Best Free Web Browser


This category is divided into three sections: 1) MEGA WEB BROWSERS includes the most popular, powerful and heavyweight browsers; 2) LIGHTWEIGHT WEB BROWSERS includes the browsers that provide the best performance with respect to memory and CPU consumption; and 3) OTHER BROWSERS includes browsers that haven't been discussed in the both categories above. For a full comparison of features of the various browsers, click here.

Reviewing web browsers is different than reviewing other types of software categories because the choice of which browser is best is truly subjective and the browser updates are released with tremendous frequency.  The major web browsers compared in this review are the most common used around the world. While some comparisons are necessary, each browser will really stand on its own merit and new features of the latest releases.  As such, each browser will be reviewed based on major updates.

The most popular of the major browsers are Google Chrome (Chrome), Internet Explorer (IE), Mozilla Firefox (Firefox), and Opera. Also entering contention this year is Maxthon. There is much debate regarding which one is the most popular at any given time. According to various surveys on the Internet Chrome and Firefox tend to lead the pack for the following reasons; 1) strong app support, 2) cross platform compatibility.

Regarding performance the statistical difference between them is so minor, most users won't see a difference. Startup and performance is another subjective theme as it depends on the hardware, software and browser configuration for each user. Deciding which browser(s) to use depends on the need. The average user may be satisfied with IE or Opera. Power users may prefer Firefox, cloud oriented users may prefer Chrome or Maxthon. Some users may prefer to use multiple browsers, taking advantage of the unique features each has to offer.

Due to modern advances and competitiveness, all of the major web browsers share similar, and what I would call, essential features. Examples of these features are; tabbed browsing, privacy browsing, password manager, download manager, searchable address bar, and cross application syncing. The individual browsers may use different names for their respective features but the functions are basically the same. The reviews will attempt to highlight the key elements of each browser to help you decide which browser may be best for you.

Wiki Comparison of Web Browsers compares web browsers in essentially 11 categories.  For a web browser to be classified as Mega, it must compare to IE, Chrome and Firefox in all 11 categories.



After Google hired several Mozilla Firefox developers, they released Chrome in 2008 to provide users a clean, fast and stable browsing experience.  Chrome is one of the most popular browsers today.  It has become more than a web browser however, Chrome is an integral part of Google's cloud syncing across multiple hardware platforms, Google applications and services.

Chrome is available for Win XP - Win 8, OS X, and Linux. For smart phones and tablets, Android and iOS versions are available using the Webkit engine.  At it's core Chrome's engine is Blink, developed as part of the Chromium project and V8 a JavaScript Engine. After installation Chrome opens with two tabs. The first tab provides a login screen in case you have a Google account. If you don't have a Google account, click "skip for now" to proceed. The window will show the New Tab which will provide links to other Google services like YouTube, Gmail and Google Docs. The second tab is called Getting Started. Getting Started is a good resource for learning more about Chrome's features. Simply click "learn more" on the Welcome to Chrome page.

Chrome has a large selection of extensions (like apps on a smart phone) to enhance the browsing experience.  Chrome also has WebApps, programs that run within the browser instead of installing on the computer.  Google has another feature called cloud print.  Essentially if you have a printer that supports cloud printing at home or work, add a cloud printer to Chrome's advanced settings and you can print to the printer from Chrome.  Have you heard of ChromeVox?  An excellant text to speech feature for the visually impaired.  ChromeVox is a Google extension that reads the text in any open tab in Chrome.  

Most web developers still use Internet Explorer compatibility as the standard for developing websites.  Long ago there was an issue with viewing some websites do to their coding with a browser other than Internet Explorer.  I'm happy to say I haven't seen any of these issues with Chrome and would consider it safe for all commercial websites.  Chrome is an excellant browser for those seeking a clean, fast, and stable internet browsing experience at the novice and advanced levels.  Now to get past Google's use of Chrome to promote all their other services.

