Spending all day in a browser makes your faults much more apparent than clicking idly after work, and it may be time to break old habits. Here’s what to consider among today’s top candidates: Google’s Chrome, Apple’s Safari, Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft’s Edge.
(I omit Internet Explorer because it is obsolete and unsafe; use Chrome or Firefox instead, depending on the factors below.)
Computing power increased exponentially in the machines of the early 90s that worked to run NCSA Mosaic, but we still see browsers overloading computers – but not equally.
After an hour exiting Chrome, Firefox and Edge on a Windows 10 laptop open to pages 10 popular sites (USA TODAY, Google, YouTube, Amazon, Facebook, Reddit, Wikipedia, CNN, LinkedIn and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), Chrome was the worst offender on processor and memory usage. The Windows Task Manager application showed Firefox to be more efficient, with Edge in the middle – even though the Microsoft browser is now built on the same open source framework as Google.
On an old Mac, there was no need to consult macOS Activity Monitor: One hour after the 10-page test, Chrome crashed and did not respond to any further input.
Google’s Chrome browser, however, compiled an excellent record in resisting hacker attempts, thanks to a solid architecture and frequent updates – it was the only browser among the top four to escape unscathed from last year’s Pwn2Own hacker competition. Edge now using Chrome’s open source base should increase its security.
Google has also led the way in adopting security features that allow confirm your logins to websites with USB security keys, although Safari, Firefox and Edge now also support them.
However, in daily use, your greatest risk is not the choice of the browser among the four, but the fact of ignoring automatic security updates.
Chrome, however, is the worst of the big four in protecting advertisers’ web reading, while Safari, Firefox and Chrome automatically block its crawling. Apple has been a leader in this area from the beginning, but last year Firefox took a clear lead by adding tools such as reports of the number of blocked crawling attempts and encryption of the directory assistance system that queries each site.
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Deleting your Google browser may not work if an employer or school requires it. And thanks to the dominance of the Chrome market – 58% of U.S. desktops in March, according to the StatCounter – and the rapid adoption of new web features, many sites require Chrome or limit full support for that browser. Zoom and Uberconference meeting services, for example, reserve their full web resources for Chrome.
All of these browsers can synchronize your reading between devices, and your hardware purchases can further restrict your choices. If you only live with Apple, Safari is the easiest option for multiple devices, but if one of your devices is a Chromebook, only Chrome will allow easy syncing.
The verdict: Which browser is better?
These conflicting virtues often make the “best browser” a multiple choice issue. For example, I have Safari as standard on my Mac and Firefox as standard on Windows, but Chrome is a backup on each one – for sites optimized for it and for strange sites that I don’t trust. But I was also able to see Firefox on my Mac as a default and give Edge that job on Windows.
No matter what, however, if a browser starts to get bogged down, don’t wait to exit and restart it.
This may be the advice of the 1990s, but it is still true.
This article was originally published in USA TODAY: Chrome, Edge, Safari or Firefox: Which browser does not crash the computer when working at home?