Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services

Web Browsers

Downloads & customization

Firefox | Chrome | Edge | Safari | Alternative Browsers
Don't Use IE | Customize Your Browser

The icons for current web browsers including Firefox, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge and Safari

About Browsers

Web browsers are multipurpose Web applications that include the ability to view websites as well as interact with other software and services.

Many browsers have come and gone over time. Each have their own strengths and weaknesses so there are good reasons for choosing a particular browser.

Most people browse the web using Google Chrome without really thinking about their options. Gmail or YouTube or some other site once suggested using Chrome, and perhaps they never questioned it.

 

The truth is you do have options when it comes to your web browser, and you may find one that serves your needs better.

 

Browsers offer varying levels of privacy and security, as well as unique, helpful features beyond merely displaying websites.
PCMag
Firefox outperforms Chrome in efficiency, extending laptop battery life, and offers superior privacy features. Unlike Chrome, it doesn't monitor internet activity for ads and includes advanced privacy controls like container functionality and VPN, significantly improving user privacy and security online.
How-To Geek

Download a Current Browser

Modern browsers offer improved security and functionality.

Use only browsers that are a currently maintained. These tend to be more secure, run faster and display current web content as it was intended. The most common are:

Firefox   |   Chrome   |   Edge   |   Safari

Keep Your Browser Updated

Whichever browser you use, it is important to keep all installed browsers and extensions updated.

Uninstall Obsolete Software

Uninstall obsolete browsers or those you don't use except where prevented by the operating system (e.g., Microsoft Edge, Safari or the legacy Internet Explorer).

Most plugins are obsolete, replaced with HTML5 technologies which are natively supported in all modern browsers.

Mozilla FireFox

Download Firefox

Mozilla FireFox is a fast, slim, standards-compliant browser that doesn't collect or sell your private data and protects your privacy. It is the only major independent browser.

The Firefox Browser has built in tracking protection.

 

That makes it harder for politicians, advertisers, and disinformation disseminators to find you.

 

More privacy means more democracy.
IRL

Customize Firefox

Troubleshooting Firefox

Firefox is a family of browsers including versions for mobile devices, enterprise and virtual reality devices.

Firefox is also more than a browser. There is a whole family of products, including:

Replace Google for Privacy

I recommend installing Startpage.com or DuckDuckGo then replacing Google as the default search engine.

On Windows, as Mozilla notes, the privacy-optimized Firefox stands apart by not relying on the Blink rendering engine that Google developed for Chrome based on Apple's Webkit engine, and which now also powers Microsoft's Edge as well as such alternatives as Brave.
PCMag

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Google Chrome

Download Google Chrome

Google Chrome combines a minimal design with sophisticated technology. Chrome is the most widely-used browser today.

Despite a poor reputation for privacy, Google's Chrome browser continues to dominate. The web browser has around 65 per cent market share and two billion people are regularly using it. Its closest competitor, Apple's Safari, lags far behind with under 20 per cent market share. That's a lot of power, even before you consider Chrome's data collection practices.
Wired June 2021

Replace Google for Privacy

Chrome is the only major browser without meaningful built-in tracking protection.

In this modern-day life, it's hard to get a little privacy.

 

You can, of course, make it harder to be tracked. Certain privacy settings can make a difference, if you manage to set them right.

 

And that's an area where Google Chrome falls short. Google is busy trying to find the new and better Internet cookie to track you with, and advertising pays its bills. So the company may want to appear to care about your privacy, but only to a degree.
Josh Hendrickson

I recommend replacing Google with Firefox.

The very least you should do is change the default search engine from Google to Startpage.com or DuckDuckGo. (You must install one of those search engines before you can replace Google search.)

Chrome Breaks Ad Blockers

Google is making changes to their Chrome browser to remove the blocking version of the WebRequest API in Manifest V3 that will break ad blockers on many sites.

One of the most controversial changes of Chrome's MV3 approach is the removal of blocking WebRequest, which provides a level of power and flexibility that is critical to enabling advanced privacy and content blocking features.

 

Unfortunately, that power has also been used to harm users in a variety of ways Chrome's solution in MV3 was to define a more narrowly scoped API (declarativeNetRequest) as a replacement.

