Computing

The Finest Web Browsers for 2023

All web browsers serve the same fundamental purpose, yet the choice between them has always been a hotly debated topic in the world of technology. Today, there are more options than ever before, whether you’re seeking the best web browser for privacy, speed, or perhaps something more adventurous.

To assist you in making an informed decision, we have tested and evaluated the latest browsers. While some may benefit from a complete overhaul, the options presented here offer the best opportunity for a remarkable online experience.

The Leading Web Browser: Google Chrome

Google Chrome 88 fixed on Digital Trends site.
Image source: Digital Trends

Chrome is ubiquitous, and for good reason. Boasting a robust feature set, seamless integration with Google Accounts, a thriving extension ecosystem from the Chrome Web Store, and reliable mobile apps, it’s easy to see why Chrome is the most popular and finest web browser.

Chrome offers unparalleled mobile integration, available on all major platforms. Keeping data in sync is effortless, allowing for seamless browsing across multiple devices. Sign in to your Google account on one device, and all Chrome bookmarks, saved data, and preferences follow suit. Even active extensions stay synchronized across devices.

With Chrome’s password manager, users can effortlessly generate and receive recommendations for strong passwords when creating new accounts. Managing saved passwords is a breeze, thanks to the new Password Manager and the ability to add notes to passwords. The Omnibox, or search bar, provides useful and informative “rich results.” Favorites are easily accessible on the New Tab page, and muting tabs to avoid unwanted sounds is simpler than ever.

Updates have included a Dark Mode for Windows and MacOS, enhanced New Tab customization and tab group creation, tab hover cards, and an in-browser warning if your password was found in a data breach. The browser now features a useful price tracking feature for finding the best deals. Additionally, Android users can benefit from the Phone Hub, enabling seamless linking and monitoring of their phones. The ability to silence notifications from websites is also provided.

In summary, Google Chrome is fast, free, and more visually appealing than ever. With a diverse extension ecosystem, Chrome can be as feature-rich or minimalistic as desired. Everything is intuitively organized, and privacy and security controls are clearly laid out. Chrome strives to make browsing a hassle-free experience. While it may occasionally consume a bit more RAM, Google is actively working to optimize performance. Similar to Microsoft’s Edge, Chrome now hibernates tabs in the background to reduce resource usage.

Overall, Chrome remains the top choice for the average user seeking a web browser download.

The Prime Chrome Alternative: Microsoft Edge

Microsoft Edge 88 on the Digital Trends site.
Image source: Digital Trends

In response to the market’s rejection of its original Edge browser, Microsoft rebuilt Edge using the open-source Chromium web browser engine. The new Edge debuted on February 5, 2020, as a standalone browser, replacing the integrated version. It became an integral part of Windows 10 with the May 2020 update and now serves as the default web browser for Windows 11.

At first glance, the new Edge browser closely resembles Google Chrome. It encourages users to import Chrome’s bookmarks toolbar and other settings, making it an excellent option for those dissatisfied with the old Edge browser. Edge also supports Chrome extensions, although users are directed to the Microsoft Store for add-ons. For installation of non-listed extensions, manual loading of the Chrome Web Store is required.

However, Edge is not simply a Windows 11-themed Chrome clone. Microsoft disabled several features, including Google’s Safe Browsing API, ad blocking, speech input, and Google-centric services. In return, the company optimized Edge’s performance, reducing its memory footprint, while introducing new Microsoft-oriented features. As of January 2023, Edge stands out as the most efficient browser in terms of memory usage. It also includes the ability to sleep tabs, releasing their resources when they have been inactive for some time.

Throughout 2022, Edge received several updates, including the new Edge Sidebar for easy access to various tools, improved startup management options, Citations for simplified source citing, and various other productivity-enhancing updates.

Microsoft Edge also provides simplified privacy settings and frequent security updates. While Chrome offers separate panels for safe browsing, “do not track” requests, and more, Edge features a visually appealing interface displaying three security levels: Basic, Balanced, and Strict. Balanced is set as the default, but many websites prompt users to disable their pop-up blockers, even without manually installing one. In conclusion, Edge is on a promising trajectory to become the best web browser.

