The browser wars continue to rage, but one competitor is gone forever: Internet Explorer. Microsoft has announced that the clear leader in browser market share, and the one that paved the way for interactive web applications, will no longer be supported on June 15, 2022. With new competitors in the fray and long-standing entries. With new technologies, conveniences, protections and features running on, your choice of navigation software is just as important as ever.
In recent years, the browser landscape has been dominated by Google. The same company that offers more web content than any other (according to comScore), also claims nearly 70% of the browser market with Chrome (based on NetMarketShare and StatCounter figures). This is for computer use, but if you add a mobile, Chrome is again king, with a share of over 60 percent. Chrome is so dominant that most other browsers now use its underlying Chromium rendering code, with Firefox the only top-down independent competitor.
Chrome on top
Chrome may be the leader when it comes to usability (except, of course, on Apple devices), but it’s not ahead in every way or in number of capabilities. Firefox, Edge, Safari, and Opera all have features not found in Google’s browser. That’s not to say that Chrome isn’t great software, but be aware that there are valid alternatives.
Here we take a look at the top five browsers in the United States in order of popularity. Sadly, that rules out Brave and Vivaldi, both first-class and unique choices, but you can read them in our article covering the best alternative web browsers.
So what’s important in a browser these days? Speed and compatibility remain the main requirements. But in the age of the ubiquitous smartphone, the connection between your desktop browser and your phone has become increasingly important. Indeed, some browsers now allow you to send a web page from one device to another, and all allow you to synchronize bookmarks between them.
A rough measure of standards compatibility is the HTML5test website, which assesses browser compatibility with the moving target of web standards. The maximum possible score is 555, with points awarded for each supported standard. Chrome retains its long-standing lead on this test with a score of 528. Opera and other Chromium-based browsers are closing in on Chrome, while Firefox and Safari lag behind, at 491 and 471, respectively. Just a few years ago, a score in the 300’s was considered excellent, and Internet Explorer (still used by millions) stuck at 312. Despite this, some custom enterprise web applications again require this bit of outdated software.
Faster is better
However, take the benchmark results with a grain of salt, as purely synthetic tests do not measure all components of actual boating conditions. In short, Chrome wins this benchmark on Windows 10, while Safari wins on macOS. Firefox has fallen behind on both platforms.
In terms of disk space usage, Opera is the thinnest on macOS and Windows 10. The browser sizes provided by the operating system are unreliable, as their manufacturers can hide code anywhere on the web. the system, so, for example, take that 19MB size for Safari with a huge grain of salt. We noticed that Chrome installs in the Programs (x86) folder, which is normally reserved for 32-bit applications; however, typing chrome: // version / in the address bar showed that we were testing with the 64-bit version.
For memory usage testing, we load a dozen media-rich websites in all browsers at the same time and report the MB of RAM reported by Task Manager. Note that some browsers use idle tabs, which means they unload the content of tabs you are not viewing from memory. To be fair, using more memory here can result in faster performance, as you don’t have to wait for sleep tabs to reload.
Confidentiality is paramount
Privacy, personalization, convenient features, tab and start page tools, and mobile integration have replaced support for speed and standards as today’s main differentiators. All browsers can now remember passwords for you and synchronize them (in encrypted form) along with your browsing history and favorites between desktop or laptop computers and mobile devices. By default, Chrome connects you to Google services like Gmail and YouTube, which some consider cocky.
Privacy specialists like to use VPNs (virtual private networks) to mask the browsing activities of ISPs and any other intermediary between you and the site you are visiting. Opera is the only browser that includes a built-in VPN (Firefox offers one for an additional fee). Firefox also has a good privacy history, with a private mode that not only clears a session’s history and cookies, but also hides your activities from third-party tracking sites during the private session. Firefox recently implemented DNS over HTTPS, which hides your web address searches from your ISP. Additionally, Edge, Firefox, and Safari include fingerprint protection, preventing trackers from identifying you based on your hardware and software configuration. Firefox also has built-in content blocking to fend off known trackers and cryptocurrency mining schemes.
Tools, amenities and goodies
Helpful navigation tools can also play a part in your decision. One, Reading Mode, removes clutter from web pages, mostly ads, videos, and content presentations, so you can focus on the text. Another is the Share button. With these days’ obsession with social media, it’s almost an essential convenience.
Opera is the only one of the popular web browsers included here with a built-in cryptocurrency wallet, although the aforementioned Brave browser includes one as well. Opera is notable for its Speed Dial, which consists of tiles pinned to your home screen (although other browsers have similar functionality) and a toolbar for accessing frequently needed services such as WhatsApp. .
Microsoft Edge offers voice reading of web pages with remarkably realistic speech, a customizable home page, detailed privacy settings, and (soon) a Collections feature for web search. Firefox lets you instantly save a page to Pocket or open a new container in case you want to be signed in to the same site with two different identities. Screen capture tools are making their way into browsers, with Edge, Firefox, and Opera to begin with.
If you are very attached to one browser or another, as you probably are if you are reading this, please let us know in the comments section below.