In building websites and applications, part of our job as a web development company is to ensure the continuity of our products across a multitude of web browsers. We thought we’d take a moment to offer a high-level overview of the major web browsers on the market today.
What are the four most popular web browsers?
Google Chrome – the most popular browser on the web
Launched in 2008 by Google, Chrome is currently the most popular browser on the web, accounting for more than 60% of the world’s web traffic. Its popularity is largely due to the smooth integration within the Google universe, and the ease at which users can switch between desktop and mobile (Chrome is available across Windows, Mac, Linux, Android and iOS).
Google Chrome is known for its minimalistic UI, general reliability, high web standards and quality extensions, the latter of which give users the ability to customize their browsing experience. Despite being the most popular choice of web browser, there have been many reports of sluggish performance (both speed and memory use) in recent years, especially when numerous tabs are open. However, Chrome continues to serve as the online community’s go-to web browser, and is a solid choice for both basic and advanced users.
First released by Apple in 2003, Safari remains the second most commonly used web browser in the world, largely due to its default installation on Mac OS computers and iOS devices. While the browser was available on PCs as early as 2007, the Windows version has since been discontinued.
Like most browsers, Safari allows users to cloud sync, easily manage downloads, and browse sites in private mode. However, the real value is its integration with other Apple products – including, for example, the ability to access the same open tabs on a Macbook and an iPhone. Safari has the same intuitive user interface design as other Apple products, and easily syncs with them through iCloud or AirPlay. In recent years, though, Safari has been criticized for failing to keep pace with industry security standards – last year a security test detected 17 bugs in Safari, compared to the 16 bugs found in all other major browsers combined.
Initially released in 2004 by the Mozilla Foundation, Firefox currently accounts for 7.2% of web traffic worldwide. The browser works seamlessly across Mac, Windows, Linux, Android and iOS devices.
Firefox recently garnered headlines for its release of Quantum in 2017, a new generation of Firefox that uses less RAM, loads pages twice as fast as Chrome, and offers an unparalleled suite of enhanced security features that prevent websites from tracking user activity. Other notable features include a built-in QR reader, a smooth user interface, and a significant degree of personal customization. Among web developers, Firefox is a common favourite.
The icing on the cake? Firefox will import all of your bookmarks, history and passwords from Google Chrome should you decide to jump ships.
Developed by Microsoft and released in 2015, Edge has replaced Internet Explorer as the default browser on all new Windows PCs, Xbox Ones, and Windows phones. The Microsoft products – Internet Explorer and Edge – together form the third most commonly used browser choice around the world, comprising 7.6% of total web traffic.
Edge is known for being a fast but bare-bones browser. Notable features include Web Notes (which lets users annotate and share webpages), integrated search and social sharing functionality, tab-pinning, and a Reading Mode, the latter of which turns the browser into an ad-free e-book and PDF reader of sorts. However, shortcomings of the browser include limited user customization, limited extension support, lack of sync functionality, and few-and-far between updates that are often slow to resolve known issues.
Microsoft’s precursor to Edge, Internet Explorer, was first released as a part of Windows 95 operating systems in 1995. At the peak of its popularity in 2003, the browser held 95% of web traffic. Increased competition over the following decade caused the former giant’s share to fall to a meagre 3.2% of web traffic – and, as of 2015, the browser is discontinued.
The last iteration of the browser, Internet Explorer 11, is still supported on Windows PCs in order to maintain compatibility with older websites, although web development for new features has ceased. As a result, many new websites that leverage the latest technologies are inaccessible in Internet Explorer. Apart from its phase-out, most major critiques of Internet Explorer have focused on its many significant breaches and vulnerabilities over the past twenty years.
Web Browsers – Summary
There’s no perfect browser that fits every user, but there are certainly options that are better than others. For those of you reading this in Internet Explorer, your days are numbered as more websites continue to blow past the limitations of the browser. For all users – basic or advanced – we recommend using Chrome or Firefox for their dependability, speed, privacy features, and ability to render website experiences to their fullest.