The Superior Chromium Alternative: Mozilla Firefox

Mozilla Firefox 85 on Digital Trends site.
Image source: Digital Trends

Firefox is the leading browser that does not rely on the Chromium engine. Mozilla Firefox has made significant strides in transforming its browser into a modern and efficient tool for seamless web surfing. Efforts such as the upgrade to Firefox Quantum, the introduction of the Firefox Reality VR alternative, and password-free browsing highlight Firefox’s commitment to innovation.

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Mozilla revamped the browser’s interface, offering a cleaner, more modern design. However, the changes extended beyond aesthetics. Firefox Quantum leverages multicore processors to a degree not matched by its competitors. Although this design may not significantly impact day-to-day browsing, Mozilla’s forward-thinking approach ensures Firefox Quantum’s compatibility with future high-performance processors.

Firefox offers several strengths, including robust 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 safeguards user privacy behind the scenes. WebRender enhances graphics performance on Windows PCs with Intel and AMD CPUs.

Recent updates have introduced easier download management, captions and subtitle support for YouTube, Prime Video, and Netflix videos viewed in picture-in-picture mode, HDR support on MacOS, and the ability to edit PDFs with text, drawings, and signatures. Firefox can even recognize and copy text from an image. Additionally, Firefox Colorways provide new options for optimizing the browser’s visual appearance.

Beneath these improvements, Firefox remains a reliable and familiar choice. Alongside its extensive catalog of extensions and customizable user interface, Firefox offers a mobile browser app that enables bookmark sharing between devices via a free Firefox account.

Moreover, Firefox’s longevity in the browser market makes it more compatible with older web applications compared to Chrome. Therefore, it is advantageous to keep Firefox as a standby browser, especially when encountering older web apps in educational or professional settings.

Overall, Firefox is more privacy-centric than Chrome, offering comparable speed. However, its feature set does not match Chrome’s expansiveness elsewhere. If these qualities resonate with you, download the Firefox browser today.

The Most Innovative Web Browser: Opera

Opera 74 on the Digital Trends site.
Image source: Digital Trends

Opera, another venerable browser and popular alternative, shares much of its DNA with Chrome and deserves recognition as one of the finest web browsers available. Like Edge and Chrome, Opera is built on Google’s open-source Chromium engine, resulting in a similar user experience. Both browsers feature a hybrid URL/search bar and deliver a light and speedy performance.

However, Opera stands out for its built-in features. While Chrome relies on its extension ecosystem to provide additional functionality, Opera incorporates more features directly into the browser itself. Opera introduced predictive website preload functionality, and its Instant Search feature isolates search results in a separate window, allowing users to concentrate solely on their research.

Opera users can install extensions from the Opera Add-ons store, which mirrors Chrome extensions. Opera offers a range of useful tools, including Giphy, Amazon Assistant, Avast Online Security, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp. If Chrome’s extensive extension library is important to you, Opera presents an appealing alternative and may be one of the best browsers for swift web page navigation.

Opera also includes a built-in “Stash” feature for saving pages to read later, eliminating the need for a separate Pocket or Evernote account. Additionally, Opera offers a speed-dial menu that conveniently gathers frequently visited pages in one location. While Google Chrome also provides this feature, it is limited to blank new tabs. Finally, Opera distinguishes itself with its built-in unlimited VPN service, enhancing user security.

Significant changes arrived with Opera 60 and Reborn 3, a complete revamp that introduced a borderless design, Web 3 support, and a Crypto Wallet, enabling preparation for blockchain-based sites. Version 69 made Opera the first browser with a built-in Twitter tool, and subsequent updates added Instagram and TikTok support. Users can simply click on the toolbar icon, log into their accounts, and tweet directly from the slide-out menu.

Other recent advancements include Lucid Mode, which enhances video playback on various platforms, support for emojis in place of web links, and various other enhancements.

It is clear that choosing a browser ultimately depends on personal preference and what feels most comfortable for individual users. Opera’s unique appearance and combination of Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome’s best features result in a browser that stands out from the rest.

Alternative Browsers

While the previously discussed browsers fulfill the needs of most users, alternatives exist for those seeking something different or with niche preferences. This section is dedicated to those looking for unique web browsers or interested in trying out new options.

Apple Safari

If you exclusively use Apple devices, Safari is already your default browser. Safari has significantly improved its speed, surpassing Chrome in terms of quickness. Integrated into iOS, iPadOS, and MacOS, Safari benefits from Apple’s in-house optimization and the underlying hardware, providing users with better battery life.

