Internet browsers have only become more important in recent years, with a wide variety of applications that live, run and work purely within the browser. Indeed, they can be so powerful that Google’s built an entire laptop category – Chromebooks – around notebooks just running a web browser as the core operating system itself!
No matter whether you’re a Windows user or a Mac fan, you’ve got choice when it comes to web browser, even though both platforms have their own inbuilt browsers that many folks use simply because they’re already there.
You can also easily set a new browser to be the system default, so that when you get a web link it launches in the browser of your choice. Make a change to a browser and want to go back? That’s pretty easy too. But first, we need to pick the “best” browser.
Here, the reality is kind of mixed, because browsers get updated on a constant basis, and it’s a matter that does vary a lot over time. If you wanted to measure “best” in terms of overall market size, that’d point towards Google’s Chrome, followed by Apple’s Safari and Microsoft’s Edge browser. But just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for you.
The nice thing here is that you can pretty easily and safely experiment with different browser choices at will. They’re free to download and easy to uninstall if they don’t meet your needs. Let’s run through your choices in major browsers:
Pros: Works well with Google services, widely used (so a lot of sites render well in it), plenty of extensions
Cons: Lots of tracking (because it’s Google), can be a memory hog.
Google currently has the largest market share for browsers, with just over half of Australia’s web users opting for the search giant’s particular browser flavour. It’s worth noting that a lot of Chrome’s competitors use the underlying browser engine from Chrome to run their code, including Microsoft! Chrome is good if you’re heavily in the Google ecosystem, using Google Photos and Drive and with an Android phone, with lots of cross-device browsing features too. However, it’s often accused of being a memory hog, and with good reason. When Chrome is behaving it’s really good, but when it goes awry, it can eat up system resources like no other.
Pros: Preinstalled on Windows, can be quite fast
Cons: Defaults to Microsoft services such as Bing, can be persistently annoying if it’s not your default
At one time Microsoft was king of the browser hill with its Internet Explorer browser. IE is long forgotten now – and not missed by many – replaced with Microsoft Edge. It uses the same Chromium engine as Google Chrome, but often with less of a memory hit, especially on Windows PCs.
Where it may not suit your needs is if you’re not using a lot of Microsoft specific services, and especially if you don’t want to use Microsoft’s search engine Bing. Edge can also be just a touch pushy if you do opt for a different browser on a Windows 11 PC, dropping in less-than-subtle pop-ups to suggest switching back. Take the loss gracefully, Edge!
Pros: Works seamlessly across Apple devices, quite quick on most Macs
Cons: Windows version no longer developed, not quite as configurable as other browsers
Apple’s Safari has a large market share in Australia, and that’s almost certainly down to the fact that so many Australians love their iPhones, and for the longest time Safari was the only browser you could use on an iPhone. Being default has its advantages that way.
Safari is best experienced on a Mac; the Windows version is no longer actively developed and isn’t recommended on simple security grounds. If you’ve got a lot of Apple gear, however, it’s a great choice as it makes it so very easy to share content and URLs from your iPhone to your iPad to your Mac.
The one downside to Safari for Mac users is that compared to the wide array of extensions and configuration options on other browsers, Safari is a bit more bare-bones. Apple likes controlling the way users have experiences on its hardware, and this extends to the way that its in-house browser works.
Pros: Good for privacy and security, nicely configurable
Cons: Not quite as quick as Chromium-based browsers
Firefox is a long-runner in the browser wars, and it’s a package that has a little bit of everything, with a strong focus on privacy when you browse the web. It includes a lot of tracking elimination features by default, and has a wide ecosystem of extensions to meet most needs.
The biggest issue that Firefox has for many users is that it can run just a little slower than competitors for some releases. This is quite a variable matter; some releases of Firefox seem to patch the memory issues and then the next one seems to bring them right back again. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give Firefox a try – but it’s certainly worth bearing in mind.
Pros: Some privacy features pre-enabled, nicely quick
Cons: Weird crypto-based ad model is off-putting, fewer extensions
Brave is a Chromium-based browser, but one that’s stripped a lot of Google’s custom code out in favour of its own, mostly privacy focused approach. Brave has a lot of privacy features pre-enabled when you install it, as well as optional features in newer builds of the browser. However, dropping some Chromium code does mean that it’s not quite as richly endowed with extensions as competitors like Chrome or Firefox.
It’s ad-supported, however, with an option to earn cryptocurrencies if you do opt into ads. It’s a slightly odd feature, honestly, because most of us don’t really want ads at all when we’re browsing.