Mozilla Firefox was released in 2004.  Designed to be part of a Web Suite of chat, mail and HTML editing software, the developers felt the browser would make the suite too big and released it separately.  Firefox is considered one of the top three major web browsers.  Unlike Internet Explorer and Chrome, Firefox is owned by a non-profit (Mozilla Foundation) and completely open source being developed by a team of volunteers worldwide.  Consider it sort of a grass roots web browser that has found particular favor among Linux Distro users.  Firefox uses the Gecko engine developed by the Mozilla Foundation.

In 2011 starting with version 5 Mozilla started a program called Rapid Build.  There goal was to release new versions of Firefox every 6 weeks.  Firefox is now at version 25.  The reasoning is to get new features to the users faster.  That is a pretty ambitious goal.  

Some of Firefox's defining features include being able to pin a tab using the Pinned Tab feature to permanently make a tab like e-mail, Facebook, Twitter or other sites you like to keep open on the tab bar.  Switch-to-Tab will attempt to let you know when you already have a website open on a tab.  As you type in the Omnibar (address bar) Firefox will check to see if you have that site open.  Accidentally close one or more tabs and want to reopen them?  With Firefox you can.  Matter of fact while I was writing this I had to use the restore tab feature being very glad it was there.

Update: Firefox 27 has been release without much fanfare.  Most of the updates are in the background and won't be noticed by the average user.  For security Firefox upgraded to TLS, the successor to SSL security. For what its worth, Google 30 and IE 11 already have this technology.  They also made some API updates which will enhance how social media sites can be viewed but its all in the back ground, so most users aren't likely to see the difference.  During my peek at version 27 I was very disappointed in the performance, especially when speed is so heavily touted by Mozilla, the developer.  Version 28 is in Beta right now with a focus on Windows 8.x compatibility.  Just in time as Windows 9 is waiting in the wings.  Is it just me or does Mozilla seem to be getting farther and farther behind in the PC Browser category since splitting into the Android market and now Firefox OS? 

Internet Explorer has ties to Bing, Google Chrome has ties to Google Search, what does Firefox have? A search bar that let's you choose your search engine on the fly!  How cool is that?  Not only can you choose from the big three search engines, you can also search Amazon, Twitter, eBay and Wikipedia.  Yay!  Being independent does have it's advantages, and eliminating the bias' of the corporate conglomerate is huge.  There is also a status bar at the bottom for quick connection to your downloads, bookmarks, history, and more.  Even with all the good there is a little bad.  The most common reported issue seems to be from web sites that use Flash Player.  See the Firefox support page for possible fixes.  Overall I really enjoy Firefox using it at least 50% of the time for web browsing.

Internet Explorer (IE) was first release in 1995 with Windows 95.  Because it's bundled with Windows, IE is the most widely distributed browser in the world, and arguably the most popular in North America.  Currently using the Trident engine first released in 1997 and Chakra released in IE 9.

With the release of Version 10, IE has gained some market share the past 12 months, while Chrome and Firefox are declining some.  This vague opinion was reflected on 2 notable websites tracking browser use worldwide.  One showed Chrome in the lead, the other showed IE in the lead, both showed Firefox in third, both showed IE gaining and the others declining.  Personal opinions are even farther apart, and for this reason I won't get into debates on which one performs better or is the most popular.  As mentioned in the introduction, its a subjective debate.

Many think the only reason IE is still competing in the browser wars is because its so widely distributed.  The latest version however has demonstrated IE can be what it should be, more stable, secure and faster then previous versions.  The interface is clean, Chrome like, with minimal menus, a clean simple appearance and inconspicuous icons for quick access to favorites, settings and the home page.  Press the ALT key to reveal the neatly hidden traditional menus.  If you're a traditionalist, use Alt to access the View menu, Toolbars, where you can turn on the hidden traditional toolbar appearance.  IE needs improvements with tab sandboxing, the ability to control crashes by isolating them to the tab instead of crashing the entire browser.  IE is lagging behind Chrome and Firefox in the add-on/extension realm but significant improvements have been made.  Using the tracking protection add-on will help prevent third parties from gleaning information about your browsing habits.

IE does offer some useful utilities, like the performance dialog for add-ons.  If the browser speed is being impacted by add-ons, a message pops up.  Open the the Choose Add-ons window to see what is slowing the browser and make changes.  Security is strong with Tracking Protection and Smartscreen Filter.  Overall the improvements in IE 10 make it a contender again, at least for now.  

