Browser Wars – Who Cares Anyway?


It looks to me that the battle has already been won anyway, with Google Chrome having snagged nearly 60% of market share, leaving most of the other browsers literally in the dust. But is that the whole picture and does it really matter? Your choice of browser is a very personal decision and for most people, it’s a choice they generally stick to for a long time, regardless of privacy issues. In fact, I would wager that the majority of people would put familiarity and ease of use over personal privacy every single time, in spite of greater awareness of security issues today. Alternatively and in my experience at least, many will use the browser that’s thrust before them on a new machine, be that Internet Explorer, Edge or Safari and stick with it.

From a personal point of view, I started my early Internet browsing with Internet Explorer 5, dabbled with Netscape occasionally, switched to Firefox somewhere between Windows XP and Windows 7 and eventually settled on Google Chrome when everyone started talking about it as the ‘next big thing‘. In fact, I’ve pretty much stuck doggedly to Chrome ever since, whilst playing around with numerous other browsers, including the various incarnations of Internet Explorer which, like a faithful old dog, refuses to go away.

The features I like the most in a browser

  • Most visited tab
  • Easy to find bookmarks and favourites
  • The browser works ‘out of the box’
  • An up to date dictionary
  • Adblocking support
  • Easy to navigate settings menu
  • Sync history, bookmarks etc. across all my devices

In these respects Google Chrome exceeds my expectations, although personalising the most visited tab is limited to only eight sites with the only available option being to delete thumbnails which will then be replaced by another most often visited site, so its customisation is very limited. Firefox on the other hand, allows up to 15 most visited thumbnails and those can be customised, although the process is a little long winded, where a simple PLUS sign would suffice.

Firefox Top Sites

On the other hand, both Vivaldi and Opera have pretty much nailed it and allow for an unlimited amount of top sites thumbnails with their Speed Dial features, whilst also allowing you to  create groups of top sites. In my book, that’s pretty neat and I’m surprised Chrome’s very limited top sites tab doesn’t include such customisation, especially since the top sites tab is populated with so much white space.

 

There’s no faulting the dictionary options in Chrome and since Vivaldi is a Chromium based browser, the spell checking is practically identical and recognises most, but not all of the words I type. In fact, I’m writing this article using six different browsers (IE 11, Firefox, Chrome, Edge, Opera and Vivaldi)  and the experience is very similar across the board. However, the general browsing experience, customisation and navigation are all very different. Internet Explorer 11 and Edge are just dull, dull, dull; they do the job and nothing else and although Edge tries its best to be clutter free and minimalist, like it’s older brother IE11, it makes no effort to push customisation in any meaningful and useful way. Here’s a composite of both of their top/frequent sites tab, which shows zero customisation options for most frequently visited sites.


Neither Edge nor IE11 offer any Frequent Site customisation whatsoever and I can only presume, since it’s not actually mentioned anywhere in either browser, that the thumbnails will populate over time in direct relation to my browsing, which is about as useful as a chocolate teapot. In fact, Edge only offers suggestions based on Microsoft’s own agenda and allows for no personal choice at all. Clearly this is a personal preference, because when I open a browser first thing in the morning, which is always on my PC by the way, I want to see a big selection of my favourite websites, just like this:

Alternative browsers

It’s fair to say that we’re spoilt for choice nowadays and, depending on your priorities, there are browsers available for the more security conscious; those wanting a more visual experience and those who want a bit of both, although it’s worth pointing out that Chrome, Firefox, IE11 and other popular browsers can be tweaked for privacy, but that is not the same as the belt and braces approach of VPN or Tor for example.

For the security minded

Other popular browsers

Over the last few months I’ve played with most of the above browsers with varying levels of enthusiasm. I would only use the privacy orientated browsers such as Epic and Tor for specific reasons, such as being IP banned somewhere or I needed to completely hide my identity for other reasons. Other than that, they don’t suit me for everyday browsing.

On the other hand, Vivaldi and Opera are superior alternatives to Chrome in many ways, not least their customisation features and they are less resource hungry, particularly on a laptop where power is a major factor.

Vivaldi and Opera appear to use far less resources and I will probably make the jump to one or the other after finishing this article. The deal breaker for Vivaldi though, is the lack of synchronisation across devices and, according to the Vivaldi forums, there’s no projected release date for syncing data. Opera, like Chrome, Firefox and to a lesser extent IE 11 and Edge, will sync your browsing activity, which is a feature I have used the most over the years when starting from scratch with a new Windows installation. Opera’s latest version also has built-in Ad-blocking, so there’s no need to download an extension.


Chrome may be fast, but for me anyway, the lack of customisation, particularly with frequently visited sites, makes the jump to Opera a painless decision.

Say Hello to Opera Neon Concept!

The very words concept and beta can have people running for the hills, but in this case, Opera Neon is definitely worth taking for a test drive. Its interface is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before in a browser and the developers should be applauded for their radical thinking. The first thing that struck me was how the new browser uses your desktop background, which gives the impression of a seamless desktop browsing experience, with each bubble being a live notification for email and social media. Neon is very much a live experience; minimise a music video tab and play the sound in the background by using the mini-player in the top left, is one cool feature, as well as snapping parts of web pages as screenshots. Remember though, it’s a concept browser, just like that Back to the Future car you saw in Paris and it’s not very stable. I attempted to send an eMail, post on Facebook and even write a DCT article with Neon, but it crashed at every input level, so use with caution.