Safari prioritizes privacy and security, making it an excellent choice for those who wish to minimize tracking and maintain confidentiality. If you also own an iPhone and/or iPad, using Safari on your Mac ensures a seamless transition between platforms. Open websites on an iPad or iPhone will be seamlessly carried over to MacOS.

Please note that Safari is exclusive to the Apple ecosystem.

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Vivaldi Browser

The Vivaldi browser offers a truly unique user experience. No two Vivaldi users will have the same setup. Upon launching the browser for the first time, users are guided through a setup process that customizes the browser to their preferences. Users have control over the placement of tabs and the address bar, whether they want tabs displayed at the top of the page or in a separate side panel. Vivaldi 2.0 enhanced the customization features and made them more easily accessible.

This browser excels in customization, offering a variety of tasteful themes that complement modern PCs. In addition to the customizable UI, Vivaldi provides notable privacy-enhancing features. For instance, Vivaldi collaborates with DuckDuckGo to make this non-tracking search tool the default option in privacy mode.

Recent updates have introduced more powerful tab management options, enhancements such as Web Panels for smarter browsing, and even greater customization choices. Additional 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 internet activity while keeping the browser open.

Brave Browser

One of the most distinct browsers available is Brave. However, it’s Brave’s business model that truly sets it apart. By default, Brave blocks all ads on every web page, resulting in arguably the fastest browsing experience. Advertisements represent a significant portion of revenue for many websites; blocking these ads affects their primary source of income.

This is where the Brave Rewards program comes into play. Users receive Basic Attention Tokens (BATs) as a reward for viewing alternative ads placed by Brave. Users can choose to share a portion of their tokens with publishers. As of January 2021, more than 70,000 websites supported BAT-based transactions through the Brave browser, including prominent platforms like Wikipedia, The Guardian, WikiHow, MacRumors, and more.

The benefit to users is that browsing becomes notably faster without the need to wait for ads to load alongside website content. Brave does not engage in user tracking, making it an ideal option for private browsing.

Tor Browser

The Tor Browser is a version of Firefox that serves a specific purpose: providing a straightforward entry point for The Onion Router (Tor).

Tor is software combined with an open network designed to make users virtually invisible by routing their traffic through several anonymous servers. While it is not foolproof, configuring Tor and using it in combination with a VPN makes it extremely difficult for anyone to identify you while browsing the web. This is particularly useful for individuals living in countries with repressive governments, as well as journalists and activists. The dark web is also accessible through Tor, providing access to both nefarious and illegal sites.

If you require complete anonymity while browsing the web, the Tor Browser and network are ideal options. For a more mainstream alternative, Opera includes a VPN component, although it is less private.

Avast Secure Browser

Avast Secure Browser first appeared as the Opera-based Avast SafeZone Browser in 2016 as part of the Avast Antivirus paid bundle. In 2018, it was revised and rebranded as a free standalone product based on the Chromium engine. The original “SafeZone” aspect only activated when users visited websites for making purchases or conducting financial transactions.

Avast Secure Browser includes several built-in tools for data and privacy protection. These tools encompass an anti-phishing module, fingerprinting and online tracking prevention, an ad blocker, and a Webcam Guard tool that grants control over which websites can access the user’s camera. The Hack Check tool helps identify if user information has been leaked in a data breach.

Avast Secure Browser is available for Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS as a standalone download. The desktop version does not include an integrated VPN, but instead directs users to download Avast’s separate SecureLine VPN software. Bank Mode, part of the Avast Free Antivirus client, automatically activates when users load a banking website.

Key Features to Consider in a Web Browser

Benchmark Tests

As we compared web browsers, we excluded Safari due to its lack of availability on Windows, Android, and Chrome OS.

Most browsers successfully adhere to web standards and deliver smooth performance. Casual users may not notice a significant difference in rendering speed, as all modern browsers have improved significantly compared to those from a few years ago.

We conducted the following benchmarks on a desktop computer equipped 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 installations of the latest production versions as of January 2023, with default settings.

The first benchmark, JetStream 2, assesses a browser’s ability to start and execute code quickly and efficiently. Higher scores indicate better performance.

It is worth noting that all three Chromium-based browsers outperform Firefox, which lags behind in terms of performance.