Opera, was released in 1996 and is current the 2nd most popular mobile browser.  Opera has been credited with originating many features, like their Speed Dial, that other web browsers have adopted under a different name.   Opera started out using their own engine called Presto until version 15 when they began using Google's Blink to provide the browsers more power and options.

Watch out big three, Opera is edging in with version 18.  Adding Firefox's Pinned Tabs, and the multi-search engine select feature.  All the browsers allow searching from the address bar, however unlike Firefox which offers a separate search box to select different search engines, Opera incorporates this ability into the address bar.  Simply type a search term and the address bar expands by dropping down with suggestions.  At the lower right edge of the drop down list are the optional search engines Google, Yahoo, Bing, Amazon and Wiki.  Who's borrowing who's ideas now?  

Has Opera become an industry follower instead of leader?  Opera is following Firefox's features and using Google's Chromium/Blink 32 engine. Sounds like they are struggling to keep up.  Many Opera users are frustrated with how recent versions of Opera manages favorites/bookmarks compared to Opera 12.  The developers have incorporated a method to import bookmarks from versions prior to 15.  They also added a feature called the Quick Access Bar (favorites bar).  Turning on the Quick Access Bar requires several steps.  At first I didn't understand why, then I started thinking they want users to get used to using Speed Dial instead of the traditional favorites.  Opera does provide a lot of features and settings, however trying to learn or find them is challenging.  On a more positive note Opera Speed Dial is an innovative take on defining how favorites should be managed.  Given a fair chance I think Speed Dial adds a modern casual yet deceivingly powerful take on web browsing.

Update: Opera 19 has been released as stable.  Major changes include updating the Quick Access Bar to a Bookmarks bar (symantecs). Turning on the Bookarks Bar from the settings menu is much easier than the hoops I had to jump through to turn on the Quick Access Bar.   Another new feature is the ability to make any image a browser wallpaper.   A lot of work has been done with extensions with more than 700 now available.  For Advanced User's more flexability and features have been added to the Opera Cabinet. Besides the additional features, Opera has been working diligently to fix bugs and glitches as demonstrated by the change log for version 19.  This version should offer allot more stability.  I also noticed some performance enhancements in this version of Opera. Version 20 should be arriving soon and hopefully bringing with it enough changes to warrant a full review.

I feel Opera is a refreshing browser.  It's fast and efficient, providing tools to optimize a true web "browsing" experience.  Using the Speed Dial and Stash features provides a different yet unique prospective.  After the initial installation Opera opens with two tabs, Speed Dial and Welcome to Opera.  The welcome doesn't provide any guidance as such.  It's more of a road map to the essential icons and features of the browser.  For additional detail click the "help is here" hyperlink.  Overall Opera doesn't quite hold up to the big three in complexity or bells and whistles.  However it does contend with them overall in essential features making it a Mega Browser.

Maxthon was released in 2003, known previously as MyIE.   In 2010 Maxthon released a browser for Android.  Two years later they introduced a Mac, and iOS version.   Maxthon uses Trident and Webkit engines. This combination creates a dual display engine for more website compatibility.  

Why Maxthon?  This browser is light and fast with a lot of features that don't bloat the browser's performance.  Many features that are add-ons or extensions with the other browsers are developed as part of the browser, so they are better integrated.  Maxthon also has some distinctive features like the split screen view.  With this feature two tabs can be viewed side by side.  The interface has semi transparent skins that blends the edges of the interface so they aren't distracting making the web page being viewed the star of attention.

Maxthon's claim to fame is cloud syncing between devices.  Create a free account with Maxthon and take advantage of it's many features to share data between a computer and cell phone or tablet.  The tabs viewed on the PC can be viewed on a cell phone or tablet.  Files can be downloaded to the cloud to share between devices.  The Cloud Push feature will send a web page to another device.  Using the share with friends a web page can be pushed to others via e-mail.  