Here’s a short video of what Opera Neon Concept looks like in action.

Like any saturated marketplace, competition is good for the consumer and even though we don’t pay for browsers, we do have a multitude of choices and, like trying on a new outfit or taking a different brand of car for a test drive, the results can often be pleasantly surprising.

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About the Author

Marc Thomas

Marc is an avid traveler, motorcyclist, entrepreneur, and gamer from Buenos Aires, Argentina. His interest in computers and technology began in the early 1990's when he was introduced by a friend to a Zenith Data Systems computer running DOS. In the years following he has experienced all versions of the Windows operating system, built hundreds of systems, and fixed many more for his customers. Marc also has an interesting forum you might like to check out at Argentina Expats

21 Comments

  1. Good coverage of what is out there. Personally, I run two browsers almost constantly, Chrome and Firefox. I am involved with a local club and maintain their website. So one browser is dedicated to those two tasks. My personal email and browsing is done on the other.
    When I have updated the website I routinely check it on 4 browsers, chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Opera to ensure everything displays well. It isn’t usually an issue, but it has come up at different times.

    I also have Vivaldi installed and I am trying to decide whether to switch from Opera.

    Similarly, I have installed Opera Neon to test it out. I am having difficulty wrapping my head around the interface. I will just have to use it to get used to the way it operates.

    I was a great Internet Explorer fan in the day. I was in the group of the first 100’s to download the first version over a phone modem. 3 hours download after midnight on the first day. I still have my t-shirt from that. Every version of Explorer got worse from then on. 🙁

    There have been a very few times when on the Microsoft site only I.E. would let me get what I wanted.

  2. Hello Marc. To Chrome and Firefox (Waterfox) users who wish to block their ip while surfing, there is a new extension (add-on). It’s called anonymoX (or simply visit http://www.anonymox.net/en ) to read more. Been trying it out for close to a month and find it works fine alone or combined with VPN’s (and they offer a free version too), Mindblower!

  3. I am using Opera and IE in W10 and Firefox and IE in W7. I like Opera but not as much as Firefox, and Google Chrome will not even make it through the front door on my machines, unless it is by mistake. Firefox is about the only browser that will still support XP SP3, which I still use on one of my machines.
    Never have heard of Vivaldi. Is it Chrome based like Opera, and will it run on W10?

      • You’ve got me going now Kevin.
        The problem with this petapixel article is that it’s impossible to prove or disprove. Or to put it another way, the image can’t be downloaded using save as… and viewed in another browser following an upload to Imgur or similar.
        I viewed the image in SEVEN different browsers and in each of them the car was purple, which only proves that the image embedded in the html page is in fact purple.
        I take your point, but the petapixel article is extremely misleading and offers no assistance in rectifying the issue with our browsers.
        Anyway, I used Snagit to capture the image and can cofirm that it’s purple in both Snagit , Windows Explorer and in Imgur.
        I can only conclude that the the original is purple. QED.
        [img]http://i.imgur.com/UWkMeq5.jpg[/img]

        • I have chrome and firefox it is 2 different colours for me the correct one for firefox – it blew my mind… there is a way to properly colour manage firefox i have done it, also i had to colour manage my image viewer another trap.. i would use photoshop save image then see it through Irfanview = completely different there is a plug in allows it to use icc profile etc. – I sell on ebay check the images – all blown out to billyo in Chrome >> having said all that colour management is a minefield – use srgb don’t use it = pro photo haha everyone has a different opinion

        • omg i just looked again and it is purple in firefox very strange and i have colour managed that browser http://ntown.at/2013/12/28/firefox-color-management/ more headaches – i also checked one image on ebay and the the same on irfanview – different ! then realized the ebay jpeg may have been tweaked so the saved tiff and jpeg are diff – phew what a nighmare – i would link but it has nudity

        • to download from there in firefox right click > view page info > media > size on top right hand toggles through images on the page . then save as – handy to use sometimes

  4. I use Firefox, Opera and Seamonkey. I have used firefox since they forked it from netscape. I use Seamonkey for nostalgic reasons.

  5. Add-ons for Firefox will take a whole new direction when Firefox 57 is released (estimated by the end of this year).

    That’s when add-ons that are not written in the new WebExtensions format will no longer work.

    Unfortunately, that will mean that some current extensions will not be ported to the new API.

    Firefox ESR will run current add-ons until sometime in 2018.

  6. Does the fact that Opera was bought by a Chinese company that has ties to the Communist government concern you in any way?

    • Dude, take your computer apart, then tell me how many components say “Made in China” or “Made in Taiwan”

      If they want your data, they don’t need a browser to get it. Take the aluminum foil hat off and go outside for a little while.

    • What you really need to be concerned about is the data your own government collects on you every time you connect to the internet, heard of the Vault7 Wikileak? according to them everything and anything is hackable, even your smart TV, so you not need to look across the ocean for a villain, look in your own back yard.

  7. For the most part I use Chrome. I have been using speed dial 2 and this has basically eliminated the problem of limited recent sites. The extension is available in the Chrome store and on their web site. Enjoy…….:) https://speeddial2.com/

  8. I have tried the Epic Browser, The Pro is it does work very good and is fast, the Con is don’t try and download anything of any considerable size while in VPN mode, it will fail every time.

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