When you spend so much of your time online, it’s important to think about which web browsers will provide you with the best experience. Internet web browsers are more complex than ever and with so many options available on the market, deciding on a web browser that will provide you with all the features you’re looking for is key for an enjoyable online experience. While you’re probably familiar with a lot of the web browsers on this list, some of the top browsers that you’ll read about will give you a better insight into what options are available.Think about all the features that you’re looking for in an ideal Internet browser. If securing your personal information online is at the top of your list, then you’ll want to consider a secure web browser that can prevent hacking and third-party tracking. If you have kids that are using the Internet and want to make sure that they don’t have access to inappropriate content, then you’ll want to pay attention to parental control features that can allow you to block certain sites or set up password control. What about performance? Some web browsers are notoriously faster than others depending on how demanding they are on your computer’s random access memory (RAM). What’s most important to you in a web browser?
What Is an Internet Browser?
A web browser is a software program that allows you to access, visit, and view websites through your computer. Essentially, it makes it easier for you to browse on the web. Developers called the first web browser the WorldWideWeb, but web browsers today go by different names, including web browser, Internet browser, or simply “browser.” In technical terms, a web browser’s job is to translate code that computers create in order to build websites, insert text, pictures, graphics, and other features that make websites functional and available to you.
How Internet Browsers Work
Here’s a quick overview of how web browsers work.
- The first step to access a website through an Internet browser is to type in a website’s URL into your browser’s address bar. For example “http://www.example.com”
- Once you type in the website’s URL, the web browser will locate and request that page’s information on the server.
- The web browser will take all this information, interpret it, and display the website for you to interact with it. Depending on the type of Internet connection you have, this process usually takes a few seconds.
Keep in mind that this process sometimes varies with different browsers. Often, when a website doesn’t open in one browser, it will open on another one much faster simply because of how each browser processes information and how much strain they’re putting on your RAM. It’s always a good idea to download a few browsers so that you have options in case you’re having troubles with a particular website.
Why Does Your Browser Matter?
As a user, you’re looking for practicality—what’s the easiest way to get what you want, when you want it? To simplify the way you conduct yourself online, it makes sense to stick to whatever browser your device comes with and settle for whatever it offers. Yet, developers don’t build every browser the same, and though there are plenty of similarities between all the different browsers available, some are always going to be better with some tasks than others.
- Your web browser directly affects your online experience. The key with each browser, no matter which one you choose, is to always make sure you have the most updated version of it. While the best browsers can provide you with a ton of features that are helpful to you and your business (if you have one), the only way you can maximize them is by installing the newest version out there. When you don’t do this, you’re likely going to experience the browser freezing or crashing, often a long time for webpages to load, and a higher risk of viruses, spyware, and malware.
- The wrong web browser can put your business at risk. Once one of the best browsers, Internet Explorer will cease to exist after June 2022. While a lot of companies preferred to use Internet Explorer because of its capabilities to integrate with other Microsoft products, it no longer compares to how much more other browsers can do for users in terms of security. At one point, Internet Explorer was the preferred choice for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) because of its security practices, but it’s been declining since 2019 when the tech giant had to issue an emergency patch to fix a security issue. Currently, only about eight percent of the population continues to use the original browser.
Now that you have a better grasp of what an Internet browser is, how it works, and the importance of choosing the best operating system to maximize all the features you’re looking for in a secure browser, it’s time to take a closer look at the top web browsers on the market and what each one can offer to enhance your online experience.
The Best Overall Browser
Google Chrome (4.5 out 5 stars)
There are plenty of reasons Google Chrome is continuously chosen as the best web browser to have in 2021. First launched in 2008, it took Google Chrome quite a few years to become one of the best web browsers to ever rival Internet Explorer. However, as of 2019, Google Chrome tops the charts for having thousands of helpful extensions and offering you a user-friendly experience without having to tweak settings too much. Pros:
- Safety and Security: Google updates regularly to make sure that everyone using Chrome can feel safe while browsing online. Google Chrome is one of the most secure browsers because it blocks dangerous and malicious sites, identifies and deletes malware, and alerts users when they’re not on a secure website.
