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Internet 101: Choosing a Browser

Internet 101: Choosing a Browser

You might already know this, but not all browsers are created equal. Many people buy a new computer and simply use whichever browser is already installed, never switching or looking into other options. Others may download and use whichever browser they’ve always used, or whichever one seems to be the most popular. But there’s more than one option.

What should you consider?

There are a number of things to consider when looking at the different browsers being offered. One thing that makes some browsers different from each other is that they might have different rendering engines. A rendering engine is what reads certain information (like HTML, typically used to create websites) and then displays it. All that really means is that different browsers might have different programs that they use to show you content (like websites). Because of this, some browsers might display certain things differently or even be unable to correctly load certain bits of content. When it comes to this aspect of choosing a browser, your best bet is just to try out the browser of your choice and keep an eye out to see if any of your usual websites look odd or won’t let you see certain content. If this happens, try another browser and see whether the problem goes away.

It’s also important to consider safety when choosing a browser. Because the different browsers are made differently, some are typically considered safer than others. One safety concern is whether a browser can easily be hacked. Earlier this year, Digital Trends reported on the Pwn2Own hacking event that tests how safe and secure browsers really are. The hackers found that Google Chrome was the most secure, as it was unable to be hacked over the course of the event, and that Microsoft Edge was the least secure, hacked five times. (Firefox came in second place, while Safari came in third.) Of course, this is only one consideration when it comes to safety, but it is still worth noting that, as the Tom’s Hardware website mentions, Google Chrome is typically the most secure browser among the major browsers being tested.

What many people find most important is that their browser is easy to use and has helpful features. For instance, some browsers may have bookmarks that are really easily organized, access to additional extensions (like extensions that let users block ads or put slideshow articles on one page), and ways to customize what the browser looks like. Some browsers have special features, so it’s important to consider which features are really the most important to you and which you might want to do without in order to have a faster or potentially safer browser.

What are your options?

Despite how it seems, there isn’t really just a handful of browsers out there. Because there’s not enough room in this article, I’ll be talking about five browsers that are among the most well-known, but they’re definitely not all you have to choose from. Other browsers sometimes branch off of these bigger browsers and create something new. Keep in mind that if you choose a lesser-known browser, you should research it first to verify that it’s safe and has the features you need.

For this article, let’s take a look at some of the more well-known browser options. Scroll through the list to learn a bit about each one.

Google Chrome

Google Chrome is an extremely popular browser. Chrome was first released less than ten years ago, and since then, it has become many peoples’ default browser. It’s available on several operating systems, including Windows and Android, and it is available on Apple’s mobile iOS, though it isn’t as well-supported on Apple products. As mentioned earlier, Chrome often leads the popular web browsers when it comes to safety. Google Chrome works well whether you have an account or not, but if you do have a Google account, it becomes even more convenient. For instance, if you use Chrome on your computer and on your phone, and you’re logged into your Google account on both, your bookmarks are saved to your account and you can access them wherever you go. Chrome is typically considered one of the more quick-moving browsers. It has typical features most people will want, like easy-to-use bookmarks, themes that can change the browser’s appearance, an optional home button, and plenty of useful extensions to make the browser even better. Many people particularly enjoy Chrome because of the wide variety of extensions available and its incognito mode that prevents the browser from keeping history or cookie information while turned on.
Visit the Google Chrome website

Microsoft Edge

Microsoft Edge is Microsoft’s newest offering meant to replace the much-scorned Internet Explorer (IE). Though Edge has not gained a huge following yet, there are some who might prefer it over other browsers. It was initially released a couple of years ago, but it got its major release earlier this year when it became the default browser on many computers instead of IE. It’s used on Windows 10 and Xbox One. Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, in some cases Edge has been found to be less secure than the other major browsers in certain scenarios. Since the browser is still fairly new, there will certainly be more changes and improvements over the coming years. Edge can also be used on Windows 10 Mobile, so it can be used on some Windows phones. It has a pretty cool way of using tabs—like other browsers, you have tabs at the top of your browser for each page, but it also has a display that lets you preview your tabs and easily click on the page you want to navigate back to. It also has Cortana, its “personal assistant,” built in to the browser, which you can use to ask questions with your voice and possibly find information more quickly. And if you want to share personalized content with others, it lets you draw on pages and share them with others. Like Chrome, it does of course have basic features like bookmarks, and though there are fewer available extensions, you can still do things like block ads.
Visit the Microsoft Edge website

