Do You Still Have a Default Browser?

By Craig Buckler
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Web designers and developers usually have a selection of the most popular browsers installed on their PC. You don’t? Really? Why not install a few and give them a go.

Operating Systems allow you to set a default browser and we all have our favorites. Some love Firefox for its flexibility. Some swear by Chrome for its speed and clean interface. Others prefer Opera for its tools and features. Many Apple users love Safari’s OS integration. IE users like the browser because … erm, well, they have their reasons (and we have high hopes for IE9).

I started with Netscape 2, migrated to IE3, 4, 5, 5.5 and 6, then switched to Phoenix, Firebird and eventually Firefox. Although I had other browsers installed, I rarely used them for anything other web page testing.

However, in the past year or two I’ve noticed a change in my browser usage patterns. I now use whichever application is most practical — sometimes, it’s simply the icon closest to my cursor. There are a several reasons:

  1. The 5 main browsers are all good applications. You may prefer one over another, but none is perfect and even the worst is fine for general web surfing.
  2. Chrome and Safari may offer some amazing CSS3 effects but the gap between the browsers is smaller than it’s ever been. All of the top browsers offer decent rendering capabilities.
  3. It’s often practical to have two or more different browsers open, e.g. if you’re accessing work and private GMail accounts at the same time.

In most cases, though, I use whichever browser offers the best facilities for the task in hand. For fast browsing, I might use Chrome. On a netbook, I often use Opera for it’s speed, built-in email and turbo mode for slow connections. For storing bookmarks and web page development, it’s hard to beat Firefox. Finally, I still use IE for testing and a few specific corporate applications.

While I doubt many general Internet users flit between applications, it’s increasingly less likely for a power user to have monogamous relationship with a single browser. Then again, perhaps it’s just me — I’ve become a browser whore.

What do you think? Are you wedded to one browser or do you flirt with them all? Please vote on the SitePoint poll or leave your comments below…

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  • My “default browser” depends on what I am doing. Being a Linux user, I find the occasional page that somehow doesn’t work in Firefox (like the controls on some Youtube videos) so I do switch to Chrome for that. Or sometimes Opera. But really, Firefox is still my default.

  • ahallicks

    I always, always, always open up Chrome and Firefox when I first get into work. I use both for development: Firefox for it’s tools (add-ons) and Chrome for it’s speed.

    The only time I open up Internet Explorer is for testing purposes.

    At home, I pretty much use Firefox and my partner uses Chrome. No real reason, just personal preference I guess.

  • W1LL

    Chrome for general browsing, Firefox for development, all others for testing.

  • Bradley

    Firefox used to be my default and goto browser. Lately, I have been mainly using Chrome. Firefox and Firebug are hard to beat for development though, so I still use Firefox a lot for that.

    I have all the major browsers installed, but almost never use the others.

  • Robbie

    I use a mix of Firefox, Chrome and IE8

    I need IE8 for MS apps like Dynamics CRM (which don’t work in anything but IE), then i use firefox as my default Visual studio testing browser and finally i use Chrome as my personal browser for stuff like private email (gmail) and anything else i need.

    I would use chrome as my testing browser except that i often find with somesites chrome still doesn’t work as well as firefox does.

  • SL

    I went medieval on browser privacy the other day. I was idly browsing for a new laptop and then visited a completely different site and all the Google ads were for laptops deal. Coincidence? I doubt it, I bet Google (or the site) was grabbing my browser history. I heard that Amazon was busted a few years ago for browsing user history and dropping prices if they had been to a competitors site.

    Now, except for trusted sites, I’m blocking all cookies and browsing in a Chrome Incognito window.

    But to answer the original question, I have FF, Chrome, and W3M installed. As little as possible, I boot into Windows and test on IE5 (or find a friend with a later version of IE installed).

    • Rjl

      SL what you had happen to you is called ad re-targeting.

      Just Google it because it will not be a common practice, visit Newegg for computer parts and check out the latest in Lindsey Lohan on TMZ and you will see the newegg ads on TMZ.

      Welcome to how advertising now is.

      Do not like it ? Then turn off your computer, turn off your TV, do not listen to the radio, do not read a magazine because all of those are around because of selling ads.

  • Andrea

    I get comfortable with my toolbar bookmarks and menu options, so right now it’s Firefox.

    Am not opposed to Google chrome, though.

    Hate safari and IE.

  • UNixThis!

    I am wedded to a browser as closely as I am wedded to an OS … NOT! I have six machines and two mobiles, and I don’t have the same OS on any of them. I often have at least two browsers open. My only caveat to my “all inclusiveness” is that I avoid IE like the plague. I find that it is a necessary evil on rare occasions. But as a rule, I don’t use IE unless I absolutely have to. I would uninstall it from my Win OS’s were it not for the occasional necessity.
    I also avoid Chrome due to its tendency to data mine and phone home. I have found that a good substitute without these intrusive flaws is Iron or Iron Portable.
    And now that I’ve mentioned “Portable”, on Win systems I try to use portable browsers (and portable applications of all types, for that matter) whenever possible.
    Very good article.

