Where have all the good browsers gone?

Where have all the good browsers gone?

Summary: It's frustrating to deal with the constant threat of browser-based malware, pop-ups, and extensions gone wild. I wonder where all the good browsers have gone? It would be nice to have one that works.


Using an Internet browser has become such a requirement that you'd think we'd have one that really works. Alas, we do not. I bounce back and forth between Internet Explorer and Chrome on Windows, between Firefox and Chrome on Linux and between Safari and Chrome on my iOS devices but none are working all that well for me. I need a reliable, stable, do-everything browser that is also cross-platform and I just can't find one that I'm satisfied with. It's very frustrating. To heck with the old adage, "Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door." What we need is a better browser. You can name it "Mousetrap" if you want to. I just want it to work.

At this very moment there's a conversation with my Google+ homies concerning Chrome eating up 100% CPU on Linux. It does it on Windows too, by the way. I often have to deal with Chrome crashing on my Windows 7 PC. Often, I'll have it crash on my iPad or iPhone. And sometimes in Linux, it just disappears without a trace.

Firefox seems to be no better as one of the respondents in the Google+ conversation just said, "Incidentally, I'm getting a very similar result with FF and the same number of tabs open so not sure why some people seem to have better results with that."

Apparently I'm not the only one receiving bad mojo from browsers.

Thank goodness as I thought it was just the browser demons out to get me personally.

I've tried Opera too but got tired of seeing the "unrecognized browser" message so I happily terminated its use.

Here are my general and esthetic requirements for the ultimate browser:

  • Reliable
  • Stable
  • Fast
  • Cross-platform
  • Skinable
  • Tabbed
  • Extensible
  • Flash compatible
  • HTML5 capable
  • Java compatible
  • Javascript compatible
  • Equipped with a pop-up blocker
  • Antivirus compatible
  • Malware-resistant
  • Cross browser compatibility
  • Configurable stealth (incognito) mode
  • Each tab as a separate process
  • Independent tab configuration
  • Standalone

I guess that's enough for starters. Now, allow me to explain the more obscure of my requirements.

Antivirus Compatible

I often feel that antivirus software impedes my browsing. In my opinion, once a site is deemed safe by your antivirus software, it should basically turn off or stand down its scanning of a safe site. When your browser hits a new page, it should perform a sweep of the site to determine its safety and return that information to the user in a safety rating of some sort so that you may proceed or go somewhere else.

I don't think that I need for the same site to have each page that I touch scanned as I touch it. Once the initial sweep is complete, the site should be placed in a temporary white list, gray list, or black list depending on the nature of any threat content that it may contain.

Cross Browser Compatibility

On an as needed basis, your browser could disguise itself as Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari, Opera, Firefox, or whatever browser type you select. I know that most browsers, such as Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Firefox (the ones I've tested) can do this now but you almost have to invoke an Easter Egg to get to configuration.

To illustrate what I mean, open Chrome, press Ctrl-Shift-i, click the Cog icon in the lower right, click Overrides, select User Agent, and then select your desired browser masquerade. 

Now, I haven't performed any lengthy rituals to verify how well it works but I don't think that agent detection is all that sophisticated. However, it isn't the agent detection that a web developer should use for rendering pages for a variety of devices and browsers. A better method of finding compatibility is to use the rendering engine detection. Better still is to use feature detection.

In my perfect browser, the site page would send a signal to the browser to use a particular rendering engine or to invoke compatible features. The bottom line is that I don't want to have to change my browser compatibility manually. There should be some automated, programmatic way that works behind the scenes to render a site's pages for me regardless of browser or resolution.

Configurable Stealth Mode

Most browsers have a stealth, incognito, or private mode but it seems that we get or don't get what the developers want us to. I'd like for so-called stealth mode to be easily and dynamically configurable with memory. In other words, I can connect to certain sites in stealth mode but regular mode for others. One particular parameter that I'd like to configure is cookies. I'd like to be able to dynamically accept or deny certain cookies on sites where I don't necessarily want cookies from.

A possible fix is to have a notification area at the bottom of the browser that I could click upon landing on a page so that I could deny or accept tracking cookies. I don't want a popup every time I hit a new page or for every ad on a page. I want to be able to configure it once, at my discretion, and leave it at that. And I want the browser to remember my choices for that site, so that when I return, I won't have to configure it all over again.

Independent Tab Configuration

What if I want one of my tabs to always be Stealth and one to be setup as Internet Explorer-compatible all the time? I don't like an all or nothing type configuration. I'm not faulting the developers. I know how hard it is to do this stuff. I've done programming. The easier you make it for the user, the harder it is on the backend. 

I prefer, if you haven't noticed, easily configurable parameters for my browsers. I don't want to go hunting for some tweak or fix. I just would like for it to be readily available so that I don't get frustrated with the software and seek out an alternative. And I haven't had great luck so far with alternatives.

I know that there's no perfect browser and with all the threats facing them, it seems that there may never be the perfect one. Developers have to spend so much time preventing this or that hijack in their software that they can't focus as much on awesome features. I get that.

However, the solution is to have better compatibility or interoperability between browsers and antimalware software and antivirus software that we already must have on our systems. Interoperability like that will require some vendor handshaking. Fingers crossed on that front.