Mozilla Firefox

Mozilla Firefox is another extremely popular browser—it’s typically considered the second most popular (behind Chrome). Its release was in 2004, and during the time since then, it has occasionally found itself at the top of the list in popularity. It’s available on Windows, Mac, Linux, and both Android and iOS, meaning it can be used on a wide variety of devices. Firefox works to keep up to date on current standards; this means that there is an emphasis on making sure content is displayed as well as it can be. As mentioned before, it recently came in second place during one security testing event, though it is worthwhile to note that in the past, Firefox was typically considered less safe. By all accounts it has become much more secure over the years, making it a very reasonable choice. Firefox has some cool features available, like the ability to customize your toolbar, access to your bookmarks and other info from anywhere when you use your Firefox account, themes, and private browsing. They also have a nice collection of add-ons that do really useful things, like block ads or do a reverse image search (search using an image instead of text). And of course, like the other browsers, it has bookmarks and all of the other typical features you would expect in a browser.
Visit the Mozilla Firefox website

Opera

Opera is a browser that has been around for a pretty long time. Its original release was in 1996, making it over 20 years old. Opera is sometimes credited as helping lead the way in some popular features that browsers would later pick up and incorporate, which is not much of a surprise considering its longevity. Opera is available on many devices—it’s free for Windows, Mac, and Linux, as well as Android and iOS. There’s even a version you can download onto a flash drive and take with you anywhere. Over the past few years, Opera has undergone some changes that have not always gone over well, but in general it’s seen its share of downloads and has been pretty popular. One of Opera’s biggest selling points is how fast it moves. Opera uses a technique that helps load pages extremely quickly, so if you have a somewhat slow connection, or even one that’s just average, Opera is a great choice. It has some very nice features, including the ability to block ads without adding a special extension, visual bookmarks that give you previews of pages, the ability to access your info anywhere with an Opera account, and, quite different from the other browsers, a built-in VPN feature. A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a way to connect to the internet and stay even more secure, and many people use them. Opera was the first browser to have a VPN built in. Opera also has a lot of add-ons available, like reverse image searches and extensions meant to improve social media navigation. It also has what you would expect, like bookmarks and themes.
Visit the Opera website

Safari

Safari is the browser you’re probably using if you’re reading this article on an Apple device. Safari is the default browser on Apple products, and it’s been around since the early 2000s. Though the browser had a bit of a short-lived run on Windows, it’s no longer supported on Windows, instead being offered on Mac and iOS. You might remember that Safari came in third place in a recent security test—but of course, this was just one test. Safari is typically considered a secure browser. It offers the ability to browse privately, and it also tries to prevent advertisers from targeting you based on your browsing. A big selling point for Safari is that it’s the pre-installed browser for Apple products and ties into other Apple offerings, like the iCloud. It’s also promoted as being the fastest and most energy-conserving browser on Apple devices. Some of its particularly good features include stopping auto-play videos, a Smart Search that gives intuitive suggestions, and, yes, plenty of add-ons. It also has the basic features you want, like bookmarks and some customization.
Visit the Safari website

Vivaldi

Vivaldi may be the browser you’re least likely to have heard of. Vivaldi is not one of the most widely used browsers, but it does have a good following. Vivaldi is very new—it was created after some people were less than impressed with changes made to the Opera browser, and it was just released last year. Vivaldi is meant to bring back some features people missed from Opera and to create what they hope will be a better browser. Since it’s so new, there’s not a lot to note about its security yet, though most view it as a safe choice. Vivaldi is designed to be minimalist—there’s not a lot of distracting stuff going on. However, it can be quite heavily customized, allowing you to reposition where things are, change colors, and much more. It also lets you do some cool and different things with tabs, like group certain tabs together. It has bookmarks, of course, and a browser history. Its history is cool, though; it can display your browsing habits as visual data, giving you an interesting look into your own browsing history. These are just a few of the nice features on Vivaldi. Plus, since it’s based on the same browser engine as Chrome, many Chrome extensions can be installed in Vivaldi. It’s still a pretty new option, but it certainly has a lot of features you might want to give a try.
Visit the Vivaldi website