February 5th, 2014

4 Common Technical Problems Your Browser May Encounter on Commercial Websites

The configuration of your web browser could cause potential problems during your genealogical search, especially on commercial sites. It is not possible for me to cover every possible situation you may encounter in this Blog post, but I can point out some of the most common problems a browser’s settings may cause, especially for beginners. If you don’t know what a browser is, it is simply the program you use to surf the net, i.e. Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Netscape etc.

Problem #1 – Cookies

Websites store bits of information about your likes and interests on your hard disk so that they can direct you to where they think you want to go on their website. Though marketed as a convenience to you in order to save you time, cookies are sales tools used by companies to get you to the pages where you’re most likely to buy something as soon as possible. But, they are a part of internet life, and we can’t avoid them. Ever wonder how your user name is already filled in when visiting your favourite website; cookies! Some browsers can be configured to reject cookies, which can make commercial and other pay-to-view sites unusable. To enable cookies in your browser, go to Tools, then Options, then Privacy, and there you should see a box to check with enable cookies or something similar, depending on which browser you use.

Problem #2 – Java Script

The main concern of JavaScript to the average internet user is that it allows a web page to validate whatever a user enters into an online form. If you ever wondered how a web page knows you’ve left a field blank when you’ve filled in an online form, it’s through JavaScript. Most sites provide instruction on how to enable JavaScript in your browser, as your browser itself should. In Mozilla Firefox for example, you click on Tools in your browsers toolbar, then Options, and then Content, which will give you an enable JavaScript option.

Problem #3 – Plug-ins

Plug-ins are small utility programs for your browser to use in displaying content on a website when its own built in programs don’t allow it. Most are fairly standard, such as: Flash, Shockwave, Adobe etc. Some websites however, have their own plug-ins for viewing some material. You’ll need to download the program from that website before you can view the data. Most are harmless and are provided for your convenience, enhanced pleasure and ease of usage while on their website.

Problem #4 – Compatibility

Some genealogical websites have been around since the birth of the internet, and consequently may not be compatible with the latest version of some browsers. Other web designers insist on developing sites compatible with only one particular browser, which you may have to download to browse that site or access any of its information. The main browsers can all be downloaded for free, so there’s no reason for not having the latest version of them all, unless you have an old computer operating system or limited memory space.

If you experience problems with online data sources that are not fixed by the things mentioned here, most provide an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section, and commercial sites usually have a Help page and accompanying customer support contact information such as their email address and phone number.