All web browsers have the same basic function, and yet, the choice between them has always been one of the most contentious in tech history. You have more options these days than ever before, whether you’re looking for the best web browser for privacy, the best for speed, or perhaps something a bit more adventurous.
To help you decide on the best web browser, we grabbed the latest browsers and put them through their paces. Even if some could use a complete overhaul, these options are your best chance for a great online experience.
The best web browser: Google Chrome
Chrome is ubiquitous — and for good reason. With a robust feature set, full Google Account integration, a thriving extension ecosystem (available through the Chrome Web Store), and a reliable suite of mobile apps, it’s easy to see why Chrome is the most popular and the best web browser.
Chrome boasts some of the most extensive mobile integration available. Served up on every major platform, keeping data in sync is easy, making browsing between multiple devices a breeze. Sign in to your Google account on one device, and all Chrome bookmarks, saved data, and preferences come right along. Even active extensions stay synchronized across devices.
Chrome’s password manager can automatically generate and recommend strong passwords when a user creates a new account on a webpage. Managing saved passwords is even easier given the new Password Manager and the ability to add notes to passwords. The search bar, or Omnibox, provides “rich results” comprised of useful answers. Favorites are more accessible as well, and they’re manageable on the New Tab page. And it’s now easier to mute tabs to avoid unwanted sounds.
Other updates have included a Dark Mode for Windows and MacOS, better New Tab customization and tab group creation, tab hover cards, and an in-browser warning if your password was discovered in a data breach. There’s a new price tracking feature that can help locate the best deals. Android users will appreciate the Phone Hub for linking and monitoring their phones. There’s also the ability to quiet notifications, so websites don’t bombard you with requests to enable in-browser notifications.
What’s the bottom line? The Google Chrome browser is fast, free, and even better looking than before. With a thriving extension ecosystem, it’s as fully featured or as pared-down as you want it to be. Everything is right where it belongs, privacy and security controls are laid out in plain English, and the browser just gets out of your way. While it can be a little RAM-hungry at times, Google is working to make it more efficient — like Microsoft’s Edge, Google can now hibernate tabs in the background to stop them from using too many resources.
Overall, Chrome remains the best web browser download for the average user.
The best Chrome alternative: Microsoft Edge
In response to the market’s rejection of its original home-grown Edge browser, Microsoft rewrote Edge using the open-source Chromium web browser engine. The new Edge launched on February 5, 2020, as a separate, stand-alone browser that replaced the integrated version. It became part of Windows 10 with the May 2020 update, although you can still download it for Windows 10 builds prior to version 2004. Of course, it’s the default web browser for Windows 11.
At first glance, the new Edge browser looks and feels like Google Chrome. It prompts you to import Chrome’s bookmarks toolbar and other settings. This is great if you hated the old Edge browser and want to give Microsoft’s new browser another shot. It also supports Chrome extensions, though the browser leads you to the Microsoft Store for add-ons. You must manually load the Chrome Web Store to install anything not listed in Microsoft’s repository.
However, it’s not Chrome with a Windows 11 theme. Microsoft reportedly disabled many features, including Google’s Safe Browsing API, ad blocking, speech input, Google-centric services, and more. In return, the company worked to optimize Edge and reduce its footprint while continuing to add new, Microsoft-oriented features. As of January 2023, Edge is the most efficient browser in terms of memory usage. It also allows sleeping tabs, to let tabs release their resources when they haven’t been used for some time.
Features launching throughout 2022 included the new Edge Sidebar that provides easy access to various tools, more flexibility in managing how Edge starts up, Citations for making it easier for students to cite sources, and various other updates to make the browser more productive.
Microsoft Edge also provides simpler privacy settings and security updates. In Chrome, you merely have separate panels for safe browsing, “do not track” requests, and more. Microsoft Edge provides a more graphically friendly interface displaying three security levels: Basic, Balanced, and Strict. With Balanced set as the default, many sites request you to disable your pop-up blocker even though one isn’t manually installed. All in all, we’re very optimistic that Edge is on its way to becoming the best web browser.
The best Chromium alternative: Mozilla Firefox
Firefox is the best browser that’s not based on the Chromium browser engine. The Mozilla Firefox browser takes real strides to make its browser a truly modern way to surf from site to site, thanks to efforts like its upgrade to Firefox Quantum, its VR alternative Firefox Reality, and password-free browsing.
It wasn’t too long ago that Mozilla rebuilt the browser’s interface, offering a cleaner, more modern take on what a web browser should be. The changes weren’t just skin-deep, however. There’s some impressive engineering going on behind the scenes.
