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Home / Browsers / Which Is The Best Browser? Edge vs. Chrome vs. Opera vs. Firefox

Which Is The Best Browser? Edge vs. Chrome vs. Opera vs. Firefox

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Google Chrome used to clearly be the best browser, with its speed advantage and extension ecosystem, but that’s changing. We’re living in the golden age of web browsers, and users are spoiled when it comes to choice.

Google Chrome, then, is by far the most used browser which accounts for over half of web traffic, followed by Safari in a distant second place. Internet Explorer comes in third, with Firefox fourth. (Note that Chrome is no longer supported on Windows XP and Vista. Strictly speaking, it will be supported until April 2016, but Google recommends you upgrade your OS.)

 

In June 2016 it was widely reported that Microsoft had conducted controlled lab tests of several web browsers, in part to promote its own Edge browser which is replacing Internet Explorer. The headlines were that Google Chrome is a battery drain, and this is evidenced by the results in the picture below.

In terms of popularity though, you can’t always believe statistics – the US government’s figures put IE in second place for the same period with 24% – but all agree that Chrome is by far the most popular.

That’s one measure of the ‘best’ web browser, but there are others too.

Previously we have reviewed the top six web browsers, benchmarking them for speed and rating them on features. The problem with that approach was that all of these browsers are updated constantly, meaning that those reviews quickly became outdated. And that’s why we’re not offering benchmark results here.

Google, Mozilla, Microsoft and Apple also add, change and remove features in those regular updates, so on the odd occasion, a feature which was a reason to use a particular browser would vanish overnight.

Even if a browser is better than its rivals because of performance, security or features, they’re all free and there’s no limit to how many you can install or run at the same time. So while many would agree when we say that Google Chrome is the ‘best’ web browser, there’s nothing stopping you from using five or six different browsers.

Below is a list of browser compatibility.

  • Google Chrome: Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux
  • Mozilla Firefox : Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux
  • Internet Explorer (32 and 64-bit): Windows
  • Safari: Mac OS X (Windows version no longer supported)
  • Opera: Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux
  • Edge: Available with Windows 10, not available for older versions of Windows.
  • Vivaldi: Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux

When it comes to updates, most of the browsers are now more or less equivalent. Background updating is the default practice. In the case of Chrome, Firefox, Vivaldi, and Opera, it’s handled through the app. Edge and Safari are updated through Microsoft and Apple’s respective update utilities. Internet Explorer is the only browser that’s no longer receiving updates, as it’s been put out to pasture in favor of Edge. However, it’s still available for use on Windows machines for compatibility reasons.

And all of these browsers offer decent performance and compatibility. They all offer to save your passwords and aside from Internet Explorer (and to some extent Microsoft Edge) they will sync your data, favourites and tabs between multiple computers and devices so you can grab your phone and carry on reading where you left off on your laptop.

They all support extensions and add-ons so you can add specific features, shortcuts and widgets, with the exception of Edge which still doesn’t have this capability.

If a specific extension isn’t available on your favourite browser, simply check and see if it for another browser. Similarly, if a website isn’t displaying properly or working in one browser, try another. These are the most common reasons why we use more than one browser.

Here’s a table which summarises the main features, as well as which platforms each browser supports. Chrome, Firefox and Opera are the most compatible. You might find older versions of Safari for Windows, but it’s no longer kept up to date by Apple.

