Five Best Web Browsers

It's probably the most important and debated piece of software on the modern computer. See how your fellow readers get around the net in this week's Hive Five. Picture background created with WEB2DNA Art Project.


Windows only (but soon[?]on Mac and Linux): Some browsers have roots going back to the early 1990s—Chrome, on the other hand, is the new kid on the block. Although Chrome has a distant relationship to Konqueror and is a cousin to the Safari web browser—both share the speedy WebKit rendering engine— Google's browser is less than a year old. Despite its youth, it's already garnered praise for its minimalist interface and snappy page rendering. Chrome also handles site errors and quirks well, and each individual tab is a unique process, so a crash or lag in one shouldn't pull down or crash the others. In general, though, Chrome has caught attention for running a performance-focused JavaScript engine in a lightweight GUI. Also worth noting, Chrome has been holding its own in the recent Pwn2Own security challenge, with the distinction of being the only browser left standing after the first day of security exploits and attacks. For a closer look at Chrome, check out our screenshot tour.


Windows/Mac/Linux: Opera is a rock-solid browser with roots stretching back to 1994. Many of the features baked right into Opera are either not implemented in other browsers, or require multiple extensions at the cost of system resources—navigation by mouse gestures is one of the flashier examples. Despite being feature-packed, Opera has a fairly small market share, due largely in part to being trialware up until 2000 and advertisement-supported until 2005—many people were turned off by the expense, if not the ads. Still, Opera proponents have long claimed, and third-party testing has backed up, that Opera beats Internet Explorer and Firefox when it comes to speedy rendering. Another selling point for Opera is the quality of the built-in tools. For many users the built-in RSS reader, email client, and BitTorrent client do their jobs admirably, cutting down on the number applications they need running at once. Opera is extensible, but the pool of available extensions is radically smaller than that available for Firefox. More screenshots and details on Opera's features are available here.


Windows/Mac/Linux: Firefox is the grandchild of the venerable Mosaic browser and free-roaming son of Netscape. Although Firefox has a myriad of user-friendly, forward-thinking features, a decently secure framework, and an open-source ideology, the most prominent is its easy extensibility. When convincing a Firefox user to abandon Firefox for anything else, even temporarily, you won't have to fight them over giving up the AwesomeBar or about:config tweaks—you'll hear a common, if understandable, refrain: "What about my extensions?" The repository of extensions maintained by Mozilla currently has over 6,000 entries, covering everything from blocking advertisements, to managing your clipboard, to allowing you to further customise your browsing experience with scripts a la Greasemonkey. Combine the passion people have for extensions and the ability to sync those extensions across multiple computers and portable installations and you've got a force to be contended with. For a closer look at Firefox, make sure to check out our power user's guide to Firefox 3 and the top 10 Firefox 3 features.

Internet Explorer

Windows only: Internet Explorer still commands a healthy chunk of the browser market, mostly by its shipping with the most popular operating system on Earth and fitting, if not exactly elegantly, into corporate computer plans. While many or most IE users stick with it for lack of wanting to try something else, Lifehacker readers definitely don't fall into that crowd— the majority of readers who voted in favour of Internet Explorer are sporting Internet Explorer 8. By contrast, nearly 20 percent of those surfing the web right now are using Internet Explorer 6, which had its initial release in 2001. Version 8 could mark a resurge for the brand, though. It's the first version of Internet Explorer to have a strong focus on web standards compliance, as well as increasing rendering speed. And like Chrome, Internet Explorer 8 maintains a separate process for each tab to increase stability and security. Internet Explorer 8 has also beefed up its security measures from previous versions (insert Slashdot-derived snark here), being one of the first browsers to include active filtering against malicious cross-site scripting and isolating ActiveX from the core of the browser. For more information about what's new in Internet Explorer 8 check out our screenshot tour and overview.


Windows/Mac: Safari is Apple's contribution to the web browsing world, built originally to fit snugly inside OS X. Like Chrome, Safari runs the speedy WebKit rendering engine for snappy page loads. In addition to its WebKit core, Safari also has the Nitro JavaScript engine, which lays claim to radically faster JavaScript execution than Internet Explorer and Firefox (in its own testing reports, anyways). Safari sports Apple's Cover Flow browser for perusing your history and bookmarks, and a eye-catching display of the top 24 sites you've visited as the default page when Safari is loaded. For more features, check out our screenshot tour.

You can't believe you're the only one still using Lynx? You're not sure why everyone abandoned Gopher for this new-fangled world wide web? Sound off in the comments below.


    Peruse means the opposite of what you think it means.

    Aren't these pretty much all the mainstream browsers?
    What was the point of making a "Top 5" if they're all mainstream browsers?
    For that matter, i'm surprised safari made it onto the list - considering how slack its security proved just a few days back

    For me personally:

    1. Firefox
    2. Chrome
    3. Safari
    4. Opera
    5. IE

    I have used them all at one stage or another, Opera was a little crash happy on some pages and with Quicktime. Firefox seemed to get a little bloated with a couple addon's installed.

    Currently I am using Chrome, and I am in love. Very fast, and I haven't had it crash yet. Now if only Google would make a media player and I can get somthing prettier than Foobar.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now