Your web browser is likely to be one of the pieces of software you use most. But as many people don't give a moment's thought to which is the best web browser to choose, we explain what to look for when picking the best web browser for your business
What is a web browser?
A web browser is the software you use to access websites online. You're probably using one to read this. Most computers come with a web browser ready to go, and it's common for people to just use that.
In fact, many people don't realise their web browser is separate to their operating system, and they can use a different browser if they like.
The process of identifying the best web browser for your business has virtually no risks. Most web browsers are free, so you can chop and change before settling on the one you prefer.
Having said that, there may be benefits to standardising the browser used on your company computers. This makes it easier to keep your computers up to date and helps you reduce the chance a web browser could conflict with other software. It also makes it easier for employees if you operate hot-desking to standardise software across your business.
What's the difference between web browsers?
In the past, choosing the best web browser meant comparing packages that were vastly different in some areas.
Browsers often had noticeably different interfaces. More fundamentally, they sometimes interpreted HTML code differently. HTML is the language that websites are built from, so this created headaches for website designers and users alike. Websites could look quite different depending on which browser you used.
These days, the main browsers are all pretty good. Microsoft Internet Explorer - derided for years as slow and prone to security problems - is now fast and stable. The other main contenders are similarly dependable.
That means the main differences come in areas like security, privacy and add-ons.
Which are the main web browsers?
Four web browsers take up the lion's share of the market:
- Microsoft Internet Explorer and the newer Microsoft Edge, only available for Windows computers
- Firefox, an open source browser created by Mozilla
- Chrome, a web browser from search giant Google
- Safari, Apple's web browser - only available for Apple Mac computers
In all likelihood, you'll decide that one these is the best web browser for your company. They're all proven, reliable and well supported.
How should I choose the best web browser?
With so little to differentiate them on the surface, there are five key criteria you can use to pick the best web browser for your business:
If your business uses any internal tools you access through a web browser, make sure they will work in your chosen browser.
Occasionally, these tools may have been designed with a specific browser in mind - particularly if the tool is a number of years old.
This issue more commonly affects large companies with custom-built systems, but it's still worth checking.
Find out if your employees have any strong preferences. Often, people who are tech-savvy prefer to use a particular browser.
It usually makes sense to give your team access to software they like, so don't overlook their views.
3. Security and privacy
There can be significant differences between the security and privacy features available in different web browsers.
Having said that, every browser has suffered security issues in the past, so always use good security software and keep it up to date.
Depending on the functions of your security software, you may wish to choose a browser that blocks suspicious websites and scans downloads for threats.
If you want to restrict the information websites capture about you, look for features that make it easy to block tracking cookies.
4. Apps and extensions
Most web browsers allow you to add extensions (also called 'apps' or 'add-ons') that provide additional features. Extensions can do all kinds of things to help you be more efficient.
Google Chrome is generally considered to have the widest range of extensions and apps.
5. Mobile synchronisation
If you use a smart phone or tablet computer to access the internet, you might want to choose a web browser that lets you synchronise your data between devices.
If you install the same browser on your computer and smart phone or tablet, you can set them up so your history and bookmarks are immediately available, no matter which device you use.
This sounds like a small thing, but if you switch between devices a lot then it can save you a lot of time.
Does it matter which web browser I choose?
In all honesty, your choice of web browser isn't going to make or break your business.
Each of the main contenders will do a good job. However, as this remains a cut-throat market, it is worth re-evaluating your choice every few months.