Chrome Firefox IE Safari Edge Opera
Features
Cloud sync Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Download manager Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Private browsing Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Full-screen mode Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Tabs on the side Yes Yes (with add-on) No No No Yes
Custom extensions Yes Yes Yes No No Yes
Platforms
Windows Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Mac OS Yes Yes No Yes No Yes
Linux Yes Yes No No No Yes
Android Yes Yes No No No Yes
iOS Yes Yes No Yes No Yes
Windows phone No No Yes No Yes (Windows 10) Yes
Details
Engine WebKit Gecko Trident WebKit EdgeHTML Webkit
Javascript engine V8 TraceMonkey Chakra Nitro Chakra Carakan
Open source Yes Yes No No No No
Website google.com/… mozilla.com N/A apple.com/… microsoft.com/… opera.com

 

DESIGN AND EASE OF USE

The current trend in browser design is for the browser to nearly disappear. IE, Edge, Firefox, Safari, and Chrome all attempt to be as minimal as possible, offering next to no actual text and small, monochromatic buttons that discretely blend with the aesthetic design of operating systems such as Windows 8 and Mac OS X. Vivaldi fights back against this somewhat, offering a splash of color and bringing back the statusbar, but it’s still largely governed by the minimalist ethos. Overall, all the browsers stay out of your way and let you focus on the site you’re looking at. Below we compare and contrast the design of each browser.

Google Chrome

Google-chrome

Chrome was the first browser to radically simplify the user interface, offering users little more than an address bar and just a few other buttons. It’s a clean look, and though installing enough extensions can clutter things up, for most users, this won’t be confusing. Like most browsers, the window can get incredibly cramped with 15 ore more tabs open, but it still does a fantastic job of delivering content whether the window is expanded or slightly minimized for the sake of space.

Adjacent to the omnibox are standard navigational features (i.e. back, forward, refresh, home), but you can easily slim down the window by customizing the toolbar and deleting any buttons you deem useless. Chrome’s single-click bookmarking method, done by simply clicking the star located on the right side of the address bar, also makes bookmarking your favorite webpages a breeze.

Mozilla Firefox

Mozilla FirefoxThis browser features a similar, yet more useful layout when compared to its competitors, and places the tab bar above the address bar. The URL and search boxes are still separate by default, a unique feature among current browsers, despite the fact that searching from the address bar works fine. Recently added buttons for Pocket and Hello also take up space while other browsers are slimming things down. But if you want to, you can remove any of these elements in just a couple of clicks. Firefox is nothing if not customizable.

The browser offers the same kind of single-click bookmarking that Chrome does — all you have to do is click the star located to the right of the search bar — but there’s little else that separates it from the rest of the pack. The settings menu is accessible in a similar fashion to that of Google Chrome, allowing you to access various options by clicking a simple button depicting three horizontal bars located in the upper-right corner of the window. Unfortunately, it also takes up a bit of space that could otherwise be used by the tab bar.

Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer 11In terms of screen space, Internet Explorer is minimalist, with less “chrome” than Chrome itself. IE 11 features a single bar that simultaneously functions as the browser’s address and search bar. The space at the top places your open tabs to the right of the address-search bar, making it somewhat more cluttered than some of our other picks given the amount of space the search field takes up, but it typically isn’t worrisome unless you’re really stacking up a high volume of tabs. Other notable design features include the single-click bookmarking star now widely adopted by almost all other prominent browsers.

However, the 20-year-old browser is being phased out to make way for Microsoft’s newest browser, Edge. IE is still available in Windows 10, but is no longer the default and will not receive new features.

Safari

SafariThis long mediocre browser is now a serious competitor when compared to the likes of Google and Firefox. The newest version of Apple’s browser is fairly minimalist in design, but retains enough familiarity for old users of the browser to feel at home. Like its peers, Safari offers the address-search bar hybrid. Recent features include a share icon embedded to the right of the search field, which serves as a way to bookmark pages, post to social networks, and share via native Apple platforms like iMessage and Mail. An optional sidebar also give you quick access to your bookmarks, social media shares, and a reading list that syncs with iOS and works offline.

Opera

operaThis browser uses Google’s chromium Web engine while retaining a set of signature features that distinguish the browser from the rest. Opera has a single hybrid address-search bar like Chrome, but the alternative browser also sports Opera’s signature features, stash and speed dial. Speed dial allows for easy bookmarking and functions like “the most visited page” on Safari. Stash is similar to Pocket, and thus allows you to quickly store pages for future browsing. The bottom line? Opera sports a clean design with innovative features that hold their own against the rest of the competition.