  • Tom

    I tend to use either firefox (with firebug) or chrome and then any other browser as a go to for testing. Chrome does have an extension called web developer which is also pretty handy.

    • Jay

      The Chrome web developer extension is incredibly difficult to use compared to Firefox, and even to Safari. Firefox wins for web dev.

  • WebKarnage

    I use Safari for main browsing (most resource efficient by miles) and others while testing. Safari just makes sure my battery lasts longer when my laptop isn’t attached to it’s PSU than the other options, as well as completing page loads stupidly quickly. I use Parallels to get my Mac to run various browsers on Windows while developing too.

  • CarlThress

    I have five browsers installed on my machine (Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari, IE) and use all of them for testing. For regular day-to-day surfing, though, I prefer Chrome, because of its size, speed, and interface. I hope IE9 supports HTML5 and CSS3 better than its predecessors, but I’m not holding my breath.

  • I login to Facebook with two different accounts in two different browsers at a time when I need to.

  • mathieuf

    Opera is my default for most browsing. I have used it for years because of its speed and leading features and standards support. Firefox + Add-ons is great for a lot of development, as it and IE are standards for my workplace (I also use Opera Dragonfly for development). I find it useful to separate my collections of bookmarks between Firefox and Opera, and I use them for different tasks.

  • u.m.

    • Opera: This is my default browser, when I’m working on a site, I test it on Opera first, if it works, there’s a huge chance it will work on other browsers as expected.

    • Safari: I use it every time Opera fails to load a site, and to check my secondary gmail account.

    • Firefox: I use it when I’m testing sites, just to check it works on FF. I also use tamper data to mess with certain poor coded game sites that break easily. (I hate FF’s GUI)

    • Chrome: I just don’t use it. I don’t like it creates a separate process for each tab.

    • IE6: I hate it with my heart and soul, but oh-crap! There are a lot of people still using this sh*t, and like it or not, your sites need to work for them or your site will die. I use it on a virtual machine, for testing purposes only.

    • IE7-8: I hate it, but it displays xml nicely, I use it just for that.

    • Flock: I use it to check one of my client’s facebook/twitter accounts.

  • I’m a firefox user but as a developer I keep switching from browser to browser. For personal use (and preference) I usually jump from firefox to Opera, specially with the internet is slow (turbo option)

  • For work I use:
    FF, Chrome, Safari, Opera on Mac
    IE6/7/8, FF on Windows XP (VirtualBox)
    IE8, FF on Windows 7 (VirtualBox)
    IE8, FF on Windows Vista (Laptop)

    For general browsing I’ll use FF on whatever I’m in front of or Opera on the iPhone.

  • Akram Abbas

    Interesting topic :)

    I do have all the modern popular. But my default browser is Opera. Because as you said, it is fast etc. I use Firefox for web development and debugging etc. My case is totally as you, but mine default browser is Opera. I use Chrome and Safari only because of their better support of CSS3.
    Believe me, I can’t ignore Opera. It is really the fastest browser.

    Thanks :)
    Akram Abbas
    Web Developer

  • Firefox was my default browser for years until recently. I tried Chrome out a couple years ago and liked it, but it didn’t have any of the extensions that Firefox does.
    Lately, Firefox has become very sluggish for me and will time out on pages while they are loading. This leads to new browser windows with those pages suddenly opening – which annoys me.
    I decided to try Chromium. It seems there’s a new build of it every week and each version gets faster and faster. I don’t even have to install it, just copy over the last folder.
    Anyway, I found the developer tools in Chromium to be better than Firebug for most features, and there’s a Firebug lite bookmarklet for anything else I need. Once I installed the SEO bookmarklet for Chrome – it’s become the standard browser I use.
    I haven’t had to go back to Firefox in a few days.

  • On Windows I use Opera for email, feeds and certain tabs I keep open all the time and Firefox for development and general browsing.

    On Mac it’s nearly the same except that I use Safari for general browsing.

  • Michel Merlin

    Deceptive Q/A as standard

    Since Chrome reached version 5, I stopped using Safari (that I still update however). I had uninstalled Firefox in Jun 2009, and IE7 twice (in 2006 and 2007). So I am using now just 2 browsers, Chrome 6 (default) and IE6 (the best browser ever made, no matter what marketo mantras are launched by MS warlords and spread by other “independent” gurus).

    I am using NO OTHER PC than my Feb 2006 laptop (Pentium M760 Dothan 2.00GHz, 2.00 GB, Windows XP Pro Multilingual).

    So, to this “Do you regularly use more than one ‘default’ browser?” question, my reply was duly “No – I use just one“.

