The best internet browsers you’ve never heard of

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All browsers aren’t the same. Switching to a new one can transform the way you use your computer and revolutionize your experience with some of your favorite online platforms.



graphical user interface: The window you see the world through affects what you see. Let that sink in for a second.


© Provided by Popular Science
The window you see the world through affects what you see. Let that sink in for a second.

Programs like Google Chrome, Apple’s Safari, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge are good and comfortable, but if you step outside that selection, you’ll see there are plenty of alternatives out there—from browsers focused on security and privacy to others prioritizing customization options. Maybe one of those is the perfect one for you.

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Vivaldi

With a highly customizable, fast, and modern interface, Vivaldi combines a strict approach to privacy with some innovative ideas for how best to get around the web. It also gets interesting new features on a regular basis, like the new Break Mode, which will stop media playback, hide the content from your tabs, and disable all of the browser’s features and menus. That way, you can take a breather until you’re ready to get going again.

Right from the start, Vivaldi blocks all web trackers and online ads, but you can tweak these settings and allow adverts on sites you want to support—like Popular Science, for example.

We’re impressed with the different ways you can manipulate browser tabs in Vivaldi. For example, you can split two tabs to take up half of the browser window each, or stack them on top of each other to reduce clutter inside the app. There’s also an integrated notes tool, should you want to write down personal musings, ideas, or reminders while navigating the web.

Power users will really like the customizable keyboard shortcuts and mouse gestures you can add to Vivaldi. You can use these features to move more quickly between tabs, access web search instantly, and have links to your favorite sites always close by. Also, as the browser is built on Chromium, Vivaldi is compatible with Google Chrome extensions.

Vivaldi is free and compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux.

Opera GX

As you might have suspected, Opera GX is Opera’s cousin, and both browsers share some features—they prioritize speedy web browsing and interface customization, and both come with built-in ad-blocking technology. But the main difference between the two is that Opera GX was specifically built to appeal to gamers.

For example, you can prevent that dreadful stutter in your games by limiting how much of your system resources (processor time and memory) Opera GX is allowed to take up. You can also restrict your browser’s network use, freeing up more bandwidth, and the browser will highlight any tabs that are slowing your computer down so you can close them if you choose to.

Twitch and Discord are built right into Opera GX, so you can keep an eye on your favorite channels and boards without having to keep them open in a browser tab. There’s also a dedicated section of the browser called GX Corner, which brings you breaking news from the gaming world, plus deals and links to free online games.



graphical user interface: The window you see the world through affects what you see. Let that sink in for a second.


© One Zone Studio/Unsplash
The window you see the world through affects what you see. Let that sink in for a second.

Opera GX has even more customization options than Opera, so you can fine-tune the color of the browser to fit whatever theme you’ve configured. Finally, just like its cousin, Opera GX comes with a built-in VPN to keep your communications encrypted and protected (though it’s not as fast or as feature-packed as a dedicated VPN).

Opera GX is free and compatible with Windows and macOS.

Brave



graphical user interface, website: Brave will remind you how much time you've saved dodging ads on the web.


© Provided by Popular Science
Brave will remind you how much time you’ve saved dodging ads on the web.

Improved user security and privacy are two of the biggest drivers behind Brave. This browser has a default new tab screen showing you how many online trackers it’s blocked, so you’ll know exactly how much time you’ve saved. When it comes to blocking trackers and advertising, this is definitely one of the most aggressive browsers out there.

Brave also offers an alternative way to fund websites, and you can use small amounts of cryptocurrency to support or tip sites partnering with the browser. Using these Basic Attention Tokens (or BATs) is optional, but if you do get involved you can earn payments back by viewing selected advertising in the browser. This is an ambitious alternative to try funding the web, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the reasons why Brave is worthy of becoming your default browser.



graphical user interface, website: Brave will remind you how much time you've saved dodging ads on the web.


© David Nield
Brave will remind you how much time you’ve saved dodging ads on the web.

It sports an uncluttered and intuitive interface, and because it’s based on the same Chromium code foundation as Chrome, it also supports the huge number of extensions that have been developed for Google’s browser.

Brave doesn’t offer as much in the way of customization options as some of its competition, but you can customize the ad and tracker blocking on each of the sites you visit, and even cut off tracking via social media embeds as well—this covers Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Brave is free and compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux.

Tor

The Tor Browser is a way of getting on the Tor network, which routes your connection around thousands of volunteer-run relays so it’s much harder to track. If you’re concerned about your privacy online and want to protect your identity and location, then the Tor browser is one of the best ways to do it.

Don’t get thrown off by all the technical complexity that goes under the hood, as Tor works like any other browser. The main difference is the extra couple of seconds it takes to start up, and browsing is just fractionally slower as your traffic gets constantly rerouted around the Tor network. But again, the high level of privacy and security you get in return is well worth the trade-off.

By starting a new web session, Tor allows you to reset your identity at any time, so websites won’t realize you’re the same person. The browser also lets you get strict with scripts and media running on the web, allowing you to turn off autoplay for all videos, for example. There’s no ad-blocking built into Tor, but all these privacy settings will definitely make it harder for advertisers to track you around the web. And as soon as you close the app, all traces of your browsing will be immediately erased.

In terms of look and feel, the Tor browser is more basic, but because it’s built on the same code as Firefox, you’ve got access to a vast collection of extensions and add-ons built for Mozilla’s browser.

Tor is free and compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux.

Pale Moon

This browser is something of a throwback in terms of its appearance. It looks much like an older version of Firefox, but there’s nothing old-fashioned about its central browsing engine, which can get you around the web in good time. Its main focuses are efficiency and customization, but one of the best things about it is that it’s totally open sourced. This means there’s no Google, Apple, or Microsoft behind Pale Moon, so there’s no parent company trying to loop you into other web services or accounts.

In terms of customization, you can completely re-skin Pale Moon with dozens of different themes. The process of building your own isn’t difficult either, so you can let your creativity run wild. You can see the level of flexibility you get with Pale Moon as soon as you open it, with a host of shortcut blocks that you can edit and rearrange as you please.

You don’t get much in the way of ad blocking or tracker protection by default with Pale Moon, but there are plenty of add-ons to pick from in a variety of categories. Managing bookmarks, downloads and your browsing history is all straightforward, and there’s an integrated RSS feed reader as well—perfect for keeping up with new articles on your favorite sites.

If you’re looking to get into a browser that you can take full control over, while also cutting ties with the big tech giants in the browser business, Pale Moon will suit you well. It doesn’t have the same polish as some of the more well-known browsers, but it still has plenty to offer, and there’s a busy community forum online you can turn to if you need help.

Pale Moon is free and compatible with Windows and Linux.

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