I Tried 6 Chrome Alternatives. Here's What I Switched To...image
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I Tried 6 Chrome Alternatives. Here's What I Switched To...

I don't think there's another product on the planet that matches the dominance of Chrome. 65% of people that use the internet are using it through Chrome. That's nearly 3 billion people.

And for a long time, I've been one of them. I switched to Chrome from Safari back in 2011, and I loved it. I remember being an evangelist for the product - poking fun at my friends who still used Internet Explorer and Safari. Back then, Chrome was cool.

But over the last decade, Chrome and I have fallen out of love. As the product has aged, it has started to feel like a clunky memory-hog on my computer that's slowing me down as I work. On top of that, I've just felt more icky over the years that Chrome's ability to track our every move as we navigate the internet is a huge boon for Google's advertising business.

So, over the last 6 months, I've been on a search to find the next Chrome - the browser that makes me feel cool again. And after testing out 6 alternatives, I want to share what I found and which browser I ended up switching to.

Here's what I was looking for.

My criteria for a new browser was pretty simple. I wanted to use a browser that didn't track me or sell my data to third parties. I wanted something that operated with minimal bugs and with less impact to my system's memory and battery than Chrome. And I wanted something that helped me stay organized and focused during the day.

To put it simply, I wanted a reliable product that focused on privacy, performance, and productivity. So, with that in mind, I started trying out some new browsers.

To give each contender a fighting chance at toppling Chrome, I used each one as my default browser on my personal computer and my phone (if a mobile version was available) for at least a week. I started with...

🕵🏻 The usual suspects.

These are three of the most common alternatives to Chrome: Firefox, Safari, and Brave. Each of these are browsers that I've dabbled with but never fully committed to in the past. So, I thought I'd give each of them another chance.

I made my first switch to...

🦊 Firefox

Firefox is the oldest browser I tried. Developed in 2002 by the Mozilla Foundation as a spiritual successor to one of the first major browsers, Netscape, this free and open-source product has been around the block and back again. However, do not be put off by its age; because Firefox is still very relevant in 2023.

With a standard looking browser interface very similar to Chrome, a plethora of plugins, and built in niceties like an RSS feed, picture-in-picture for video, and an amazing "listen" mode that can turn any article into a podcast - Firefox is a feature powerhouse. But what Firefox is most known for is its focus on web privacy.

By default, Firefox turns on "Enhanced Tracking Protection". This blocks basically every type of tracker and script you can think of on the internet: social media account tracking cookies, advertising fingerprints, and even crypto miners (which I didn't even know was something I should be worries about). So, in terms of browser privacy, it's hard to beat Firefox.

In terms of performance though...there's some goofiness. But to explain the goofiness, I kind of have to explain a little about how browsers work. So, bear with me 🧸.

Browsers use a rendering engine to turn HTML and CSS into what we see as a website. Most browsers, rather than writing their own rendering engine, use Google's open-source engine called Chromium - the engine that powers Chrome.

This will become relevant as we talk about the other browsers in this post. But for now, what's important to know about Firefox is that it uses its own rendering engine called Gecko. And because it uses something different than most other browsers, some sites can occasionally feel buggy or look less than polished.

This isn't a fault of Firefox - just more a consequence of the fact that most web developers build websites with Chromium compatibility in mind since it's the most common engine. So, although I really loved my time with Firefox, these slight performance hiccups were enough to have me moving on with my search.

🧭 Safari

Safari is the browser on this list that I want to love. Why? Because it would be very convenient for me as a Mac user.

Safari is the standard browser on macOS and can be tightly integrated with Apple's other products like Keychain, iCloud, and Handoff. On top of that, because it's so optimized for macOS, it's incredibly efficient. It barely uses any memory with seemingly infinite tabs and sips battery like it's a fine wine.

Also, Safari has one feature that I still have not been able to replicate with other browsers and tools: the reader mode. Safari's reader view is unmatched in terms of its ability to strip out ads and subscription popups on publication sites. As a writer, this feature is incredibly valuable when doing research, and it's one of the main reasons I wish I could switch to Safari.

But alas, we have to talk about the jank 😮‍💨. I experienced significantly more glitches and styling jank when using Safari than any other browser I tested. Why? Well, I'm not actually sure.

The easy reasoning would be to blame WebKit - Apple's rending engine that powers Safari. And while I'm sure being non-Chromium based is part of the problem, other WebKit browsers that I tested did not have nearly as many issues as Safari. So, I'm not sure what's going on, but I know that Safari is in desperate need of some TLC.

So after trying once again, I can still not fully switch to Safari as my default browser. However, I will be keeping it at the ready anytime I need to read an article.

🦁 Brave

Similar to Safari, I want to like Brave. Brave is a modern, Chromium based browser focused on privacy. You can think of it as Chrome and Firefox smashed together.

It comes with all the fancy tracking protection as Firefox along with a built in ad-blocker - very nice. On top of that, Brave comes with all the benefits of the Chromium engine - providing minimal jank and goofiness on websites.

But, there's an elephant in the room with Brave: crypto 🤢.

Brave has made a big bet on cryptocurrency and "Web3". There's a crypto wallet built into the browser, and users of Brave can actually earn what they call the Basic Attention Token (BAT) by participating in Brave's "Private Ads" program.

When you enroll in this program, Brave will essentially replace some of the targeted ads they've blocked from the websites you visit with non-targeted ads. Then, they'll split the ad revenue with you in the form of BATs. You can then redeem your BATs for gift-cards and other rewards as you accumulate them.

