Sunday, 26 March 2017 04:03

Which is the best browser?: Chrome vs Firefox vs Internet Explorer


We put the web's three best browsers head to head. So which one comes out on top?

Internet browsing has become an essential part of our day-to-day lives, but a lot of the time, we take for granted the software that we use to do it. Web browsers can have a huge impact on the way we perceive the internet, so choosing the right one is vital.If you’re overwhelmed by the amount of choice on offer, don’t worry. We’ve collated the best options, and assessed them on all the most important criteria.Note: We tested these browsers on a Windows 7 laptop with 4GB of RAM and an Intel Core-i5 CPU. We’ve also left Safari off this list, as Apple has discontinued Windows support for the browser. Jump to:
Microsoft Edge
Microsoft's once-mighty Internet Explorer has finally been put out to pasture. While it's still included with Windows 10, the venerable old browser has been taken out back and given the 'Old Yeller' treatment, replaced as the built-in default by the snazzy new Microsoft Edge.It's really rather superb, too; an attractive redesign, streamlined functionality and just enough new features to be exciting have made Edge a genuine competitor with Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.We haven't put it through our full suite of benchmarks and stress tests yet, but if you're interested in exactly how is stacks up against its predecessor, here's our head-to-head: Internet Explorer vs Microsoft Edge.
Boot time
Sluggish web browsers can be one of the biggest irritations when you’re busy, so we put them through their paces to work out which one fires up the fastest. We used Passmark’s Apptimer software, opening each browser five times and then averaging out the results.
internet-speed Which is the best browser?: Chrome vs Firefox vs Internet Explorer
Chrome has a reputation for speed, and rightly so – it averaged a very nippy opening time of 0.05s. Interestingly enough, however, although Chrome was the fastest, Internet Explorer was hot on its heels, coming in just 0.002s slower. Firefox brought up the rear, with a time of 0.07s.In practice, we’d defy anyone to notice a substantial difference between them. All of our browsers fired up almost instantly, with no significant lag when switching between pages; they’re basically identical in terms of speed.
Security and privacy
Considering that we live our lives, in many cases, almost entirely online, security is not something that can be ignored. Internet Explorer has possibly the worst track record with breaches, and various flaws in its code have led to repeated vulnerabilities.However, it has spent a long time improving and has now reached the point where it is no longer the security liability it once was. Microsoft has made continual improvements, and it’s now a reasonably secure bet.Firefox has a proven commitment to security, with highly-paid bug bounty programmes and reputation as the browser of choice for many infosec professionals. It's also highlighted data protection as a key issue, stating in their corporate manifesto that “individuals’ security and privacy on the Internet are fundamental and must not be treated as optional".Security-wise, Chrome is among the best browsers out there – the fact that Flash is built-in and automatically updated means that vulnerabilities are kept to a minimum. Unfortunately, its record falls down considerably when it comes to privacy.It’s no secret that Google is something of a hoarder when it comes to users' information, and it makes full use of Chrome to gather as many details as possible. For example, if you have the Omnibox’s automatic suggestions turned on, anything you type in will be registered and stored by Google, whether you hit enter or not.There are options to turn tracking and data collection off, but they’re buried in the options, and a more cynical soul might assume that Google doesn’t want you to find them at all. If you’re prepared to sacrifice your personal data on the altar of convenience, it won’t be an issue, but more privacy-conscious users might want to avoid Google chrome.Update: Google has revealed that it will no longer support web certificates issued by Symantec following an investigation revealing the company improperly issued over 30,000 certificates over the past few years.In a scathing report by Google's development team, Symantec was found to have repeatedly failed to properly validate certificates, which could potentially allow hackers to snoop on financial transactions or force systems to accept malware laden updates."Over the course of this investigation, the explanations provided by Symantec have revealed a continually increasing scope of misissuance with each set of questions from members of the Google Chrome team; an initial set of reportedly 127 certificates has expanded to include at least 30,000 certificates, issued over a period spanning several years," said Ryan Sleevi, a software engineer at Google, writing in a blog post.When approached with evidence of its failure to abide by Google's standards, Symantec "failed to disclose such information in a timely manner or to identify the significance of the issues reported to them", according to the post. The company also failed to provide timely updates to its community, and despite having full knowledge of the problem, failed to publicly disclose the issue, the post states.This is a big deal, as Symantec holds over 30% of the entire certification volume online, and a drop of support for these certificates will create a substantial challenge for some website operators in finding alternative solutions.Google "no longer has the confidence" to grant Symantec certificates "extended validation", the highest level of trust an authority can receive, and has also proposed a gradual distrust of all Symantec issue certificates, which will need to be replaced over time. To do this, Google will reduce the maximum age a Symantec certificate can have over the course of a number of Chrome builds, limiting their validity period.
Chrome Version Validity Period
Chrome 59 (Dev, Beta, Stable) 33 months validity (1023 days)
Chrome 60 (Dev, Beta, Stable) 27 months validity (837 days)
Chrome 61 (Dev, Beta, Stable) 21 months validity (651 days)
Chrome 62 (Dev, Beta, Stable) 15 months validity (465 days)
Chrome 63 (Dev, Beta)  9 months validity (279 days)
Chrome 63 (Stable) 15 months validity (465 days)
Chrome 64 (Dev, Beta, Stable) 9 months validity (279 days)
The development team will avoid making changes to the stable build of Chrome 63, as this would clash with a holiday production freeze that many companies undergo.Google is also reducing the maximum validity period for all certificates issued by authorities to nine months, to help limit the impact of improperly issued certificates in the future. Google also believes the new schedule will make web developers aware of the distrust of Symantec certificates, but allow for their continued use if necessary. 

