Users of Linux have many choices when it comes to web browsers. Among the top choices are Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome, along with the closely related Chromium browser. In this guide, we’ll go over a comparison of the three browsers, with the goal of allowing you to make an informed decision about which browser you should use.
This guide will include a basic review of the browsers, highlights on their features and differences, history, pros and cons, etc. Keep reading to learn more and find out which one works best for you.
In this tutorial you will learn:
- Web browsers on Linux
- Firefox vs. Chrome/Chromium
- Which browser should I use?
|Category||Requirements, Conventions or Software Version Used|
|System||Any Linux distro|
|Software||Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Chromium|
|Other||Privileged access to your Linux system as root or via the
# – requires given linux commands to be executed with root privileges either directly as a root user or by use of
$ – requires given linux commands to be executed as a regular non-privileged user
Web Browsers on Linux
Before diving in, it’s important to understand a few key points about Linux. Many Linux distros and, to a larger extent, the Linux community in general are big advocates for free and open source software. This is what draws many to Linux in the first place.
Due to this reason, you’re likely to find Firefox as a default browser on a great deal of distros. For example, Ubuntu, a longstanding popular Linux distro, has Firefox installed by default on its main ISO download.
Why Firefox? It’s open source. Sure, there are claims that it runs better than other browsers (opposite claims are also equally common), but what it comes down to is that Firefox is open source and, as a result, seen as trustworthy. That goes really far in the Linux community. Chromium is also open source, but it was started by Google and never gained quite the same traction as Firefox. It’s still included on a fair amount of distros as the default browser, too.
Then there’s Google Chrome, which is currently the most used browser in the world. Chrome is based on Chromium, with proprietary and closed source additions added by Google. “Proprietary” and “closed source” are largely bad words in the Linux world, and I’d attribute this to Chrome’s lack of adoption as a default browser on most distros, even though it has enjoyed widespread popularity on other operating systems.
All three browsers are available for installation on Linux, and if not included by default, can be installed via a distro’s package manager or direct download. Before deciding which one is best for you, let’s dive a little deeper.
As we’ve discussed, Firefox is an easy choice for Linux because of it being open source. It also isn’t associated with Google, a company notorious for spying on its users. This is usually reason enough, but let’s not forget that it’s still a full-fledged web browser like its competitor.
Firefox goes toe to toe with Chrome in any category – speed, features, compatibility, and whatever buzzword you can name. It receives constant updates and has a rich catalog of add-ons that allow you to extend its capabilities. This makes it easy to protect your privacy in Firefox.
When it comes to browsing experience, you’re not going to see much of a difference. The menus look different from Chrome, but everything mostly functions the same. The one thing you may notice is that Firefox won’t integrate with your Google account the way that Chrome does. You may find this inconvenient if you’re heavily invested in the Google ecosystem already.
Firefox is commonly included as a default browser on Linux systems, or readily available in its official repositories. This makes it easy to use Firefox on any Linux distro.
Chrome is a good browser, too. After all, it’s not included by default on Windows or nearly any Linux distro, yet enough people seek it out manually that it remains the most popular, so there must be a reason for it. Chrome’s big thing is convenience. Google takes Chromium, which is already a decent browser, and adds support for proprietary media formats like AAC, H.264, and MP3. It also adds automatic updates and integration with its Google branded products.
Many users will see these “features” as convenience, but some will argue that Google pushes you towards its other products in an attempt to monopolize. For end-users, it’s sometimes easier to just install the more convenient browser and forget about the larger implications. But Linux users, and certainly developers, are usually more mindful.
If you enjoy the conveniences of Chrome and use Gmail, YouTube, Drive, Docs, etc. on a very frequent basis, then I’d suggest you stick with Chrome. Chrome may have to be manually downloaded on most Linux distros, as its closed source nature precludes it from being in official repositories. Apart from this hurdle, it works perfectly fine on Linux.
Essentially, Chromium is just Chrome without the extra stuff that was added by Google. It’s open source and even included as the default browser on some distros. If not, it’ll be in the official repositories and only a short command away from installation.
Chromium is nice because you get Chrome’s performance in an open source package. But it doesn’t include support for proprietary codecs like H.264 and AAC. So, basically you’re using an open source, Chrome-like browser at the cost of minor inconveniences. For this reason, I’d recommend using Firefox over Chromium.
Which Browser Should I Use?
It’s tough to give an objective answer to this question, but let’s try anyway.
Use Mozilla Firefox if you want an open source, free browser that’s speedy and feature-rich.
Use Google Chrome if you want a convenient browser and don’t mind closed source, Google’s reputation for (lack of) privacy, and if you are already invested in Google’s ecosystem.
Use Chromium if you want an open source browser but don’t like Firefox for some reason.
In the end, the choice is yours and you should give each one a try before committing to a single browser. If in doubt, Firefox is a safe choice, hence its inclusion as the default browser on many Linux systems.
In this guide, we saw a comparison of Mozilla Firefox vs. Google Chrome/Chromium in the context of Linux. All the browsers bring something to the table, and deciding which to use will ultimately come down to personal preference and your own views on open or closed source software.