As people are forced to work remotely from home here are a few helpful tips for using the Zoom video teleconferencing app.
Spending all day in a browser makes its flaws much more apparent than idly clicking around after work, and it may be time to drop old habits. Here’s what to consider among today’s major contenders: Google’s Chrome, Apple’s Safari, Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft’s Edge.
(I omit Internet Explorer because it’s obsolete and insecure; instead, use Chrome or Firefox, depending on the factors below.)
Computing power has increased exponentially over the early-1990s machines that labored to run NCSA Mosaic, but we still see browsers burden computers – just not equally.
After an hour leaving Chrome, Firefox and Edge on a Windows 10 laptop open to pages on 10 popular sites (Google, YouTube, Amazon, Facebook, Reddit, Wikipedia, CNN, LinkedIn, the Centers for Disease Control, and USA TODAY), Chrome was the worst offender in processor and memory use. Windows’ Task Manager app showed Firefox the most efficient, with Edge in between – even though Microsoft’s browser is now built on the same open-source framework as Google’s.
On an older Mac, I didn’t need to consult the macOS Activity Monitor: An hour into that 10-page test, Chrome had locked up and no longer responded to any input.
Google’s Chrome browser, however, has compiled an outstanding record at resisting hacking attempts, thanks both to a solid architecture and frequent updates – it was the only browser among the big four to escape unscathed at last year’s Pwn2Own hacking competition. Edge now using Chrome’s open-source foundation should boost its security.
Google has also led the way in adopting such security features as letting you confirm your logins at sites with USB security keys, although Safari, Firefox and Edge now support them, too.
But in day-to-day use, your bigger risk is not your choice of browser among those four but in ignoring its automatic security updates.
Chrome, however, is the worst of the big four at protecting your web reading from advertisers, while Safari, Firefox and Chrome block their tracking automatically. Apple led in that area early on, but over the last year, Firefox has taken a clear lead by adding such tools as reports of the numbers of tracking attempts blocked and encryption of the directory-assistance system that looks up each site.
There are some essential tools you need to work from home successfully including a suitable computer, reliable network and backup storage.
Ditching Google’s browser may not work if an employer or school requires it. And thanks to Chrome’s domination of the market–58% of U.S. desktops in March, according to StatCounter – and quick adoption of new web features, many sites either mandate Chrome or limit full support to that browser. The Zoom and Uberconference meeting services, for instance, reserve their complete web features for Chrome.
All of these browsers can sync your reading across devices, and your hardware purchases can further constrain your choices. If you live an all-Apple existence, Safari constitutes the easiest cross-device option, but if one of your devices is a Chromebook, only Chrome will allow easy synchronization.
The verdict: Which browser is best?
These conflicting virtues usually make “best browser” a multiple-choice question. For example, I have Safari as my default on my Mac and Firefox as my default in Windows, but Chrome is a backup in each – for sites optimized for it and for strange ones I may not trust. But I could also see making Firefox my Mac default and giving Edge that job in Windows.
No matter what, however, if a browser starts to bog down, don’t wait to quit and restart it.
That may be 1990s-vintage advice, but it’s still true.
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