Memory consumption

A speedy startup is only half the battle, though. You have to be sure that once opened, your browser isn’t going to gum up your PC with poorly-optimised processes.

To test this, with measured the amount of memory used by each browser during a medium session: one window with a Facebook page, a YouTube video, a BBC News article, the Microsoft Outlook web app and the IT Pro homepage open in separate tabs.

Looking at the Windows task manager, it’s easy to assume that Chrome is a resource-hungry beast, as the browser will often list multiple simultaneous processes. However, this can be deceptive as the chrome files each separate tab, extension and plug-in as a separate process.

This allows it to isolate any potential crashes or hiccups caused by specific processes while the rest of the browser remains operational. Add the total memory usage up, and it’s really not as bad as it looks.

That doesn’t mean it’s good, however. Overall, it’s still the most memory-hungry browser we tested, beating IE by a hair’s breadth. Firefox was considerably less demanding than either, tying up an average of 412,000KB compared to the almost 600,000kb eaten up by Chrome and IE.

Browser benchmarks

When comparing anything, benchmark figures are useful tools to have, and there are numerous utilities designed for this purpose. We used the Browsermark and Peacekeeper benchmark to test the browsers’ HTML5 rendering capabilities, and the Sunspider tests to assess how they dealt with Javascript.

In the Peacekeeper tests, it was Firefox that triumphed, beating out Chrome by a fairly small margin, but trumping IE by around 50 per cent. The Browsermark test was similarly dire for Microsoft’s product, scoring just 2550. Firefox still beat it with 3946, but it was this time edged out of the top spot by Chrome, with a result of 4858.

The Sunspider benchmarks told a different tale, however. For processing Javascript, Internet Explorer is actually the fastest, with a score of around 114ms. That’s better than Firefox’s 191ms result, and more than twice as fast as Chrome, which came in at 240ms.

For HTML5 – the language used for the vast majority of web 2.0 functions – Chrome and Firefox are about tied, leaving Internet Explorer behind. It excels at processing Javascript, however, and its inbuilt ActiveX capabilities are also handy.

In terms of pure specs though, Firefox is likely to be the best option for many users. It balances both the raw underlying javascript used by many developers, and the flashy HTML used by more resource-intensive sites like YouTube, processing both to a high standard.


If you’re going to be using a piece of software for the majority of your online interactions over the course of a day, one would hope that it at least looks attractive. With that in mind, we’ve compared all the browsers on our list aesthetically.

