Updated on March 25, 2023
Back in 2019, I wrote about Google’s plans to implement something called Manifest V3, a change to the Chrome web browser’s extensions backend. Among other changes, it makes ad blockers less effective in Chrome, which of course benefits a company like Google (which makes the vast majority of its revenue from advertising).
While it seems these plans initially were delayed (I’m guessing due to the pandemic), recently Google announced that the changes will go through starting in January 2023, with the changes fully completed by the end of the year.
Needless to say, a lot of people aren’t pleased with these planned changes. Chrome’s the world’s most popular browser; in addition, almost every browser save for Firefox and Safari is forked from Chromium, which is what Chrome is based on. It’s unclear how much Manifest’s changes will affect Chromium-based browsers like Edge, but I expect they’ll be impacted by this, as well.
As such, some are pondering alternatives to Chrome, even if I don’t see Chrome losing its #1 browser status. It’s installed by default on Android phones, plus Chromebooks/Chrome OS are based on Chrome. Still, other browsers have plenty of advantages. Below, I’ve listed my recommended alternative browsers to Chrome.
Safari is the default browser for MacOS, as well as iOS and iPadOS. I’ve always used it on my iPad and iPhone. Lately, I’ve also been giving it another try on my Mac.
- Clean interface.
- Fairly fast.
- Strong integration into MacOS’ and iOS’ features, such as a reading list feature similar to Pocket.
- Strong privacy features.
- A reader view feature.
- There are relatively few plug-ins available compared to other browsers. The Safari implementation of plug-ins also differs from other browsers—it’s basically like installing a program. They even show up alongside regular applications in the MacOS Applications folder.
- Some sites throw a fit over anything but Chrome/Chromium browsers (though this isn’t Apple’s fault).
- Safari is only available for Apple devices.
- The Favorites menu bar doesn’t display favicons for bookmarked links, just plain text. This makes it harder to tell these bookmarks apart at first glance.
Overall, Safari works pretty well, even with the limitations above.
Firefox (Windows, MacOS, Linux)
The longtime independent/open-source browser Firefox has seen better days. Its usage has declined to a single-digit percentage of online users; as of September 2022, Firefox only made up about 3% of online browser usage. Still, Firefox is the most prominent browser not owned by a major tech company; it’s also included as the default browser in many Linux distributions.
- It’s open-source.
- Available on all major platforms.
- It’s not owned by a major tech conglomerate like Apple, Google, or Microsoft. It’s managed by Mozilla.
- Strong privacy and security features.
- Not based on Chromium.
- Firefox not running on Chromium is starting to pose issues with some sites.
- Firefox’s long-term future is in doubt, given its declining usage.
I enjoy Firefox, but I’m concerned about its future. A few sites I ran into threw a fit over a non-Chromium browser, which makes it harder to commit solely to using Firefox. However, keeping a Chromium-based browser around for such instances helps.
Microsoft Edge (Windows, MacOS, Linux)
Edge has replaced Microsoft’s long-time, problem-filled browser Internet Explorer. Fortunately, Edge is a vast improvement over IE.
- It’s not Internet Explorer.
- Edge is based on Chromium, so Chrome extensions will work with Edge. Similarly, it’ll work on any site that’s oriented toward Chrome.
- Fairly extensive security and privacy features; while not to the extent of Firefox, it’s better than Chrome’s defaults.
- Edge is available on all major platforms, even Linux.
- Some features Chrome lacks, such as reader view.
- It’s based on Chromium. As noted above, it’s unclear how much Google’s changes will impact Edge.
- Microsoft’s features are pushed in Edge, which might turn off some.
- Some of the user interface aspects feel a bit cluttered or out of place on a Mac.
- Microsoft has taken a hardball approach to Edge on Windows, making it difficult to choose an alternative browser.
Edge is a decent Chromium-based Chrome alternative, providing Chrome’s benefits but with fewer ties to Google. Still, those that want something completely untied to Google, or don’t want to use Microsoft’s default browser, will want to look elsewhere.
I’ve left Brave off this list. Not only is it strongly tied to cryptocurrency features (for me, an automatic disqualifier), but its parent company’s CEO, Brendan Eich, has faced controversy over his opposition to same-sex marriage. Besides, Brave doesn’t offer anything I can’t get from the above-mentioned browsers.
I’ve tried Opera and Vivaldi, but I didn’t really enjoy using either one.
I’ve tried DuckDuckGo’s browser on my iPad. It’s useful from a privacy perspective, but felt too barebones for my regular use. However, DuckDuckGo does offer an extension for web browsers providing its privacy tools.
Overall, I recommend Safari (for Apple device users), Microsoft Edge (as a Chromium-based browser), or Firefox (as an open-source/non-Chromium browser) as alternative browsers to Chrome. They all work well, offer most of Chrome’s features (plus unique features), and aren’t tied to Google.
While the market share for non-Chrome browsers is in jeopardy, perhaps Google’s changes will revive interest in alternative browsers to Chrome.
What’s your favorite web browser?