The best and worst web browsers

The best and worst web browsers

Saturday, 1 September, 2018

Back in the 1990s, web browsing software was very limited.

Most people used Netscape Navigator or Internet Explorer, though subscribers to dial-up services like AOL had to use proprietary interfaces loaded with adverts and self-promotion.

Then Microsoft lost a high-profile court case relating to the inclusion of IE with every copy of Windows (forcing it to offer rival platforms to its customers), and all bets were off.

Millennial consumers began to explore the burgeoning variety of browser tools at their disposal, at a time when newer platforms like Firefox and Safari were emerging.

Today, we have a huge diversity of web browsers to choose from, on any device.

But which web browsers make the strongest cases for themselves, and which might be better left to specialists and loyalists?

Best for beginners Chrome. Launched: 2008

Providing the underpinnings to Chromebook laptops, Chrome has become the world’s most popular web browser. It’s child’s play to use, with a dedicated web store providing extra functionality. Chrome is also stable and easy to use, rendering websites beautifully.

Best for Windows Microsoft Edge. Launched: 2015

Edge has been designed to tackle specific issues relating to its Internet Explorer predecessor. As a result, it’s lightning-fast and doesn’t rely on insecure protocols. There’s an integral reading mode for complicated websites, and it’s far more malware resistant than IE.

Best for Apple Safari. Launched: 2003

If you buy an Apple computer, Safari is pre-installed, in the same way IE was on old Windows PCs. Fortunately, that’s no hardship. The colour-coded tabs are user friendly and familiar to Mac users, while telephone support and searchable FAQs provide real-time help.

Best for PC/Mac dualists Firefox. Launched: 2004

While Edge is PC-specific and Safari only works on Macs, Firefox displays almost identically on both operating systems. That’s great for people who regularly switch between PCs and Macs. Non-profit parent company Mozilla is also less advertising-driven than rivals.

Best for security Tor Browser. Launched: 2004

Uniquely among this list, Tor bounces individual data packets through numerous nodes between host servers and recipient machines. This keeps browsing private, blocks cookies and deletes site histories. Tor also incorporates an equally security-conscious search engine.

Best for slow connections Opera. Launched: 1995

Despite being something of a niche choice, the long-established Opera browser has much to commend it. Foremost among these is a traffic compression tool, routing minimised data through Opera’s servers and delivering super-fast content to PC, Mac or Linux machines.

Best for customisation SeaMonkey. Launched: 2006

Open source software enables anyone to customise it, and SeaMonkey users regularly add their own features to the original source code. These updates can be automatically rolled out or completely ignored, according to the preferences of individual users.

Room for improvement

Although certain browsers excel in specific areas, some have known weaknesses:

Worst for performance Tor Browser. Launched: 2004

Tor’s unique architecture places it in both halves of our list. Bouncing data around numerous global nodes is great for anonymity, but it results in dismal download speeds. Don’t even try to watch high definition streaming media content – you’ll give up in despair.

Worst for safety Microsoft Internet Explorer. Launched: 1995

The staple web browser in the Noughties, IE was discontinued when Edge came out three years ago. It’s still among the most widely used browsers, but the lack of updates and plugin support makes it vulnerable to malware. Modern webpages may not display well, either.

Worst for compatibility Konqueror. Launched: 2000

Konqueror is the default web browser bundled with the KDE distribution of Linux. It offers the usual tabbed windows and split-screen functionality familiar to other browser users. However, under expert testing, the vast majority of pages didn’t render or display properly.

Results may vary

This list is not definitive, and some of the drawbacks listed above could actually seem advantageous to certain people.

Privacy-conscious individuals might be happy to accept the sluggish multi-node distribution of Tor’s data, while traditionalists are often drawn to Internet Explorer’s familiarity.

Even so, adoption of newer web browsers ought to provide a faster and more dependable online experience, displaying webpage data as its creators originally intended it to look.

Crucially, ensuring your chosen browser is regularly updated should minimise any likelihood of malware slipping through and infecting your device.

Chrome is particularly good at blocking potentially unsafe sites, since parent company Google is hugely knowledgeable about which websites are low-grade or suspicious.

Neil Cumins author picture

By:

Neil is an expert tech writer. He's written hundred's of Guides to all things broadband!

News What's the story?

Keep up with the latest developments in UK broadband.

TalkTalk offers exclusive £80 reward to new fibre customers

The huge bonus is available to anyone signing up for a 'Faster Fibre' bundle through BroadbandDeals.co.uk

TalkTalk offers exclusive £80 reward to new fibre customers Read more

TikTok ‘gifts’ empty kids piggy banks

Children are most vulnerable to 'influencer' donation pleas

Read more

Netflix ruins 90’s cartoon, enrages internet

The streaming giant came in for criticism for 'straightwashing' Japanese cult classic anime.

Read more

Porn-block pushed back by clerical errors

Further delays to the child-protection measure, with the process mocked as an 'utter shambles'.

Read more

How to watch Wimbledon online for free

How to make sure you don't miss out on the action from your favourite sports stars.

Read more

Fast fines for ISPs could end the “Loyalty Penalty”

But could the proposed measures mean worse deals for those who shop around?

Fast fines for ISPs could end the “Loyalty Penalty” Read more

Boris Johnson mocks full-fibre roll-out plans

The likely next PM boasts plans to beat current targets by 8 years, but is it all just hot air?

Read more

Broadband and phone companies to put Fairness first

Telecoms providers commit to raising standards.

Read more

UK to get legal right to decent and affordable broadband

New legislation will ensure minimum speeds for every UK household.

Read more

GDPR – One year on

The landmark legislation gave people the ‘right to know’ when their data had been hacked.

Read more

Slow broadband is costing us £2.2bn extra a year

Read more

Help Learn with us

Make the most of the internet with our broadband library.

Protecting your small business against cyber attacks

Protecting your small business against cyber attacks Read more

Could 5G end fixed-line home broadband?

Read more

How broadband availability varies across the UK

Read more

Which social media platforms should I be on?

Read more

Will you get online on holiday?

Stay connected during your get-away.

Read more

Make the most of your broadband overnight

Read more

The main causes of slow internet connections

Slow broadband can be more than just an irritant - but what causes it, and what can we do to fight back?

The main causes of slow internet connections Read more

Do you need to ramp up your broadband controls?

Read more

The different types of home computer

Read more

Will we all need gigabit broadband one day?

Read more

Explaining broadband industry jargon

Read more
Back To Top