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Why I always have more than one browser installed on my computer (and you should too)

I generally have five or more web browsers installed on all of my devices and it's made my life considerably less frustrating.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Jack Wallen/ZDNET

There is no such thing as the perfect web browser. Each one has pros and cons and some function better than others.

But most users tend to stick with the default web browser that ships with whatever operating system they use. In other words:

  • Linux - either Firefox or Chromium.
  • MacOS - Safari
  • Windows - Edge
  • Android - Chrome
  • iOS - Safari

If you examine the browser market share, it's easy to assume that the vast majority of users switch to Chrome. The truth is that Android is the most widely-used operating system on the planet. Because it defaults to Chrome, the numbers tend to be skewed. On the desktop, things are a bit different. 

Also: 5 reasons why Opera is my favorite browser

For those who tend to stick with the default browser, you're missing out on some pretty handy features (such as Opera's tab management and Arc's incredible UI). But that's not the reason I suggest keeping multiple browsers on hand.

Let me explain.

1. It's about functionality

First and foremost, I keep multiple web browsers handy because there are some websites that don't work well on one browser but do on another. Here's a very simple example. There's an Indian restaurant my wife and I get carry out from about three times a week. The establishment's website can be a bit flaky. One day I'll open it on Arc and everything works perfectly. The next time I open it on Arc, I can't select any items without hitting reload after each item is placed in the cart. When that happens, I'll open Opera and it works just fine. Then, on another occasion, neither Opera or Arc works but Safari does.

Also: Arc browser is now available for Windows and it's so much better than Chrome

Sometimes I'll open a browser to a website page and something on that page (probably a poorly written piece of JavaScript) will bring the browser to a screeching halt. I can then open the same page on another browser and it's just fine.

There also might be a browser extension that is required for certain sites that aren't available for my MacOS default browser, Arc. When I run into such an occasion, I have to open a browser that supports the extension.

Expecting every browser to function exactly as I need is a fool's errand. I know, on any given day, I'm going to use at least three web browsers just to do the things I need to do. I'm fine with that because the frustration I've experienced trying to get one browser to rule them all isn't worth it.

Finally, if I know I'm going to be dealing with a ton of tabs, Chrome is tossed out the window in favor of Opera or Safari, as those two browsers are the reigning rulers of tab management.

2. It's also about security

There are certain sites (such as my bank's website) that I don't trust with certain browsers. For example, I won't log into my bank account from Chrome because it simply isn't secure enough. Typically, when I need to visit a site that has sensitive data (such as bank accounts, government sites, etc.) I turn to Firefox. Why? Because I trust its security.

Also: 5 reasons why I use Firefox when I need the most secure web browser

If you're curious as to which browsers I trust with sensitive sites, that list includes:

  • Firefox
  • Brave

Yeah, that's about it.

Also: 5 Microsoft Edge settings to change for more secure browsing

There is, however, one exception. If I throw privacy into the mix, then I add Tor browser to the list because no browser can match the privacy offered by that browser.

3. Keeping up with new features

Here's another wrench in the works. Because I often like to know what features are in a browser's pipeline, I'll also install the developer (or "nightly") version of a browser. In some cases, those developer versions are as stable as the official version… but not all the time. I don't use developer versions for everyday browsing. Instead, I'll fire up a developer version when my curiosity gets the best of me.

Also: 7 features that make Brave such a good browser

I've been known to have more than 10 browsers installed on one operating system. I do this because I never want to run into a situation when a site won't work properly. If I have to go through all 10 browsers to find a good match, so be it. And even though this might seem like a hassle, it's much better than struggling to get a site to work properly on a browser, when the effort is often futile.

Right now, on my main desktop, I have Opera, Opera Developer, Chrome, Chromium, Edge, Brave, Firefox, and Vivaldi at my fingertips. On my MacBook Pro, add Arc Browser and Safari into the mix and you can be certain there's no site I cannot view.

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