    Of course some will (advertently or not) omit the “default” in the question, and vote that they are using more than 2 defaults, or read that I use only one browser. So be it, an unbiased “survey” or “poll” is as rare as a cheap horse.

    Versailles, Thu 09 Sep 2010 09:35:00 +0200

  • Sid

    This is also the case with me .. Everything you do i do .. :P .. Thnx for the post i never noticed this stuff so deeply .. :D


    On my Mac, I have installed Safari, Chrome, Opera, and Firefox. I use them all for testing, but day-to-day surfing I use Chrome. I use Safari for features that Chrome can’t do, like background printing. So, in answer to your question, Yes, I have a default browser: Chrome.

    On my Windows XP (Virtual) I have IE 8 installed, as well as IETester to test for IE6/7. I hate IE6 with every being of my soul, and the quicker that browser dies, the better.

  • Silver Firefly

    I have IE, Safari, Firefox, Opera and Chrome installed. My main browser is Chrome, and Firefox when Chrome becomes corrupted and stops working.

  • Opera’s my default for general browsing and first pass development (build in Opera then test in the others… works for me). I occasionally need to open something in Firefox or Chrome if it’s blocking Opera, but that’s pretty rare these days.

    Firefox is pretty much a vehicle for Firebug for debugging; and all the other browsers are basically just there for testing.

  • I use Firefox almost exclusively, but use the main five for testing everything.

    I now tell my web app clients that I will not spend even one millisecond trying to get something to work in IE 6 or older! That worthless piece of **** is on my deprecated list forever! Oddly enough, there are still people using it as their organization’s default browser!

    IE 7/8 are better, but still amazingly wierd. For instance, it really doesn’t matter how many times you click, “Don’t show this dialog any more” — it’s going to show the dialog forever! I’m writing this in IE 8; no built-in spell-checker!

    I’m hoping IE 9 is an actual web browser, but I don’t really hold out much hope for that. Microsoft seems to be in it’s own head too much to actually build a browser that is standards compliant and that works with what is in the market today. Where is HTML 5 for IE? You guessed it… nowhere!

    • I know what you mean about IE6. I’m actually building two sites this quarter that might not work in IE6. I mean they will work as far as loading pages and putting information where it needs to be but we’re pushing the boundaries with some of the visual subtleties and depending on how IE6 reacts, I might just use a conditional stylesheet to turn those areas off if they don’t behave.

      This is a first for me because I’ve always tried to support the 5% or 10% who are still using IE6 but when it comes down to it, there’s a reason why browsers have been updated over the last 10 years…. And one of the reasons (other than security) is so that they can keep up with the cutting edge UI techniques that our clients desire.

    • Michel Merlin

      Have you really tried Chrome? On my PC, Chrome6 is a lot better than FF, that I uninstalled after 3.0.7.
      Versailles, Fri 10 Sep 2010 17:19:00 +0200

  • Sphamandla

    Well i myself sometimes use the closest to the cursor but generally i became a fire-fox lover migrating from chrome of course,i use opera for local-host development at times and that about it and a very rare browser found in ubuntu called konqueror which i sometimes use as an alternative



  • JHig310336

    Default Browser: Chrome
    Back up Brower: IE

    Chrome only because I have a load of Google Extentions install and most I can’t find in other browsers. The one thing I hate about Chromes is how each tab creates a new process. I usually have upwards to 15 tabs open and when I open Task Manager, I see 15+ Chrome processes.

    I use IE as the back up for Chrome. There are many websites that don’t work with Chrome, IE solves that problem for me. In addition, IE works better with Proxy.

    Opera and Firefox is installed. I like Opera, it was my first browser away from IE. I’ve used Opera for 10+ years but when Google released Chrome, I had to let Opera go. A lot of websites do not work with Opera. Decent extension are not available. I’ve tried Firefox and I just don’t like it. Firefox is not fast and seems a bit heavy. Out of all the browsers installed on my notebook, Firefox is the most resource intensive. I have yet to understand peoples appeal with this browser.

  • Sony

    I am a web developer.I use Firefox & IE8 @ work and Opera & Chrome @ Home.

  • Arkh

    Firefox with noscript. Until Opera or Chrome implements something to enable the installation of noscript, they won’t ever be my default browser.

  • davidcroda

    Firefox ONLY when I need firebug.

    Otherwise Chrome. Sub-second load times are hard to beat.

  • Tracey Anne

    I’m definitely a browser whore, LOL
    I’m a web builder/developer so I installed a bunch of browsers for testing and I find they each have different strengths.
    I use IE 8 as my default browser for general work related stuff and research (company website, intranet, Google etc).
    I use Chrome for personal use (Gmail works best in Chrome)
    I prefer Safari for testing and development (love the web developer tools).
    I usually only use Firefox for extended testing (yay Firebug) but at the moment I use it constantly for a project in Umbraco.
    So I have four browsers open all day every day and I switch between them and I love ’em all! :)