- Syncs Across Devices: because Google supports Google Chrome, it makes it easier for you to access and synchronize all your Google services and account features, browsing history, bookmarks, and anything else you might have saved on your browser. This translates well across all your devices, whether it’s iOS or Android.
- Privacy Concerns with Google Tracking: it is nothing new for users to accuse Google of tracking their online activities without their consent. While one of its most attractive features is the ability to sync information across all devices, it’s also a way of handing over control of your data into Google’s hands.
- Customization Limitations: unlike other browsers, Google limits certain customization features that are attractive to users. For example, when you close a window that has multiple tabs open, Chrome doesn’t warn you before you close your web pages. This has been a real problem for users and is something that often prompts them to look for other browsers.
- High Memory Usage: compared to other browsers, Google Chrome is the one that puts the most constraint on your RAM because of the way it sandboxes the browser processes. What this means is that, let’s say that you open up the browser and have an empty tab open. Well, to Chrome, you actually have two tabs open, each needing its own memory. When you have multiple web pages open, your browser spends all its resources, and the RAM gets used up. This is a problem because it can slow down the loading of pages and make everything take a lot longer than it should.
The Best Web Browser for User-Friendly Security
Mozilla Firefox (4 out 5 stars)
Mozilla Firefox’s popularity comes from being one of the safest browsers available right now. They’re a strong advocate for user safety and privacy, and much like Google Chrome, it offers users a variety of add-ons and extensions that enhance the overall experience online. Some of its most notable features include alerts to let you know when your email address has been in a data breach, blocking notification pop-ups, and blocking “fingerprinting” browser tracking. Since it’s been around a little longer than Chrome, some older apps that you might use for academics function better in Mozilla Firefox. It doesn’t hurt to have the browser downloaded into your devices. Pros:
- Extensions and Themes: Mozilla Firefox is one of the best web browsers to customize. You can alter the appearance of your home page and make it fit your needs. It has over 6,000 extensions that can provide you with an array of perks, like providing access to your Facebook wall from the Firefox toolbar or keeping tabs on your Gmail and alerting you of breaking news.
- Security: with the introduction of many features that protect you from phishing scams, viruses, and other common online threats, Firefox has stayed on top of its security since 2011. This browser comes with a powerful built-in ad blocker and strong authentication codes that will prevent hackers from accessing your personal information online.
- Fast and Efficient: aside from enhanced security, Firefox is also a popular web browser because of its speed. Based on performance tests, this browser comes in just behind Google Chrome, which is one reason it completely knocked Internet Explorer out of the list.
- Compatibility: Firefox is not compatible with all systems which can limit its use and functions when websites use ActiveX controls. These types of websites use ActiveX controls to enable deeper Windows integration. However, Firefox cannot process these types of controls, preventing it from proper interaction.
- High Usage of Hardware and Resources: not unlike Google Chrome, Firefox also has a tendency to use a lot of RAM, even when you only have a few tabs open. However, the main reason for its high usage of resources comes from all the extensions, because while they improve and enhance security features, the code used is not always the most efficient.
- Concerns About Longevity: since Chrome has been dominating the market, there are concerns about how long Mozilla Firefox will be around with continued support. In recent years, Firefox has lost market shares and is no longer one of the most popular web browsers available.
The Best Web Browser for Windows
Microsoft Edge (4 out 5 stars)
As a browser created by Microsoft, Microsoft Edge is one of the best web browsers for Windows users. While Chrome and Edge were both created on the same open-source Chromium Codebase Project, Microsoft Edge has a better integration of security systems and protections in place that make it stand out against other browsers. It is the default browser on Windows 10 and it is very supportive of third-party extensions. Pros:
- User-Friendly Setup: although this is the default browser on Windows computers, anyone can download and install the browser into their device. The Edge browser allows you to import your passwords and logins from any other browser and easily access all your favorite sites. The only thing to keep in mind is that in order to successfully sync everything, you will need a Microsoft account to transfer everything.
