Despite the increasing prevalence of apps, web browsers are still necessary for reading emails, viewing web pages, playing music and videos, and enabling interactive messaging and gaming. Now, speed and compatibility are no longer defining issues when it comes to browsers, but rather it’s the browsers’ features that separate them.
Replacing long-criticized Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge is a significant improvement over its predecessor in both speed and security advantages such as SmartScreen Filter, which detects suspicious downloads and malware-harboring sites. Since most current PCs are 64-bit, the 64-bit version of Edge provides better security than the default 32-bit Chrome and Firefox applications. A few features of Edge are an eye-catching, clutter- and ad-free, easy-to-navigate reader mode and Cortana integration. Edge also offers social sharing, tab pinning, extension support, integrated Adobe Flash, PDF support, and Web Notes, which lets you select, annotate, and share web pages. When streaming HD video, Edge lasts up to 43% longer than Firefox and 70% longer than Chrome. The downsides to Edge are that it does not offer full-screen site view or history search and it requires heavy memory use.
Firefox is one of the most customizable browsers in terms of interface and display. The default layout places the tab bar above the address bar and buttons for Pocket and Hello also take up space, but these can easily be removed. Like Chrome, Firefox offers single-click bookmarking, where you simply click the star located on the right side of the address bar to bookmark your favorite web pages. Also like Chrome, Firefox is on a six-week update schedule and offers a large catalog of custom extensions. Firefox benefits include full-screen mode, a PDF viewer, and Macbook Retina display support. As for security, Firefox blocks third-party trackers while in Private Browsing and began blocking Flash content in August 2016, with a click-to-activate option due in 2017.
As the first browser to embrace the idea of a simplified user interface, Chrome offers users the clean look of an address bar and standard navigational features (i.e. back, forward, refresh, home), however, the toolbar can be customized to your preferences. As the starting point for browser extension developers, if an extension exists, you can probably get it for Chrome before you can get it for other browsers. As the most popular browser ever made, most people can safely default to Chrome. It is also the most integrated software for accessing anything Google-related, like Gmail or Google Drive.
The newest version of Apple’s browser is still fairly minimalist in design. Some recent features include a share icon embedded to the right of the search field, which allows you to bookmark pages and post to your social networks, and the ad- and clutter-free Safari Reader. Comprehensive iCloud integration syncs your bookmarks and reading list across all your devices. Safari’s mobile version comes pre-installed on all iOS devices.
Each browser boasts its own unique features, but they’re all free and there’s no limit to how many you can install or run. So find your own “best” browser by checking each one out to find what is right for you.