Unlike MacOS, Windows or Chrome OS, where your choices are mutually exclusive, switching between web browsers is not that difficult. You can download any of the current main browsers at the same time it takes to read this paragraph. But which browser is the best? Which is the safest and most private?
To help you make the decision, we grabbed the latest browsers in the world and brought them to the point. Even if some of them may need a complete overhaul, these options are your best chance for a great online experience.
The best web browsers at a glance
The best web browser: Google Chrome
Chrome is everywhere – and for good reason. With robust functionality, full Google Account integration, a thriving expansion ecosystem, and a reliable suite of mobile apps, it's easy to see why Chrome is the gold standard for web browsers. Chrome even blocks some ads that don't meet recognized industry standards.
Chrome offers some of the best mobile integrations available. With a mobile app available on all major platforms, it's easy to keep your data in sync, making browsing between multiple devices a breeze. Sign in to your Google Account on one device and all of your Chrome bookmarks, saved data, and settings will appear instantly. Even your active extensions stay in sync across devices. This is a standard feature you can find on other platforms, but Chrome's integration is second to none.
Google released Chrome 69 in 2018 to celebrate the browser's 10th birthday with a significant visual redesign and some nifty new features. The user interface has been rounded and smoothed, with all previously sharper edges and hard angles being lost for a smoother and more attractive aesthetic. Tabs are easier to identify thanks to more visible favorites, which makes them perfect for those who normally keep a large number of tabs open. Please note that from Chrome 71 you can no longer return to the old user interface.
In addition, Chrome’s Password Manager now automatically generates and recommends secure passwords when a user creates a new account on a website. The search bar or omnibox provides "extensive results" that include useful answers to questions as you type, calculator results, sport event results, and more.
Finally, favorites are more accessible and can be managed on the "New Tab" page. Other newer updates include dark mode for Windows and MacOS, better customization of the new tab, and tab hover cards.
What is the bottom line? Chrome is fast, free, lightweight, and looks even better. With a thriving expansion ecosystem, it's as extensive or reduced as you want it to be. Everything is right where it should be, data protection and security controls are written in simple English, and the browser is simply out of your way.
If you're not sure which browser to use, install Chrome now.
The best Chrome alternative: Mozilla Firefox
Firefox arrives in less than a second – a very short second. Mozilla is taking real steps to make its browser a truly modern way to surf from site to site thanks to efforts such as upgrading to Firefox Quantum and the virtual reality alternative Firefox Reality. It wasn't that long ago that Mozilla rebuilt the familiar interface of the old standby browser to offer a cleaner and more modern view of what a web browser should be, and even introduced a password-free browsing experience.
However, the changes weren't just up close: impressive engineering is being carried out behind the scenes. Firefox Quantum is designed to use multi-core processors the way the competition simply doesn't. It won't make a big difference in your daily surfing, but Mozilla Corporation hopes this design will give it an edge for the future. Firefox Quantum is now able to take advantage of ever faster processors that are created year after year.
Recent updates include better privacy protection with anti-tracker support, improved password synchronization between devices, improved readability, and built-in warnings of violations.
With these changes, it's still the same Firefox that we all know and love. It is a powerful browser with an extensive catalog of extensions and adjustments to the user interface. The new Firefox mobile app has also been treated with Quantum, making it faster and more efficient than ever. If you download the Firefox mobile app, you can exchange bookmarks between devices. However, you need to sign up for a separate Firefox account. Unfortunately, managing settings across platforms isn't as seamless as Chrome.
Despite some major overhauls, Firefox is a comfortable, familiar standby mode. There is also a small side effect. Since Chrome has been around for a long time, some older web apps, such as those you might see at your university or work, work better in Firefox than in Chrome. Because of this, it never hurts to keep it close. The latest version, Firefox 76, protects you better than ever from websites that want to track your browsing activity.
As the primary browser, Firefox is more privacy-oriented than Chrome and comparatively fast, but its range of functions is not quite as extensive elsewhere.
The most innovative web browser: Opera
Opera is also a venerable browser and a popular alternative. It shares much of Chrome's DNA. Both browsers are based on Google's open source Chromium engine and therefore offer a very similar user experience. Both have a hybrid URL / search bar and are relatively light and fast.
The differences occur when you look at Opera’s built-in features. When Chrome relies on an extension ecosystem to provide features that users may want, Opera has a few more features built right into the browser. In addition, a predictive website loading feature has been introduced, and an instant search feature isolates search results in a separate window, while the current page takes a back seat, making it easier for users to focus on research.
