Browser Reviews

I get to sound like one of those Youtubers that test out new products! Fun times. Let's get started.

The Situation

I wanted to test something other than the default browser, Firefox. Plus, I was kinda bored one evening and didn't want to start my homework.

GNOME Web/Epiphany

I started out by looking into GNOME Web (aka Epiphany), which is supposed to be lightweight and amazing. TL;DR: it wasn’t.

First off, install Epiphany by typing in the following commands (this is on Ubuntu):

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gnome3-team/gnome3
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install epiphany-browser



Overall, I wasn’t really a big fan (no pun intended, but the fans were running a bit too much). The main reason why I didn’t go with Epiphany was probably the weird hissing sounds my laptop started making. I cleaned up afterwards by getting rid of the repo and by uninstalling Epiphany.


I installed and used Chromium for the better part of 10 minutes. This (obviously) had the same look and feel as Chrome, but I still wasn’t a big fan of its RAM consumption. Also, privacy. I uninstalled Chromium and moved on with life. I had to recently install it, since it's pretty good with MS Teams.

Tor/Onion Browser

I heard about Tor through the DuckDuckGo newsletter (which gives the average human a pretty decent intro to privacy). I'd heard fairly good things about the Onion Browser, that it would give the user more privacy and that it was FOSS.

The UI's nearly identical to Firefox, since it's based off ESR version of Firefox. Yeah, I tried to make it my default browser, but I ran into one fundamental issue: it was far too slow for me. The performance drawback was a bit too much to bear, so I moved on. However, on my laptop, another annoyance was launching the application from an executable every time. There's probably a way to fix it; I tried running

./start-tor-browser.desktop --register-app
but that didn't add it to my launcher (dmenu).

Update: on Arch, there's an app and it works quite well! I use Tor now pretty frequently. It's a bit annoying with certain sites, like YouTube, because your request might get flagged as suspicious (probably because there are so many requests coming from the same exit node). My university (UT Austin) uses Duo for MFA, which doesn't work on Tor at all; the request times out every time. Additionally, I can't query anything in the university's library catalog, so I can't use Tor for pretty much anything university-related (yikes). Other sites, like Quora, return a 403 Forbiden error. Most other sites are fine, and at some point in time I might consider running my own relay, and/or hosting tis site as a .onion site as well.

I wasn't sure that the program was exiting correctly, since when I quit the application, the command prompt would not return on its own. On Arch, I'm no longer experiencing this issue. On my phone (iPhone), I don't really Onion like Browser, which uses Tor routing. It's pretty decent, albeit slow. Quoting the Tor website, "Apple requires browsers on iOS to use something called Webkit, which prevents Onion Browser from having the same privacy protections as Tor Browser."

Perhaps privacy is the price I pay for my impatience.


I installed Opera using the Ubuntu Software app, and not through command line.



It also gives you an option to enable VPN:
  1. Go to SettingsAdvanced and double click Advanced
  2. Go to VPN and turn on Enable VPN
  3. Go to the top of the search bar; you’ll see the letters “VPN” in a light grey. Click on that, so that it becomes blue. This will let you pick the location.


I just realized that I've talked about different browsers compared to Firefox, but I've never really discussed what I love about Firefox.

I love how easy and intuitive it is to customize, as well as Mozilla being more privacy-focused compared to other companies. It's open source and ports well to different operating systems, which allows you to keep the same configuration between multiple devices. On that note, the sync feature is what I love the most - while I know my data has to be stored on the cloud for this to work, the ease of not having to email links to myself or Discord them to myself (between my phone, Mithrandir and Faramir), being able to send tabs to different devices and access my history is quite nice.

Update: as of September 2020, I'm back to Firefox. As of June 2021, I also have Chromium installed, since it's pretty good with MS Teams. As of September 2021, I've started using Tor again, at least on my laptop.