Ask an expert: what’s the best browser for business?

23 February 2017 by Mark Williams

For decades now the internet has increasingly dominated our personal and professional lives. Indeed, there are over 3.7 billion people using the internet as of this year - that’s nearly half the global population.

It’s been a vital tool for businesses since its release to the public almost 26 years ago, aiding communication, productivity and creativity like no other product in history. However, for many professionals, the effectiveness of the internet as a business tool still often comes down to one thing: the browser.

In 2017, the leaders in the browser market are:

Everybody has a ‘favourite browser’, but what’s the best browser for business? There are many similarities between the available browsers but there are some key differences in performance that are worth comparing.

Google Chrome

Chrome currently has the largest market share of all browsers. It’s fast, compatible with various operating systems and has an easy-to-use interface. It also has a store – the Chrome Web Store – where you can find many free apps and extensions to add capability to your browser.

Chrome syncs with the cloud so that all your favourites and open tabs are available across devices, which is great for mobile working. However, Chrome is a drain on battery life and uses a lot of memory, making it less effective on machines with limited RAM.

At the end of the day, Chrome is a strong contender mainly because its features can be extended with the many add-ons available on the Chrome Web Store. These make it possible for businesses to tailor the browser to their needs.

Internet Explorer

Microsoft has had a rough time with browsers. Over the years, Internet Explorer gained a reputation for being slow and a large proportion of people binned it in favour of Chrome.

But Internet Explorer 11 is a game-changer. It’s powerful, simple and works well on both Windows and Mac OS X. It doesn’t have high demands for RAM and CPU compared to Chrome or Firefox.

However, although it is an improvement on previous iterations, Internet Explorer 11 is not as customisable as its competitors. If add-ons and extensions are a must, this may not be the browser for you.

Firefox

Firefox is largely similar in design to Google’s Chrome. It is the fastest browser available with an easy-to-use interface, it can sync your bookmarks across varying devices and it has a unique function known as ‘virtual sticky notes’. These are notes that you can write and attach to saved webpages, a very useful tool for research.

Firefox is highly customisable, like Chrome, with a litany of add-ons and extensions available. It’s also security conscious, with automatic updates and customisable security settings. The creators of Firefox have built the browser with features like anti-malware protection and instant Website ID, but it still relies on Google’s Safe Browsing API to detect potentially malicious websites. It’s no safer than Chrome.

The bottom line: Firefox is similar to Chrome in many ways. It’s just as safe and just as fast. It’s the unique features, like the virtual sticky notes and others, that make it a good tool for research-heavy browsing.

Safari

Safari is a relatively basic browser, though it has most of the features of its competitors. One of Safari’s biggest distinctions, however, is the Reader button, which cuts out adverts and distractions in articles online.

This browser also has lots of security features (and like Firefox and Chrome, relies on Google’s Safe Browsing API) that protect against malware and phishing websites. However, Safari is not nearly as customisable as the other browsers available, and it doesn’t have cloud-syncing capabilities.

Overall this is a good browser, but it doesn’t have anything unique to offer compared to the others in our list.

And the winner is…Firefox? Chrome?

Ultimately, the best browser for business depends on your personal needs and browsing habits. However most professionals are likely to find both Firefox and Chrome suitable for everyday use.

With a focus on security, simplicity and customisation, Firefox is functionally similar to Google Chrome and a good candidate for the ‘best browser for business’. Its speed and unique tools are highly valuable for those whose day-to-day work involves a lot of reading or research.

However, if it’s capability you need (but without the research-heavy focus) Google Chrome is good choice too. It’s fast, secure and comes with just about any extension you could want.

Can newer browsers dethrone the old guard?

One of the universal truths of IT is that processing power and speed will double every two years. Despite declaring Firefox our champion, who knows what the future will bring? With such an exponential growth in usability and capability, who knows what the best browser will be in the years to come.