This is a topic that has been on my mind lately and I’ve scarcely found anyone discussing, so I might as well fill the niche. I’m writing this with the target audience of consumers and web developers in mind.
Why does it matter which browser I use?
Most browsers properly show web pages now more than ever. So why should it matter which browser you use?
It matters it terms of usability, performance, security, privacy, and extensibility. Mobile browsing also widens the options and potential issues for non-mobile designed websites. Let’s tackle each issue at a time.
Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer are all very similar in terms of the user interface. At least on a desktop/laptop computer. Browsers in common use (that I’m aware of) have the same components – An address bar, history, forward/back buttons, and the potential for plugins.
Mobile browsers are a bit different. Essentially everything goes to a touch screen interface, and the trend for web design is to design “mobile first.” At least several browser apps provide a way to “Request Desktop Site” which will change the view.
The mobile interface is different for browsers as it is with any application. Typing a web address for instance can be cumbersome for some with the touch screen interface.
Here is a Benchmark of browsers performance, decide for yourself which you like best.
I remember using firefox around 2014 while browsing and I noticed it dropped very significantly in performance when updated. It turns out this was an issue with firefox itself that affected many in the mainstream release. Clearly there’s potential for some form of failure in any browser.
One issue unknown to many is that browsers have a cache that is used for keeping the state of the browser. For example, every (so many) seconds a web browser saves the current sites the user is visiting in case the computer crashed abruptly these sites will be available. The potential problem is saving this information can cause ware on a hard drive over a period of time – and this feature can be disabled.
Due to the complex nature of rendering a webpage, browsers have vulnerabilities of some kind lurking in the code. These can be taken advantage of if visiting a malicious page.
There is a feature called “sandboxing” a program that has to do with protecting the memory in vulnerable areas and in this context making it more difficult for an attacker to gain control of a browser. At the time of posting, Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and Safari use sandboxing. Firefox does not, and this may signal that it is a more vulnerable target and thus more likely to get attacked if visiting a malicious webpage.
Browser plugins can be useful for extending functionality. Every major web browser supports extending functionality. Some extensions may be made for one browser and not another, but that must be reviewed on a case by case basis.