For example, Firefox Quantum is designed to leverage multicore processors in ways that its competitors just aren’t doing. It was not designed to make a huge difference in your day-to-day browsing, but Mozilla hopes this design will give Firefox Quantum an edge moving forward. By engineering for the future now, Firefox Quantum is in a better position to take advantage of quicker processors as they emerge.
Some Firefox strengths include privacy protections with SmartBlock anti-tracker support, improved password syncing across devices, enhanced readability, integrated breach alerts, and a Protections Dashboard that provides a summary of how Firefox protects your privacy behind the scenes. WebRender improves the graphics performance on Windows PCs with Intel and AMD CPUs.
Recent updates include easier download management, captions and subtitle support on YouTube, Prime Video, and Netflix videos watched in picture-in-picture mode, HDR support in MacOS, and the ability to edit PDFs with text, drawings, and signatures. Firefox can also recognize text from an image, which is copied to the clipboard when selected. Finally, Firefox Colorways provide new options for optimizing how Firefox looks on-screen.
Beneath those changes, Firefox remains a comfortable, familiar standby. It’s a capable browser with a deep catalog of extensions and user interface customization. While managing settings across platforms isn’t as seamless as Google Chrome, the mobile browser app lets you share bookmarks between devices when using a free Firefox account.
There’s a bit of a fringe benefit, too. Since it’s been around longer than Chrome, some older web apps — the likes of which you might encounter at your university or workplace — work better on Firefox than they do on Chrome. For that reason, it never hurts to keep it around.
Overall, Firefox is more privacy-centric than Chrome and comparably fast, but its feature set isn’t quite as expansive elsewhere. If you like the sound of this, download the Firefox browser today.
The most innovative web browser: Opera
Another venerable browser and popular alternative, the Opera browser shares much of Chrome’s DNA and deserves its place as one of the best web browsers. Like both Edge and Chrome, Opera is built on Google’s open-source Chromium engine and, as a result, they all have a very similar user experience. Both feature a hybrid URL/search bar, and both are relatively light and fast.
The differences appear when you look at Opera’s built-in features. Where Chrome relies on an extension ecosystem to provide functionality users might want, Opera has a few more features baked right into the browser itself. It introduced a predictive website preload ability, and an Instant Search feature isolates search results in their separate window while the current page fades into the background, letting users more easily focus on the research task at hand.
You can install extensions from the Opera Add-ons store, which are just like Chrome extensions. Similar to Google’s browser, you’ll find useful tools like Giphy, Amazon Assistant, Avast Online Security, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and more. If Chrome’s wide variety of extensions is important to you, then Opera becomes an intriguing alternative. It might just be one of the best browsers for quickly navigating web pages.
Opera also features a built-in “Stash” for saving pages to read later. There’s no need to sign up for a Pocket or Evernote account to save a page for later reading. Similarly, Opera features a speed-dial menu that puts all your most frequently visited pages in one place. Google Chrome also does this, but only on a blank new tab. Finally, Opera has a built-in unlimited VPN service, making it a more secure browser option.
The biggest changes came with Opera 60 and Reborn 3, a complete revamp that brought a new borderless design, Web 3 support, and a Crypto Wallet, allowing users to prepare for blockchain-based sites. With version 69, Opera became the first browser with a built-in Twitter tool, and the company has added others as well including Instagram and Tik Tock. Just click the icon on the toolbar, log in to your account, and tweet away right from within the slide-out menu.
Other recent advancements include Lucid Mode, which sharpens video playing on a variety of platforms, supports emojis instead of web links, and other enhancements.
You can see that we’re well into hair-splitting territory, which is why it’s important to remember that your choice of browser is, more than any other service or app you use each day, entirely dependent on your personal preferences — what feels most right for you. The Opera web browser has a unique look and feel, and it combines some of the best features of Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome.
While the preceding browsers will meet most users’ needs, other alternatives exist for anyone looking for something different. This section is for those who have a more niche preference in web browsers or want to try something new.
If you use Apple devices exclusively, Safari is already your default browser. It’s also significantly faster than in the past, surpassing Chrome in its quickness. It’s integrated into iOS, iPadOS, and MacOS, and you’ll likely get better battery life thanks to Apple’s in-house optimizations and the underlying hardware.
