No browser is perfect. What should a user do?

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I remember the time when the browser wars had reached a fit of rage that no one could believe. A large part of this was driven by profit and because so many websites seemed intent on focusing on one browser or the other. Some sites only worked with Internet Explorer, others used Netscape Navigator (remember those days?).

Then of course there was the problem of Internet Explorer itself, which was a terrible product harboring an endless collection of unsafe code and bugs that caused countless problems. This was all made worse when Netscape disappeared from the face of the planet and was replaced by Firefox. The new open-source browser initially looked like it would package IE. It was a solid entry into the browser space and people loved it.

The story tells a very different story.

Firefox rode a roller coaster ride, culminating and dipping between bloat, feature creep, and bugs. It would vacillate between a barebones browser and way too many features. This ride continued until developers realized that the only way to stay relevant was to focus on what Firefox did best – rendering websites.

As time went on, more and more browsers appeared. Chrome, Opera, Vivaldi, Tor, Safari, Brave, Chromium and Edge (to name a few). We all know Chrome’s problems (hello, security!) and Safari has a never-ending problem with resources (even on a MacBook Pro with 32GB RAM, any website can cause Safari to throw the resource error.

Likewise: What is the most popular web browser?

To date I have tried almost every web browser that has come out (even text-based ones like Alpine and Lynx) and I have yet to experience the “ideal” browser.

Not even close.

Sure, I have my favorite browsers. Most of the time I prefer Firefox to everyone, but Firefox can be problematic. I’m using Firefox on Pop!_OS running on a System76 Thelio with 32GB RAM and when Firefox lands on the wrong page it eats up so many system resources that the entire desktop collapses.

Likewise: Pop!_OS might have a complicated name, but it makes Linux so easy to use

And chrome? Don’t get me started on the lack of security associated with Google’s browser.

Opera is always next in line after Firefox. When the open-source browser has seizures, I close it and turn to Opera. One thing I really love about this browser is the Workspaces feature (which makes tab management a thing of beauty).

But Opera isn’t perfect either. On top of that, Opera is a proprietary browser that rubs some open source enthusiasts in the wrong direction.

After years of dealing with one issue or another, I’ve come to the conclusion that there isn’t and never will be an ideal web browser.

And that’s a shame.

Each web browser I use (Firefox, Opera and Safari) has its strengths:

  • Firefox is fast and renders websites almost perfectly. It’s also secure and has many third-party extensions that I rely on.
  • Opera doesn’t get bogged down like Firefox and has the best tab management feature in its class. Opera also works better with some of the CMS tools I have to deal with (especially on the content formatting front).
  • Safari doesn’t drain my MacBook Pro’s battery like Firefox and Opera.

You might think I could stick with just one of these browsers, but you’d be very wrong. Every day I have to jump from browser to browser to get things done. One minute I’m working in Firefox and the next in Opera. I jump onto my laptop and it’s Safari to the rescue.

This makes for a pretty confusing (and sometimes frustrating) day.

I much prefer working with a single browser. And I would love it if that browser was Firefox, but the truth of the matter is… I don’t see that happening any time soon. I know the reality of the situation and there is not (and never will be) one browser that can handle them all.

Sure, you could point to market share and say Chrome is the queen of browsers. However, a large portion of Chrome’s current market share of 65.52% comes from global Android usage (which sits in the middle 70th percentile month-on-month). And yes, there are millions and millions of users who only work with a single browser (no matter how frustrating it can be). But anyone who has spent enough time with technology understands that there will never be a winner in the browser war. And if you think the end user will ever be the winner… think again and again.

The sad truth is that we are at the mercy of web browsers and website developers. And no matter how well they do their job, an “ideal” will never emerge from the pile of options. I’m sure I’ll have to continue the browser shuffle until my last day, and my only option is to keep whatever web browser I use as neat as possible. That means clearing caches, rebooting, and keeping tabs to a workable minimum.

I don’t know about you, but the struggle of being a web browser user can certainly be frustrating. However, as long as there are options, we can at least continue browser hopping to ensure we’re productive, entertained, and informed.

But maybe, just maybe, one day we’ll see a holy grail of web browsers appear on the market that will put that worry to rest for good. Until then, I’ll keep switching between Firefox, Opera, and Safari.

What can you do?

The first is not to panic. It’s not like your default browser will explode in your face. But even if you don’t see a problem for years, that doesn’t mean there isn’t one. That doesn’t mean there are things you can’t and shouldn’t do. To that end, here’s my best advice on browsers:

  • Leave more than one browser installed, just in case. I currently have seven browsers installed. That’s partly because I write about technology. The other reason is, if something goes wrong with one browser, I always have to use another (and troubleshooting can wait). There are also times when I use one browser for one task and another for another task. For example, I use Firefox when security is key and Opera when I know I’ll be working with numerous tabs.
  • Keep your cache and history clean. This is one of those things that everyone should do on a regular basis. Your web browser caches many things, some of which are just there to make pages load faster. However, these caches add up, and when they get excessively large, it slows down the browser. Additionally, these caches contain cookies, and you may not want them lying around for too long (for security reasons).
  • Don’t save passwords! Never, ever allow your browser to save your passwords. That’s a target on your back. Use a password manager instead and you’re done.
  • Switch to Firefox. Of all the browsers I use, Firefox is not only the most reliable, but also safer and easier to clear history (Menu > History > Clear Recent History).

You are not tied to a browser. I highly recommend everyone to try different settings for the tool. You will most likely find that you like different features from different browsers. When you test the browser ware, don’t think you need to be locked into one solution. In fact, multiple solutions to this problem might be the best solution of all. In the end, though, it’s up to you to make sure you’re using your web browser of choice intelligently. Do that and you shouldn’t have (many) problems.

Jack Wallen: Here’s how…

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