Thanks for all the advice on my browser problems. Reader Russell Hanneken located some advice here, on the thread "IE 5.2.3 won't open." I reproduce his advice, because it worked for me and might help other readers encountering similar problems
The standard advice seems to be to move these files to the trash:
~/Library/Caches/MS Internet Cache
(The tilde stands for your home folder.)
and then try loading IE again.
For those looking for a comprehensive guide to Mac browsers, here's a note from reader Sandy Smith:
What version of Safari do you have? (Safari->About Safari) Have you upgraded to OS 10.3? If not, I highly recommend it, as it comes with a later version than the publicly downloadable one (it depends on some technologies included in the OS). I'm using v. 1.1.1 and Safari handled MSNBC much better than even Camino. I've also had better Java experiences with it--be sure you run Software Update to make sure you have the latest Java releases.
Anyway, there are a plethora of browser options available on the Mac:
Camino (I highly recommend downloading the latest nightly): Mozilla-based browser with OS X-native widgets. Handles bookmarklets--I use one to submit pages to the W3C's validator tool while I'm testing them. MSNBC is broken all over the place.
Mozilla: Open source version of Netscape, same engine that powers Camino. Comes with all the bells and whistles of the old Netscape Communicator suite, so they created...
Firebird: Browser-only version of Mozilla
Omniweb: Used to be the Web browser on NeXT computers, the OS that OS X is descended from and that Tim Berners-Lee used to create the first Web server and client. Now based on Apple's Safari engine. Version 5.0 is supposed to be a fairly big feature-focused release with more OSX-like elements than even Safari. OmniGroup have a good history at producing that sort of thing.
iCab: ick, but it's there. Completely home-grown engine.
I haven't ever used Internet Explorer for Mac regularly as my default browser--some things worked, but so many didn't. I'm familiar with it though, because we officially support it at work.
My default browser is Camino, because it's still the fastest renderer of the bunch, though Safari is now neck-and-neck as of v.1.1.1. The lead developer who did most of the initial work on Camino (then called Chimera) was Dave Hyatt, who then went to work for Apple on Safari:
PS - in Camden, SC we were allowed to talk (quietly) in the halls between classes and at lunch/recess. This was the mid-Seventies.
One thing everyone seems to agree on is that the MSNBC redesign is a disaster. What were they thinking????