How to choose your web browser

Google Chrome or Internet Explorer? Safari or Firefox? Choose the one that’s best for you with our guide to web browsers

How to choose your web browser

Everyone loves choice and when it comes to the web browser you use to get online there’s an abundance of it. Google Chrome has just managed to top Microsoft Internet Explorer for the first time as the most used browser, but why would you want to choose one over another and what’s available?

Almost all modern browsers offer a number of basic features, such as multiple-tabbed windows, built-in search, the ability to add custom extensions, embedded video, plus privacy and malicious activity protection. But how they offer these features can vary drastically and as they become gateways to shopping and banking the browser you choose is very important.

The European Union thought it was such an important decision that it forced Microsoft to include a browser selection screen within Windows. You can get lots of details and easy install links if you visit but we’ll help you make your pick as we look at the big five browsers…

1. Microsoft Internet Explorer v9

Coming from the biggest software vendor on the planet you’d expect its browser to be good – and Internet Explorer certainly is. It’s one of the fastest to start up and load pages and its design is optimised to be fast to use. As it’s one of the most common browsers you’ll also find every website is designed to work flawlessly on it too.

The big headache for Internet Explorer users is, because it’s the most common browser, it’s the most attacked in terms of security, despite Microsoft doing a sterling job of beefing up its privacy and security features. It’s also not that extendible with a limited number of add-ons available and it lacks a spell checker. One plus point is that it provides parental controls, something many others do not.

2. Google Chrome

A recent addition to the browser wars, Google Chrome is a streamlined modern browser that’s one of the fastest you can choose. It enhances its tabbed mode by running each as a separate process and supports an “app” mode that can help advanced users run certain pages as seemingly independent programs. Google has included some interesting extras such as a “cloud printing” service and synchronised tab and bookmarks as you change machines.

It’s also secure giving you warnings if you’re about to visit a malicious website, while individual tabs are entirely separate in terms of their ability to share data and therefore more secure. It’s easy to use and offers a host of interesting add-ons to extend its abilities, though arguably FireFox can be customised further.

3. Firefox

Often considered the “geeks” choice Firefox is a long-standing alternative to Microsoft Internet Explorer and offers a third route for browser design managing to deftly manoeuvre between offering ease-of-use, speed and customisations. In terms of out and out speed Firefox is really only average, taking a couple of seconds longer to start and to load pages than Chrome or Internet Explorer.

Technically Firefox doesn’t support a few more advanced features out of the box, but the cool thing about it is the vast library of available add-ons that enable you to extended and customise it way beyond anything available. It also tends to be highly secure with regular updates pushed out to fix any rare flaws. While it’s easy to use in its basic form it can be trickier than the rest to make full use of all its features.

4. Safari

Originally the browser of choice for Mac users, Safari is developed by Apple and was made available on the PC during 2007. If you’re a fan of Apple design then you’ll feel right at home with its interface design and it’s certainly among one of the fastest browsers you can choose. Apple’s design prowess makes this an easy to use browser with all of its features obvious and to hand.

Where Safari falls a little short is its lack of expandability and customisation. Falling behind even that of Internet Explorer. However, it’s highly compatible and slick in use making it a good choice for those just wanting to get on and browse!

5. Opera

The second-oldest browser on the market is perhaps one you may not have heard of. It has more than 200 million users and a very competent mobile variant too, if you run an Android or Apple device. A key advantage Opera offers is its multiple-control features so you can use the mouse, keyboard and voice commands to use it. As a more mature browser it in fact debuted many features now taken for granted such as tabbed browsing.

It’s easy to use, offers a good selection of add-ons and it’s highly secure. Swift in use, it’s not the fastest option but it outpaces Firefox and most other browsers on the market. If you’re looking for a slick browser then it’s well worth trying.

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