Choosing a web browser in 2016 – more choices than ever

Whether you’re on your PC, laptop, mobile phone, or even TV; there are a variety of browsers at your fingertips which serve as your portal to the internet and all that it holds – even this article which you’re reading right now. Whilst the selection of browsers available on different platforms is wide, with multiple options that are either good or sometimes lacking, however there are a couple of standouts in both usability and popularity.

Internet Explorer
Whilst no longer a popular option among many users, and now the punchline of some online ‘meme’culture, Microsoft’s now aging browser has been a relatively reliable workhorse for the last two decades. It was first debuted with the release of Windows 95, and eventually grew to win the war against the long since forgotten Netscape browser – which was most popular at the time. The most current version – Internet Explorer 11 – was released back in 2013, and is still available to this day, however due to a steady drop in market share since 2004, it has been replaced by a brand new Microsoft browser debuted with the Windows 10 operating system – Microsoft Edge.
Despite it’s criticisms, it’s still a stable means of browsing webpages for the average end user, however we’ve found multiple options that are arguably superior.

Microsoft Edge
First released in 2015 with the debut of Microsoft Windows 10 as the default browser, it sought to make up for the the failings of the aged Internet Explorer. Edge isn’t limited to desktop browsing, as it is also the default browser for Windows 10 Mobile and also the Xbox One gaming console. Whilst definitely a leap forward from the Internet Explorer days, it does have some flaws in search provider usability & forces the highlight/right-click search to only use the unpopular Microsoft Bing search engine. However it’s media playback – especially for HTML5 video – outdo current alternate browsers in quality.

Google Chrome & Chromium
Internet juggernaut Google has grown into a highly successful entity, with their internet search engine of the same name being the most popular search engine option available – with YouTube and online productivity just some of the options under their umbrella. One such option which has been available since 2008 is their popular Google Chrome browser. Available on nearly all popular platforms (Windows, OS X, Linux, and mobile devices running Android or iOS), Chrome is very versatile in the way that it can be modified with extensions to meet user’s needs – even running many games and apps that are available on the Google Play store. Chrome can also run multiple Google accounts -allowing multiple users to have personalised browsers on the same computer – but to be also able to sign in on a completely different computer and continue browsing with the saved bookmarks and settings tied to their account, which can be of great benefit for workplaces or getting a new computer.

An interesting and related development is Chromium; an open source web-browser project by Google that uses the Chrome source code, allowing developers to create new and innovative ways of using web browsing. The project has been available since 2008 and you can find out more here.

Mozilla Firefox
Another great open-source web browser, first released back in 2002 and is available on all major platforms  such as Windows, OS X, Linux, and mobile devices running Android or iOS, and has been one of the most used browsers second only to Internet Explorer for many years since it’s release – at least until it was surpassed by Google’s Chrome in more recent years. Since Firefox is open-source, multiple popular browsers built from the Firefox, such as the controversial TorBrowser – which uses a method called Onion Routing (layers on layers) to mask Internet user locations. Firefox is well maintained and popular to this day, and is a stable option for both typical and advanced users – with a large library of extensions and themes available for maximum customization without having to delve into the source code itself, similar Chrome in versatility.Additionally, Firefox is a good alternative to Chrome for the end user who want’s something a bit different to the trend, but not wanting to sacrifice usability.

Safari
Apple’s contribution to the internet browsing experience came in 2003 with the debut of the Safari browser in 2003 with OS X 10.3 Panther (after previous years using Netscape and a flavour of Internet Explorer for Macs), and was Apple’s equivalent to Internet Explorer for it’s own platform. Still in use to this day in current versions of OS X and iOS (it was even briefly available for use on Windows, but was discontinued in 2011). In terms of usability, it’s stable and does the job efficiently, however it does lack some of the customisation options that Firefox and Chrome users enjoy.

Opera
Rivaling Internet Explorer, Opera is one of the longest operating browsers available to this day – with it’s initial release back in 1995, just months before IE itself became available. Opera – whilst never having the largest market share compared to the other major browsers (IE, Chrome, Firefox), it’s loyal users have enjoyed an up-to-date browser that has been benefited with early adoption of features such as tabs and private browsing, which became popularised by Opera and other browsers such as Firefox.  

In more recent iterations since 2013, Opera has incorporated coding based on the Chromium project and now supports many Google Chrome extensions – turbo-charging Opera’s capabilities. Additionally, it was recently announced before the publication of this article that Opera will now have built in VPN (Virtual Private Network) capabilities – which loosely means browsing with more privacy and security.
Sporting a clean and simple interface that conforms to the current popular user interface trends of the same nature, Opera is a solid browsing choice for accessing your favourite websites.

The Verdict:
When it comes to choosing a web browser, it typically comes down to just personal choice in the end. Each browser has it’s strengths, each has it’s own flavour; and what suits your needs the best should be the deciding factor for what you use to access the web – just remember to stay safe in your browsing and make sure your system has an up-to-date anti-virus software package installed just in case. As always, if you have any questions, concerns, or issues regarding your Internet surfing; please don’t hesitate to give us a call or drop in to one of our stores, we’re always happy to help!