- Reading List Mode: one of the most popular features on Edge is that it lets you sync all your activity and makes it easier for you to read content online. All you have to do is add content that you want to read to your FAVORITES on the toolbar. From there, instead of bookmarking, you can add it directly to your reading list and access it from any device. The best part about this feature is that you can read without distractions, as the Reading List Mode will clear all unwanted junk from the page for a smooth reading experience.
- Page Markup and Annotations: The Edge browser gives you full access to annotations on the page by simply clicking on the pen and paper icon. If you’re someone that enjoys making notes and highlighting or annotating text, this will be a feature you will really enjoy. This is handy for students or those that want to share professional content with others easily.
- Not Supported with Older Hardware: think of Microsoft Edge as the replacement to Internet Explorer. It’s a new browser that was specifically made to target newer software and devices. And while it eats up RAM like other popular browsers, you have the option to control how much RAM it serves by using low resources.
- Limited Extension Availability: Google Chrome and Firefox thrive on all the extensions they can offer to users, but you won’t really find that with Edge. This is something to consider for people that depend on the various plug-ins and extensions other browsers can offer because they will not translate onto websites opened through Edge.
- Changing Search Engine: one thing that you might not realize is that the preferred search engine for Edge is Bing. It will be a little difficult and tedious to change the default search engine to Google, for example.
And even if you change the settings, don’t be surprised if your search results come from Bing, even when you start your research in Google. The best suggestion is to change the default startup page on your browser to your preferred search engine. It’s the best way to be sure you’ll be searching content through the engine of your choice.
The Best Browser for Apple Devices
Apple Safari (3.8 out of 5 stars)
If you’re a Mac user, then you’re very familiar with Safari. Apple Safari ranks second in popularity just behind Google Chrome. Of course, most of its popularity is because it’s the default browser for all MacOS devices, which makes it one of the best web browsers in the world based on the number of global users that prefer Apple products. However, despite its top ranks in popularity, Apple Safari is only compatible with macOS devices, which limits usage in other operating systems. Pros:
- Decent Speed and Level Performance: Safari is not the fastest browser out there, but it’s not the slowest either. And because of the software-hardware installation, you don’t have to worry about Safari using up too much RAM while you’re using it. That’s because since Safari only runs on macOS products, Safari and other applications were specifically developed by Apple to run efficiently on their operating system and hardware.
- Handoff Feature for Easy Browsing: this feature makes it much easier for you to browse on one device and continue right where you left off on a different device. The Handoff feature ensures an uninterrupted browsing experience.
- Clean and User-Friendly Design: if there’s one thing that people love about Safari is how simple and easy-to-use it looks. Safari is one of the first browsers that adopted a straightforward user interface to minimize clutter around the home page. You won’t find any unnecessary buttons or menus on the top of the window.
- Not Compatible with Other Operating Systems: the biggest drawback with Safari is its lack of versatility for installation in non-Apple products. For a few years, between 2007 and 2012, Safari was available for Windows, but the cross-platform usability was discontinued to pursue the development of other projects.
- Poor Security Considerations: while Safari comes with built-in fingerprint protection to prevent web trackers from identifying you too easily, there have been some concerns about the lack of other security measures that could help promote secure web browsing. Updates are infrequent and it doesn’t automatically let you know when you’re accessing an unsecured website, like other browsers.
- Little Customization: unlike other browsers on this list, Safari offers very little in terms of customization. There is limited availability of browser extensions and it gives you minimal control over how the page looks and feels. Basically, Safari will always look the same, no matter how hard you want to change it and make it your own.