Safari also focuses a great deal on privacy and security. If you want to minimize how you’re tracked and whether Big Brother is looking over your shoulder, then Safari is a good choice. If you also use an iPhone and/or an iPad, then using Safari on your Mac will make for the most seamless transition between platforms. Open websites on an iPad or iPhone are carried over to MacOS.
Safari is not offered outside the Apple ecosystem.
The Vivaldi browser is truly unique. No two Vivaldi users will have the same setup. When you run it for the first time, you’re guided through a setup process that lays out your browser in a way that makes sense for you. You choose where your tabs and address bar go and whether you want browser tabs displayed at the top of the page or in a separate side panel. This is a browser built from the ground up to deliver a unique user experience, and for the most part, it succeeds. Vivaldi 2.0 enhanced the customization features and made them easier to access.
This browser excels at customization, and you can choose from a variety of tasteful themes that don’t feel dated or out of place on a modern PC, in addition to the aforementioned UI choices. It also has some standout privacy-enhancing features, like its team-up with DuckDuckGo to make the non-tracking search tool the default option when in privacy mode.
Finally, recent updates added more powerful tab management, enhancements like Web Panels that make for smarter browsing, and (as mentioned) even more powerful customization options. Other new updates include a built-in ad blocker, a built-in tracker blocker, a clock in the Status Bar, a new Notes Manager, and a Break Mode for pausing the internet while keeping the browser open.
One of the most unusual browsers around is Brave — or, perhaps, its Brave’s business model that’s the strangest. Brave blocks all ads on all web pages by default, which makes it arguably the fastest browser around. Ads are a huge portion of how many websites make money — block these ads, and suddenly the most important web financial tool is eliminated.
That’s where the Brave Rewards program comes in. Users receive Basic Attention Tokens (BATs) when they view alternative ads that Brave places in the browsing stream. Users can pass along a portion of their tokens to publishers. As of January 2021, there were over 70,000 websites that supported BAT-based transactions through the Brave browser, including Wikipedia, The Guardian, WikiHow, MacRumors, and more.
What’s in it for users? Simply put, if you’re not waiting for ads to download along with website content, then your web experience will feel much faster. Brave performs no user tracking, making it ideal for private browsing as well.
The Tor Browser is a version of Firefox that serves one very specific purpose: A simple entry point for The Onion Router, or Tor.
Tor is software combined with an open network aimed at making you invisible by routing your traffic through several anonymous servers. While it’s not foolproof, it’s very difficult for someone to identify you when you’re properly configured and using something like the Tor Browser to surf the web — especially if combined with a VPN.
There are many legitimate uses of the Tor Browser and the Tor network. It’s a good choice for people who live in countries with repressive governments, as well as journalists and activists. The dark web is also one of the destinations for people using Tor, which includes many nefarious and illegal sites.
In any event, if you want to remain completely anonymous while surfing the web, the Tor Browser and network are for you. If you want a more mainstream alternative, Opera includes a VPN component, but it’s far less private.
Avast Secure Browser
Avast Secure Browser first arrived as the Opera-based Avast Safezone Browser in 2016 as part of the Avast Antivirus paid bundle. It was revised and rebranded in 2018 as a free stand-alone product based on Chromium. Originally the “SafeZone” aspect kicked in when users visited websites to make purchases or manage money.
Avast Secure Browser provides several built-in tools to protect your data and privacy. These include an anti-phishing module, fingerprinting and online tracking prevention, an ad blocker, and a Webcam Guard tool to control which websites can access your camera. The Hack Check tool will determine if your info was leaked in a data breach.
Avast Secure Browser is a stand-alone download for Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS. The desktop version doesn’t include an integrated VPN but instead directs users to download the company’s separate SecureLine VPN software. The listed Bank Mode — part of the Avast Free Antivirus client — flips on when users load a banking website.
Best web browser features — what to look for
Notice we don’t include Safari in our main comparison. Apple’s Safari web browser is unavailable on Windows, Android, or Chrome OS, so we removed it from our primary list.
Most browsers are compatible with web standards and handle performance with relative ease. A casual user probably won’t notice a difference in the rendering speed between today’s modern browsers, as all six are much faster and leaner than those of a few years ago.
We ran the following benchmarks on a desktop with an AMD Ryzen 7 5800X processor, 32GB of RAM, a 1TB M.2 PCIe NVMe solid-state drive, and Windows 11. All browsers were clean installs of the most current production versions as of January 2023, and all were run at their default settings.
|Chrome 109||Opera 94||Edge 109||Firefox 109|
Notice how all three Chromium-based browsers outperform Firefox. In fact, there’s very little difference between them, while Firefox’s performance is quite poor by comparison.
