Wondering what the best Internet browsers are has been a point of discussion since the world was first introduced to the worldwide web, approximately two decades ago. Back then, the majority of people favored Netscape’s Navigator, calling it the fastest, most feature-rich product there was. The fact that it was free and ported to all three of the major operating systems didn’t hurt. Marc Andreessen and crew had a winner. Hands down, it was my favorite and I used it on my Windows machine, as well as my Linux box. Sadly, Microsoft was too large of a Goliath for Marc’s David to slay and Netscape’s Navigator went the way of the Dodo bird.
Today, the discussion is between three different browsers: Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, Mozilla’s Firefox, and Google Chrome. While there are literally about a dozen other browser products out there (Opera, Safari, and Mosaic, to name just some of the better-known smaller products), these three are the 90-pound gorillas of the web browser market. All three have their advantages and drawbacks. Follow along, and I’ll walk you through them. Maybe, by the end of this discussion, you will have changed your mind about your current default browser and begin using a new one that works better for what you do online.
What are the Best Internet Browsers?
Microsoft’s Internet Explorer
Ubiquitous, but Not Terribly Safe
It seems that at least once a week, Windows Update tells me I need to download and install a new update for Internet Explorer to patch this security leak or that hole. There are far too many known Explorer exploits for me to use the product on a regular basis. Unfortunately, I also work with a car repair website that gives me access to a set of online car repair manuals and those manuals aren’t compatible with anything but Explorer. So, I had to install it. I also have to admit that since IE is from Microsoft, it integrates with the operating system and takes better advantage of processing power than other browsers.
The single biggest advantage to using Explorer is that many websites are optimized for it and it alone. Many sites work with Firefox, but not very well. And you’ll be lucky to get all of the sites you visit to work well with Chrome these days. The reason for this is that Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is included with the Windows operating system. This means that everyone with a Windows machine has it. Unless they’ve uninstalled it, like I originally did.
A Better Browser But Less Accepted
I like Google’s Chrome browser. I consider it one of the best Internet browsers available. It’s faster than Internet Explorer, as well as more secure and stable than IE. Chrome was the first browser to give you hint tiles/most visited tiles when you opened a new tab. Mozilla and Microsoft stole this idea from Google. I also like how Chrome is integrated into my Google account. My Gmail account is just a click away.
But, there’s also the fact that many of my favorite websites just don’t work with Chrome. Or, if they do, it’s not very well. I wish more developers would start working to optimize their sites, so I can get the full functionality and speed on their sites that I know Chrome is capable of. Not to mention the security it gives me.
My Personal Favorite
You’ve probably heard of Firefox. In fact, you probably have it installed on your computer, but, Waterfox? What is that? Waterfox is Firefox on 64-bit steroids. Firefox is written for 32-bit operating systems, so it doesn’t take advantage of all the processing speed that a 64-bit processor gives it. Waterfox does — and it’s noticeably faster than Firefox.
Mozilla’s products, while faster than IE, are also more secure. This is evidenced by the fact that minor updates for the products usually address issues with Java and Flash, rather than security problems, like IE updates. For the stout of heart, the browsers are also quite a bit more customizable than other browser products. Along with this customizability, is the ability to recover the interface you’re used to if a newly installed program makes changes you don’t like.
Firefox/Waterfox has a configuration file (About:Config) that you can edit from within the browser itself. Every option can be configured or manipulated is in this file.
Because of its speed, configurability, and security, I consider Firefox/Waterfox to be at the top of the best Internet browsers list.
I also wrote a more detailed look in a series on free Internet browsers that might also interest you.