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Choosing a browser used to be simple. There were only a few options available, and most users just opted for the default browser installed on their system. Now, users must navigate a myriad of choices when choosing the best web browser, with major issues like functionality, platform compatibility, and critical privacy & security issues all playing key roles. To help users in their search, we ran a browser usage survey and collected data from 311 respondents, then used that data to create a detailed breakdown of the top browsers available in 2022 – take a look through.
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In our survey, 54% of respondents said that their choice of browser rested primarily on how compatible it was with their device, 42% stated convenience played a major role, and 40% said speed and optimization were a concern. Respondents also said that security (19%) and privacy (8%) played a role in their decision.
While there are dozens of browsers to choose from, all with attractive build features, four stood out based on our research and respondent data: Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Safari. These browsers offer the greatest overall service, judged by their ease of use, device compatibility, and privacy & security features.
Google Chrome – A true do-it-all browser
One of the fastest browsers available
Great extension ecosystem
Widespread device compatibility
Uses lots of RAM
Significant privacy violations
No longer has a built-in VPN
Google certainly has its issues with user privacy. Even so, the Chrome browser offers some of the best performance, security, compatibility, and user-friendly features out there. Unsurprisingly, Chrome ranked highest in our survey data, with 57% of respondents using Chrome as their primary browser. That being said, 22% of respondents stipulated that they had recently left Chrome.
While it can be RAM-heavy, Chrome’s page loading is lighting-fast (both the heavy RAM usage and quick page loads are mostly a result of page content being pre-loaded). This is likely one of the biggest reasons for its massive popularity. Media-heavy browsing like online shopping (78%), streaming (58%), and social media (57%) were mentioned as typical browser uses for our respondents.
Due to its popularity amongst users, most modern websites code towards Chrome compatibility. Meaning you’ll rarely find a site that looks wonky regardless of what device you’re using.
The best way for a browser to stay secure is through a steady update cadence and quick bug patches. Now on version 103, Chrome has gone through a long line of software updates. This means the support behind Chrome is strong, with developers constantly looking for ways to improve the browser.
Chrome offers users robust and consistent patching, along with some nice-to-have security features. Users will find password protection & management and phishing protection, along with “Safe Browsing” and “Do Not Track” settings. The latter settings stop malicious or insecure sites from loading and prevent sites from tracking the amount of time spent on any given web page. While nice to have, these features are a bit notorious for being difficult to configure.
Chrome packs a decent assortment of helpful features, offering a password manager, personal information auto-complete, bookmark manager, reading list, and more. Unfortunately, Chrome has seen the loss of a number of features as of late, one of the biggest being its built-in VPN solution. To counteract that, users can access Chrome security extensions, offering the option to pair apps to the browser. Users can choose from simple organizational add-ons to advanced security apps, all with the aim of further improving the browser’s functionality.
Mozilla Firefox – RAM-heavy but packs great functionality
Strong array of browser extensions
Great built-in security with smart features
Sleek, minimalist user interface
Uses even more RAM than Chrome
Interrupted downloads cannot be resumed
Page load speed is slower than other top browsers
Firefox is an open-source browser made by the Mozilla Foundation. As another top-tier option, Firefox comes built with hefty functionality and security, along with a slick user interface and some features you won’t see in Chrome. Unfortunately, user rates for Firefox fall far behind Chrome. In our survey, only 3.86% of respondents reported using Firefox as their primary browser. Part of this significant gap could be due to Firefox’s somewhat slower speeds and compatibility issues. 31% of our respondents said they had recently stopped using Firefox.
As a champion for many industry-leading developments over the years, Firefox readily embraces new standards and routinely pushes out new open-source software.
Much like Chrome, users have access to a large library of Firefox extensions, allowing users to augment their browsing experience. Users will find unique features like multi-account containers. This feature allows users to maintain multiple logins to the same site in different tabs. The browser also provides practical features like third-party cookie blocking, fingerprint blocking, individual protections report, and breached website alerts.
