Chrome is the most popular browser around, but even with its large extension library, one size does not fit all. Thankfully, there's a treasure trove of web browser brilliance built on Chrome's solid, open-source foundation — from browsers aimed at the security conscious to the multimedia hobbyists. Here are four Chrome-based alternatives worth checking out.
Title image remixed from pixelparticle (Shutterstock)
Why Switch To A Different Chrome?
If you're already using Chrome, chances are you're pretty happy with it and don't feel any urgency to switch. And if it's a basic browsing experience that you're looking for, there may not be any massive need to swap over.
When developers start forking from the open source Chromium framework, they generally aren't looking to create another Chrome, however. Each one has its own particular nuance, and if that purpose aligns with your net-surfing preferences, you'll find yourself with a browser that gives the web a delicious new flavour.
The good news is that, because these forked browsers are built from the same core code as Chrome, you can still sync your profile and use all the same extensions and add-ons as Google's original, so you'll never be giving anything up by testing out one of these alternatives.
And hey! There are no rules that say you can only have one of these installed a time. Why not combine them depending on what you're doing on the net today?
For The Security Focused: Comodo Dragon
Targeted more toward the tech-savvy, experienced surfer, Comodo Dragon comes to us from security collective Comodo. As you'd expect from the Comodo Group, which has its entire corporate focus on web security, this browser offers a frontline defence as you wander the digital wilds.
When you first install Comodo Dragon, it gives you the option of routing your web browsing through Comodo's highly secure DNS servers. If you're particularly paranoid, it will even help you route all your traffic through these servers.
Additional checks are performed on SSL digital certificates and the browser reports back to you on how strong it feels secure websites really are. There's also an on-demand site inspector that checks pages for malicious code before you saunter into digital quicksand. On top of all this, it offers some similar privacy blocks as Iron, and has its own update system built in to keep you on the latest version.
It's not perfect, of course. There are times when Dragon feels to be toeing the company line a little too hard, pushing you toward Comodo's products and services by way of light (and mostly well-intentioned) scare tactics. You'd be forgiven if this eventually turned into a deal breaker for you, but this level of built-in paranoia could prove to be your saviour if you frequent the darker corners of the web. Also bear in mind that changing DNS settings can mess with any unmetered browsing your ISP offers.
If you're a Firefox fan rather than Chrome, Comodo offers much the same features in its IceDragon package.
For The Privacy Conscious: SRWare Iron
Chrome sometimes is attacked for privacy issues. Not that it's giving your data away, but it might not always camouflage it as much as you'd like. SRWare created the Iron web browser as a potentially privacy-conscious alternative.
Many of Iron's privacy tactics are derived from removing Chrome functions, rather than adding to them, which at first glance may appear like you're getting a reduced experience. However, it's mostly working to stem the flow of information from your computer to Google. For example, it doesn't deliver suggestions direct to the address bar, nor does it contact Google for automatic updates or error reporting. There's even a built-in ad-blocker. (You can check out a full list of differences here).
A nice side effect of this streamlined Chrome alternative is that it also runs noticeably faster, since it's not using up brain power reporting every little click and search back to Google, and instead dedicates itself purely to shepherding you around the net. This is a good option for anyone who wants to retain the Chrome experience in an app that works straight out of the box, but is using a low-speed net connection and/or has growing concerns about online privacy.
There aren't any bells or whistles about this browser, so don't expect a feature-rich experience. To some this might sound a little off-putting, but many will appreciate its minimalist, safe approach. This is the browser I've actually settled on lately, and it's fast, cheerful and rock solid. We've become very firm friends. That said, the developer's claims to privacy awareness don't necessarily stand up to close scrutiny, so check carefully before going for this.
For Extra Conveniences: CoolNovo
You may remember CoolNovo from back when it was called Chrome Plus. Its name has been changed for obvious legal reasons, but the end product hasn't been altered in any way, other than with new updates and added features.
This browser is all about convenience, and works hard to make your online experience as simple and seamless as possible. It's still offers some privacy tweaks as we've seen in the other browsers featured here, so safety hasn't been sacrificed in the name of CoolNovo's functionality, but it's more focused on enhancing your digital journey. It's becoming less and less of an issue, but there are still one or two sites that still work better with Internet Explorer. With one click, you can load the page in "IE Mode" right in a CoolNovo tab.
Similarly, it adds things like automatic translation, customisable mouse gestures, and other shortcuts like double-clicking a tab to close it. Top this off with a range of file download tools and "Super Drag," which lets you open links just by dropping the text onto the window, and you've got a great browser that's packed with operational extras.
This is a community-run project, however, and support for CoolNovo is sketchy at best. It's mainly based out of China, so there are one or two cultural and language barriers that stand in the way if you find yourself having any difficulties. So long as it works straight out of the box, you've nothing to worry about. But it could be put to the sword pretty quickly if you ever encounter any problems.
For The Multimedia Guru: Torch Browser
As the web becomes more and more a place where we store our files and find entertainment content, web browsers need to keep up with the increasingly busy two-way street of multimedia consumption. Torch Browser makes a significant move into this realm by lighting a fire under Chromium's sharing, downloading and multimedia functions.
One of the first of such features you'll come across is its tile-based drag-and-drop interface. This is a very unique and powerful feature that lets you simply drop a link, some text, a photo or whatever else you want to share (or search for) onto a relevant tile, and Torch Browser takes care of the rest. This might be Facebook, for example, or YouTube, and whatever you threw onto the browser window is automatically put to that particular tile's purpose. It also has a built-in torrent client.
Similarly, it also has a media grabber built-in, which saves embedded music and videos as a file on your computer. Downloading from the web is given a shot in the arm by way of the browser's download accelerator, which you can turn on and off as required. It even has Hola built-in, so you can access region-locked music and videos.
Ultimately this Chrome alternative targets the heavy social and multimedia user with pinpoint accuracy, all while delivering Chromium's usual smooth and user-friendly browsing experience. But no matter how we dress it up, there's no avoiding Torch Browser's likely appeal to the more...pirate-like among us, which might switch some people off if it begins to weigh on their conscience. For the rest, its interface may be a little cluttered, but it's got a good number of useful tools built-in if you're willing to explore it.
These aren't the only browsers based off Chrome, but they're solid choices worth looking at. If you have needs Chrome can't service out of the box, they might be worth a look.