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 (i.e., webextensions/quasi-Chrome extensions & possibly jetpack) 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. Firefox has had a lot more development since then while Pale Moon is essentially using a ten year old version of Firefox's rendering engine. That may sound a bit harsh but it is the simple truth. Palemoon has retained version parity, largely, with Firefox ESR. There were months at a time where Palemoon fell behind, but the developers have done an amazing & nigh impossible job of keeping security a priority; even though they may have been using older code, it doesn't mean Palemoon is inherently insecure as this inaccurate article claims. In fact, due to not using electrolysis/e10s code, one could argue Palemoon to be more secure than Firefox. One important way this outdated code manifests itself is that notable single-threaded behavior; Pale Moon can't into multi-core processing. All your Pale Moon browser tabs are attached to just the one thread. This fundamental problem makes Pale Moon a poor choice for modern multi-core machines. Multiprocess & multicore are two unrelated concepts. Palemoon has never been limited to single-core/thread performance; a thorough explanation of differences from Firefox can be found here. More technical information is in the Palemoon forum in posts from Moonchild, NewTobinParadigm, & other developers.

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 simple web browsing if you want to check something real quick. It is seriously lacking in terms of basic features. It doesn't even have a menus.