Firefox also allows for webpage tabs loaded on another browser window (i.e. on a desktop computer) to be sent to any device where the user is logged in. That being said, Firefox does have some uncharacteristic compatibility issues with HTML5 sites and mobile devices, although it is slowly improving.
For security, Firefox falls in line with Chrome with frequent browser updates and patches. Its developer, the Mozilla Foundation, is a non-profit organization known as an outspoken online privacy advocate. This means it collects a limited amount of user data. Mozilla claims to not attribute said data to specific identifiers like user names or email. Like Chrome, Firefox includes protection against phishing and malware attacks, but it also includes an efficient pop-up blocker and strict authentication protocols. Mozilla also offers a VPN and password manager called Lockwise as premium services.
Microsoft Edge – A feature-laden browser with promising potential
Extensive platform & device compatibility
Cortana assistant integration
Poor reputation due to botched launch
Browser can crash on media-heavy pages
Older computer may struggle to run Edge
Microsoft is a bit notorious when it comes to browser development. The company’s first offering, Internet Explorer (IE), become infamous for its functionality issues and gaping security flaws. IE’s poor experience actually spurned the creation of two other top browsers on this list, Chrome and Firefox.
In an attempt to recoup from IE, Microsoft created the Edge browser, which is now Window’s default browser with versions across all major platforms. It initially garnered a fairly bad reputation due to lackluster compatibility and a botched launch.
In our survey, only 4.6% of respondents said that Edge is their primary browser. 22% said they had recently stopped using it entirely.
However, a switch to the Chromium engine has led to a significantly improved experience and it’s now the best browser for Windows 10. With the incorporation of Chromium, Edge looks and feels like Chrome. The browser will even prompt users to import Chrome bookmarks and settings during installation and supports Chrome extensions.
With the rebuild on Chromium code, Edge now offers seamless compatibility across devices and HTML5 sites, on par with Chrome and beating out Firefox. The new Edge also reports impressive speeds and clever ways to minimize memory and disk usage. Again, this matches (and sometimes surpasses) the high standard set by Chrome.
While Edge may seem like a Chrome clone, under the hood it has stripped many key components of the Chrome experience. Amongst other items, Edge has removed much of Google’s tracking code, Google’s Safe Browsing API, ad blocking, and speech-to-text. To fill these gaps, Microsoft-centric features like Read Aloud, seamless casting to Chromecast devices, user-controlled tab management, increased admin controls, and a revamped Citations tool (a research-focused bookmark extension). The latter is an important change, as 68% of respondents said they typically use their browser for research purposes.
For security, Edge follows a solid update pace and keeps up with the latest security threats. Further distancing itself from Chrome, Edge has an interesting take on users’ browser privacy and security settings. In short, Edge makes the user’s job of setting up personal preferences extremely simplistic. All users need to do is choose from Basic, Balanced (the default), and Strict security levels. Edge also offers a built-in password manager and an ad blocker, as well as an excellent site permission control panel.
Apple Safari – The top option for Apple users
Deep integration with Apple devices & services
Easy syncing of bookmarks, history, and more
Blazing-fast speed on Apple devices
Nonexistent Windows compatibility
Lacks some support for new web standards
App not available on Android devices
Launched in 2003, Safari is one of the oldest browsers on this list (second only to Firefox in 2002). It has pioneered many browser standards over the years. Needless to say, Safari is a formidable choice among top-tier options and the best browser for Mac and iPhone users.
The majority (58%) of our survey respondents said they primarily search the web on a smartphone.
Safari undoubtedly benefits from that. The browser owes a lot of its users to it being the default browser on Apple’s long list of devices, with 24% of respondents using Safari to browse the internet. However, the same could be said for Edge on Windows devices. As it is built with Apple hardware in mind, Safari runs amazingly well and is the fastest browser across Apple products. It also is relatively light on system memory and disk usage. Safari has integration for Apple services like Apple Pay, AirDrop, Touch Bar, Touch ID, and more, making the experience quite enjoyable. However, Safari does lag slightly behind on HTML5. Once you leave the Apple ecosystem, Safari support becomes basically nil (although older versions of Safari can be used on Windows).
