Browser choices

There's a lot of browsers available for browsing the modern web. You could probably take something deprecated and outdated and still be able to browse it(selected sites with simple HTML and probably no HTTPS) like netscape navigator. Now in my time on the internet I've used a few browsers, lets roll and see 'em:

- Firefox

- Google Chrome

- Chromium

- Vivaldi

- Opera

- Microsoft Edge

- Internet Explorer

- Brave Browser

- Surf

- Lynx

- w3m

- Qutebrowser

That's quite a number of browsers. A bunch are unusable for the modern web as far as I'm concerned due to significant flaws. Lynx, W3M are examples as they aren't graphical, they are terminal browsers(which is fine if the same site could be viewed in a screen reader... unfortunately the vast majority can't be viewed in a screen reader).

Now lets go through them one by one. Firefox. It does a lot well, but has become effectively controlled opposition in the pockets of the Google monopoly. Sure, it's "technically" not a monopoly, but the vast majority still use the Chromium engine for rendering. Firefox has its own rendering engine, Gecko, and a bunch of forks coming from it such as GNU Icecat. Unfortunately all the forks have issues of either small development teams, development teams that don't support privacy or user choice, or just being plain outdated(GNU Icecat for example is miles behind the current Firefox version).

Oh also Mozilla these days tends to squander money on social causes than on development. "Software developers" my ass.

=> They support censorship by going further than deplatforming. At this point it's not about maintaining autonomy of your platform. Although I agree with displaying who is paying for advertising.

Right Firefox is pretty crap. Good we've come to that conclusion. Next up Google Chrome. I won't waste your time, Google is collecting your data to selectively advertise more effectively. NEXT!

Chromium. Now this is interesting... well not Chromium specifically, it has the same problems as Google Chrome, but its forks "Ungoogled Chromium". Unfortunately, forks based on ungoogld chromium tend to have the same issues as Firefox forks. I won't elaborate too much, but it still implicitly supports the Google browser engine monopoly.

As a quick tangent, lets ask "Why is there a browser engine monopoly?". It's quite simple really, the specification for HTML and the HTTP/HTTPS and related technologies is insanely big. Sadly, a great amount of this is fueled exclusively by commercial interests. The faster the advertising internet is killed, the better our lives will be.

A couple notable mentions. Opera used to be alright. It got acquired by a Chinese Company and went to shit. Vivaldi is actually really good. It's feature-rich and while not doing quite enough for privacy that can be forgiven for pushing the frontier. Unfortunately, it consumes a pretty silly amount of RAM.

Surf uses the QTWebEngine, and is somehow slower than Qutebrowser which we'll come to later. It also has no tabs out of the box or adblocking. Pretty shit, but at least the codebase is small so changes can be easily made.

Internet Explorer and Microsoft Edge... I won't even get into these. Needless to say the former is deprecated and nobody targets it anymore, and the latter is just bootleg Google Chrome that also phones home to Microsoft.

This leaves me with Brave Browser to discuss. For the average person, I will generally say Brave Browser is the best option out of the box. It has financial incentives like its BAT if you want to subject yourself to advertising trash, although that's just a way to gather more personal information if you try to use it at all. Oh and not all of your "Content Creators" will receive a cent of your BAT if you "Tip" them. It'll all probably go right back to the developers. The financial incentives and privacy does seem a bit shady to me, but as the only browser with SANE defaults that requires no configuration out of the box, this is what I'd recommend to the "Normies".

This leaves me with the last browser to talk about. Qutebrowser. Qutebrowser as the name suggests use the QTWebEngine, but it also has configuration files you can write, and is bindable so custom behaviours can be made. These configurations mean you can have vertical tabs, custom per-site CSS, global CSS, colour schemes, and can also pipe the URL or get the user to pick an <a> element as input to some script you have. As a result, I can pipe youtube videos into MPV, or into youtube-dl, or my own custom scripts which I can use to download entire channels, playlists or musics without any issue. This extensibility makes it quite expressive as someone who supports at the very least the extensibility portion of the unix philosophy.

Now someone will ask "What about Privacy". It doesn't phone home apart from when it crashes(in which situation you'll be asked to send a bug report). There are other elements to privacy such as trackers, but even without javascript tracking is possible(recently favicons have been used as a way to track people). However, the vast majority of trackers are in the same box as adverts and this is where the next point comes in.

"What about adblocking?". Qutebrowser used to be pretty lacking in this area, but recently it has improved leaps and bounds, because Brave released their adblocker to be used in other browsers. It also includes blocking based on their own custom "/etc/hosts" file, and with the new Brave adblocking, it's actually usable in more dynamic sitiuations. Combined it becomes very useful and very powerful.

It also supports a great amount of the HTTPS/HTTP/HTML spec. WASM for example is included(though WASM as a technology I still find questionable as it's very much like Flash). It's also very fast(Not the fastest, but certainly not as slow or RAM-heavy as alternatives like Vivaldi).

Qutebrowser is very similar to Vim, with vim-like bindings and behaviours too, 3 modes being control mode for your commands, insert for inserting text, and pass-through for when you need to be able to pass through all input to the browser(so no escaping out of pass-through except via a binding you set).

This all said, not everything is good about Qutebrowser. One point of contention is that it uses Python for quite a bit of the browser. Debatable how good that is as Python is interpretted and hilariously slow as a language(way worse than other interpretted languages like Javascript).

Anyway, if you read this, I suggest Brave Browser as your browser of choice UNLESS you aren't afraid of configuration. If you aren't, then use Qutebrowser, as you get all the benefits of Brave with the benefits of extensibility and configuration.

Written on March 3rd 2021