It’s hard to imagine a life without web browsers — a time when life once existed, unperturbed, without the whole of humanity’s collective knowledge right at our fingertips. And while it’s unlikely you’ll need to learn how to respoke a wagon wheel, or develop a slightly less stabby cultivar of the prickly pear, modern corporations nonetheless call upon the web browser for so many of its most basic business functions. But with all the options available, how do you choose which browser is right for your business? Couldn’t you just turn to the one you use at home?
The answer to that last question is a surprisingly simple “yes.” Many people prefer to rely on the browser they’re most familiar with while in the office. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but in no small part that’s because no one browser is definitively better than the rest of the pack. Rather, each of the major players — Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge — have their own pluses and minuses. What it ultimately comes down to is what exactly is most important to you, as a company.
So with that in mind, in our next two posts we’re taking a look at the benefits and drawbacks of each major browser in their use in business. Up first, the not-so-little-browsers that could; the dark horses of the webbed wide world: Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.
Just five years ago, so-called experts were clanging bells, ringing gongs, and shouting fears of Big Brother from the highest rooftops they could find. Google was a monolith, they said. Too opaque, they opined. What dastardly things might they do with all our precious data?
As the word of Chrome’s speed and lightweight profile made the rounds, it became abundantly clear that this Y2K-level of paranoia had born no fruit. In fact, Chrome’s place in Google’s ever-expanding ecosystem was a selling point, and has rapidly made it the top choice for both personal and business users the world over. Not only do some websites just seem to run better on it, but the Chrome web store — which you can check out on your desktop computer — comes chock-a-block full with hundreds of thousands of free extensions (also known as plugins). These extensions allow you to integrate with all of your favorite business apps with Chrome, providing a customized user experience and a huge productivity boost. There’s even one for Dropbox!
Another bonus, striking a blow to any and all competitors: Chrome’s “omnibox” search bar benefits enormously from parent company Google’s 800 lb. position as the world’s #1 search engine, providing “rich results” that others couldn’t provide. (Frankly, do any other search engines exist?) It’s familiarity in that capacity makes Chrome readily accessible to new users — something the company has clearly drawn upon. It’s uncomplicated, and easy to use, and utterly ubiquitous. Integrations across all major mobile platforms allow users to easily pick up where they left off: tabs and bookmarks on a user’s PC are readily available on their iPhone, and vice versa.
To top it off, Google has made security and privacy a huge priority. If a website’s SSL certificate has expired (which leaves users vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks), it lets them know. But security will also be one of its biggest potential drawbacks moving forward. With upwards of 62% of the browser market share already cornered, hackers are all that more incentivised to find vulnerabilities. Popularity and availability aren’t a good thing — Internet Explorer learned that the hard way, and look where it is now.
Don’t let the fact that Firefox is open-source give you pause. The latest rollout of this wildly popular browser was about as big of a redesign as one can get. With a totally rebuilt UI, it’s cleaner and more modern than ever before. But the real deal is what’s under the hood: by leveraging multi-core processors in ways no one else is, this newest iteration — Firefox Quantum — is said to be twice as quick as its predecessor. Considering how long Firefox has been around, that’s a truly impressive leap.
Firefox Quantum’s biggest edge comes in its eye to security and privacy, however. Though it’s true that open-source software can be more vulnerable than proprietary software, by virtue of its entire code being free-to-parse (that’s the point; it allows professionals to improve on it), Firefox has taken an all but completist approach to putting privacy into a user’s own hands. It only takes one trip to Firefox’s about:config page (don’t worry, this won’t actually void your warranty… nor where there be any dragons) in order to tweak things perfectly to your own liking: which browsing data do you want saved, and which do you not? Perfect for that loved-one with a large collection of tinfoil hats, or just anybody who wishes to browse free of invasive ad-tracking. (So, everyone?)
In another (quantum) leap forward, Firefox 60 was the first browser to support password-free logins. While we should mention that both Chrome and Edge have since followed suit, it’s worth pointing out that Firefox brought it to the fore. (Safari is still experimenting with WebAuthn, the latest authentication web standards developed by W3C and the FIDO Alliance.) Two-factor authentication is the way of the future, and Firefox supports a number of different methods — including Yubikey, which we’ve covered before.
Additionally, Firefox, like all the major browsers, also comes with a built-in password manager — perfect for anyone who chronically forgets their password — but don’t let this be a selling point. Using an in-browser manager actually puts your network security at risk; they’re too easily accessible, even if you have a master password set up. Instead, IT professionals and security experts alike suggest turning this functionality off, and using separate password management software. We recommend MyGlue!
Nice try, this is only part one of a two part article. We’ve still got two more browsers to explore! Now that we’ve tackled the quirky offshoots turned superstars Chrome and Firefox, we have to take a look at the pair of O.S. dependent browsers — the progeny of two of technology’s oldest rivals: Apple Safari and Microsoft Edge.
Contact JNT TEK today for advice on how to effectively use your browser to get more done at work.