Exploring the World Wide Web and discovering new information and ideas is one of my favorite computer activities. Most of us have acquired rudimentary browser skills, but all too many casual users fail to explore the wide range of web browser choices available by staying with “the one that came with my computer.”
Just which program is the best web browser?
The top 6 browsers account for 91.6% of all users. Chrome is the most popular choice with 57.4% of all users, followed by Safari (14%), UC Browser (7.9%), Firefox (5.5%), Opera (3.8%) and Internet Explorer (3.2%). Since you shouldn’t always believe statistics, and not all surveys agree, perhaps you should choose the best browser yourself.
You’re usually not limited to a single browser. While you do need to designate a default browser, you can experiment with as many as you like. Some browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Opera, etc.) are compatible with multiple operating systems while others (Safari, Internet Explorer, Edge, UC Browser, etc.) are designed for specific systems. Some emphasize security and/or anonymity. TOR, developed by the US Naval Research Laboratory, is the oldest entry and the leader in this category, but a search for “secure browsers 2018” will yield over a dozen competitors. Still other browsers emphasize the ability to be customized to your personal tastes. Vivaldi, a chrome variant, claims to be the most flexible of all but has plenty of competition.
The most successful browsers excel in multiple categories and are constantly improving. Currently, there are at least 112 browsers to choose from and virtually all of them are “free.” A complete list with links to each browser can be found at: www.webdevelopersnotes.com/browsers-list.
Why is there so much competition for a free product? While browsers are free to consumers, they do receive royalties from search engine advertising. For example, Mozilla Firefox had $506 million in revenues in 2016 from Firefox web browser search partnerships and distribution deals around the world.
While I teach classes about Internet Explorer, Edge and Chrome, I use Chrome and Firefox regularly and am constantly seeking a better browser. After researching for this column, I’ll be taking TOR and Vivaldi out for test drives.
What should you do? Even if you are satisfied with your current browser, you should have at least one alternative available since not every website will successfully interact with every browser. Remember that browsers are constantly evolving and you should try to keep up! Chrome, which launched in September 2008 just released version 66; that averages out to a new version every 2 months! Review your browser settings – you can choose your home page, start page, search engine and what information you are willing to share if you’re willing to read the fine print!
If you currently use Internet Explorer, please stop now! IE is the slowest and least competitive browser available today; any modern browser will be a better choice. Microsoft discontinued Internet Explorer feature development in July 2015 and will end security updates in January 2023 when support for Windows 8.1 ends.