The Best Alternative to Internet Explorer
Opera (3 out of 5 stars)
Opera is the oldest browser that remains in use today. Created in 1994, Opera has transcended and strengthened throughout the year’s thanks to its creators switching its engine to the open-source Chromium codebase. While the Opera browser doesn’t have all the features some of the more popular browsers have, it still stays relevant by having strong community support and continuously enhanced security. Pros:
- Fast and Responsive: Opera is a simple browser that was created to help you streamline tasks quickly without delays. Though Opera runs on Chromium just like Chrome and Microsoft Edge, it doesn’t come with the automatic installation of toolbars and widgets that have the potential of slowing it down. For users that are experiencing slow Internet, Opera offers Turbo Mode which can help you access websites much faster by implementing technology that can compress pages and speed uploading time.
- Integrated Phishing Protection: Believe it or not, Opera was one of the first browsers to integrate protection against phishing scams. It also offers integrated RSS feeds and integrated email clients. This kind of protection can help keep you safe while you’re online, especially when your responsibilities require you to work from a computer for long periods of time.
- Small Download and Memory File: unlike some of the other popular browsers that are notorious for taking up a lot of resources when you’re online, Opera will not eat up your RAM when you have a few tabs open. Even if you’re experiencing a slow Internet connection, Opera will adapt, download quickly, and keep your computer running at decent speeds.
- Extensions Built Into Opera Are Difficult to Find: while Opera comes with some extensions for users, the way they’re set up doesn’t make it easy for you to find them. Opera is a browser that works best for people that know their way around the hardware and are not intimidated by software applications. In short, Opera is not very user-friendly, which works against them.
- Requires Strict Adherence to Coding: Opera is somewhat of a picky browser, as it doesn’t always work well with websites that weren’t built with great coding. Because the CSS / HTML language that was used on the website you’re trying to access is read by the browser, you’ll notice that some websites that work great on Chrome or Firefox don’t translate well into Opera.
- Opera Is Not Seen as High Priority: although Opera has a strong community behind it to support it, about two percent of the population actually uses this browser. Most people will choose to go with a more popular, more versatile browser that can provide them with limitless extensions and tab functionality—and Opera doesn’t do that. Because of this, Opera is not a chief priority for web developers and causes some sites to block Opera entirely and not allow their website to be viewed on the browser.
The Best Browser for a Fast Browsing Experience
Brave (3 out of 5 stars)
Think of Brave browser as a new way of thinking about the way you interact online. Brave is continuously praised for its approach towards bettering online security and safety. It is much faster than Firefox or Edge, downloads pages quickly, and they’re huge on blocking ads. In fact, Brave started a trial of ads that will reward you with micropayments for viewing them. Brave developers are firm believers in revolutionizing the way they keep sites running; they believe that instead of relying on ads for revenue, users should contribute to the sites they visit most often with cryptocurrency transactions sent anonymously. Pros:
- Built-In Ad Blocking: Most browsers offer extensions for you to block unwanted ads. However, because Brave is so big on protecting users and the exposure to ads, this is a core feature that is built into the browser. Since their plan to get rid of ads forever is not fully developed yet, this is a great option for users to have.
- Less Tracking and Better Privacy: the Brave browser uses HTTP secure connections whenever it can so that you’re not accidentally exposed to any online threats, tracking, or hacking. Brave is also considered to be one of the best web browsers for private browsing because it doesn’t collect or sell your personal data. In fact, Brave is set up to automatically block ad trackers.
- Browsing Speed and Performance: a remarkable strength of this fairly new browser is its ability to perform quickly and efficiently. Just like Chrome and Edge, Brave also runs on Chromium. However, what sets this browser apart is the fact that it’s able to block ads and tracking efficiently, which makes it run smoothly and without disruptions. Basically, it allows it to load the necessary information to the website, without all the unnecessary extra stuff.
- Lacks Extensions and Add-Ons: if you’re planning on using Brave, do not expect to add any extensions or to customize it too much. Developers at Brave were more concerned with efficiency and blocking tracking and ads. They were not focused on making sure you had an extension for everything under the sun.
- Doesn’t Work Well with All websites: it’s good to keep in mind that Brave is a fairly new browser and it’s still very much a work in progress. Therefore, it’s not yet compatible with all websites and you’ll soon find that some of them won’t even open on this browser.
