A Guide to the Best (and Worst) Linux Web Browsers

Picture of the Firefox logo and Chrome logo against a fire background

A web browser is not just a pretty face to access the web—all web browsers have different features and are either easier or harder to use to access pages, read content, stream videos, utilize add-ons, and more.

So, how do you pick the best browser to use in Linux? For most, the decision, of course, comes down to their own specific opinion, but there are a few that we highly recommend over others.

Chrome

Google Chrome is head and shoulders the best web browser on any platform. The web pages render 100% correctly and the tabbed interface is uncluttered and clean. Add to that the way it blends and works brilliantly with other Google tools like Google Docs, and there's really only one winner.

Other features that make Chrome the must have browser include the Flash plugin and the proprietary codecs.

Finally, the Chrome Web Store turns this browser into a desktop interface. Who even needs the underlying desktop environment anymore when you can run apps directly from Chrome? On top of that, the store has lots of free themes you can apply to Chrome to really customize it to your liking.

It's no surprise that the Chromebook has sold so well.

Firefox

There are so many great things to like about Firefox. Firstly—and probably the most important thing—is that Firefox has always adhered to the W3C standards. This means that every website always renders 100% correctly. If it doesn't, you can blame the web page developer.

The other major feature that sets Firefox apart from most other browsers is the large library of add-ons that are available. If you're a web developer many of these add-ons are invaluable. Or, maybe you're just fed up with ads, in which case you can use one of the many ad-blocking apps.

Firefox is destined to always be the bridesmaid and never the bride. Previously it was battling it out with Internet Explorer for market share and just as it looked like it was beginning to win the battle, a new player came onto the scene.

Opera

Another browser great for Linux is Opera. In one word, Opera is very much "integrated." It has a sleek sidebar design that immediately sets it apart from the others on this page. That menu makes Opera not only unique but very usable.

The menu in Opera makes it so simple to access Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Telegram, news, bookmarks, and an awesome Instant Search tool for accessing the web or searching through your open tabs in an entirely separate pop-up window.

Like most great browsers, Opera makes it easy to use the browser without a mouse, through lots and lots of customizable shortcuts.

Chromium

Chromium (it's not technically the same as Chrome) is the open source project that forms the basis for Google's Chrome browser. You'll find that there's a split between a host of distributions as to whether they ship with Firefox as the default web browser or Chromium.

Google has bundled various proprietary add-ons that can be included with Chromium such as HTML5 video codecs, MP3 support, and, of course, a Flash plugin.

Chromium renders every web page as well as Google's Chrome browser and you can access the Chrome app store and use most of the features of Chrome.

If you wish to use Flash, you have to install a Flash plugin that works for Chromium and Firefox on Linux.

Iceweasel

Iceweasel is an unbranded version of the Firefox web browser. Why bother using Iceweasel over Firefox? Why does it even exist?

Iceweasel is basically a re-compiled version of the Extended Support Release of Firefox, and whilst it receives security updates, it doesn't get other feature updates until they have been well tested. This provides a more stable overall browser and ultimately allowed Debian to compile Firefox and make it their own without getting into trademark issues with Mozilla.

If you've installed a distribution and it came with Iceweasel pre-installed, there isn't a huge amount of benefit in installing Firefox unless you require a newer feature that hasn't been released for Iceweasel yet.

What Not to Use

If you're using the KDE distribution then you will have a web browser called Konqueror installed by default, and you're probably wondering whether you need to bother installing another one.

In my opinion: yes, there is a reason to get a different browser. Konqueror has some nice unique features such as split windows and features that you would expect such as tabbed windows and bookmarks.

However, one of the most relevant tests of a browser is how well it renders pages, which is where Konqueror falls short. After testing 10 websites, I found that 90% of them failed to load properly, and it's questionable as to whether the last one really did.

Konqueror developers might recommend tweaking some settings to make the pages look better, but why bother when there are browsers that work right out of the box and have better interfaces and better features.