The second test, Speedometer 2.0, measures a browser’s responsiveness to web applications by repeatedly adding a large number of items to a to-do list. Higher scores signify better performance.

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Opera led the pack in this test, with Chrome and Edge performing nearly at the same level. Firefox achieved a relatively lower score.

Finally, we examined how much RAM each browser consumed with no tabs open and then with 10 tabs open, all accessing the same popular websites. We ensured that no extensions were active and allowed each browser to settle before measuring memory usage. For the test with 10 tabs open, we obtained average memory usage when all tabs were opened and again five minutes later to account for any variation.

While this test is not scientific, it provides a reliable indication of each browser’s efficiency in terms of RAM usage. Upon initial opening, Opera consumed the least amount of RAM, followed closely by Edge, while Chrome consumed the most. Edge maintained a significant advantage over other browsers when all 10 tabs were loaded, utilizing a third or less memory compared to its counterparts. Chrome consumed the most memory with all 10 tabs open, with Firefox and Opera not far behind.

Security and Privacy

When it comes to secure and private browsing, user discretion is of utmost importance. It is crucial to recognize that every web browser has encountered security breaches in the past. Notably, Internet Explorer and Chrome have had inconsistent track records in protecting users’ security and privacy credentials.

Chrome, Safari, Vivaldi, Opera, and Firefox all rely on Google’s Safe Browsing API to detect potentially harmful websites. Mozilla, Chrome, and Opera continuously implement security enhancements through frequent updates.

All browsers offer private session options to prevent the storage of browsing history, temporary internet files, and cookies. However, browser support for Do Not Track remains inconsistent.

Mozilla has made significant progress in prioritizing user privacy in recent years. Notably, it introduced the Facebook Container in 2018 to impede the social network from harvesting user information.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need to use a VPN when browsing the web?

While using a VPN is not mandatory when browsing the internet, it can be a valuable tool in protecting your privacy and data. VPNs establish secure and encrypted data tunnels between your browser and a VPN server, ensuring that websites cannot identify your true geographical location or internet address. With a VPN, even your internet service provider (ISP) remains unaware of your browsing activity. Free and subscription-based VPN services are available. For a list of the best VPN services, please refer to our recommendations.

Which browser is most widely used worldwide?

Google Chrome leads the web browser market with a 64.68% share, according to Statcounter. Apple Safari follows with 18.29%, while Edge holds 4.23% of the market. Mozilla Firefox accounts for 3.01% of users, and Opera captures 2.25%. Internet Explorer still maintains a 0.81% user share, while Microsoft Edge “Legacy” lingers at 0.32%.

What are the best ad blockers for web browsers?

We have compiled a guide on the best ad blockers for Google Chrome. Here is a brief list:

  • AdBlock and AdBlock Plus
  • AdGuard (Chrome only)
  • CyberSec by NordVPN
  • Ghostery
  • Poper Blocker (Chrome only)
  • Stands Fair AdBlocker (Chrome only)
  • uBlock Origin (Chrome and Firefox only)

What is browser fingerprinting, and how can it be prevented?

Websites strive to gather extensive information about users, ranging from preferences and habits to browsing behavior. Scripts running in the background when you visit a website collect data such as the operating system, web browser, installed extensions, and time zone, among other details. This information is used to create a “fingerprint” that enables cross-site tracking, potentially violating user privacy.

Avast provides a comprehensive explanation of browser fingerprinting and various fingerprinting techniques. For instance, the “canvas” method involves secretly drawing an image or text in the background to determine the operating system, web browser, graphics card, installed drivers, and current font style. Device fingerprinting captures information about internal and external device components.

As websites track your fingerprint across the internet, your “profile” can be sold to data brokers who, in turn, sell the data to advertisers. Browser fingerprinting is legal but less noticeable than traditional tracking methods such as cookies, which require user consent.

The most effective way to prevent browser fingerprinting is by randomizing and generalizing data. Third-party software such as Avast AntiTrack accomplishes this by inserting “fake” data when website scripts attempt to collect user information. It allows scripts to continue running in the background, ensuring that websites function correctly.

Many browsers offer built-in anti-fingerprinting protection. Examples include Avast Secure Browser (as mentioned above), Brave Browser (randomization), Mozilla Firefox (blocks fingerprinting scripts), and Tor Browser (generalization).

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