Many of us are still using the browser we got with our machine. Windows machines come with Internet Explorer, so a small group of Windows users keep on using that. And Macs come with Safari, so that keeps a few die hards (or don’t-cares) too.
Safari accounts for about 17% of users, Internet Explorer for around 12%.
But there’s something missing from that graph. Let’s look at it again…
…this time, with Chrome back in.
Chrome hoovers up the lion’s share of the web browser market, accounting for around 63% of all browser users.
Which is how I know that statistically, you’re using the most popular browser, most used search engine and most popular operating system.
But should you be?
The trouble with Google/Chrome
Chrome is a pretty good browser in terms of ease of use and adaptability. It comes with a pile of plugins (‘extensions’) that let you change your web browsing experience in all kinds of ways.
That comes with some downsides. While Chrome isn’t a horrendously leaky browser, it does have plenty of issues. (Note that I’m talking about Chrome, the browser, not Google the search engine.)
For one thing, those extensions aren’t harmless. Many can be used to attack Chrome users; sometimes that can mean monitoring internet usage, which is sinister enough all by itself. But sometimes it’s worse. In February this year, researchers uncovered a botnet that was using Chrome extensions to attack users’ computers.
It’s a pretty scary attack that combines the latent malicious power of two supposedly-beneficent technologies, session replays and Chrome extensions.
Extensions let you customize the web and your browser. Replays are used by marketers to watch what users do on their websites. These recordings are scrutinized to find ways to appeal to visitors better and sell more.
Put them together and you have a massive surveillance tool used to watch what people do online, steal that information and then… serve you more ads.
Chrome is fast, though not the fastest, and it’s weak on privacy. It comes with a built-in Flash player and PDF reader, support for HTML5 and leading standards.
It also drains batteries on mobile devices, is a CPU hog and has suffered from several security issues, including a vulnerability allowing malicious sites to paste the URL of real ones into the omnibar, which has led to the upcoming HTTPS issue as Symantec-issued security certificates are downgraded and no longer considered safe.
Google is even more a behemoth than Chrome, especially on mobile:
But we know Google’s business model is built around advertising. It gathers data on users and sells it, and allows users to gather data on each other. That’s how it managed to sell $95 billion dollars’ worth of ads last year.
Suppose you don’t want to be profiled and sold to while your browse? Then you need another search engine and another browser.
Another search engine, another browser – and another kind of connection
So if you’re ditching Google/Chrome, what should you use instead?
Let’s forget about the other ‘big two’ – Internet Explorer (now Edge, as if making U2 references made it sound modern) and Safari. Statistics painstakingly gathered by the Roth Institute for Creative Analysis show that these browsers are mostly used to download Chrome, but between them they account for a solid 30% of regular users. In short they have the vast majority of Chrome’s problems and almost none of its upsides. Compared with either Safari or IE, Chrome is a light, fast, adaptable browser.
So: not Safari, not Internet Explorer, not Chrome.
What’s the solution then?
Brave + DuckDuckGo + VPN
The browser: Brave
Brave browser is faster than Chrome, Safari and Edge, and more secure than any of them. It blocks tracking software and some ads. It’s a lot faster than Chrome plus an adblocker:
There’s a bunch of extensions built right in:
And your choice of search engines, including…
Unlike Google, DuckDuckGo doesn’t track you everywhere you go and use that info to sell you things. It’s even sparer as an interface than Google is. There’s an option to completely erase your browsing history which actually does that, since DuckDuckGo doesn’t hang on to your data.
The security layer: VPN
However good your browser and your search engine, a VPN is completely indispensable if you care about your privacy. A naked internet connection will always be vulnerable to bad actors, but an encrypted proxy means your data and your identity are safe.
Here’s the brief lowdown on how a VPN works:
A normal internet connection sends your traffic from your router to your nearest server. Anyone can see where your traffic comes from. If you want to find out the IP address of anyone you’re connected to, you can in just a few keystrokes. From there you can find someone’s physical location and a lot more. And traffic sent over a normal connection is unencrypted. Anyone can read your emails, for instance.
A VPN works by connecting you to a virtual private network – that’s what it stands for. It encrypts your traffic so no-one who intercepts it can read it, and conceals your IP address by sending your traffic around the private network to another server before it’s released to the wider web. That way it looks like your IP is the same as that server’s IP. While you may be in Michigan, your IP is in Idaho.
That means you’re anonymous, untraceable and protected.
Take a look over our VPN guide to pick out the best VPN that fits your needs.