Comparison of Web Browsers

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Web browsers are the most used software on computers and phones today. Here's a look at the choices you have on Linux desktops and how they compare in terms of features and usability.

The incumbent: Chromium

Chrome has become the de-facto standard with a 65% marketshare as of mid 2019.

Linux distributions offer a version of it called Chromium which is basically Chrome without a few Google-specific features. Chromium is easy to use and it's overall performance is better than other browsers. Graphics and WebGL performance specifically is much, much better.

Chrome/Chromium is well tested by web developers due to it's dominant position so there is never an issue with sites not working correctly. It is bad of the web that some developers only test sites against Chrome.

Chromium is an overall nice browser and the best browser for Linux desktops. There are some very valid privacy concerns regarding features tied to Google.

Our browser benchmark of Chromium 73 vs Firefox 66 showed a big lead for Chromium in everything graphics-related. The difference was a lot smaller for typical web browsing.

The second most popular alternative: Firefox

Mozilla Firefox's market share topped at 30% in 2010 and it's been going downhill, for good reason, since then. It currently stands at 10% market share on desktop computers. That figure is probably higher for Linux desktops specifically.

Firefox is a decent browser. It's overall performance is behind Chromium but not by that much. Firefox is significantly slower when rendering more advanced graphics, specially with the default configuration. This can be improved by enabling it's "webrenderer" rendering but it's still much slower than Chromium when that's enabled.

Less-known alternatives

There are choices beyond Chromium and Firefox. Most aren't worth considering, but they do exist.

Falkon

Falkon is a web browser made with the Qt framework. It has some basic usability issues and isn't really an alternative for day-to-day use.

Seamonkey

Seamonkey is the continuation of good old Netscape Navigator maintained by the Mozilla Corporation. It is maintained, not really actively developed. It shares the same rendering engine Firefox uses and is updated with newer version of the Gecko rendering engine regularly.

Seamonkey is kind of fine as a web browser but does have some draw-backs like newer Firefox-extensions not working.

Pale Moon

Pale Moon is a Firefox fork which forked off to do it's own thing in 2009. Both browsers have developed in different directions since that time. Pale Moon looks as feels like a Firefox version from the time of the fork. Changes to Firefox's rendering engine were merged into Pale Moon on a regular basis until 2017. Pale Moons developer decided against merging the large changes to Firefox which were part of Mozilla's "Project Quantum". Pale Moon has mostly merged small security updates from Firefox since that time. That divergence gives Pale Moon one practical disadvantage: Pale Moon can not use modern Firefox themes and extensions. The old pre-Quantum Firefox extensions will mostly work.

Pale Moon is a fully functional browser with most of the bases covered. It is a good choice if you want what is essentially Firefox with a graphical interface from 2009/2010 and a rendering engine from 2017.

Midori

Midori is unusable as of version 7.0. Text on pages are by default rendered to small and there is no way to change the font-size. A web browser isn't worth much if you can't use it to read web pages.

GNOME Web

GNOME Web, formally known as "Epiphany", is usable for very simple web browsing. It will mostly render web pages as they should be rendered. It is seriously lacking in terms of basic features. It doesn't even have a menus. It is barely more than a pure HTML viewer. There are no configuration options, no developer options, no nothing beyond the most basic set of functions a web browser can have.


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