insights into the Web surfing habits of consumers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

IE9 is Microsoft’s most-downloaded browser beta of all time, with more than 40-million downloads. Already more than 250 top sites from around the globe – including several from South Africa – are taking advantage of the capabilities in IE9 to deliver differentiated experiences to their customers.
The survey found that consumers are not generally happy with the state of the web. A staggering 92% of respondents believe that today’s web sites could do better, while 65% view the internet as a mixed bag in terms of the quality of web sites.
This was the starting point for Internet Explorer 9, says Nazeer Suliman, consumer and online lead at Microsoft South Africa: to give people a web experience that feels the same as their favourite computer programs.
“What people care about on the Web is their sites, not their browser. That’s why Internet Explorer 9 is about making those sites shine. The browser is the theatre and the sites people visit are the play, and that is what Internet Explorer 9 makes better — your favourite sites,” says Suliman.
According to the research, more than two-thirds (69%) of consumers cite security and viruses as their biggest concern when surfing online, followed by speed, ease of use and privacy. Surprisingly, however, the poll found an alarming amount of reckless behaviour among consumers that is putting their safety at risk, with one in three (32%) admitting to downloading files they know are suspicious-looking. South Africans (21%) are most unlikely to download an unsafe item followed by Dutch (13%).
A full 60% of respondents worry about someone seeing the sites they’re visiting online, making privacy a major concern. Intriguingly, consumers in general were most concerned about people outside of their homes accessing their online history, with 68% citing strangers as the top concern, followed by 42% who said search engines.
That doesn’t mean there are no secrets between loved ones. Men are the more covert of the sexes, with 36% of men indicating concern about their partners seeing all their online activities, compared with just 25% of women. In terms of the sites men would like to keep under wraps, online banking (62%) led, followed closely by porn sites (60%). One in five (20%) men fear their gambling habits being exposed.
Although you might think women are more inclined to go on secret online shopping sprees, you may want to reconsider, as 36% of men are keen to keep their online shopping discreet, compared with just 32% of women. Meanwhile, 34%of women are concerned about someone seeing the porn sites they have visited.
“Our poll found that more than a quarter of web users spend more time choosing which toilet paper brand to buy than the internet browser they use, suggesting that many people don’t appreciate the huge impact their browser choice has on internet safety and their online experience,” says Suliman.
"For example, your browser can play a huge role in helping you maintain your privacy while online. Internet Explorer 9 not only offers InPrivate Browsing to prevent other users of your computer from seeing where you have visited, but it also includes an opt-out feature that lets you stop companies from tracking your online behaviours.”
Poll findings underscored the overall importance of speed; 24% of respondents indicated that they are not willing to wait for anything when surfing the web.
Parents would be wise to keep a close eye on what their kids are doing online, since 14- to 17-year-olds were found to be the most reckless when browsing – and 57% put themselves at risk of cyber attacks by downloading files they knew were suspicious-looking.
“It’s surprising that even though people say security is so important, many of them admit to downloading files they’re not sure are safe — especially teens, who you might think are more internet-savvy,” says Suliman.
“It’s a huge risk, as you put your personal information in jeopardy and risk your computer, as well as all of its contents. We designed Internet Explorer 9 with features to help consumers make smarter choices about which downloads are safe and to help block cyber threats.”
The survey was conducted via Microsoft MSN in 19 EMEA markets, including Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark, Spain, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Saudi, South Africa, Sweden, Turkey and UK. There were 11 551 respondents across all markets.