The next test we ran was Speedometer 2.0. It measures how responsive a browser is to web applications by repeatedly adding a large number of items to a to-do list. Higher numbers are better.
|Chrome 109||Opera 94||Firefox 109||Edge 109|
Here, Opera led the pack, with Chrome and Edge running nearly neck to neck. Firefox came in last here with a relatively low score.
Finally, we tested how much RAM each browser uses, both with no tabs open and then with 10 tabs open accessing the same popular sites. We made sure that each browser had no extensions running, and we let each browser settle in before looking at its memory use. For the test with 10 tabs open, we averaged memory use when all the tabs were opened and then five minutes later to account for any variability.
It’s not a scientific test, but it should be sound enough to give you an idea of which browsers are the most and least efficient in terms of taking up your RAM. We found Opera to use the least amount of RAM when first opened, barely ahead of Edge, while Chrome used the most. Edge used the least with all 10 tabs loaded by a significant margin, a third or less than the other browsers. Chrome used the most with all 10 tabs open, and Firefox and Opera weren’t far behind.
Security and privacy
The most valuable tool for secure and private browsing is user discretion, especially when you consider that every web browser has encountered security breaches in the past. In particular, Internet Explorer and Chrome’s reputations for protecting users’ security and privacy credentials are spotty at best.
Chrome, Safari, Vivaldi, Opera, and Firefox all rely on Google’s Safe Browsing API to detect potentially dangerous sites. Thanks to constant updates, Mozilla, Chrome, and Opera all make constant security improvements. Microsoft disabled this API in Edge.
All browsers offer a private session option, too. Private sessions prevent the storage of browsing history, temporary internet files, and cookies. Browser support for Do Not Track remains spotty.
Mozilla made some strides in differentiating itself from others with a real focus on privacy in recent years. It even debuted a Facebook Container in 2018 to make it harder for the social network to harvest user information.
Frequently asked questions
Do you need to use a VPN when browsing the web?
You do not have to use a VPN when browsing the internet. However, a VPN can be a good tool to use as it protects your privacy and data by creating a secure and encrypted data tunnel between your browser and a VPN server. In turn, that server creates a secure and encrypted connection between it and the target website.
As a result, the website can’t identify you personally, nor can it see your true geological location or internet address. Not even your ISP knows where you’re surfing or the device you use with a VPN enabled. Some VPN services are free while others require a subscription. We have a list of the current best VPN services.
Which browser is most used in the world?
Google Chrome leads the web browser market with a 64.68% share, according to Statcounter. Apple Safari follows with 18.29%, Edge at 4.23%, Mozilla Firefox at 3.01%%, and Opera at 2.25%. Internet Explorer is still in use with 0.81%, while Microsoft Edge “Legacy” is fading out at 0.32%.
What are the best ad blockers to use for your browser?
We have a guide on the best ad blockers for Google Chrome, but here’s a short list:
- AdBlock and AdBlock Plus
- AdGuard (Chrome only)
- CyberSec by NordVPN
- Poper Blocker (Chrome only)
- Stands Fair AdBlocker (Chrome only)
- uBlock Origin (Chrome and Firefox only)
What is browser fingerprinting and how can you prevent it?
Websites want to know everything about you: Your tastes, your habits, and where you like to surf. When you load a website, it quietly runs scripts in the background that collect information about you and your device. The operating system, the web browser, all installed extensions, your time zone — all of this information is strung together to create a “fingerprint,” which in turn can be used to trace you across the internet via cross-site tracking.
Avast provides a detailed explanation and outlines various forms of fingerprinting. For example, the “canvas” method forces the browser to draw an image or text in the background, without the user knowing, to determine the operating system, web browser, graphics card, installed drivers, and the current font style. Device fingerprinting determines all internal and external device components.
As your fingerprint is tracked across the internet, this “profile” can be sold to data brokers, who then resell the data to advertisers. It’s a more silent means of gathering information about you versus using cookies that require your consent. The problem is, browser fingerprinting is still perfectly legal.
The best way to prevent browser fingerprinting is by randomizing and generalizing data. Third-party software like Avast AntiTrack does this by inserting “fake” data when website scripts try to collect your information. However, this tool allows scripts to continue running in the background so the website doesn’t “break.”
Many browsers offer some type of anti-fingerprinting protection. These include Avast Secure Browser (see above), Brave Browser (randomization), Mozilla Firefox (blocks fingerprinting scripts), and Tor Browser (generalization).