Linux surfs the internet faster

Browser for Linux - Which is the Best?

Thorsten Eggeling

It doesn't always have to be Firefox - or maybe it? Other web browsers also have something to offer. You can find out in this article whether these are enough arguments for a switch.

EnlargeClear favorite: The video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=es9DNe0l0Qo impressively shows the international development of browser market shares from 1996 to 2019.
© https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=es9DNe0l0Qo

There are at least ten more or less well-known web browsers for Linux, some of which have different accents and can offer advantages in certain areas. However, the technical basis is mostly identical. That is why we limit ourselves to six browsers here. Either the renderer Blink (Google), the predecessor Webkit (Apple) or Mozilla's Gecko engine are used to display the HTML pages. Google's V8, Mozilla's Spider-Monkey or its descendants are used to interpret Javascript code. In terms of standard conformity or speed, there are still small differences due to the respective implementation. When selecting the browser, however, you should also pay attention to other properties, such as security and expandability.

Successful and less successful browsers

There are clear preferences worldwide when it comes to choosing a web browser. According to Statcounter, Google Chrome is currently well ahead of all other browsers on PCs and notebooks with a 67 percent market share. Firefox only achieved just under eight percent. In other statistics, Chrome is even further ahead. In Germany, Chrome has a good 50 percent, and almost 20 percent of users are still loyal to Firefox. At https://netmarketshare.com you can also have the statistics output for each operating system, but the numbers are similar. According to this, 66 percent of Linux users use Google Chrome and just under 31 percent Mozilla Firefox.

The numbers are astonishing because apparently the large number of Windows users are also opting out of the standard browsers Edge and Internet Explorer and consciously installing Google Chrome or Firefox. Ten years ago, Internet Explorer was still the world's leading browser with a 50 percent market share.

The Firefox share is higher on Linux, probably because Firefox is standard on most distributions. Nevertheless, the willingness to install Google Chrome is also very high here.

Other browsers that use the Blink renderer like Chrome have similar technical features, but each only has a few percent market share. Some special functions could perhaps convince the users. Trying it out is not a problem: Browser installations are uncomplicated and several browsers can be used side by side. There are DEB packages for all of the browsers mentioned on the respective manufacturer's download page. After downloading, they can be installed simply by double-clicking in the file manager.

Safe browsers in Linux:This is what you should pay attention to

Speed ​​and web standards

EnlargeWhat can the browser do? https://html5test.com shows the supported functions and gives a rating in points. However, the differences between the browsers are not that great.

We ran some benchmarks that give an idea of ​​the speed of the browsers. There are hardly any surprises here. All browsers with the same technical basis show almost the same results. Firefox does comparatively poorly in the Javascript tests. In practice, this has a negative effect on websites and web applications that use Javascript intensively. Web standards: Since the Flash Player was no longer developed, the support of HTML5 is particularly important. The good news: All browsers tested meet all important standards (test with https://html5test.com). No browser should have problems when playing HTML5 videos and audio podcasts, for example.

Streaming platforms such as Amazon Prime Video or Netflix can only be used in the browser if Google's Widevine Content Decryption Module is set up. This is the case with all browsers tested by default or the module is automatically installed later if necessary. This also applies to Chromium. Here you have to make sure that the package “chromium-codecs-ffmpeg-extra” is also installed.

Google Chrome: Simple and functional

The main motivation for developing its own browser is said to have been its own web applications for Google. The Javascript engine of the previous browsers appeared too slow for this. Google Chrome is currently doing better than Firefox in some Javascript benchmarks. Google Chrome was and is also a leader in compliance with web standards, although the differences to Firefox are marginal. Web developers now only have to test the code in two browsers: Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. This results in fewer display errors for the user.

Security: Google uses the Safe Browsing API to protect users. Malicious content and unsafe URLs are checked and the user is warned of dangers. The function is activated by default, which you can check in the settings under "Data protection and security -› Security ".

If you use the synchronization of the browser data, you should assign your own password for the encryption. You will find the setting under "Data protection and security -› Synchronization and Google services - ›Encryption options". Since the encryption and decryption only takes place in the browser, nobody can access the raw data - not even Google.

Google Chrome is free, but you pay with your data. Anyone who links their entire Internet life to a Google account provides permanent information on the websites they visit - on the PC and on the smartphone. If you don't want that, you don't have to use the Chrome browser, but you shouldn't log in with your Google account.

EnlargeMore functions for the browser: Chrome extensions can be downloaded from the Chrome Web Store. There is something for everyone in the extensive range.

Extensions: You can download additional functions for Google Chrome from https://chrome.google.com/webstore. Orientation is not easy due to the size of the offer. You can find recommendations for some useful extensions here. Extensions for Google Docs Offline, Docs, Slides and Spreadsheets are set up automatically when you install your browser.

RAM usage of the web browser

The main memory usage is an indication of how many system resources an application requires. We carried out the measurement with smem ( sudo apt install smem ). The command line

supplies the sum of all values ​​of the Firefox processes in the terminal. The tool outputs three series of values. "USS" (Unique Set Size) is the memory that an application occupies alone ("unshared memory"). "PSS" (Proportional Set Size) is a value for the memory used together with program libraries, "RSS" (Resident Set Size) stands for the entire main memory including the shared memory that is used by a process. For the assessment of an application, one should rather rate USS and PSS, because in RSS the share of the shared memory is calculated too imprecisely.

All browsers at PSS are in the range of around one GB. What is more important, however, is how the memory usage changes when many tabs are open for a long period of time. If the storage requirement increases continuously without not decreasing again in between, the system is heavily loaded. Badly programmed browser extensions can also cause this.

Chromium: (Almost) everything open source