Shootouts

Internet browser shootout: Chrome vs. Firefox vs. Opera vs. Safari vs. Vivaldi

By Kenny Yeo - 6 Jul 2019

Introduction

Your desktop might not have a word processing or spreadsheet app, but it most certainly has one of these web browsers.

Note: This shootout first appeared in the July 2019 issue of HWM. It has been edited with additional details.
 
I cannot remember the last time I looked up anything in a book. If you are like me and most other people, you’ll simply start searching on your favorite web browser. And if you are searching on the desktop, there’s a good chance you are doing it using Google Chrome. After all, an estimated seven out of ten people use Google Chrome on the desktop.
 
With privacy and security issues at the forefront of everyone’s minds today, there’s a concern that Google Chrome isn’t as secure as it used to be. Lest we forget, the Big G makes most of its money from advertising. Having said that, Google isn’t going to be blatantly shoving ads in your face, but there’s a growing fear that they are tracking and monetizing your browsing habits, which, to me, is far more disconcerting and sinister. If you are going to get me, I would rather be punched in the face than stabbed in the back.
 
A case in point is how some of Chrome’s new user policies are turning away computer science experts. And more recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that Chrome welcomed over 11,000 tracker cookies in a single week of browsing.

The market share of the world's most popular browsers from May '18 to May '19. (Image source: StatCounter)

Fortunately, there’s no shortage of alternative desktop web browsers and I’m going to evaluate them today. Here is the list of web browsers that I’m going to test.

Eagle-eyed readers will notice the absence of Microsoft’s Edge — the world’s fifth most popular web browser. It was omitted because Microsoft has a new Chromium-based Edge browser in the works and will be retiring the current incarnation of Edge soon.

 

Test Setup

The MacBook Air will be our test machine. (Image source: Apple)

Features are important but so is performance, especially since the web is so important to today and web browsers are expected to work across a wide range of devices with varying levels of computational power.

For this shootout, we will be using a 2018 MacBook Air as our test mule. The MacBook Air was chosen because it runs all browsers (Safari is macOS only), it is a highly popular notebook, and it only has a modest low-power (read power-efficient) Y-series processor.

To test the browsers’ performance, we will launch 20 tabs featuring the world’s 20 most visited websites simultaneously. We will then record CPU and memory utilization for one minute. And on top of that, we will also be running JetStream 2, a JavaScript and WebAssembly benchmark suite; and HTML5 Test, a benchmark that measures how well a browser supports HTML 5.