Edge

Microsoft EdgeEdge resembles IE 11, though with even smaller borders, fewer icons, and a streamlined toolbar designed to take up more real estate on your display than IE 11. A solitary, address-search bar also runs the width of the page, along with a trio of headline features that include markups, reading view, and Microsoft’s equivalent to Siri (aka Cortana). It is the standard web browser for Windows 10, and has integration with many of the OS’s features and apps, including Outlook and the aforementioned Cortana. The latest update even gives it the ability to cast video, audio, and pictures to Miracast and DLAN devices.

Vivaldi

VivaldiThis browser doesn’t just offer customization, it actually asks you to choose where things like the tabs and address bar should go when you first launch it. If you want your tabs in a panel to the left of your window, you can do that, or you can leave them above the address bar. Bucking recent trends, Vivaldi also brings back the status bar at the bottom of the window, giving you a quick place to zoom in and out and preview URLs from. The current tab also takes on the primary color of whatever site you’re visiting, making the browser chrome seem like a natural extension of the site you’re visiting and adding some visual flair.

Adjacent to the omnibox are standard navigational features (i.e. back, forward, refresh, home), but you can easily slim down the window by customizing the toolbar and deleting any buttons you deem useless. Chrome’s single-click bookmarking method, done by simply clicking the star located on the right side of the address bar, also makes bookmarking your favorite webpages a breeze.

Mozilla Firefox

Mozilla FirefoxThis browser features a similar, yet more useful layout when compared to its competitors, and places the tab bar above the address bar. The URL and search boxes are still separate by default, a unique feature among current browsers, despite the fact that searching from the address bar works fine. Recently added buttons for Pocket and Hello also take up space while other browsers are slimming things down. But if you want to, you can remove any of these elements in just a couple of clicks. Firefox is nothing if not customizable.

The browser offers the same kind of single-click bookmarking that Chrome does — all you have to do is click the star located to the right of the search bar — but there’s little else that separates it from the rest of the pack. The settings menu is accessible in a similar fashion to that of Google Chrome, allowing you to access various options by clicking a simple button depicting three horizontal bars located in the upper-right corner of the window. Unfortunately, it also takes up a bit of space that could otherwise be used by the tab bar.

Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer 11In terms of screen space, Internet Explorer is minimalist, with less “chrome” than Chrome itself. IE 11 features a single bar that simultaneously functions as the browser’s address and search bar. The space at the top places your open tabs to the right of the address-search bar, making it somewhat more cluttered than some of our other picks given the amount of space the search field takes up, but it typically isn’t worrisome unless you’re really stacking up a high volume of tabs. Other notable design features include the single-click bookmarking star now widely adopted by almost all other prominent browsers.

However, the 20-year-old browser is being phased out to make way for Microsoft’s newest browser, Edge. IE is still available in Windows 10, but is no longer the default and will not receive new features.

Safari

SafariThis long mediocre browser is now a serious competitor when compared to the likes of Google and Firefox. The newest version of Apple’s browser is fairly minimalist in design, but retains enough familiarity for old users of the browser to feel at home. Like its peers, Safari offers the address-search bar hybrid. Recent features include a share icon embedded to the right of the search field, which serves as a way to bookmark pages, post to social networks, and share via native Apple platforms like iMessage and Mail. An optional sidebar also give you quick access to your bookmarks, social media shares, and a reading list that syncs with iOS and works offline.

Opera

operaThis browser uses Google’s chromium Web engine while retaining a set of signature features that distinguish the browser from the rest. Opera has a single hybrid address-search bar like Chrome, but the alternative browser also sports Opera’s signature features, stash and speed dial. Speed dial allows for easy bookmarking and functions like “the most visited page” on Safari. Stash is similar to Pocket, and thus allows you to quickly store pages for future browsing. The bottom line? Opera sports a clean design with innovative features that hold their own against the rest of the competition.