Other built in features include Resource Sniffer which downloads video, music and pictures from the web page.  Like downloading YouTube videos?  You don't need a third party utility with Maxthon, you can do it from the browser with Resource Sniffer.  Maxthon has many features, but one of my favorites is Night Mode.  The browser will change to colors that are more suitable for night viewing.  Choose the default or customize from a palate of colors.  Night Mode also has an automated feature that lets you set the time of day or night you want modes to automatically switch.

Whether you use the cloud to share information between devices or simply want a browser packed full of usable features that won't slow the browser performance, Maxthon is worth checking out.

Sleipnir 5 is truly the unique browser in the Mega class.  While Maxthon brought unique designs from China, Sleipnir (pronounced slay-p-near), offers unique ideas from Japan.  That's right, a browser developed in Japan using a name based on Norse mythology.  There is nothing mythical about this browser based on Google's Blink engine, Sleipnir seeks to provide a "luxury" browsing experience by reinventing the browser UI and quality of text.  Released in 2004, Sleipnir was stolen, so the developers had to start over with version 2.  The original English versions were launched in Europe around 2010. Sleipnir supports Windows/Mac PCs, iphone/ipad, Android and Windows phone.  Sleipnir 5 does pass the Acid 3 test and HTML5 test.

The tabs are the focal point of the toolbar displaying a thumbnail image.  Menus are minimal on the left corner while the former address bar now called a portal field is on the far right.  Sleipnir believes the long address bar is a thing of the past.  Most people browse the Internet using search terms or hyperlinks not typing web address.  The portal field serves the same function as most address bars being used for searching or entering web address, however it's not the focal point of the toolbar.  Doesn't the term "portal field" just make sense?  It somewhat grows on you when you think about it.  A web browser is a portal to the Internet.

Using mouse gestures to navigate between pages in Sleipnir is a different experience than other browsers.  Using mouse gestures in Maxthon or Opera will essentially navigate the history of an open tab, in Sleipnir mouse gestures navigates between the open tabs like changing views in a smart phone.  Speaking of smart phones, Sleipnir is another web browser on the trend of blending their PC browser to emulate smart phone and tablet browsing.  It also supports touch screen PC displays.  My biggest complain about Sleipnir is their lack of proper support.  Their website lacks a lot of information and it could be because translating the browser into an English version is their latest challenge.  Still if you're looking for something truly new in a web browsing experience I think Sleipnir is worth trying.

Related Products and Links

Quick Selection Guide

Google Chrome
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Supports multiple operating systems, frequent & silent updates, built-in flash and pdf viewer, large selection of extensions, cloud printing,
Getting slower, newer version has some backward software compatibility, still runs 32 bit.
Online Installer: 576 KB (Offline Installer: 33.37 MB, download link below)
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Open source freeware
A portable version of this product is available but not from the developer.
Windows, Linux, Mac OS X
Mozilla Firefox
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Simplified interface, competitively fast, broad cross platform support, very secure, sync & panoramas, thousands of add-ons, excellent website compatibility, large developer community
Doesn't play well with Adobe Flash Player.
23 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Open source freeware
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
Windows, Mac, Linux
Internet Explorer
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Amazing speed, minimalistic interface, pinned sites, improved web standard compliance, download manager with malware protection, tracking protection, H/W acceleration, good OS integration
Tab handling not as good as others, limited extension support, not as cloud friendly, no cross platform syncing, for MS-Windows only.
827 KB Win32.exe installer
32 and 64 bit versions available
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows 7 and 8
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Fast, feature rich, cross platform support, tab stacking, web standard compliant, built in mail & torrent client, extension & themes support, visual tabs & mouse gestures, Opera turbo, account syncing
Limited Extension gallery, key features layered in extensive menus
34 MB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Unrestricted freeware
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
Windows, Mac, Linux
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Small footprint, fast, true cloud sync across devices, split screen view, custom skins, cloud push, cloud download, resource sniffer.
Inadequate tab functions. The core is still lagging some technologies of bigger browsers.
1.74 MB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Unrestricted freeware
A portable version of this product is available but not from the developer.
Windows 7, 8, OSX
Sleipnir 5
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Innovative, sleek, cross-platform, tab thumbnails, unique designs
poor support
43 MB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows or Mac OSx. See Additional Information Below.

version v 5.0.1 | Vista / 7 / 8, Version 4.3.2 | For OS X 10.6 or later
Available for Mac/Android/Windows mobile devices.


