How to Decide on an Internet Browser (2020’s Best and Worst Choices)

Best and Worst Internet Browsers

Since the birth of the public internet, the battle for the best browser has not stopped. From the early days of Internet Explorer and Yahoo! to the present with the decision whether to choose Google or not, browsers have given us access to unlimited information.

Browsers are essential, and the techs behind them are constantly looking for ways to make them more relevant, speedy, and useful. Now, internet browsers do more than find websites; they let us access apps, go to work, and watch our favorite shows.

There is no argument that the dominating factor in the browser battle is Google, but the way you get there is what matters now. There are several players in this game: Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera, and Edge. They all have strengths and weaknesses, usually based on the device you use to access the web.

What is a Web Browser

Web browsers are software that lets users get into the worldwide web. They give you the tools to see websites, move between them using active links, check email, stream video, and for many people – go to work. Many require you to have a username and password so you can log in and access customized content.

The most commonly used web browsers ranked from best to worst include:

  • Google Chrome
  • Microsoft Edge
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • Apple Safari
  • Opera

Web browsers perform better on different operating systems. For example, if you have a Chromebook, you are limited to using Chrome as your browser. Your iPhone uses iOS, so you can access the web using Safari.

Because the internet is ubiquitous, web browsers are free. Most web-enabled devices come with at least one browser already installed before taking the device out of the box. But, web browsers are not all created equally.

Necessary Features of an Internet Browser

Before we decide what the best and worst browsers are, we must look at what users want. The most popular answers are speed and compatibility, which is the browser’s ability to find what YOU want.

Compatibility Between Devices

A growing desire from users is the browser’s ability to link your computer and smartphone, so you only need one login to access the same content in both places. Some browsers already offer this type of compatibility so you can access bookmarks and passwords on any device where that browser exists.

Reaching Internet Standards

Meeting the high-tech standards of the internet is a feature that users should want, even if they don’t know it. To test the standards of a website, you can use the HTML5test in real-time. The highest possible points are 555, and the closer your browser is to that number, the better the standards.

The 555 score consists of several factors. One is whether the browser supports Dolby Digital. Another is if it allows screenshots. Some of the factors are high-tech, and the average user will not understand them. But, others include audio and video track selection, VR headset capability, and speech recognition.

Once you see what the internet can do, you should want a browser that gives you the most robust experience. Over the years, the desired number has increased. At one point, it was in the 300s, and the former favorite – Internet Explorer – has a score of 312. Currently, the only browsers with scores above 500 are Microsoft Edge and Chrome.

Testing Browser Speed

The internet is full of tests, including the WebXPRT3 benchmark test. This lengthy test looks at several speed-related tasks like enhancing photos, following the stock market, and manipulating text. Watching the browser move through applications like facial-recognition exercises and graph-building is fascinating.

Space Requirements

Every app you use occupies space, and browsers take up a substantial part. Not only do they need space for themselves, but they use space while building caches and saving files. If you have a device with minimal space, you might want to consider using a web browser that doesn’t use most of it.

Privacy Features

If you use the internet for banking and other financial matters, privacy is important. All browsers remember passwords and encrypt them. Some browsers automatically move you through a virtual private network (VPN) to give you added security. Some also require added login features, like fingerprint protection before giving you internet access.

Privacy features matter, so browser developers are always looking for ways to up their safety measures.

The Best and Worst Browsers of 2020

Most of these names are recognizable, especially if you’ve been surfing the web for several years. One is relatively new to the game. Big companies with money to spend run all of these. The browsers might be free, but there is big money in making a browser that attracts the most users.

Google Chrome

This is the one that gets the most use. It is easy to use, quick, and continually upgraded. The simple white screen with the search bar in the middle set the standards for web browsing when it web crawler launched in 1998.

Despite Chrome having the most users, the browser isn’t perfect. There are moments when the browser updates are not successful, or the site actually goes down. However, the speed and compatibility of Chrome make it one of the most useful browsers on the web.

