We all have our preferred browser. Maybe you did the research to find the best option for you, or you stick with the one that came pre-installed on your computer.
Well, if you haven’t put much thought into which one you use to surf the web, now is the time. Spam and phishing attempts are hitting astronomical rates, and your browser can go a long way in keeping you safe from clever cybercriminals.
So, which one should you choose? We’re comparing the top options head-to-head to see which one has the best combination of security, convenience and design. Read on to see which browser reigns supreme.
The popular choice: Google Chrome
Google Chrome continues to dominate the world of browsers. As of March 2020, Chrome held a dominating 63.77% of market share, according to Statista. The next biggest browser, Safari, comes in at 18.38%.
Chrome is a safe, speedy browser compatible with nearly every website on the internet — and it delivers when it comes to security.
Phishing protection is enabled by default and you’ll be informed automatically if a password saved in the browser is used elsewhere — part of a built-in feature called “Password Checkup.”
Chrome ranks high on the convenience factor, too. You can search Google right from the address bar and sign in to Chrome across your devices to get access to your tabs and search history.
And if you use Gmail, opening documents and sharing files via email is fast and easy. You won’t need to sign in, after all.
Chrome also has extensions for just about anything — calculators, document signing, translation and coupon-hunting, just to name a few. Tap or click to see how the Honey extension can help you find the best coupons from the web.
So, what’s the catch? Chrome is a notorious resource hog, and it can drastically slow down your computer if you have too many tabs open. Tap or click here to see how Chrome slows down your PC.
And the perks of having your Google account connected to your browser can quickly turn into a privacy nightmare. If you’re uncomfortable with your browser knowing your searching and spending behaviors, Chrome may not be the best choice for you.
The choice for safety: Mozilla Firefox
Chrome has captured a large segment of Firefox’s former user base, but that doesn’t mean the browser is bad. In fact, Mozilla is still greatly appreciated by fans and security researchers for its dedication to user privacy.
In recent updates, Firefox started automatically blocking third-party cookies by default. The browser also has a feature that will automatically notify you if you visit a website that’s been hit by a data breach.
If you hate those ads that follow you around the internet, enable Firefox’s Private Browsing mode. It blocks website tracking, which limits the info advertisers have on you.
Compared to Chrome, Firefox is no slouch. The browser uses less CPU than Chrome on average and is capable of loading some websites faster. Firefox has its own library of extensions, too.
But not all users like Firefox’s design and interface, which isn’t as streamlined as Chrome. Still, if you’re looking for speed and safety, Firefox is one of the best options out there.
The default choices: Apple Safari and Microsoft Edge
We say “default” because both of these browsers come bundled with new computers. This saves you the trouble of having to download anything extra, and they’re ready to use right out of the box.
Safari is Apple’s baby, and it was built to take advantage of the macOS operating system for speed and efficiency. Edge, on the other hand, fills a similar role in the PC space — and doesn’t eat up all your computer’s resources.
Safari is the second most used browser, as it’s the default for Apple users. Edge holds just 2.11% of the market. Neither one has glaring drawbacks, but they tend to lack some of the security features and extensions found in browsers like Firefox and Chrome.
But performance-wise, both Edge and Safari trounce their competition. When it comes to startup time and memory use, both are extremely lightweight on your system’s resources — while Chrome can sometimes account for more than 50% of CPU usage at any given time.
Safari, on the other hand, can run as low as 5 to 10% CPU usage with a moderate amount of tabs open. Edge fares even better, running as low as 3 to 5% CPU usage.
How are they so efficient? Both are optimized to work with your computer just like any of the default software.
There isn’t anything inherently wrong with sticking to your pre-installed browser, but if you find the more basic features of Safari and Edge to be a bit lacking, you may want to consider an alternative.
Honorable mention: Tor Browser
Tor Browser is one of the best anonymous web browsers available. It’s so reliable, in fact, that people living under repressive governments have used it to break through censorship.
Case in point, you can install the browser on a flash drive and boot it up on any public computer for safe, private browsing.
Tor Browser runs on a modified version of the Firefox platform, so you’ll find many of the features that make Firefox great. Unfortunately, it lacks Firefox’s archive of extensions and extras.
In spite of this, Tor Browser absolutely delivers in terms of privacy. Tor works by routing your internet traffic through anonymous servers in different parts of the world, which makes it difficult for ad trackers, search engines and even governments to track who you are and what you’re doing.
On the flip side, this connection method can cause some webpages and filetypes to not load properly. This isn’t a consistent issue, and it depends on the particular servers your connection is routing through. By default, this is a randomized process.
Still, if you’re looking for the safest, most private way to browse the net, Tor might be your go-to. Just don’t expect every website out there to play nice with your browser.
How about mobile browsers?
Mobile browsers typically offer condensed versions of the features you’ll find in desktop editions.
But a critical feature that may impact your choice is “shared tabs,” which lets you access the tabs you have open on your desktop when you’re away. You can browse the web on your computer, close it down and pick up right where you left off on your mobile browser.
The tabs you’ve opened will be saved on a separate page — and Safari, Chrome, and Firefox all offer this feature. The only trick is you have to use the same browser on both your phone and computer.
Ultimately, you may want to consider which mobile browser you’re using before deciding on your desktop browser. If you don’t care about linking your devices, though, choose what works best with your needs.
Dishonorable mention: Internet Explorer
Are you reading this article using Internet Explorer? If so, congratulations on your computer making it this far. The software is so old that Microsoft is no longer supporting it, which makes using IE an absolute minefield for malware.
If you’ve ever seen a cringe-worthy image of a web browser covered in “toolbars,” advertisements and pop-ups, it’s probably Internet Explorer.
Both Chrome and Firefox have versions you can download that will work on PCs running Windows 8 or older. If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and make the switch. You’ll be glad you did.
Which browser is the best overall?
We’ve compared and contrasted the most popular browsers on the web, but your decision should really come down to two factors: How much you use the internet and how much you value privacy.
Each of these browsers is solid in their own right, with differences in performance and design. Privacy options for each browser should not be ignored, though.
If you’re looking for the most well-rounded browser, Chrome is a solid choice. Just make sure your system is powerful enough to handle its resource demands. To keep your system happy, limit yourself to three or four tabs at a time.
If you care more about safety and privacy, Firefox is your best bet. It also won’t slow your computer down or hog memory from other programs while you browse the web.
If you’re looking to stay anonymous on the internet, Tor gives you many of the benefits of Firefox with some additional layers of protection. But don’t expect every single website on the internet to work exactly the same as on other browsers.
Or, stick with the default browsers if you’re not looking for all the extras and endless extensions. Again, Apple’s Safari is still a solid choice on Macs and MacBooks. And the redesigned Edge browser on Windows PC’s is actually useful and pretty secure. Believe me, it’s NOT the Internet Explorer of the old days.
If you know what you’re looking for, deciding on a browser should be no trouble at all. Keeping yourself safe online, well, that’s another story altogether. Tap or click to see the best websites for scanning your computer for viruses.