So, the question remains, "Where have all the good browsers gone?" The answer is that hopefully they're in development and not just in the minds of technology analysts.

What do you think of browser improvement? Is there room for improvement? Will it happen or should we all just live with what we have? Talk back and let me know.

Topics: Browser, Privacy, Security


Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

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  • if chrome and FF are using up all your CPU and crashing

    then you have some crappy extension installed with bad code. it's either malicious or just really badly coded. just uninstall your crap extensions.
    • @oilman

      How do you know which ones are bad?
      • On Chrome, it's easy.

        I'd have to research Firefox a bit more, but on Chrome, you hit Shift+Esc and get a nice dialog telling you which tabs and extensions are eating up your memory and/or CPU.
        • Firefox

          Most probably it is some flash cr@p player doing this (a cr@ppy video driver, like nVidia could contribute to this as well).
          I'd just run top. Ken used to be a "Linux guy" So, hopefully he still remembers it. On Windows "task manager", would probably suffice. On Linux and *BSD In top it will be called flashplayer-plugin or similar.
          I would also install noscript (flashblock, adblock) . You can toggle execution of scripts noscript (or flash video) to see which one is the culprit.
          Across many machines with P4,i7, AMD Athlon X2 and even ARM Alwinner a10 running LMDE, Debian and Bodhilinux armhf. Firefox eats less than 1% in the average (with a lot of tabs). Not using flashplayer though (html5, youtube-dl,mplayer, vlc) Thanks also to noscript,flashblock and adbloc
          Yes, where Chrome(ium) is installed, no excessive cpu usage is present either.
    • Naked Chrome does this all the time

      FF is much better behaved with respect to resource management.
      x I'm tc
      • naked chrome

        runs fine on my 7 year old laptop...
        • as does

          chrome with extensions that aren't coded crappily.
      • No, it doesn't

        If you are having that many issues with Chrome, it's time to break out the Baku (it's a registry cleaner) and find out what detritus in your registry is slowing down Chrome.

        I have a 6 year old PC that I am writing this on using Chrome in Windows 8 Modern UI. It works just fine and dandy, fast as anything.
    • I can't agree with that...

      I have a Virtual Machine on one computer (VirtualBox) running Linux, and Chrome can cause Linux and the whole virtual machine to crash (this is default install of Chrome with nothing added or changed, including no extensions). Firefox and others have no such issue... don't assume just because you haven't seen problems with Chrome that its perfect.
      • chrome runs fine on my PC

        using both windows and ubuntu. maybe your virtualbox is acting weird with the code.
        • Your experience != everyone's experience

          Chrome runs pretty well on my PC, though sometimes it will start hogging memory and crashing. It's few and far between, though.

          However, you seem to be missing doh123's final line: "don't assume just because you haven't seen problems with Chrome that its perfect."
    • Agreed. Flash Player is the biggest issue for that but only w/ old version

      Enough said. I personally removed Flash Player from Firefox and I just use Chrome for any website that I need Flash for because it automatically updates Flash in the thing.

      Something that Mozilla should be doing in my opinion, bundling Flash (even if it is a stripped down version of Flash) in their browser and updating it as part of the browser.
    • Not always the fault of a 'crappy extension'

      Sometimes, the browser is crashed by some bad code from ads. My Chrome get 100% CPU on specific sites when it's trying to load image files. I have zero, none, nada extensions.
  • When it comes to the Chrome browser on both my Apple & MS devices

    I do the safe thing and not install Chrome on either platform. I, too, found Chrome to crash quite a bit - with NO extensions installed by the way.

    When Chrome worked 90 percent of the time, it was fast and useful. But that other ten percent of the time, I needed to completely uninstall Chrome - and all those hidden, hard to find files that are left in OS X after deleting the Chrome browser by placing the Chrome app icon in the trash - before reinstalling that program. It got to be a hassle.

    Perhaps on a native Android device or on a Chromebook, Chrome (the browser) works 100 percent of the time without crashing. But I wouldn't know that.

    As it is, I just stick to Safari on iOS or OS X machines and the latest IE on Window's computers. It's safer and less stressful that way.
    • You must be going to some weird ass sites

      Because I have NEVER had Chrome totally crash on me. I have had the Flash plugin crash or a page become unresponsive and need to be 'killed', but I have never had the entire browser crash.
  • IE11.

    • And how cross platform is that?

      What a troll. Did you even read the article?
      • Can't wait to see you rip into Maha888 below

        After all, Safari isn't at all cross platform either. So GoPower, when are you going to call Maha888 a troll and try to insult him by implying that he didn't even read the article?
        • Microsoft and NSA

          In February 2000, it was disclosed that the Strategic Affairs Delegation (DAS), the intelligence arm of the French Defense Ministry, had prepared a report in 1999 which also asserted that NSA had helped to install secret programs in Microsoft software. According to the DAS report, “it would seem that the creation of Microsoft was largely supported, not least financially, by the NSA, and that IBM was made to accept the [Microsoft] MS-DOS operating system by the same administration.” The report stated that there had been a “strong suspicion of a lack of security fed by insistent rumors about the existence of spy programs on Microsoft, and by the presence of NSA personnel in Bill Gates’ development teams.” The Pentagon, said the report, was Microsoft’s biggest client in the world.
          • WTF does this have to do with the article?

            Go buy more tinfoil, dude...