What's the most popular web browser?

When you first turn on a new Windows 10 PC or laptop the only route you'll initially have to the internet is via Microsoft’s Edge web browser or Internet Explorer. 

It's the same with an iPhone or Android device, although here the defaults are usually Safari on iOS and Google Chrome on Android. 

But regardless of which phone you use, there are a number of great alternative web browsers available which you'll find outlined in great detail if you read our separate guide to the best mobile browsers (You can also try a different search engine too).

The good news is that you can download as many browsers as you like, either using the one on your PC or laptop already, or the app store on your phone or tablet. Find out how to change your default browser.

And thanks to W3Counter’s Browser Share stats for December 2019, you can see which are currently the most popular:

best web browser

Google Chrome, then, is by far the most used browser, accounting for more than half of all web traffic, followed by Safari in a distant second place. The combined IE & Edge comes in third, with Firefox in fourth. Opera is fifth with less than four percent of global web traffic.

Google's lead isn't too surprising, but the fact it continues to dominate may have something to do with the changes introduced back in February 2018 that saw Google by default blocking ads that violate the Coalition for Better Ads standards. That means - without your input - full-page and countdown ads, as well as those that autoplay sound and video, are removed. This makes for a better overall user experience and speeds up page loading time.

With new features such as a Dark Mode, which can save battery on laptops but also reduce eye strain, Chrome is unlikely to be usurped.

Firefox has lost its previous position over IE and Edge, and is currently the fourth most-popular browser. You can read more about it in our Chrome vs Firefox comparison.

Also, Microsoft has rebuilt its Edge browser using Chromium (the open source version of Google's Chrome browser) which is twice as fast as the old Edge and allows you to use Chrome extensions. However, it's hard to believe that any Chrome users will switch to it as there's simply not enough of an incentive to do so.

In fact, the only real advantage - and this is really for businesses - is that the new Edge can load old websites in 'IE mode' which means they don't have to run ancient versions of Internet Explorer.

Here's how it breaks down into the Top 10 browsers, based on their version numbers. Given that Windows 7 is now end of life, it's surprising to see IE 11 still commanding 2.3% of all web traffic.

That is likely to decline as people upgrade to Windows 10 once they're sufficiently nagged about it being unsafe to continue using Windows 7. 

Which is the best web browser?

You can’t always believe statistics, and not all surveys agree. StatCounter, for example, says Chrome has a 64% share and puts Samsung's web browser in fourth place.

Just because more people use a certain browser, that doesn't make it the ‘best'. It's just one measure, and there are others of course.

Previously we reviewed web browsers, benchmarking them for speed and rating them on features. The problem with that approach was that all of these browsers are updated constantly, meaning that those reviews quickly became outdated. And that’s why we’re not offering benchmark results here.

Google, Mozilla, Microsoft, Apple and others also add, change and remove features in those regular updates, so on the odd occasion, a feature which was a reason to use a particular browser would vanish overnight.

Even if a browser is better than its rivals because of performance, security or features, they’re all free and there’s no limit to how many you can install or run at the same time. So while many would agree when we say that Google Chrome is the ‘best’ web browser, there’s nothing stopping you from using five or six different browsers.

At Tech Advisor we all use multiple browsers on a daily basis. Those of us running Windows use Chrome, Firefox and Opera most of the time with Edge when necessary, while Mac users will use a blend of Safari, Chrome and Firefox.

And all of these browsers offer decent performance and compatibility. They all offer to save your passwords and aside from Internet Explorer (and to some extent Microsoft Edge) they will sync your data, favourites and tabs between multiple computers and devices so you can grab your phone and carry on reading where you left off on your laptop.

They all support extensions and add-ons so you can add specific features, shortcuts and widgets.

If a specific extension isn't available on your favourite browser, simply check and see if it for another browser. Similarly, if a website isn't displaying properly or working in one browser, try another. These are the most common reasons why we use more than one browser.

Arguably the best browser is one that runs on all your devices and shares bookmarks, logins, current tabs and other data so you can pick up where you left off on any device. Chrome does this, as does Safari (but this is only useful if you have Apple products of course).

Web browser features compared

Here's a table which summarises the main features, as well as which platforms each browser supports. Chrome, Firefox and Opera are the most compatible. You might find older versions of Safari for Windows, but it's no longer kept up to date by Apple, so we can't recommend using it.

 

Chrome

Firefox

IE

Safari

Edge

Opera

Cloud sync

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Download manager

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Private browsing

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Full-screen mode

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Tabs on the side

Yes

Yes (with add-on)

No

No

No

Yes

Custom extensions

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Platforms

           

Windows

Yes*

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Mac OS

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Linux

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

Yes

Android

Yes

Yes

No

No

Yes

Yes

iOS

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Details

           

Engine

Blink

Gecko

Trident

WebKit

Blink

Blink

Javascript engine

V8

SpiderMonkey

Chakra

Nitro

V8

V8

Open source

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

No

Website

google.com/...

mozilla.com

N/A

apple.com/...

microsoft.com/...

opera.com

* Chrome is supported on Windows 7 and newer versions. Support has ended for XP and Vista.

Are there any other good web browsers?

Yes! There are literally loads of alternatives which you've likely never heard of. That doesn't mean you shouldn't install or try them out, though.

Here are several of the best alternative web browsers we recommend you check out:

Avast Secure Browser: Avast is well-known for its antivirus software, but it also has a web browser. This isn't its first (the previous effort was called SafeZone) but it has been updated. Essentially it's Chrome - it's based on the open-source Chromium project - but with more security and privacy features, which are enabled by default.

There's a built-in VPN, video downloader which will happily download YouTube videos at 720p, Bank Mode, password manager, malware protection and various other useful tools.

If you already have Chrome installed, Avast's browser will pull in your bookmarks and frequently visited sites automatically too.

Recently, Avast was caught selling harvested user data via a sub-brand Jumpshot and it was found that the data was being taken from users of Avast Secure Browser. However, Avast says that this only happens when users opt in to the data collection - so be careful with what you agree to as part of the installation. It also appears that following all the negative publicity, Avast is now winding down Jumpshot.

best web browser

Yandex: This is the Russian equivalent of Google Chrome, having been developed by the Russian search engine Yandex. It's available for Windows, Android, iOS and macOS. It defaults to Bing search, but you can change this to Google, Yandex or others. It's based on Chromium and supports extensions, although the list isn't as expansive as Chrome's or Firefox's.

Comodo IceDragon: Like Yandex, Comodo claims to be a secure web browser, protecting you from dodgy websites, keeping your logins safe and more. It also has full compatibility with Firefox plugins.

Maxthon: It's not enough just to be a web browser these days. Maxthon offers extras such as Maxnote for clipping things from the web, Passkeeper for logins and UUMail for virtual inboxes. 

Also, if you value privacy, try Firefox Focus on iOS and Android. It's a barebones browser that keeps no records of searches or pages visited - ideal if you're researching a surprise party or anything else you want to keep private. However, for the ultimate privacy, you should run a VPN app.

Best web browsers