The browser tradeoff

I probably ought to know better than the venture into the topic of web browsers by now, but since I stepped into it Friday, I guess there’s no point in staying in the shallow end.

The problem with web browsers is that they all require you to trade one thing for another, and if anything, that’s more true today than it ever has been before.So, with that said, let’s do this.

Internet Explorer 11. Why not start with the browser everyone loves to hate? The good: It’s much more standards compliant than older versions were today, and the performance tends to be very good. And if you enable all of the security settings, it’s theoretically the most secure browser available today, except when there’s a nasty unpatched 0-day vulnerability out there. The bad: About once a year, for a month or so, there’s a nasty unpatched 0-day vulnerability out there and you have to find another browser to stay safe. And there are serious privacy concerns with IE11’s most secure settings–for all the talk from Microsoft about privacy, IE11 tracks you more than any other browser does. And although it was the first mainstream 64-bit browser on Windows, 64-bit IE is still a second-class citizen.

Chrome. Either you love it or hate it, and how you feel about it probably depends on your opinion of Google. The good: It’s fast, stable, has good standards compliance, a very short patch cycle, and it updates itself. It has more patched flaws than any other browser, but those flaws get patched so fast it ends up not mattering. The bad: Those lingering privacy concerns are the biggest thing, and it’s not 64-bit yet, but they’re working on it.

Firefox. Full disclosure: I’ve been using Firefox as my primary browser since Phoenix version 0.1, and when IE4 and IE5 had 90-plus percent market share, I used Netscape. The good: It has good standards compliance and reasonable speed, and fewer privacy concerns than the others. Plus it has more extensions than any other browser, so you can make it do anything you want, including improve privacy. The bad: It updates itself but doesn’t force those updates, so if you don’t close your browser and it doesn’t crash on its own, you might be stuck a few versions back. I’ve seen it happen. And 64-bit support has been sporadic, and since Mozilla claims 64-bit support is slower while Google claims 64-bit support makes Chrome faster, it makes me wonder if Mozilla is doing something wrong.

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