 

However, this will limit the capabilities of certain types of privacy extensions without adequate replacement.
Forbes

Privacy Sandbox

After experimenting with FLoC, Google's launched Privacy Sandbox.

By gathering the information about a user's history and grouping them with users with a similar history, the advertiser could reach the intended market, supposedly without breaching privacy.

Learn about Google's newest tracking technologies and the instructions for making Google Chrome safer in Safer Browsing.

Security Concerns

Besides the Chrome browser, Google owns a huge range of products, each of which dominate or are very competitive, including Google Search, Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar, Google Maps, Google Drive, Blogger and YouTube.

Chrome is one of Google's most effective collection tools. It collects your surfing data — and Google never forgets. See privacy concerns.

Break up with Google. Use a web browser you have more control over, and which has more plug-ins that you can use for privacy, such as Firefox.
Windows Secrets

Many Current Browsers are Chrome-based

A large portion of current browsers are now based on Chrome, further extending Google's dominance. Chrome also defines the way enhanced text is presented in most email programs.

Independent standards setting bodies like the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) once ruled the web, with a collaborative approach to standards that competing browsers had to follow. Today, the standard is simple: Does your page work in Chrome?
ZDNET

This is a serious problem since one company (Google) is essentially controlling internet standards.

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Microsoft Edge

Download Microsoft Edge

Microsoft Edge replaced Internet Explorer as its built-in (unremovable) browser at the launch of Windows 10 but IE Mode will remain until 2029.

Unfortunately Microsoft continues to its monopoly operating system to make changes that require Edge rather than respecting user-choice with your browser.

Microsoft Edge is actually good, way better than the old Internet Explorer — but you wouldn't think so based on how desperately the company tries to shovel it onto your plate!

 

Windows still doesn't wholly respect your default browser choices, either.

 

Basically, Microsoft has used tactics we'd only expect to see from bloatware and spyware developers to promote its web browser, and it stinks.
The Verge

Chrome-based

Edge is now a Chrome-based browser. While not as private as Firefox, it is already embedded into Windows and can perform better in many cases and is definitely a better choice than Google Chrome.

Since they share the same Chromium base, the two browsers are very similar, making switching pretty easy. Most of the basic functionality is the same, and you can even install the same extensions. However, Edge tends to perform a bit better than Chrome — not only in web browsing benchmarks, but in hardware usage.
PCMag

IE Mode in Microsoft Edge

Like Internet Explorer before it, Edge cannot be removed from Windows. I recommend using Firefox as your primary browser.

IE mode in Microsoft Edge provides an interim solution for legacy sites that were built for Internet Explorer.

IE Mode in Microsoft Edge will be supported through at least 2029 to give web developers eight years to modernize legacy apps and eventually remove the need for IE mode, officials have said.
ZDNET

This is unfortunate. Technology should move much faster than this, particularly where security is impeded by obsolete technology kept alive because of poor decisions in the past.

IE mode perpetuates an obsolete browser supporting insecure legacy sites containing outdated information. Unfortunately, the need to support it remains:

Companies, large organizations, and even government agencies put millions of dollars into creating complex web applications that ran on IE, but that was years ago when the browser had more than 90 percent of market share.

 

Many of these same organizations haven't had the time or budget to rewrite their systems for today's browsers.
ZDNET

Hopefully those agencies have learned not to depend upon a single browser vendor. It would be unfortunate if Chrome were to become the new IE.

Replace Bing for Privacy

I recommend replacing Bing with Startpage.com or DuckDuckGo as Edge's default search engine.

You cannot replace Bing as the default until the replacement search engine is installed into Edge.

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Apple Safari

Download Safari

Safari brings robust customization options, powerful privacy protections, and industry-leading battery life to Apple devices.

Safari uses Apple's open source WebKit framework.

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Alternative Browsers

Ghostery Dawn

Ghostery Dawn is a lightning fast browser that protects your privacy.

If Ghostery is blocking NINETEEN trackers on your website, your website is one of the reasons we need Ghostery.
— Wil Wheaton on Twitter

Opera

Opera is a slim yet full-featured browser.

Chrome-based

Opera is now a Chrome-based browser.

Vivaldi

Vivaldi is fast, but also rich in functionality, highly flexible and puts the user first.

