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Firefox vs Opera: Which web browser is best for you?

Firefox and Opera are both web browsers vying for your attention. But which one of those applications is the best fit for your needs? This guide will help you make that choice.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Firefox has been a part of my most basic list of applications for a very long time. That doesn't mean, however, that I've always used it as my default. In fact, I vacillate between Firefox and Opera

Both have their pros and cons and each does a remarkable job of rendering web pages and keeping me connected to sites, services, and people.

Also: How to run websites as apps in Linux with any browser

Some days I bounce between those browsers and some days I spend all of my time in one or the other.

But which path should you take?

Let me help you make that decision.

You should choose Firefox if ...

Firefox browser
Thiago Prudencio/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

1. You prefer open-source

This one is pretty obvious. Firefox is an open-source browser and is installed, by default, on the vast majority of Linux distributions. Firefox is also available for Android, MacOS, iOS, iPadOS, and Windows. 

Also: The best Linux laptops

If you're not sure why open-source matters, it's fairly simple. Because Firefox is an open-source application, it means the source code is available for anyone to download, view, change, and more. If you have the skills, you could even create your own browser, using the Firefox code. As for the general public, this is important because it means the browser is constantly vetted and anyone can comb through the code, locate vulnerabilities, and fix (or report) them. This means Firefox gets updated very quickly.

Which leads me to…

2. You prioritize security

If you place a premium on security, then Firefox is the browser for you. With the source code readily available to anyone, it means bugs are not only found quickly but they are also fixed very quickly. Over the years, I've witnessed countless bugs discovered and fixed within a day or two. You won't find that with proprietary browsers, where getting code fixed involves numerous hurdles and steps to get past.

Also: The best security keys: Expert tested and reviewed

Firefox was also one of the first browsers to block fingerprinting, which goes a very long way to ensure your privacy. A digital fingerprint collects various types of data (such as your OS, browser, add-ons, preferences, and even themes and customizations) and uses them to create a profile about you so that businesses can get a clear picture of you and your private life. 

If that sounds a bit on the creepy side, then you should migrate to Firefox.

3. You also need speed

Compared to every browser I use, Firefox is by far the fastest at opening, page rendering, logging into sites, and just about every aspect of browser usage. In fact, the difference is clearly obvious. 

If I'm using Opera, I tend to leave it open because it can take its own sweet time starting. With Firefox, I can close and open it throughout the day and not lose a step. 

So, if speed is at the top of your list of needs, Firefox is, far and away, the best choice. 

4. You like mobile add-ons

If your primary OS is of the mobile persuasion, you probably get frustrated that you can't extend the feature set of your default browser. I've got good news for you. The mobile version of Firefox allows the installation and usage of add-ons. 

The only caveat to this is that Firefox mobile is limited to about 25 add-ons. However, that list does include the likes of uBlock Origin, Dark Reader, AdGuard AdBlocker, FoxyProxy Standard, Ghostery, Bitwarden, Privacy Badger, and more. That means you can eke out even more privacy and security on your mobile device with Firefox.

You should choose Opera if ...

Opera browser
Thiago Prudencio/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

1. Tab management is a priority

Of all the browsers I've ever used, Opera's Workspaces feature offers the best tab management…and it's not even close.

If you frequently find yourself working with 10, 20, 30, or more tabs, you owe it to yourself to try Opera. 

Also: Opera's Battery Saver mode is another reason why you should switch to this fantastic browser

It's not even close. Opera's tab management feature is so good, that it was what beat Firefox to serve as my default on both Linux and MacOS. 

2. You want a fantastic built-in ad blocker

Although Firefox does privacy better than any other browser, Opera's ad blocking is so good, I wind up having to add exceptions for sites that cannot function properly without ads.

Also: How to use the Opera VPN

I absolutely appreciate the need for sites to be able to load ads in a browser. After all, many sites depend on ad revenue to keep the lights on. But some sites ads are so prominent that it can cause problems for browsers. With Opera, that is no longer a problem. Other than the sites for which I add exceptions, every site (no matter how thick its ads are) renders just fine in Opera.

3. Aesthetics are important to you

For some, the look of an application can be important. I know it sounds silly to some, but when you spend a great deal of time in front of a monitor, the look of an application can make a difference. For me, the old, traditional interface is a thing of the past, and modern UIs make interacting with software much more enjoyable.

Opera has one of the more modern-looking UIs on the market. And with the latest iterations, it even offers some eye-catching animations.

The only drawback to Opera's aesthetics is that it's not nearly as themeable as Firefox. Yes, you can switch from dark or light mode and even add a background image for the Speed Dial tab but as far as themes are concerned, Opera doesn't go there.

4. You enjoy built-in features

Opera blows Firefox out of the water when it comes to built-in features. From the sidebar, quick launchers, Shopping Corner, Player, My Flow, Personal News, Pinboards…Opera has a feature for just about anyone.

Granted the sheer amount of features in Opera can sometimes make it feel a bit bloated but the browser does allow you to disable all of the features you don't use. For example, immediately after installing Opera, I disable all AI features.

Also: How to reset the Opera web browser (and when you should)

If you like your browser to include more than just the ability to render web pages, Opera has plenty of tricks up its sleeve.

Wrap up

In the end, I keep both Firefox and Opera installed on all of my devices. Why? Sometimes I need the speed and security of Firefox and other times I need the tab management mastery of Opera. 

Also: Best secure browsers to protect your privacy online

Although I would recommend Firefox over Opera for most people, if you consider yourself a power user (and tend to keep a multitude of tabs open), I would suggest Opera. In the end, however, I would say installing both and using them for specific purposes is also a great way to go.

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