For device integration and ease of use, Safari on macOS and iPhone/iPad provides impressive features. For macOS Monterey, Safari provides support for Apple’s Shared with You feature, which allows users to easily access and engage with all files shared within iMessage. Users also get a redesigned tab bar with floating tabs, very similar to Firefox’s tab manager. Safari also touts Apple’s Handoff feature, which lets users maintain the same browsing session across devices. Subscribers to iCloud+ also get a VPN-adjacent feature that can hide your IP address.
As a company, Apple has always put privacy and security at the forefront of its product development, which is seen through Safari’s stout user protections. Safari collects minimal user data, claiming to only attribute data to anonymous identifiers. Safari has begun to prevent user fingerprinting, which aims to stop site trackers from identifying users by their system specifications. Additionally, like other browsers, Safari includes phishing and malware protection.
Other Alternative Browsers
If any of the above web browsers didn’t suit your needs, we put together a list of alternatives that have unique features and specs. These browsers are all somewhat new and have specific user needs in mind.
Also known as The Onion Router, Tor is a top browser for protecting yourself online from tracking and surveillance. Tor uses the software extension NoScript to wipe any prior web traffic to ensure the tracks of your browsing history are covered. They also use an in-house connection called onion routing, which has users connect to each other to access Tor’s server.
DuckDuckGo is a great browser for private mobile browsing. It is predominantly a mobile browser, but it also has a desktop app and a Chrome extension. The Chrome extension is bundled with DuckDuckGo’s search engine, tracker blocker, and encryption enforcer. With its built-in ad-blocking and private search mode, DuckDuckGo ensures that your data is never compromised.
Opera, another security-optimized browser, is built on the Chromium engine, offering solid speed and impressive functionality. While Chrome offers extensions to enhance the browsing experience, Opera has most of its features built directly into the browser. Users get a native script blocker that prevents ads, trackers, and even crypto-mining scripts from loading. On top of that, Opera provides an encrypted proxy server (similar to a VPN), protecting and rerouting user traffic.
A lightweight, fast, and open-source Chrome fill-in, Chromium is built by Google and has become quite a stalwart in the industry. Its code is used to power a number of more popular browsers. In particular, it has improved Microsoft Edge by a vast margin. It lacks the breadth of features offered in most browsers, but this is by design. Chromium is meant to be a minimalist, stripped-down, and agile alternative.
Vivaldi was created by the same team behind Opera. This means it shares lots of code with Chromium, meaning it’s compatible with most Chrome extensions. Vivaldi is one of the most customizable browsers available today. Users will find granular settings and a variety of UI and performance options – no two Vivaldi users will have the same experience. It also has some standout privacy features, teaming up with DuckDuckGo for its non-tracking search tool.
Pick the Browser Best for You
While Chrome still sits on top, many of its competitors are inching ever closer to replacing it as the #1 browser. In particular, Firefox and Edge seem to be incorporating useful and user-focused features, along with great compatibility. Safari also offers an impressive service, but its complete lack of support for anything non-Apple gives it a severe knock in comparison. Whichever browser you choose, be sure to pair it with an internet plan that fits your lifestyle. If your internet speed can’t match your browsing habits, your choice of browser type won’t matter much.
To further understand internet usage and browsing behavior, HighSpeedOptions conducted a public 29-question survey in June 2022. Respondents were based in the US, and predominantly college-educated (Bachelor’s degree) with highly varied age ranges across 16-24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-50, and over 50 groups. In total, we received 311 survey respondents. Our primary goals were to understand (1) what devices were being used to browse the internet, (2) which browsers were being used and why, (3) main concerns while browsing, and (4) what was being browsed when online. Combining the qualitative and quantitative data gathered from the survey along with secondary market research, we were able to formulate a concise summary of the current state of browser usage as it pertains to individual users.