When it comes to features, Chrome tops most of them. On the HTML5Test, it earns a high 513 out of 55. It is a hefty browser that uses more memory than others at 437MB. It also succeeds on the WebXPRT 3 test, coming in second to Apple’s Safari.

Google is always working on security enhancements. The internet behemoth regularly updates the browser, but those updates can be buggy at times. If you have a Chromebook, the updates automatically occur when you restart your laptop.

When you log into Chrome, it automatically connects you to Gmail and other Google apps like YouTube, Meet, and Calendar. This is a convenience feature for some, but not for others who prefer not to have a browser assume your preferences.

Despite Chrome’s popularity, it does have some weaknesses. Unlike other browsers, it does not have an automatic VPN. It also does not have a reading mode, screenshot button, or any organizing tabs. If you save your bookmarks, you will see how messy that collection of URLs can be.

One feature that is popular with users is dark mode on Android smartphones. This recent update lets mobile users preserve their batteries and see content without having to crank up their background lights.

If you are an adept techie, then you can have fun with some of the features. Chrome offers users access to developer tools, where you can try out beta projects on your browser. You can also add extensions and tools to fully customize your Chrome browser.

Chrome also offers voice recognition, which makes it easy to use it with a connected device. If you browse with your mobile device, Chrome will suggest sites that you might like based on your browsing history.

Mozilla Firefox

This is another popular browser that has been around for years. It is an open-source browser behind many developer firsts. You can add a plethora of extensions and use several logins to access information on one site.

What differentiates Firefox from the rest is how often new features are added. For example, the browser supports HTML5, CSS, and some AR features. You can also use their password management service to create passwords that are difficult to hack and share them within your devices. You can control all of the passwords with one complex password.

You can also interface within devices. So, if you are looking at a webpage on your desktop, you can go right to your smartphone, open Firefox and see the same page on it. The feature works in reverse, too. If you were wondering if Firefox works on Chromebooks, it does on newer models; but the browser has limitations. It only works on iOS 10.3 and above.

Another choice feature is the Reader View, which removes unwanted ads, videos, and prompts from any webpage. You can also customize the toolbar.

When it comes to the browser tests, Firefox does ok. On the HTML5 test, Firefox scores 491. Of the top browsers, Firefox lands just below Chrome in the WebXPRT 3 test. It occupies 187MB of space on a typical computer.

Microsoft Edge

Internet Explorer hasn’t cut it for several years. So, Microsoft introduced Edge in 2015. If you didn’t use it then, you aren’t alone. However disappointing it was at first, Microsoft has updated it to make it exciting and “edgy.” It’s worth a look now.

Edge uses Chromium, the code Google uses to render web pages on Chrome. By doing this, Edge no longer has compatibility issues. It runs on most forms of Windows and macOS. It does not run on Chromebooks, but you can add it to iOS devices.

Edge does well on the compatibility test. It scored 535 on the HTML5 test, edging out Chrome due to Dolby Digital, screen capture capabilities, and ObjectRTC. It also outperforms Chrome on the WebXPRT 3 test, with the top score of all the browsers. It uses 319MB of RAM.

The best feature on Edge is via Netflix. If you love streaming videos on Netflix, then stream them using Edge as it is the only browser that can do it in 4K. It also supports Dolby Digital audio, so your streams will look better and sound better than they do on Chrome.

Privacy and customization are the focus for Edge developers. Many businesses still use Internet Explorer, so developers are looking for ways to integrate the two to wean the IE stalwarts away from it.

Edge offers users a feature called Immersive Reader mode. Users love it because it removes distractions like ads, unwanted videos, and more. To top it off, the app can read the website to you using actual sentence intonation rather than the choppy word-by-word that other text-to-speech readers use.

Edge differentiates itself from other browsers by offering a beta-level organizational tool called Collections. You simply drag and drop from the web to Excel or Word. You can also write notes about the items you add to those apps.

Like Chrome, you can customize your homepage on Edge. You can add scrolling photos in the Inspiration version, or choose from Focused, Informational, or Custom. Bing will add images and cards from your choice of topics, like sports, finance, or news.

