The best browser for Linux, Windows, and Mac isn’t Google Chrome
Jack Wallen ultimately opted for a single default web browser on all platforms. Find out which browser it is and why it made the switch.
A few months ago, I finally quit Opera as my default browser on Linux. It was a tough sell because the Opera Workspaces feature was something I didn’t think I could give up. And yet the load that the browser placed on my machine (especially when using Google Docs) was too big an issue to ignore. I was working, minding my own business, when suddenly Opera suddenly shut down the office.
Productivity, your name is memory leak!
At this point, I was using two different browsers by default, on Linux and macOS, and I was sure Safari would remain the go-to on the Mac side. But then I continued to use this default browser in Linux and day after day I was more and more impressed with its performance and simplicity. And then things got worse on Safari. As with Opera, when working with a longer document in Google Docs, Safari displays a warning that the site is using too much memory. No matter what I did with Safari, this behavior would not stop.
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Finally, two days ago, I quit Safari to make the same browser I was using in Linux my default browser on macOS. It’s a choice I haven’t regretted for a second.
That’s not to say that I ended up using only one browser. Oh no. Would it be that simple. You see, there are still some sites I have to use that for some reason were designed with Chrome in mind. And that’s a problem. Why? Because Chrome has become unreliable on so many levels. In Linux, Chrome has locked the desktop too often. On macOS, Chrome drains the battery faster than any other app (except Final Cut Pro when rendering video).
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This question is complicated. Why? First of all, the browser is a tool that everyone uses. Regardless of your platform, you depend on a web browser. I would go so far as to say that 90% of the work and entertainment you do on any computing device is done through a web browser. This means that these ubiquitous applications must pull a huge load. For the most part, they all do it pretty well. All the web browsers I have used render sites well (although some are better than others). So what is the problem? Why would someone have a problem selecting the best browser for their use case or migrating completely to another browser?
In short: familiarity.
We all have our workflow. Many of us have adapted our workflow to the way a specific web browser does. Actually, at first glance, the differences are not that big. Each browser offers many of the same standard features:
- Recorded data
- Additional modules
- Configuration options
- Privacy Features
The biggest difference is how each browser implements these features. It’s on the surface … where users live. It’s when you dig a little deeper that you find that these browsers start to differ. Take, for example, the fact that there are five active web browser renderers:
- WebKit – Safari
- Blink: Chrome and Chromium-based browsers (such as Microsoft Edge, Opera, Brave, and Vivaldi)
- Gecko — Firefox
- Goanna — Pale Moon and Basil
- Feed — Feed browser
Of all the browsers I’ve used, those based on the WebKit and Blink renderers seem to have the biggest problems with longer documents on Google Drive. And for me, that’s a big deal. I work on Google Drive about seven to nine hours a day. And that the Blink renderer has the biggest problem with Google Drive should come as a shock, considering how both were created (and are maintained) by Google.
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But since switching to Firefox (on Linux and macOS), I haven’t had a single memory problem. And, to my surprise, Firefox is no longer a battery vampire on macOS. Before my MacBook Pro M1, Firefox drained the will-to-live battery life of my 2016 MacBook Pro. Using Firefox, I was lucky enough to have two to three hours of battery life. With the M1 and Firefox 89, the battery life is as good as with Safari.
Aside from performance, rendering, and battery life, I love what Mozilla has done for the Firefox interface. No more mess and bloating. Now Firefox is a sleek (almost minimalist) browser that outperforms all browsers on my desktop and laptop. I even migrated my default Android to Firefox and found it to be just as impressive as a mobile browser as it was on the desktop.
The only catch in my blueprint is the fact that (as I mentioned earlier) there are still some sites that don’t work well with a browser other than Chrome. It is mind boggling. Whenever I see a website refuse to work in a particular browser, I instantly assume that Doc Brown has stopped in DeLorean and is aiming for 2001. But it’s not the early 2000s, it’s not not the browser wars of yesteryear. Even so, the environment seems ripe for a front-end clash between Firefox and Chrome. And while Chrome has a huge market share advantage (for now Chrome has a 67% market share over the competition), the current state of performance does not reflect this popularity.
If I had to guess, I would say Google is lucky that the average user doesn’t like the change or even realize that there are alternatives available. If you happen to fall into this category, I would strongly suggest that you install Firefox and see if you don’t set it as default on all of your devices and platforms.