Google Chrome is the best-designed browser out there. Its minimalist design is elegant and uncluttered, containing exactly what it needs to. While it wasn’t the first to do tabbed browsing, it’s possibly one of the best, and the Omnibox feature, combining search functions with URL, was a widely-aped revelation.

chrome-omnibox Which is the best browser?: Chrome vs Firefox vs Internet Explorer

Firefox isn’t far behind, however. The interface is a little less streamlined than Google’s but offers more customisation as a trade-off.  We’re not huge fans of the mobile version, though. While it’s perfectly serviceable, it feels a little cluttered, and the buttons feel like they’re dominating the screen any time you open a menu.

Internet Explorer, unsurprisingly, resides firmly at the bottom of the heap. It doesn’t have a reputation as a good-looking browser, and with very good reason. The boxy, angular design of IE11 does it no favours, and it looks squat and antiquated when compared to more polished rivals.

Additional functionality

When looking at professional tools, one must remember that specs aren’t everything, and a browser’s functionality must also be taken into consideration. Some aspects are universal; all of the major contenders now support tabbed browsing and searching from the address bar, for example.

Some aspects aren’t as commonplace, however. While Internet Explorer allows multiple tabs, it registers each one as a separate window on the taskbar, which slightly defeats the object. It also has very little support for add-ons, plug-ins and web apps, which rules out a lot of after-market functionality.

Chrome, by contrast, has a raft of third-party extensions, many of which have become essential. It's also unmatched in first-party integration. If you're already part of the Google ecosystem, via Gmail, Google Drive, Android, or any combination of the three, then the way Chrome blends in with these tools will be supremely convenient.

Firefox also offers various third-party plugins, although its selection is slightly lacking in comparison to Google’s. It makes up for this, however, by being more intuitive to configure than Chrome. The options are laid out in easy-to-navigate menus, and described with simple language.

If you’re the kind of person that likes to juggle multiple, high-level tasks, the amount of plug-ins and services that integrate with Chrome makes it a perfect fit. Those who are less experienced, on the other hand, can use Firefox as a stepping stone to these more advanced tasks without getting bogged down in complex jargon.

Cross-platform interoperability

Living in a connected world, we have the ability to access the sum total of human knowledge. This also means that we often have multiple devices with which to do this, and using a different browser on each can get exhausting.

Luckily, many browsers will now sync across all your devices, allowing you to access your bookmarks, history and stored details wherever you are. A web browser’s level of device interoperability is something that must be taken into account when examining them.

Internet Explorer does not perform well in this regard; IE is only supported on Windows devices, meaning that those who want to sync their PC bookmarks with those on their iPhone will have to look elsewhere.

Firefox, after being relegated strictly to Android and Mozilla's own operating system, has now received a full iOS release. As with any decent modern browser, the Firefox app for iOS can sync your history, saved passwords, favourites and settings across both mobile and desktop.

chrome-and-firefox Which is the best browser?: Chrome vs Firefox vs Internet Explorer

The standout is Chrome, which is currently available on both Android and iOS, although sadly not Windows Phone. Chrome uses your Google account to link your activity across not just your browsing sessions, but all Google-linked sites and services.

When one looks at the amount of apps that include Google integration, this makes Chrome by far the best choice for mobility across multiple platforms.


Going purely by the numbers, Firefox would appear to be the best browser out there. It’s got solid performance across the board, it’s attractive and well-designed, and it has a gleaming record for security and privacy awareness.

However, try as we might, we just can’t tear ourselves away from Google Chrome. Sure, it’s noting down all our information like an obsessive ex, and it’s not the fastest for Javascript actions, but the convenience of having one unified browser for our phone, tablet and PC is just too much to give up, especially including the inbuilt app support.

Despite technically being the better choice, Firefox remains in second place, waiting for Google’s offering to slip up. Chrome, on the other hand, overcomes its few flaws by dint of being an incredibly slick experience with the best cross-platform capabilities around and remains our pick for best browser.

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