Most people are unaware that there’s more browsers to pick from other than Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox or Microsoft Edge. Even within that list, Google Chrome and Safari are the big two; Firefox and Microsoft Edge are less popular, but are still doing fine.
Marketing is a big reason why people don’t look beyond—many are ignorant of both the limitations of their current browser and the benefits of others. The web browser we pick is often just what came with our computer, or we quickly install Google Chrome, as familiarity can be reassuring. This is not to say that Google Chrome or any other mainstream browser is a bad option, this is about introducing you to alternatives that you may find more valuable!
Your reasons for staying with Browsers like Chrome might be a mixture of the following: more compatibility, extensions or device syncing, maybe even speed. The truth is, other browsers can offer all of that and more. Even Chrome has its shortcomings, for example it doesn’t make its reading mode publicly available. ‘Reader Mode’ removes the clutter from a page (graphics and advertisements), making it easier for the user to focus on the content they came to consume.
A feature of greater contention are Ad blockers. The original Ad Blocker, ‘AdBlock’, was released in 2009 and if you’ve used it since then, or from any time between 2009–2019 you would have noticed that the amount of ad blocking it actually does has slowly decreased. If you want to be free from tracking and advertisements again, other browsers might be the way to go.
Customization options for quality of life features are a big reason people choose a particular browser. Some browsers have implemented more flexibility. Take Opera’s Speed Dial for example, which helps you quickly access regularly visited sites upon the opening of a new tab or its customizable toolbar where you can implement a weather forecast or automatic page translation.
Learning about other browsers is well worth it: you’re going to be browsing for the rest of your life, right? So, why not take a bit of time to give yourself the best browsing experience you could possibly have going forward. Below I’ll discuss five different browsers to consider.
Brave shook up the market when it was first introduced. Brave introduced a new system for content creators called Brave Rewards, which takes Brave’s currency BAT (Basic Attention Tokens) and allows content creators to trade them in for real currency. Content readers earn these tokens by browsing and viewing ads they choose to see. They can then take any earned tokens and tip content creators that they like. Brave creators can earn up to 70% of their ad revenue.
Brave is free and has all your standard browser features. It’s based on Chromium which is Google’s underlying open source project that’s responsible for Chrome. It has all the usual features that Chrome has, such as: history, bookmarks, extensions, themes and device syncing. To reinforce Brave’s emphasis on privacy, it has a Tor view (another privacy browser, discussed below), but this may come with slower loading speeds. Its reading mode is known as ‘Distill Page’ which can be easily toggled on and off. For those who want to minimize distractions, Brave is able to block social media content, including embedded content from Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter.
Maxthon is compatible with all devices and platforms, including iOS, Windows, Mac OS and Android. Any custom browser settings will sync across all devices and platforms as well. Maxthon has a downloadable Resource Sniffer that allows a user to download all media on a web page—useful for those who need to build a library of media from a range of sites.
All data with Maxthon is stored in the cloud, meaning that data’s very easily accessible and shareable. Like many of the browsers we’re discussing, it features a highly customizable left button rail. Conveniently, the browser has a built-in screenshot tool and a Night Mode that will automatically adjust brightness to keepsafe your eyes.
However, Maxthon lacks a bit when it comes to privacy and security—compared to privacy centric browsers anyway. Its default settings aren’t guaranteed to protect you from malware or phishing attempts. You will still be warned and blocked from suspicious sites, but cybercrime never sleeps and other sites that can disguise themselves well enough can still slip through. If you do download this browser, make sure the first thing you do is adjust security settings and pair this with your preferred antivirus software.
Similar to Epic, you might find yourself a bit limited for extensions—Chrome continues to take cake when it comes to extensions.
Maxthon is similar to Brave in which it has its own take towards advertising ecosystems: browsing generates a proprietary cryptocurrency called ‘LivesTokens’ (LVTC) to give users a more beneficial browsing experience.
Epic is another browser that is built using Chromium. Epic is one of the browsers mentioned in this list that have gained popularity due to their emphasis on privacy. Epic blocks users from ads, cryptomining, fingerprinting and more. Popular browsers have privacy modes or incognito modes—the difference with Epic is that it only operates in such a mode. When you close Epic, all data, history and cookies are completely wiped. Epic has a baked-in VPN, so no search engines will be able to see track your IP address.
Is there any downside to all this privacy? It depends upon whether you regularly use a certain or few Chrome extensions. To Epic, these extensions represent a privacy risk and will only support a few trusted addons. Further, Epic will recommend that you don’t log into your Gmail account, as Google privacy policies means they can still track your searches once logged in.
Opera was released in 1995, making it older than many of the current industry leaders. We can thank Opera developers for many features that we now take for granted, from opening a new tab to zooming in on your page.
With its experience, Opera has experimented with many different features. Many which have now been now been removed. Once it had a built-in email client, at another point Opera could be used as a server where could create photo galleries or chat rooms to share from anywhere. One feature that has stood the test of time is Turbo Mode, in which the server will automatically compress images and other graphics to create a faster load speed—Turbo Mode is only available on mobile.
Opera was the first browser to have a built-in VPN, Crypto Wallet and ad blocking. Ad blocking isn’t turned on by default, simply toggle it on and enjoy faster loading speed. Opera Flow is one feature that has proven especially useful. Flow lets you share links, media and content across different devices, the connection is private and all shared data is encrypted and then retrieved through a QR code (provided by Opera Touch). Like many other browsers, Opera was also built upon Chromium.
Tor, aka ‘The Onion Router.’ Why is it named after an onion? Privacy! Let me explain: Tor is another browser that places privacy at the top of it priority list. User traffic is thoroughly encrypted, being forwarded to a number of nodes where it is then encrypted again, effectively putting user data inside multiple onion-esque layers of security.
The Tor Browser is a modified version of Firefox, better-designed to handle the eponymous proxy network and it is absolutely the best when it comes to achieving anonymity. The downside of all the privacy efforts is that you will experience slower loading speeds.
Compared to the other browsers on this list, it may be impractical to use Tor as your main browser: it is slower, but many sites also block Tor browsing entirely. But if you ever want to be free from advertisers, trackers and cookies or you just want to communicate safely, keep Tor on standby.
Whether you decide to use a different browser from the big four or not, it’s good to keep informed of other options. Privacy and security will only continue to become more important and tracking will only become more intrusive. If you’re not too bothered about privacy, then you may want to switch browsers for either efficiency reasons, or to generate cryptocurrency (Brave or Maxthon). Whatever your choice, it’s important you’re aware of what user data your browser is accessing everyday and ask the question, “am I okay with this?”
From a business perspective it’s important your site is compatible with a range of browsers. Of course, it’s essential you’re compatible with industry leaders, but you may also want to ensure you are compatible with new ecosystems like Brave, where customer loyalty is emphasized.
If you’re a developer, don’t forget that the primary usefulness of mainstream browsers like Chrome is the wealth of extensions available to assist with development. These alternatives may have only partial or no compatibility with popular extensions. It also may be important to give these a look to ensure compatibility with any differences.
Hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful. If you’d like to better your knowledge on SEO and Google’s algorithm, I’d suggest reading this Honest Guide to SEO in 2019. If you’re looking for a developer for your next project, take a look at CodeClouds.