Thank you for reading this article. If you think, it could be improved or your favourite Web Browser is not present in the article please do post your feedback and suggestions in the comments section below. Also don't forget to rate this article yes

This software review is copy-edited by Victor Laurie. Please help edit and improve this article by clicking here.

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by To do or not to do (not verified) on 1. March 2012 - 13:14  (89749)

I wish you had explained why there are 32 & 64 bit versions on Windows 7. I got a new PC last summer. And both 32 and 64 bit versions were pre-installed. I used both, yet I don't find any difference. What's the point of 64 bit version?

by woodshed on 7. March 2012 - 12:06  (90053)

32 bit IE9 will run as your default browser. 64 bit is a little faster but as yet can not be set as default.
Waterfox by Mozilla is 64 bit and will run as default and it is fast and reliable

by George.J on 1. March 2012 - 14:13  (89751)

What browser are you mentioning here? I suppose it's IE9? Are you running 64bit version of Win7? IE9 64bit package also contains the 32bit version because the 64bit version may be incompatible with some applications and is still not the standard. So when you install IE9 64bit you'll have the 32bit also. But it's said that 64bit versions of any application seems to run faster and better.

by To do or not to do (not verified) on 1. March 2012 - 15:17  (89756)

Hi George,

Sorry my comment was insufficient and confusing. Yes, I meant IE9 on a Windows 7 64bit machine.

>But it's said that 64bit versions of any application seems
>to run faster and better.

Thanks! That's what I wanted to know. I will use 64bit version when I use IE. My default browser is FF though.

by George.J on 1. March 2012 - 16:05  (89757)

If you install the 64bit version of IE9 on your system, you can launch IE9 32bit from Program Files(x86) and 64bit from Program Files directory. Atleast that's what I remember.

by To do or not to do (not verified) on 1. March 2012 - 16:21  (89758)

Thanks! Yeah I just found it.

by Freida (not verified) on 22. February 2012 - 6:17  (89232)

Can someone please provide the names of IE9 equivalents to the security and privacy addons used in FF such as NoScript and AdBlock Plus? Also any tweaking that can be done in the IE9 browser for same purpose is appreciated. Thank You

by George.J on 22. February 2012 - 7:57  (89240)

Ie9 has a built-in solution that essentially works like Adblock and NoScript. This feature is called Tracking Protection, which is disabled by default. Go to Settings->Safety->Tracking Protection->Enable Tracking Protection. Now you can manually add personalized lists. Also Do Not Track feature in IE9 compliments the Tracking Protection.

Additionally, you can also disable scripting via:
Tools > Internet Options > Security tab > Security level > Custom level > Disable Scripting

by Panzer on 3. February 2012 - 10:53  (88204)

Anupam, George informed me about that missing browser with 1/43:

Xtravo Web Browser:

by Anupam on 3. February 2012 - 10:59  (88207)

OK, no problem.

Have come across such browsers in the past few days.

Browzar, mentioned some comments below is one.
Another one, Wipeout was mentioned in the lightweight browsers category.

by Panzer on 3. February 2012 - 8:18  (88199)

QtWeb 3.7.5 is out:

by ron1234 (not verified) on 25. February 2012 - 2:59  (89426)

qtweb, tried, disappointed does not work with youtube for html5 as html5 test shows low score. so unloaded it.

there are 2 others that i liked theWorld browser and theElement browser.
these can be downloaded from Softpedia:

i like opera and had been using it a long time. there is also a 64bit dev version for win7 x64 o/s. seems to be faster that 32 bit ver.