- Unfair to Publishers and Content Creators: if there’s one thing that Brave is not taking into consideration is the fact that many people earn their living from ads. Stripping ads completely will undermine the profitability and sustainability of small publishers and content creators. This could create chaos in the long run.
The Best Browser for the Technologically Savvy
Vivaldi (3 out of 5 stars)
Much like Opera, the Vivaldi browser is a free browser that’s geared toward technologically-savvy users. It was created by former executives at Opera and it’s meant to have everything that wasn’t done with Opera because of its transition to the open-source codename Chromium. Think of Vivaldi as the perfect mix between Opera and Chrome—fast and easy to use, but with features that you’re used to seeing on both platforms. Pros:
- Inclusion of Privacy Features and Security Tools: if there’s one thing that all the browsers have in common is their concern for users’ privacy. Much like the other browsers, Vivaldi has a built-in ad blocker and tracker, which features three modes: 1) no blocking, 2) blocking of web trackers, and 3) blocking of both web trackers and online ads.
- Productivity Tools and Features: in an effort to offer alternatives to productivity tools that don’t come from tech giants Google and Microsoft, Vivaldi users enjoy an array of tools that users can activate within the application. You can expect to find tools like a customizable calendar for task management, a news feed reader, and a built-in translator.
- Highly Customizable User Interface: Vivaldi allows you to customize the way the search engine looks by letting you change anything from the background color and positioning of the address bar to changing mouse gestures and keyboard shortcuts.
- Not the Fastest Chromium Browser: although it runs on Chromium like Edge and Chrome, Vivaldi’s speed performance remains average when pitted against mainstream browsers. This is not one of the best web browsers if you’re looking for speed.
- Consumes Too Much RAM: this is something that can slow down the way the browser works because of the way it consumes processor and memory resources. Think about all the tasks that Vivaldi performs, like productivity tools, privacy features, and design customizations. All the things that make Vivaldi stand out, also make it use too many resources and slow down on performance.
- Not User-Friendly Enough for Most Browser Users: remember that Vivaldi is a browser that’s geared towards users that are not intimidated by customization features and that are technologically inclined. The browser is not the most straightforward and, despite all the tools it provides, for some users the options might be overwhelming.
If there’s one thing you should take away from reading about all the browsers available is the fact that there’s something out there for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re a mac user or an android user, because the good thing about Internet browsers is that there are always going to exist plenty of alternative browsers to accommodate the needs of everyone. Remember to always keep in mind the features that are most important to you, like ad blockers, customization options, and security features that will make you feel safe online. Don’t forget that you’re the priority when it comes to your online experience.
Web Browser FAQ
How does browser rendering work?
Browser rendering works by loading a page and reading the HTML code. It then takes the code and constructs a Document Object Model (DOM) tree, in which each node is an object representing a part of the document. In simple terms, browser rendering is the process in which website code is turned into the interactive website that you see in front of you.
Can browsers access local files?
Yes, but only with your permission.
How does a browser cache work?
Can browser history be recovered?
Yes, if you’ve accidentally deleted your browser history, you can most definitely recover it. However, the way to do this will depend on what browser you are using, as each browser has different settings to recover deleted data.
What does “browse” mean on the computer?
Browsing refers to the act of looking through information online quickly and without a specific sense of purpose. When you’re browsing online, you typically make use of a browser to surf the web.
How do I install a new web browser?
First, locate the download link of the browser you want to download to your device. Once you find it, click on the “Download” button and start the installation. Follow the prompts on the screen and save the file to your hard drive.
Can I have more than one web browser on my computer?
Yes, you can have as many browsers as you’d like. All browsers run independently of each other or any other programs, so you can have multiple browsers open without a problem.
Why is it important to keep your browser up to date?
Updates are important for browsers because they usually enhance a security feature. It’s key to always download the latest version of the browser you’re choosing so that you have a better chance of being protected against malware, phishing, viruses, and spyware.