Everything's an Option

You choose how Vivaldi works, how it looks and what features to use. It's freakishly flexible. If you can dream it, Vivaldi can probably do it.

 

And when it comes to options, privacy is no exception — in fact it's a priority, built into every version. So, you have full control of settings critical for keeping your data safe.

Chrome-based

Vivaldi is now a Chrome-based browser.

TOR

TOR Browser is the most extreme browser focused on privacy.

We, at the Tor Project, fight every day for everyone to have private access to an uncensored internet, and Tor has become the world's strongest tool for privacy and freedom online.

Browser Archives

These archives are useful primarily to researchers, web designers and others wishing to see how older browsers display current content.

Installation of these unsupported browsers can corrupt Windows settings (such as earlier versions of Internet Explorer) or not work properly at all.

They also lack any security improvements, so using them makes you much more vulnerable to malware and other hazards found on today's websites.

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Internet Explorer: Do Not Use

Internet Explorer is obsolete. Windows 10 now redirects requests for Internet Explorer to Edge using IE Mode.

IE 11 is no longer accessible.

 

You can reload Internet Explorer sites with IE mode in Microsoft Edge.
Microsoft

A Compatibility Solution

IE was included in Windows 10 as a compatibility solution and was never intended to be used as your primary browser.

You see, Internet Explorer is a compatibility solution. We're not supporting new web standards for it and, while many sites work fine, developers by and large just aren't testing for Internet Explorer these days. They're testing on modern browsers.
Chris Jackson, Microsoft

IE Vulnerable

Internet Explorer (IE) reaches deep into the Windows operating system, so it is more vulnerable to security issues than any other browser. ANY Internet Explorer vulnerability is a Windows vulnerability.

Internet Explorer has been long known to be vulnerable to the covert downloading of software from malicious Web sites…Merely visiting the corrupted site is all it takes.
BusinessWeek

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Customize Your Browser

Modern browsers usually provide for customizations. Be selective.

Choose Your Startup Page

The startup page (or home page) is what is launched with your browser.

Browsers default startup pages usually include a search engine which may display other popular links.

Startup options can be changed in the browser's settings.

Hundreds of Portals

There are hundreds of options. Most ISPs, news services, search engines and domain resellers provide a portal.

Quicker is Better

I recommend choosing a simpler startup page.

Do you really want to load all the news, weather and gossip every time you start your browser?

Most browsers allow you to modify their default startup pages, at least to some degree.

Watch for Unexpected Changes

Be wary of downloads and installations that automatically change your default startup page.

This is called browser hijacking.

Plugins & Extensions

Addons to your browser can impact your privacy.

Extensions can add features or simply customize what is there.

Be careful with plugins (legacy applications once required to view and hear multimedia content on the Web). Plugins have been replaced with technologies built into modern browsers.

Frequently check to see if your addons have been deprecated or banned. Disable or remove them to improve performance.

Be Selective with Software

Carefully review the options when downloading then when installing software from the Web. Options may be preselected on the download page or during the installation that add software you didn't ask for. This is how the vast majority of users first switched to Chrome.

32- or 64-bit?

Most browsers are now available in both 32- and 64-bit versions. 64-bit software is faster but you can only run them on 64-bit systems.

You can install 32-bit software on 64-bit systems, but not 64-bit programs onto 32-bit systems.

Many folks remained on 32-bit browsers because of better support for 32-bit plugins. Since plugins have been replaced with HTML5-based technologies built into modern browsers, most users should now install 64-bit software where possible.

Security Concerns

All browsers have known security issues that vary by browser. However, it is strongly recommended that you select a browser like Firefox that protects your privacy.

Privacy

Both websites and apps can access your location as well as your camera, contacts, photos and much more — if you let them. Both Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge are designed to collect information about you (although Edge is probably safer).

Moving to the Cloud

Google and Microsoft browsers and operating systems run much of their functionality in the cloud rather than on your computer (called Software as a Service). When you sign in to your Google or Microsoft account (including on the respective browsers) you are providing a lot of detail about yourself that can be collected and resold.

This can have serious privacy and security implications since you have no control over what is being done with your data once it leaves your computer.

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Updated: March 12, 2024