Parents appreciate the privacy levels, as they can set their children’s browsers to the strict setting to disable unwanted features and prevent strangers from accessing information, too. The other privacy levels are basic and balanced.

Edge also has a mobile version that works on Android and iOS. It syncs with the desktop version and remembers passwords for your convenience and safety.

Apple Safari

Safari is the default browser on any iOS or Mac device. Like all iOS products, it considers the user’s experience first and foremost. The browser was the first to offer a clutter-free reading mode. But, the browser does not have anywhere near the same capabilities as Edge and Chrome.

Safari does have an advanced privacy feature that became available with iOS 13 and macOS Cataline. It uses fingerprinting protection, so web trackers cannot find you through your unique system details. For users who crave anonymity, this feature is a necessity.

Safari scores in the middle on most of the browser tests, with the exception of RAM usage. On the HTML5test website test, Safari scores below Chrome and Edge with a 491. Unfortunately, it uses the most memory on iOS devices. Its WebXPRT score is just below Firefox but above the rest.

If you are a dedicated Apple user, Safari is a good choice because of the Handoff feature that lets you browse seamlessly between your Apple devices. But, the browser does not have the same HTML5 features that other browsers do.

Opera

Opera is a quality browser that most people have never used. Opera Software makes the freeware browser, which relies on Chromium as Chrome and Safari do. Opera Software prides itself on being a pioneer in features that other browsers do not use, like tabs, CSS, and search boxes.

A Chinese investment group owns the parent company, but they openly trade on NASDAQ, so users do not need to worry about communists stealing data. You can trust this because Opera uses VPNs to protect users through proxy servers no matter where they are accessing their WiFi.

Opera is quick because it relies on Chromium. On the tests, Opera scored 518 on the HTML5 test, just below Chrome and Edge. It scored above Chrome on the WebXPRT 5 test. It also takes up minimal RAM, slightly more than Firefox at 191MB. You can install it on most devices, including Chromebooks and iOS products, through a version called Opera Touch.

Because of the VPN, Opera can block ads better than any other browser. It blocks crypto-miners and trackers and instituted this privacy feature before Firefox, which is the only other browser to do so. By blocking ads, you get to save on your data expenses – which is important if you have limits.

The browser also has a feature called Speed Dial. With a sidebar of commonly used apps, you can jump right into your favorite apps with one quick move. Opera works well with WhatsApp, and it is the only popular browser with a cryptocurrency wallet.

The mobile version is called Opera Touch, and it works seamlessly with the desktop version. To load it on your mobile device, you scan a QR code off of your computer monitor.

Alternative Browsers

If you like to get away from the norm, there are alternative browsers that can assist you. These browsers usually have more customization and privacy than the big ones like Chrome, Firefox, and Edge. These are a few of your options.

Brave

Brave is an up-and-comer that takes ad blocking and privacy seriously. It uses Chromium but with a monetizing incentive. You can earn Brave cryptocurrency if you let advertisers into your browsing.

Brave will distill your pages to an uncluttered reading mode, unless you want the ads and the possibility of reaching their cryptocurrency limit of $1 million. It has a privacy mode called Tor, but it slows the browser substantially. Otherwise, it’s a recognizable product with bookmarks, history, themes, and more.

Epic

This browser is even more popular with people who value privacy. Epic claims to block it all – even better than Opera does. It uses a built-in VPN to keep the trackers and miners out of your history. The browser also blocks social media tracking and scripts.

It relies on Chromium, too. You can use the web-based Epicsearch.in to go completely private. You can also install the browser on all Android devices and Chromebooks, too. If you like barebones browsing with tons of privacy, this is the browser for you.

Browsing the web is a personal experience. Fortunately, several browsers will help you get where you need to go quickly and safely with the features you want and need.

Brett Gordon
 

Founder and editor-in-chief of GetInternet. Having clocked tons of time in the broadband industry, today, Brett is dedicated to positioning GetInternet as a prime resource to simplify the broadband shopping experience.