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For the longest time, Google dominated the other browsers in speed, adoptions, and overall popularity. And as an owner of an Android smartphone paired with Windows PC, using Google Chrome is a no-brainer. For the past 4-5 years, the only real competitor to Chrome has been Firefox. But in recent months (around March 2019), it seems like competitor to Google have revamped their efforts in gaining browser market share. Here is a high level overview of the the current state of browsers.
- Google Chrome has been slowly improving speed, but is still a major memory hog.
- Mozilla Firefox on PC have custom proxy settings
- Brave offers ability to block ads, fingerprints, and cookies without having to install 3rd party extensions.and offers BAT reward program.
- Microsoft Edge completely revamped their efforts by completely re-engineering their browser off Chromium browser.
Google Chrome on Windows and Android
My setup for a long time, I've been fairly happy. I use the Chrome browser password manager, which integrates nicely in both Windows and Android. As a huge plus, a select handful of Android apps also save passwords in the same system. The only downfall is the password manager is not advanced enough to recognize that the password I use on Quora.com is the same password I use for the Quora app. Instead, the username and password is saved twice, which is less than ideal for first load and password changes.
The downside of Chrome is that it uses a lot of memory. Since my laptop has been using solid state drives (SSD) for 5 years, I don't notice major performance issues. But on older machines (especially ones with traditional hard drives), loading too many tabs comes with noticeable performance degradation.
Experimenting with LastPass
As I begin experimenting with alternative browsers such as Firefox, Brave, and Edge, I also embraced LastPass as a 3rd party password manager. When I first started using Chrome many many years ago, LastPass did not offer a free account. For the longest time, there does seem to be a free tier that mimics a majority of the features of Google Chrome's password manager.
LassPass is available as a 3rd party extension on most major browsers, including the set of browsers in my test. So once I move it begin the transfer to LastPass, it will be available to all browsers. There isn't an easy way to transfer passwords from Google Chrome to LastPass, so I've been manually moving them as needed, and updating to more secure passwords as necessary.
LastPass is also available as an app on Android. Once logged in, LassPass lives as a notification which when clicked, will check the current webpage or app for a login dialog. If it matches a login dialog with a saved username/password, then it prompts to populate the user credentials. Using LastPass to start was a bit of a learning curve, as the passwords aren't auto-populated on a smartphone quite as automatically as Chrome. But some may say its more secure to occasionally prompt for passwords. And LastPass makes it easy by allowing authentication to LassPass via fingerprint.
I trust the security protocols of LastPass, but I also questioned who owns LastPass. According to Wikipedia, it was aquired by LogMeIn in Oct 2015. LogMeIn is founded in Boston, Massachusetts and looks to be still independently run and operated.
Mozilla Firefox is the browser I have the second most experience using in the past. It has a completely different (open sourced) codebase. Unlike Chrome, Brave, and Edge, which are all Chromium based and share the similar look and feels, Firefox paves it own path. But this comes with pros and cons. If you haven't used Firefox in awhile, I did notice significant performance improvements when Firefox Quantum was released.
The biggest disadvantage is out of the box, extensions written for Chromium won't work. But it's not that big of a con, because major services generally offer extensions in both Chrome and Firefox. If an extension isn't offered, you may want to think twice about installing the extension.
The upside is Firefox has different settings from Chromium based browsers. My favorite one being it has its own proxy manager. This isn't a big deal for mobile, but it helps me get around certain blocks at work to access sites like GitHub, JsBin, etc. Just search for "proxy" in Firefox.
I find that Firefox releases with more advanced feature before any other browser, so if you're interested in being the first to try the latest and greatest tech, you'll want to be on Firefox. In that case, it may be better to use LastPass so you can switch browsers as new features get released.
Unfortunately, the ability to run separate proxy from those set by the system OS is not enough of a reason for me to switch to Firefox for personal use.
As part of the Microsoft Reward program for searching, I could earn an extra 20 points per day for searching with Edge. On my Pixel 2, I wanted to keep Chrome as my primary google search engine, but only use Edge with Bing.com as the default search engine for earning points. In all honesty, the Edge with Lass works up to par with Chrome. The only noticeable difference was re-learning where various tab buttons are and having to use LassPass.
That being said, the biggest difference is since Edge is also based off of Chromium, Edge doesn't have much of a differentiating set of features from Google Chrome. Aside from the Microsoft Rewards program (which is only 20 points), there isn't a huge reason to make a switch. This goes for both the smartphone and the Windows version of Edge.I can install the same ad-blockers found on Chrome onto Edge.
The difference for Edge is that it is a big improvement over Internet Explorer, which doesn't have the same level of extension support. But unless you were forced to use Internet Explorer at a large corporation, did anyone really ever choose to use Internet Explorer anyways.
Brave Browser is one of the newer browsers in the mix. Gaining popularity as the browser that has built in ways to block ads while also making money via Basic Attention Token (BAT) cryptocurrency. It's not anything that will make your rich overnight, but if you're big into the crypto game, Brave is one of the places where cryptocurrency can be used in the real world. Brave is a place where cryptocurrency can be earned, but there aren't yet many places where it can be sent. For now, it's a way to do micro-transactions to sites publishers without paying hefty fees.
The advertisements that Brave browser displays (as of May 2019) are simple notification style banners that popup in the bottom right. Nearly all the ads are cryptocurrency related, and nothing requires you to actually click the site. I've tried the Brave browser on three different Windows machines and it worked on two of them. For some reason, it didn't work properly on the Dell XPS 13 machine. For whatever reason, ads would register as being shown, but I couldn't actually see any ads.
Most, but not all, of the features of Chrome are available with Brave, so making the transition from Brave to Chrome is easy. Other features I ended up liking is the ad blocking is built in, so it makes it easier to disable when some sites stop working due to blocked cookies or scripts. Some places where Brave doesn't work well is Google Sheets, where the cells are misaligned.
After my testing period, here are some of my final internet browser thoughts for both mobile and Windows:
- I don't see much of an advantage to using Microsoft Edge. I leave it on pre-installed on Windows, but delete it on mobile.
- Firefox is great for certain situations, so I keep it installed on Windows. However, I also don't need it on mobile.
- Brave is great, and I use it as a primary browser to easily blocking ads, scripts, and fingerprints. However, since it doesn't work on all sites, I need to have a backup.
- Google Chrome is now a backup that I keep on both smartphone and Windows.
As a side effect, I also decided to switch to LastPass. This gives me the flexibility to use different browsers, but one single source for passwords.