I grew up in the age of Internet Explorer versus Netscape, and frequently used lesser-known browsers like Opera, Konqueror, and Phoenix. I don’t know why, but I just didn’t want to use mainstream browsers. And for some reason, that has remained true over time. I’m currently using Brave as my default browser, but I use Firefox, Chrome, and Safari on a regular basis too.
The browser “wars” of the late ‘90s and early ‘00s seemed to have been “won,” but in reality it’s been a constant competition. At this point, Chrome has the vast majority of the market share, but if history is any indication, that won’t remain true forever.
Personally, I’m not using Chrome because of Google’s approach to privacy, but that’ll be a topic for another article someday. Meanwhile, I thought it might be interesting to explain why I use Brave.
By way of explanation, I’ll simply show high-level comparisons between the major browsers.
|Cookie and History Controls||Good||Best||Moderate||Moderate|
|Addon Ecosystem||Best in class||Good||Limited||Poor|
|Ad Blocking||Via Addon||Via Addon||Poor||Best|
|Reader View||Via Addon||Excellent||Excellent||None|
|Screenshot Support||Via Addon||Excellent||None||None|
|FIDO Key Support||Yes||Yes|
|User Interface Design||Good||Good||Good||Buggy|
In general, Brave is a fast browser that is based on the same underlying engine as Chrome, but without the extra Google stuff on top of it. (It’s not just a re-skinned Chrome.) It therefore benefits from Chrome’s speed and power, and most of its features, but adds privacy and security features that I find valuable.
What’s wrong with Brave? It shows a ton of promise, but it’s a little early. Small things lack UI polish at times. It’s really minor things, like the clickable area of the address bar being smaller than it looks, so it’s hard to get the mouse into the address bar; or tabs not quite behaving perfectly at times.
If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you probably saw that I switched to Firefox not long ago. I tried valiantly to make it work for me, and functionally I like a lot about Firefox. (I’m a longtime loyalist). But it’s just too slow. It’s borderline unusable. And it chews through battery at an amazing rate. I did a lot of work to check if I was suffering from performance bugs, and I was—but even after finding ways to work around those and improve performance, it’s too slow.
I find it useful to keep several browsers installed and use all of them on a pretty regular basis. Firefox’s screenshot abilities, for example, are amazing. And Firefox and Safari both have a “reader view” that cleans up a web page and formats it as an article for easy reading, which is such a great feature. I also want to make sure that when I’m building things like this website, or using the product we’re building at VividCortex, that I use it in many different browsers to ensure it works well and is fast.
What’s interesting about all the browsers is that history-related features seem to be a lower priority, in general, than I expected. I prefer to keep history only for a week, and set my browser to delete cookies after I close the tab or exit the browser, except for selected websites that I want to stay logged into, like my email.
But most browsers lack what I expect to be basic features in that regard. Most of them provide only some of the features I just listed. For example, Safari has an option to remove history after a period of time, but Google Chrome simply keeps history forever. You have to use an add-on to remove history. The same is true of cookie controls: some browsers give enough control to let you keep cookies you want and prevent keeping others, but most just treat cookies without much nuance, making it hard for you to treat some cookies as “good” and others as “unwanted.”
I use a Mac at present, so Microsoft Edge isn’t an option for me, and Opera has been purchased and put to different purposes. I remember when Opera…. was it version 3.5…? was my main browser. It was faster and more advanced than others back then. I think I bought my first Opera license in 1998. Nostalgia!