Edge

Microsoft EdgeEdge resembles IE 11, though with even smaller borders, fewer icons, and a streamlined toolbar designed to take up more real estate on your display than IE 11. A solitary, address-search bar also runs the width of the page, along with a trio of headline features that include markups, reading view, and Microsoft’s equivalent to Siri (aka Cortana). It is the standard web browser for Windows 10, and has integration with many of the OS’s features and apps, including Outlook and the aforementioned Cortana. The latest update even gives it the ability to cast video, audio, and pictures to Miracast and DLAN devices.

Vivaldi

VivaldiThis browser doesn’t just offer customization, it actually asks you to choose where things like the tabs and address bar should go when you first launch it. If you want your tabs in a panel to the left of your window, you can do that, or you can leave them above the address bar. Bucking recent trends, Vivaldi also brings back the status bar at the bottom of the window, giving you a quick place to zoom in and out and preview URLs from. The current tab also takes on the primary color of whatever site you’re visiting, making the browser chrome seem like a natural extension of the site you’re visiting and adding some visual flair.

Security and privacy

The most valuable tool for secure browsing is user discretion, especially when you consider that every web browser has encountered security breaches in the past. And Internet Explorer and Chrome’s reputation for protecting users’ security and privacy credentials is spotty at best.

Chrome, Safari, Vivaldi, Opera, and Firefox all rely on Google’s Safe Browsing API to detect potentially dangerous sites. Thanks to constant updates, Mozilla, Chrome, and Opera all make constant security updates. But Chrome takes security a bit further by also scanning for potentially harmful downloads. There’s also encryption add-ons currently in the works at Google.

All browsers offer a private session option, too. Private sessions prevent the storage of history, temporary Internet files, and cookies. For example, Internet Explorer 11 features a security measure called Do Not Track. Only Internet Explorer goes so far as to to block trackers completely from communicating with your browser. What’s more, according to a 2013 NSS study, only Internet Explorer blocks trackers used on more than 90 percent of potentially hazardous sites.

Nonetheless, Microsoft has stated that Edge won’t offer IE’s Do Not Track feature, though you will be able to enable some tracking protection. This change of heart is because Do Not Track isn’t really honored by many websites, making it largely pointless in 2016.

Popularity & Verdict

browser-share-chart

Internet Explorer has been the number one browser for decades, but that’s changing right now, according to NetMarketShare’s latest numbers. They show Chrome as edging out Microsoft’s default for this first time this year, with 41.71 percent of the market. The closest competitor to these two browsers is Firefox, with a distant 10.06 percent of the market. Safari, the default browser on the Mac platform, captures a respectable 4.47 percent of the market, while Opera sits at 2.1 percent. Vivaldi doesn’t show up in these numbers.

stat-counter-browser-share

StatCounter provides a much different view. According to its data, Chrome is by far the most popular desktop browser, with more than 56.75 percent of all Internet traffic. Firefox is up next, at a distant 14.24 percent, and a declining Internet Explorer sees 12.14 percent of the market share. Safari nets 9.47 percent of traffic, while Opera captures about 1.87 percent.

Why the big difference between these reports? It’s because NetMarketShare counts unique visitors, while StatCounter tallies all visits. In other words, NetMarketShare’s numbers reflect how many people are using a browser, while StatCounter reflects how much a browser is used.

Once you know that, the numbers make sense. A lot of people default to Internet Explorer because they don’t know any better, and only visit a few websites each day. Chrome is often preferred by people who browse heavily and might visit hundreds of sites in a day. And Firefox, despite being used by fewer people than Internet Explorer, generates more web traffic because of its power-user base.

Chrome is still king

It’s getting closer every month, but it still seems like Chrome is the best browser overall. It’s still a top-performing browser, and its extension eco-system is the best. There’s a reason why it’s the most popular browser ever made, and while specific users might prefer something different, most people can safely default to Chrome.

Sources:

Digital Trends
PC Advisor
PC World
IT Pro

 

 

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