Starting with Opera 55, you can install extensions from the Opera Addons Store like Chrome. Similar to the Google browser, you will find useful tools such as Giphy, Amazon Assitant, Avast Online Security, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and more. If you care about the variety of Chrome’s extensions, Opera becomes an interesting alternative. In version 68, Opera may be one of the best browsers for quickly navigating web pages.
Opera also has a built-in "stash" for storing pages for later reading. You don't need to sign up for a Pocket or Evernote account to save a page for later reading. Opera also has a speed dial menu that stores all the most visited pages in one place. Chrome does this too, but only on an empty new tab. Finally, Opera has a built-in unlimited VPN service that makes the option more secure.
The biggest changes have been made with Opera 60 and Reborn 3, a complete browser design overhaul that brought new borderless design, Web 3 support, and a crypto wallet to help users prepare for blockchain-based websites. If you're looking for a feature-rich browser that offers serious privacy and security, Opera is a good choice.
You can see that we are in the field of hair splitting. That's why it's important to remember that your choice of browser more than any other service or app you use every day depends entirely on your personal preferences – which feels the most right to you. Opera has a unique appearance and combines some of the best features of Firefox and Chrome.
The web browser with the greatest potential: Microsoft Edge
Microsoft has developed an integrated browser for Windows 10 called Edge that uses an internal browsing engine and updates along with the operating system. This project is likely to be a failure as Edge, despite functioning as a standard Windows 10 web browser, cannot gain a significant market share.
In response, Microsoft Edge rewrote Chromium using the open source web browser engine, took the lead from Google, and created something of its own. The new version was launched on February 5, 2020 and replaces the legacy version pre-installed in Windows 10. Currently you need to download and install this browser instead of upgrading via Windows Update.
At first glance, Microsoft Edge looks and feels like Chrome. You'll be asked to import Chrome's Bookmarks toolbar and other settings. This is great if you previously hated Edge and want to give Microsoft's browser another chance. Chrome extensions are also supported, although the browser takes you to the Microsoft Store to get add-ons. You need to manually load the Chrome Web Store to install anything that isn't listed in the Microsoft repository.
The big news here is performance. Microsoft has optimized the Chromium-based Edge for Windows 10. As a quick experiment, we loaded six identical pages / tabs in Chrome and Edge. A look at Task Manager showed that Chrome consumes 1.4 GB of memory, while Microsoft Edge uses only 665 MB. This is extremely good news for PCs with small amounts of memory.
Microsoft Edge also offers simpler privacy settings. In Chrome, you only have a list of buttons for surfing safely, tracking requirements, preloading pages, and more. Microsoft Edge offers a graphically more user-friendly interface with three security levels: Basic, Balanced and Strict. If Balanced is the default, many websites will ask you to disable your pop-up blocker, even though one has not been installed manually.
At this point, the new Microsoft Edge is promising, but is not gaining any real ground that serves as a separate download. Microsoft announced in January that this version would be introduced in a future update. From May 2020, this version of Edge was retained as an optional download.
While the previous browsers meet the needs of most users, there are other alternatives for those looking for something different.
If you only use MacOS, Safari is already your default choice. It may not be the fastest browser available – Chrome is significantly faster – but it is fast enough so that your browser doesn't feel sluggish. It's built into MacOS, so you feel at home and are likely to get longer battery life thanks to Apple's internal optimizations for MacOS and the underlying hardware.
Safari also places great emphasis on privacy and security. If you want to minimize how you're being followed and whether Big Brother is looking over your shoulder, Safari is a good choice. If you're also using an iPhone and / or an iPad, using Safari on your Mac will allow the most seamless transition between platforms.
Safari is not offered outside of the Apple ecosystem.
Vivaldi is really unique. No two Vivaldi users have the same setup. When you run it for the first time, you will be guided through a setup process in which your browser is arranged as it makes sense for you. You choose where your tabs and address bars go and whether browser tabs should appear at the top of the page or in a separate page area. This is a browser that has been redesigned from the ground up to offer a unique user experience. He is largely successful. Vivaldi 2.0 has expanded the customization functions and made access easier.
This browser is characterized by an excellent customization. In addition to the user interface options mentioned above, you can choose from a variety of tasteful themes that won't feel outdated or inappropriate on a modern PC. It also has some outstanding privacy enhancement features, such as working with DuckDuckGo to make the search tool the default option without tracking in privacy mode.
