Two decades after the war between Netscape and Microsoft to dominate the market, and after successive changes in the browser throne, Google Chrome reigns today on our devices with 70% of the market share, according to the NetMarketShare portal . But there are many other alternatives: from Mozilla Firefox to Microsoft Edge through Opera, Safari or Brave. What is the best of all? Different factors come into play to decide. For example, its impact on the environment, the computer resources it uses and the extent to which it guarantees user privacy. EL PAÍS has analyzed these three aspects to give clues to the user who doubts between the different programs.
Research on this is limited. But in the tests carried out by the Alarcos research group of the University of Castilla-La Mancha, the most environmentally friendly browsers when searching the Internet have been Edge and Firefox. Edge also stands out in terms of performance and Brave because it focuses on protecting privacy. Achieving anonymity on the web is a difficult task but the amount of data collected by third parties depends on how the browsers are configured.
Sending a tweet, watching a video on YouTube or doing a Google search requires energy and therefore involves an emission of carbon dioxide . The contamination that these actions entail individually seems negligible. But if we consider that millions of people do them frequently every day, the data can start to be worrying.
But not all browsers pollute the same. Even when the action performed on them is identical, the emissions vary from one to the other. Alarcos researchers have studied the carbon footprint of four browsers – Google Chrome, Firefox, Edge and Opera – combined with four search engines – Google, Ecosia, Bing and DuckDuckGo. In this case, the most environmentally friendly browsers are Edge and Firefox, followed by Opera and lastly Chrome. The combination that guarantees more privacy and without consuming much is Edge with DuckDuckGo.
Emissions may vary with each activity. For example, researchers have tested the Google Translator, DeepL, Bing, Tradukka, Yandex, and Systran Translate translators in both Chrome and Firefox. Overall, based on their results, the carbon footprint is lower on Chrome. The best combination would be to use Chrome with Google Translate and the worst Firefox with Tradukka.
Accurately quantifying the carbon dioxide emissions from using some browsers or others is difficult — if not impossible — for any user. Alarcos researchers can do this because they have developed a measuring device to obtain real consumption data from software running on a PC. Still, they insist that all of their measurements are made on the user’s computer that performs each action. That is, they cannot know how the providers of the aforementioned services behave.
One aspect that can influence when deciding which browser to use is whether it consumes many or few resources. For now, Google’s Chrome browser underperforms browsers like Microsoft Edge and Apple’s Safari, according to The Wall Street Journal newspaper . In tests conducted on Windows by the same newspaper over several weeks, Edge used approximately 5% less RAM and processing than Chrome and Firefox. “It might not sound like much, but on a Dell XPS 13 [a particular computer model], it resulted in an extra hour of battery life, and I got it both in my actual use and in a HD video streaming test of YouTube ”, indicates the journalist.
That a browser consumes little does not always mean that it is better. In the same way, other data must be taken into account, such as how long it takes to load the pages or the compatibility of devices or when accessing different services. In this case, with Edge “the pages load very fast and the Google applications, including Gmail and Docs, worked without problem”. Also, Chrome extensions can be installed on Edge easily.
For Macs, Safari used roughly 5-10% less RAM than Chrome, Firefox, and Edge in testing: “Compared to Chrome, Safari kept the 13-inch MacBook Pro running one to two additional hours on a charge ”. But, when using Safari, some compatibility issues have been found. That is, some websites were not working. For example, the payment system of a Cuban restaurant or a podcast recording app. If you have a multitude of Apple devices, Safari can be a good option with another browser for when there are web compatibility problems.
Privacy & Security
Surfing the Internet without leaving any kind of trace is practically impossible. For example, although both Google and Mozilla allow the user to search in a private session, this function does not guarantee anonymity at all. Yes, it is useful so that other users with access to the equipment cannot see which pages you have visited. But both companies recognize that when browsing incognito mode, user activity is still visible to the websites you visit, your company, school or Internet service provider.
A study published by Trinity College’s Department of Computer Science and Statistics analyzes the behavior of six web browsers: Brave, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, Safari and Yandex. The bottom line is that Brave is the browser that respects privacy the most, as it does not include identifiers that allow tracking of the IP address or share details of the pages visited with the company’s servers. This browser claims precisely to “return power” to users. “Get unmatched speed, security and privacy by blocking trackers,” he says on his website. By contrast, Edge and Yandex would be the browsers that least respect privacy, according to this study.
But there are many nuances to take into account. Browsers can be configured in one way or another to protect privacy to a greater or lesser extent. For example, in the case of Chrome, the most radical method to prevent the Mountain View company from collecting information about the user is to log out of your Google account in the browser. It is also possible to make a more intermediate decision and choose which services you want to be synchronized and which ones not. For example, between applications, extensions, passwords, payment methods, addresses or phone numbers.
Google also allows you to activate safe browsing to restrict access to potentially dangerous websites and includes an invasive ad blocker. It is also possible to send a request to the websites not to collect or track a user’s browsing data. But Google recognizes that websites do not usually change their behavior when receiving this request.
Firefox includes different options to safeguard privacy. For example, content blocking . With this feature, you aim to prevent hidden trackers from collecting user data on websites and slowing down your browsing experience. The browser also allows rejecting cookies and deleting private data when closing the application