Mobile web browsers: a much more focused chaos

A little while ago, I droned on about web browsers. I focused on desktop software, because that’s where my mind was at the time.

Frankly it still is. But that’s not what I want to write about today.

No, I was thinking earlier about mobile browsers and why I don’t suffer the same analysis paralysis on my phone or tablet.

Before we look at the contenders, let me say one thing. I don’t like using a lot of apps on my phone. I prefer to use the web browsers instead. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but I’d prefer not to have dozens of separate programs running if I can just hit the web and access things with my existing accounts.

Facebook messaging in particular is a bug-a-boo. Most browsers won’t let you access FB messenger through their usual mobile web page. If you try to access it, it’ll bounce you to the Android app store. The program is too invasive and I don’t want to use it. That means that you either have to access the desktop site on a mobile screen (I hope you like really tiny text and having to zoom in all the time…) or use the really basic mobile site for non-smart phones (http://mbasic.facebook.com, if you’re curious).

Let’s start with the elephant in the room; Google Chrome. …it’s a non starter with me. You can’t add extensions to reduce or stop advertising. Google is interested in your information to sell your browsing data and preferences to advertisers. I’ve used it a little, but ads take up too much (of an already tiny) screen real estate and too much data when I’m away from my home wireless internet.

How about Firefox? I really, really, really want to like it. I like the message of Mozilla, that you can take back privacy. I love that I can install extensions to make my experience leaner (no ads) and more private. But the browser… isn’t… very… fast… or responsive. It plods along. I try to use it from time to time, but it’s not the best on my devices for casual browsing. It does boast a reader mode (for cutting out extra stimuli on pages) and the ability to send pages to other Firefox browsers on any device, if you’ve logged in with your Mozilla account. My single favorite option in a pool of awesome abilities. If we could just do something about that speed/responsiveness issue…

How about Firefox Focus, you ask (if you’re as obsessive about this kind of thing as I am…)? I’ll use it, if I don’t want to find my searches later or if I’m looking for something sensitive. However, switching between tabs is more difficult and I can’t open things in the background to look at them later. A useful tool, but not the multi-tool I use most.

Brave browser? It needs some time to mature. Some videos don’t load up at all. I can’t get into FB messenger without using the basic site either. It does, however, load pages very quickly and has a built-in ad blocker and privacy settings, so it’s still good. Just not AS good quite yet. I’m watching though.

What can I say about Opera and it’s five billion different mobile browsers? There’s the full-bodied Mobile, the sleek little Mini, Touch, which lets you share links across your machines, and probably others I’ve forgotten about…

The only one I stick with is Opera Mobile, because it’s got all of the options I need. There’s a built-in ad blocker, there are easy to use tabs, a speed dial, AND I can still access the FB messenger page without the bare bones mbasic page. I’m positively giddy! And I can see links across devices and sync my accounts/passwords/etc.

I’m anxiously awaiting Vivaldi’s mobile offering. Hopes for this software? Access to an app store, so I can add in an ad blocker. Access to FB messenger without one of my workarounds. Speed dial for frequently used pages. Sync. Fresh lemon or pine scent…

There are a plethora of other options out there, like UC Browser or Dolphin, but those don’t excite me. I like to be able to connect all of my accounts, browsing info, current pages, etc. across multiple devices (especially desktop!). Certainly nothing against them at all.

TLDR: Opera Mobile is easily my favorite but I occasionally cheat on it with Brave or Firefox. Vivaldi has an invitation to the party but hasn’t RSVPed yet.

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