[edit] cnet links replaced with Softpedia in accordance with site policy.

by Anupam on 3. February 2012 - 8:36  (88201)

No significant development taking place since a long time. They have only updated the Qt Framework since last two releases. Quite disappointing.

by Panzer on 2. February 2012 - 11:12  (88173)
by Panzer on 2. February 2012 - 8:19  (88165)

Chrome Plus is CoolNovo now:

by George.J on 24. February 2012 - 2:19  (89325)

It's already updated in the article. Thanks

by Panzer on 31. January 2012 - 8:55  (88087)
by Redthemovie (not verified) on 26. January 2012 - 22:55  (87852)

how come there is not an option to update srware iron like chrome and dragon? been using srware for a couple of days but can't figure out how to update it. if i do an over the top won't that add another 60-70 mb to my computer because it's like adding another new download of srware iron?

by George.J on 27. January 2012 - 8:26  (87872)

When you're downloading and installing a new copy of SRWare Iron, the previous files get overwritten by the new version, instead of simply adding to the earlier version, unless you're installing into a different folder directory. This means that there won't be any change in folder size.

Iron and Dragon are privacy and security enriched versions of Chrome respectively. Iron is designed to be privacy centric and is not connected to the server for downloading updates, unlike Chrome, which connects via google updator and auto-updates in the background without even asking the user. During this update process, according to their privacy policy, Google Update requests include information like:

1. whether Chrome was used in the last day
2. number of days since the last time it was used
3. total number of days that Google Chrome has been installed
4. sends a non-unique four-letter tag to Google which contains information about how you obtained Google Chrome (non-personally identifiable) and is shared with everyone who obtained Google Chrome the same way.....
The same system is also present with the extentions installed.
Everything happens silently and in the background. Even though auto-updating might be good to fix security holes as early as possible, people who are privacy centric may claim that they should be atleast notified and provided an opt-in or opt-out l in such an event.

by Redthemovie (not verified) on 28. January 2012 - 3:14  (87917)

Thanks and hope you have a good weekend! :)

by cheffo on 24. January 2012 - 15:00  (87698)

Opera 11.61 released today. This is a recommended security and stability update.
Here is the download link

by George.J on 25. January 2012 - 4:45  (87739)

Sadly a little heavier in resource usage than the ultra light 11.60

by Panzer on 23. January 2012 - 8:54  (87643) (it looks like the software is not being actively developed anymore).

by George.J on 18. January 2012 - 6:19  (87332)

Browser comparison table updated: Chrome 16, Firefox 9, Internet Explorer 9, Opera 11.60 and Safari 5.1.2

by Jacko (not verified) on 16. January 2012 - 4:33  (87226)

Does the latest version of Opera have equivalents such as NoScript, AdBlock Plus,and Better Privacy that I currently use in Firefox? Does Opera work well yet with Yahoo mail? I tried a year ago and noticed the pages did not load completely with that Opera version.

by JR (not verified) on 17. January 2012 - 0:52  (87270)

Individual choice, but works for me..

by Duggan (not verified) on 17. January 2012 - 1:11  (87271)

Have you found it significantly faster than the latest FF release? I did not but still liked the browser on its on merits.

by JR1 (not verified) on 17. January 2012 - 12:58  (87305)

No faster for me either, but its stable on my 64bit system and many of the FF add-ons work perfectly.
In all honesty, the split second differences between the many browsers means little in actual use.

by George.J on 16. January 2012 - 7:12  (87232)

NotScripts and BlockIt are Opera altenatives to NoScript addon in Firefox. NotScripts is better than NoScript in some ways, in that it has 3 types of script blocking modes but the extention is little complicated to setup than NoScript. But there are short guides for it.

For Adblocking, Opera Adblock and NoAds Advanced are Opera alternatives.

I don't use Better Privacy because I don't feel any need for it. These flash (LSO) cookies are stored at # %APPDATA%\Macromedia\Flash Player\#SharedObjects\ and %APPDATA%\Macromedia\Flash Player\\support\flashplayer\sys\. You can delete them here or you can setup CCleaner to delete flash cookies. Here's a useful article on flash cookies, what it does and how to manage them.

As for page loading, Opera 11.60 edges out Firefox 9 to take the top spot (read the comparison of web browsers in this article) for Page Load Reliability and Yahoo Mail runs smoothly on Opera. I've had no problems.

by ron1234 (not verified) on 25. February 2012 - 3:06  (89427)

for opera 64 bit vesion: (seems faster than in 32 bit counter part).
besides adblock and flash block extensions you can use wot and ghostery (to block unwanted add and tracking), youtube ads free, dust free selectors for css

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