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Check Out the Best Free Web Browsers

Because knowing is half the battle.

Apps in this Guide

According to our research, more than 50% of Internet users worldwide are on Google Chrome these days. But as Internet Explorer showed us, market dominance doesn't necessarily mean that the productmore

According to our research, more than 50% of Internet users worldwide are on Google Chrome these days. But as Internet Explorer showed us, market dominance doesn't necessarily mean that the product excels. Since all major desktop browsers are free, it doesn't hurt to explore your options. Let's show you the major factors to consider.

The importance of smooth page scrolling

When you're on a tight deadline or just trying to explore a large media-rich website, chuggy page loading and chunky scrolling can be downright stress-inducing. In our experience, Chrome and Opera run neck-and-neck in this department (partly because Opera shares Chrome's "Blink" page rendering engine). Microsoft Edge (the browser exclusive to Windows 10 that is designed to replace Internet Explorer) is also quite respectable, but its minimal add-on support and lack of multi-platform presence makes it difficult to recommend. Unfortunately, Firefox frequently lags, though Mozilla is working to restore some horsepower. Safari is in the middle of the pack, but it's handy for watching a streamed Apple presentation, which Apple limits to its own browser and Microsoft Edge.

Browser add-on support

Even a lightning-fast browser will be held back if doesn't have extensions for password managers, ad blockers, and tools to enhance the functionality of popular websites such as Reddit, Amazon, and Steam. Google Chrome leads the pack thanks to offline Google Docs functionality, but Mozilla Firefox isn't far behind, and the Opera Browser covers a lot of bases. Microsoft Edge trails behind with a couple dozen extensions; it gets the major ones but lacks variety. Apple's Safari browser does not fare much better.

Privacy and security in your web browser

If you worry about people snooping on your online activities, then you might want to look beyond the popular browsers. Instead, we'd recommend the Tor browser which has built-in support for the Tor network, a constellation of volunteer-run servers around the world through which your connection to the Internet is bounced and encrypted to help anonymize you.

The Tor browser is based on Firefox, albeit a version or two behind (because it takes time to certify the browser for use with Tor, and the project relies on volunteers). Alternatively, you can use your preferred browser and just disable any settings that send personally identifiable data while running your connection through a VPN (virtual private network) which operates similarly to Tor. But unfortunately, trustworthy VPNs generally aren't free.

Best web browsers for Windows and Mac

Mozilla Firefox

Mozilla Firefox

Firefox doesn't perform quite as snappily as Chrome, but it's good to have a backup, and Firefox has made strides to close the gap with better performance and a better-looking design. And, like Google, it has built-in sync, so that your desktop version of the browser will know about the bookmarks, add-ons, open tabs and browser history of your mobile version.

Tor Browser

Tor Browser

If you want to connect to the Tor network to increase your privacy on the web, you'll need a browser with Tor built in, rather than plugging it into Chrome or Firefox as a browser add-on. That's where the Tor browser comes in. The Tor Project can't ensure the security of the other browsers, so its developers had to build their own, based on Firefox. Tor isn't the speediest experience, and it will confuse location-based services, but you can't be reasonably sure that you're not getting snooped on.

Google Chrome

Google Chrome

Chrome is one of Google's most important products, and it shows. Developers work hard to make it fast, stable, and extensible with a huge catalog of browser add-ons. If you only want to familiarize yourself with one browser, put this one at the top of your list.