Honestly, I don't hate that. I think it's actually a pretty unique way of building a sustainable business model around a browser without fully compromising on security and privacy. However, Brave's got some other "Web3" features that just make me feel a little icky.

I will say though, Brave is a great browser and definitely a superb alternative to Google Chrome. I just don't think I vibe with its brand enough to call it my new default.

So, with these three popular options tested, I decided to go on the hunt for some more niche and novel browsers...

😎 The new kids.

In the past couple years, there seems to be a resurgence of interest in rethinking the ways we surf the web. As such, dozens of companies and projects have popped up taking a fresh look at the traditional browser model and coming up with innovative solutions to common pitfalls and problems.

Some of these ideas are genuinely interesting...and some of them feel like gimmick. But, I found three in my search that I think are worth talking about.


Orion is a fantastic, lightweight, Safari alternative that almost won my heart. It amplifies the best parts of Safari and quells some of its major shortcomings.

Built on top of Safari's rendering engine, WebKit, Orion at first glance looks exactly like Safari. But as you start using it, it feels like Kagi - the team behind Orion - have amplified Safari's strengths while quelling its weaknesses.

Orion is snappy, power efficient, and integrates beautifully with macOS just like Safari. However, it also comes with even more powerful anti-tracking and ad-blocking tools that rival the ones found in Brave and Firefox.

Orion also uses a more modern build of Webkit that seems to solve 70% of the jank I experienced with Safari. On top of that, Orion also comes with a sidebar to manage tabs and tab groups - something that will be common with all of the browsers on this list.

But wait, there's more. A common complaint with Safari is its minimal extensions library. I'm not a big extensions person, but if you are, Orion is for you. With Orion, you can use extensions from Chrome and Firefox - no problem.

And just talking about these features doesn't really do it justice. Orion is a great product that I highly recommend to any Safari user. You'll feel like your home on the web was on an episode of Queer Eye or Extreme Home Makeover.

So, why am I not switching to Orion? Well...because after I found Orion...I found...

🪐 SigmaOS

SigmaOS is a reimagining of the browser as a productivity tool. It's focused on helping you get work by keeping you organized and focused on tasks - not tabs

In SigmaOS, you don't close tabs, you mark them as "Done". Your tabs also don't live on top of the window, creating a cluttered visual. Instead, they are hidden by default in a toggle-able sidebar. In this sidebar, you can also create multiple groups of tabs called "Workspaces" that are easy to switch between and gives you a nice separation between projects or areas of work.

By default, you can't have multiple windows in SigmaOS. Instead, if you want to multi-task, you have one additional "Split" screen window that you can pop in and out as needed. This is to encourage you to stay focused on the task at hand an mitigate distractions.

Navigating SigmaOS is also focused on productivity. Although you can navigate the app with a mouse, at every turn the product will encourage you to learn its keyboard shortcuts. And although it can be annoying when those shortcuts interfere with web apps you're using, it does feel like a significantly faster way of using the app.

On top of those paradigm level changes, SigmaOS is also just a great browser. It's built on top of Webkit which means it's snappy and power efficient. Like Orion, it allows you to use extensions from any platform. And all of these features put together makes SigmaOS a power users paradise. It truly does feel like a whole new way of browsing the web.

I enjoyed my time with SigmaOS so much that I bought their $10/month premium plan for unlimited workspaces and cross-device syncing. And with that, I thought I was done with my journey. But then I used...

🌈 Arc

As much as I loved SigmaOS, it did leave me wanting a little bit. The product was still a little buggy and I would occasionally have to restart the app to fix issues. Also, the keyboard shortcuts were really inconsistent with normal browser shortcuts.

For example, "New Tab" is normally ⌘+T. But in SigmaOS, it was just the Space bar. That created conflicts pretty often for me when editing documents or filling out forms. But the person it was really annoying for was Sarah - who felt she couldn't even use my computer anymore because my "browser was so weird".

Arc takes all of the things I loved about SigmaOS, solves the things I didn't, and packages it all with some additional niceties I didn't know I needed. It keeps the same, focused interface with tabs in the sidebar and spaces for switching between projects, but adds an incredible search/command bar accessible with ⌘+T that becomes the only shortcut you need to know.

It blocks ads and trackers, is very efficient despite being Chromium based, and has the best companion mobile app of any browser on this list. It has great picture-in-picture and media controls, and a phenomenal downloads browser.

There's so much to Arc that I feel like it deserves its own blog post. So for now, I'll just say that if you can get your hand on an invite code, you should definitely try it out. Arc has been my daily browser for the past month and has definitely made me feel like I can ditch Chrome for good.

😮 Bonus Round

Two quick honorable mentions that are relatively boring, but should definitely be on your radar if you're just looking for a Chrome alternative:

🌐 Iridium

This is an open source Chromium browser that looks and feels exactly like Chrome, but just strips out all the Google tracking software.

🌀 Microsoft Edge

Edge has come a long way since they rewrote it with Chromium, and it's now I feel a better browser than Chrome. It uses Bing by default, but you can change that. Also, it comes with ChatGPT integrated directly in the browser which is pretty cool.

✨ What do you think?

I hope you enjoyed this article! I'd love to hear what you thought of any/all of the browsers on this list. Let me know which one you use or are going to try on Twitter or LinkedIn. You can also email me if social media isn't your thing.

Also, if you want to get notified the next time I post an article like this, you can sign up for my newsletter using the form down below.

Until next time.

Drew Lyton
Drew Lyton
Friday, April 14, 2023

I'm a software engineer, ex-founder and writer who cares deeply about creating a better relationship between technology and society. I'm currently writing a book about early stage entrepreneurship.


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