Finally, the latest version added more powerful tab management, enhancements like web panels that make web browsing smarter, and (as mentioned earlier) even more powerful customization options. Version 3 introduced an integrated ad blocker, an integrated tracker blocker, a clock in the status bar and much more.
One of the most unusual browsers is Brave – or perhaps Brave's strangest business model. By default, Brave blocks all ads on all websites, making it the fastest browser ever. Ads make up a large part of how many websites make money – block these ads and suddenly the most important web financial tool is removed.
This is where the Brave Rewards program comes in. Users receive Basic Attention Tokens (BATs) when they display alternative ads that Brave places in the browser stream. Users can share some of their tokens with publishers. The news site Cheddar and Dow Jones Media Group have already signed up for this new platform, but Brave hopes that even more publishers will jump on board and offer premium content in exchange for BAT.
What do users get from it? Simply put, if you don't wait for ads to download along with website content, your web experience will feel much faster. Brave does not track users and also makes it a private browser.
The Tor browser is a version of Firefox that serves a very specific purpose: A simple entry point for Tor (The Onion Router).
Tor is software that combines with an open network to make you invisible by routing your traffic across multiple anonymous servers. Although it's not foolproof, it is very difficult for someone to identify you if you are properly configured and use something like the Tor browser to surf the Internet – especially when combined with a VPN.
There are many legitimate uses for the Tor browser and network, e.g. B. People living in countries with repressive governments, as well as journalists and activists. The dark web is also one of the goals for people using Tor. This includes many shameful and illegal websites.
If you want to remain completely anonymous while surfing the Internet, the Tor browser and network are definitely right for you.
Note that we don't include Internet Explorer and Safari in our main comparison.
Microsoft's outdated browser has seen some improvements over the years, but is no longer the default browser on Windows 10. It doesn't offer much more than the bare minimum. It only exists today because some companies still need it for legacy applications.
Apple's Safari web browser continues to be used by Apple device owners. However, it is not available on Windows, Android, or Chrome OS, so we removed it from our primary list.
Most browsers are compatible with web standards and process performance relatively easily. An occasional user is unlikely to notice any difference in rendering speed between today's modern browsers, as all six are much faster and leaner than a few years ago.
We ran the following benchmarks on a desktop with an Intel Core i7-4770K processor, 16 GB RAM and a 256 GB SSD. All browsers were new installations of the latest production versions from early 2019 and all were run with their standard settings.
We switched to the latest Jetstream 2 benchmark, which focuses on modern web applications, and Edge has maintained its top position. However, there is a twist: the old Edge version wouldn't complete the test, so the winner is the Chromium version. Opera is in second place and Chrome is close behind, with Firefox in last place with a significantly lower score.
Mozilla's octopus benchmark has Firefox in a strong first place, Edge Chromium in second and Chrome in third place. Opera comes fourth and the old Edge ends last.
Interestingly, Chrome and Edge Chromium fell far behind in the HTML5 conformance test. Opera comes first and Firefox second.
Finally, we also tested how much RAM each browser uses, both with no tabs open and with ten tabs open that access the same popular websites. We made sure no extensions were running on any browser, and we set up every browser before we looked at memory usage. For the test with ten tabs open, we calculated the average memory usage when all tabs were opened for the first time, and then five minutes later to account for any fluctuations.
It's not a scientific test, but it should be solid enough to give an idea of which browsers are the most efficient and least efficient in terms of RAM usage. We found that Opera uses the least RAM when it first opens, while Firefox uses the least RAM for all ten loaded tabs. Chrome was much less efficient with multiple tabs open, while Edge Chromium performed solidly in both cases.
Security and privacy
The most valuable tool for safe surfing is user discretion, especially when you consider that every web browser has encountered security breaches in the past. In particular, Internet Explorer and Chrome's reputation for protecting users' security and privacy information is at best incomplete.
Chrome, Safari, Vivaldi, Opera and Firefox rely on Google's Safe Browsing API to detect potentially dangerous websites. Thanks to constant updates, Mozilla, Chrome and Opera constantly improve security.
All browsers also offer a private session option. Private sessions prevent the storage of history, temporary internet files and cookies. Browser support for Do Not Track remains unreliable.
Mozilla has taken some steps in recent years to differentiate itself from the others, with an emphasis on privacy. In 2018, a Facebook container was even introduced to make it difficult for the social network to collect user information.