The best browser for Linux, Windows and Mac isn’t Google Chrome in 2021

Jack Wallen has finally settled on a single web browser as his default across all platforms. Find out what he considers the best browser and why he made the switch.

A couple of months ago, I finally left Opera as my default web browser on Linux. That was a hard sell because the Opera Workspaces feature was something I didn’t think I could leave behind. And yet, the load the Opera web browser placed on my computer (especially when using Google Docs) was too big an issue to ignore. I’d be working along, minding my own business, when all of a sudden the Opera browser would bring the desktop to a grinding halt.

Productivity, thy name is memory leak!

Why I stoped using Safari as the default browser on macOS

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At that point, I was using two different web browsers as my defaults on Linux and macOS, and I was certain Safari would remain as the go-to browser on the Mac side of things. But then I continued using that default web browser on Linux and, day after day, grew more impressed with its performance and simplicity. And then, things took a turn for the worse on Safari. Like with Opera, when working with a longer document in Google Docs, Safari would pop up a warning saying that the site was using too much memory. No matter what I did with Safari that behavior would not stop.

Finally, I walked away from Apple Safari to make the same web browser I used on Linux my default on macOS. This was a choice I haven’t regretted for a second.

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That’s not to say I found myself using only one web browser–oh, no… if it was only so simple. You see, there are still sites I must use that, for whatever reason, were designed with Google Chrome in mind. And that’s a problem. Why? Because the Chrome browser has become unreliable on so many levels. On Linux, I’ve had Chrome lock up the desktop on too many occasions. On the Mac operating system, Chrome drains the battery faster than any other application with the exception of Final Cut Pro when rendering video.

Why choosing the best browser for your workflow is so difficult

This issue is complicated. Why? First and foremost, the browser is one tool everyone uses. No matter your platform, you depend on a web browser. I would go so far as to say 90% of the work and entertainment you undertake on any computing device connected to the Internet is via a web browser. That means those ubiquitous applications have to pull a tremendous load. For the most part, they all do it fairly well. Every web browser I’ve ever used renders sites well, though some better than others. So what’s the problem? Why would anyone have an issue either selecting the web browser that is truly best for their use case or migrating to a different browser altogether?

In a word: familiarity.

We all have our workflow. Many of us have tuned our workflow to a specific web browser’s way of doing things. Truth be told, on the surface, the differences between web browsers aren’t that great. Every web browser offers much of the same standard features:

  • Bookmarks
  • Tabs
  • Cookies
  • Saved data
  • Menus
  • Addons
  • Configuration options
  • Privacy features

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The biggest difference is how each web browser implements these features. That’s on the surface… where the users dwell. It’s when you dig a bit deeper that you find those web browsers do start to differ. Take, for instance, the fact that there are five active web browser rendering engines:

  • WebKit: Safari browser
  • Blink: Google Chrome and Chromium-based browsers such as Microsoft Edge browser, Opera browser, Brave browser and Vivaldi browser
  • Gecko: Firefox browser
  • Goanna: Pale Moon and Basilisk browsers
  • Flow: Flow browser

Of all the web browsers I’ve used, those based on the WebKit and Blink rendering engines seem to have the biggest problems with longer documents on Google Drive. And for me, that’s a big issue because I work in Google Drive about seven to nine hours a day. The fact that the Blink web browser rendering engine has the biggest issue with Google Drive should come as a shock, seeing as how both were created and are maintained by Google.

And the best browser in 2021 winner is… Firefox

Since my switch to Firefox on Linux and macOS, I’ve not had a single problem with memory issues. And, much to my surprise, Firefox is no longer a battery vampire on macOS. Prior to my M1 MacBook Pro, Firefox drained the very will to live from my MacBook Pro 2016 battery. When using Firefox, I was lucky to get two to three hours of battery life. With the M1 MacBook Pro and Firefox 89, battery life is just as good as it is when using Safari. 

Outside of performance, rendering and battery life, I absolutely love what Mozilla has done to the Firefox interface. Gone is the clutter and bloat–now, Firefox is a sleek and almost minimalist web browser that outperforms every browser on my desktop and laptop. I’ve even migrated my Android default to Firefox and have found it to be just as impressive a mobile browser as it is on the desktop.

The one hiccup to my master plan is the fact that (as I mentioned earlier) there are still sites that do not function well with any browser other than Google Chrome. That is dumbfounding. Every time I see a website refuse to function in a particular browser, I instantly assume Doc Brown has pulled up in the DeLorean and has his sights set on 2001. But this is not the early 2000s, nor is it the browser wars of old. Even so, the environment does seem ripe for a headlong clash between Firefox and Chrome. And although Google Chrome has a massive advantage in market share (at the moment Chrome has a 67% market share over the competition), the current state of performance doesn’t reflect that popularity.

If I had to take a guess, I’d say Google is just lucky the average user either doesn’t like change or doesn’t even realize there are alternative browsers available. If you happen to fall into that category, I highly suggest you install Firefox and see if you don’t find yourself setting it as the default browser on all of your devices and platforms.

What’s your pick for the best browser in 2021?

Which browser do you think is tops for Linux, Windows and Mac? Share your feedback in the article discussion.

Also see

This article was updated to include the related video with Jack Wallen.

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Image: RobertAx, Getty Images/iStockphoto