As such, I question whether it is the right thing to recommend to someone who is used to IE, and has not yet figured out how to upgrade to a recent version of Firefox.
Firefox is now a very well established browser, stable, and widely used by non-techies. Your old version should still work, but it will be more secure and stable if you get teh latest version (and keep it updated).
Chrome would probably do too. It is also now pretty well established and stable, although most of its regular users seem to be the kind of people who get passionate about shaving a few milliseconds off page rendering times.
It’s target is silly. It’s really just Firefox with a bunch of other programs built in. It’s only for techies in the sense that they are one of the few groups of people who still use the other programs, such as non-webbased email.
Still, I agree that SeaMonkey is not the way to go, if only because it’s non-mainstream. I’d just go with Firefox first. Uninstall Firefox 3, choosing to delete your old settings, and then go get Firefox 5, starting fresh (which will make sure you don’t run into problems upgrading). It will then offer to import your Favorites for you. Then go get a few addons, use Firefox for a week or so. Then, if you aren’t completely satisfied, go download Chrome (which should also import your Favorites or your Firefox Bookmarks), and use it for a week to compare. Then go with the one you like better: faster (Chrome) or more features (Firefox).
Oh, and the answers to your other two questions is that modern well-made web browsers do not cost money.
*Now that Mozilla has finally fixed addons to automatically update to the latest version of Firefox, there’s really no reason to stay with Firefox 3 unless you have a must-have addon that you know will never be Firefox 4+ compatible. And, seeing as you are coming from IE, I seriously doubt that’s you.
If you choose Firefox, go into the add-ons menu (it’s one of the options when you click the Firefox button in the top left corner) and find and install Adblock Plus. You will find the internet to be a much smoother, more pleasant place after. The add-on is free and takes about two seconds to install. After it installs, you restart Firefox and choose which ad blocking list you want to use (usually Easylist or another English one). After that you won’t see ads anymore.
That’s my setup since 4-5 years back and I did not have any troubles so far, when sometimes I have the chance of using somebody’s PC, I am always surprised how many of this users are putting up with the s… from all this websites. With AdblockPlus and NoScript, I have no advertisement and Non Script is easy to use and is a very good defence against malicious code.
I don’t think there are any browsers left that cost money, period. Unless you consider the “cost” of upgrading the OS to a version that supports the browser. (That is, upgrading to Windows 7 to get IE9 or upgrading OS X to get a newer Safari version.)
Browsers are funded (indirectly) by internet advertising. The default search provider for the browser gives the maker kickbacks, which are used to fund development. Mozilla, makers of Firefox, are a non-profit corporation. Chrome is obviously funded by Google, and Safari and Internet Explorer are considered operating system components by Apple and Microsoft, respectively. (IE also brings in the dough, especially versions that default to MSN as the homepage. I dunno about Safari.)
BTW, if you do install AdBlock Plus, be sure to be kind to useful websites that are advertiser-funded. For example, this one.
The OP is a paid member, so he shouldn’t see ads even without ad blocking software. As for funding, the Mozilla foundation makes a lot of money from the referrals to Google, due to the Google search window in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. I think they get something in the tens of millions from Google.
Paying for membership is a great way to “be nice” to a site that is nominally ad-supported. What I object to is people who just turn on AdBlock Plus for every single site, and never give back to the site owners.
But anyway, I’m not you conscience, do what you think is right.