17 January 2020
Switching web browser is often overlooked by Mac users as Safari comes pre-loaded.
But in this day and age, where privacy and security are so highly valued, choosing a browser geared towards keeping your personal data safe and secure is as important as having antivirus software installed.
So, which is the most private browser for Mac? The most secure? Most customizable?
Let’s find out.
In this article, you’ll learn:
Fast, feature-laden and customizable, Vivaldi for Mac is a terrific web browser.
It’s laser-focused on providing a unique user experience, so much so that during the initial setup process, you have the opportunity to decide the theme, layout, tab and address bar placement, and so much more.
And when you’re syncing browser data between devices, everything is sent using end-to-end encryption for further peace of mind.
Like Vivaldi, Opera is another popular alternative to Chrome.
It’s also built on Google’s Chromium browser engine and shares a number of key characteristics with Google’s browser. The user experience is very similar, and Opera is just as quick, light, and easy-to-use.
Where Opera differs is the built-in features. It values user experience, privacy and security right out of the box, with its own ad blocker, free VPN, crypto wallet, unit converter, and more.
It prioritises speed and performance while making sure you remain safe as you browse. Opera’s secure browser protects you from fraud and malware and minimises online tracking.
Chrome is everywhere, so it’s little wonder that it stands alone as the most popular browser on the planet.
At last count, it took 64.3% of the worldwide browser market share, making it four times as popular as Safari.
And there are a few good reasons why it’s so commonly used. The feature set is robust, with options geared towards productivity, security, and convenience, while its built-in tools help you answer questions faster and more accurately.
It’s also the gold standard when it comes to syncing. Simply log into your Google account and have all of your preferences, bookmarks and data at your fingertips, from Macbook to iPhone to iPad.
Apple’s default browser may not have the popularity of Chrome, or indeed the speed, but that doesn’t mean Safari isn’t worth considering.
If you’re a fully-fledged Apple fan, you’ll appreciate the level of integration with macOS and iCloud, with the ability to sync across all of your devices. And thanks to some Mac-specific optimizations, you’ll also enjoy a far greater battery life when compared to some other, CPU-hungry browsers.
Safari has been built to maintain your privacy, keep you secure, and make sure your browsing habits remain your business and no-one else’s.
Features include: intelligent tracking prevention; fingerprinting defence; protection from harmful sites; and private browsing. There’s even DuckDuckGo (a search engine that does not track its users) built-in for a handy Google alternative.
Firefox was, for the longest time, everyone’s go-to second choice web browser. But credit must go to Mozilla for taking such huge steps in recent times to transform Firefox into the quintessential modern browser.
Bursting with features, Firefox covers all the bases, from data synchronisation to ad tracker blocking, password management and balanced memory usage.
Brave by name, brave by nature. This web browser has taken the unusual step in blocking ads by default, which makes everything super fast (3x to 6x faster, according to Brave’s head-to-head test with Chrome).
It also makes switching browser a cinch thanks to its import option. During the welcome stage, you can import all of your settings and bookmarks from your old browser, so you can pick up from where you left off.
Secure browsing is prioritized, with phishing and malware consistently blocked, and dodgy plugins disabled from the outset.
And then there’s the cherry on top: There’s absolutely no user tracking; Brave’s servers don’t see or store your browsing data.
1. Tor Browser
Given that online privacy is such a hot button topic, it’s little surprise that the Tor Browser has come out on top.
This particular browser serves one purpose: to connect users to Tor (short for The Onion Router). Tor is a software and open network designed to make tracking someone’s browsing habits extremely difficult by routing traffic through a number of anonymous servers.
Essentially, it wraps your data in layers of encryption, like the layers of an onion.
Although Tor has a reputation for providing access to the dark web, there are a number of legitimate reasons why you might use it.
Journalists and activists have been known to use Tor to avoid detection while researching stories or spreading their message, while it also allows citizens of countries with repressive regimes to get around strict censorship laws.
While speed and performance are important considerations when choosing a web browser for Mac, there are a few others that rank much higher. Namely, compatibility & usability, and security.
Safari comes pre-installed on your Mac, but you might find that there are certain websites, forms, or services that just don’t work as intended on Apple’s browser.
Sometimes developers test more extensively on competing browsers, and so, for the best experience, you may have to switch.
Likewise, if you are required to use a particular browser in work, and you need to work from home, using the same browser on your personal computer will allow you to sync your work history and bookmarks.
Every time you log onto the internet, the most significant security risk you’ll face is your web browser of choice. After all, it’s the gateway to the web.
Its primary function is to download and execute code from the Internet, and if the necessary security measures are lacking, harmful software could make its way onto your device.
We’ll cover safe browsing techniques later in the article (and look at the safest browser for Mac), but the best thing you can do when browsing online is to be mindful of misleading links and requests to download and install software. More often than not, this will result in malware infection.
And if you’re using a web browser that’s renowned for its web extensions (such as Chrome or Firefox) take extra care when enabling them.
Scrutinize the permissions you’re being asked to grant, and if something doesn’t appear right (like a spellchecker asking for camera access), disable and uninstall the extension.
Privacy and security are often lumped together when discussing the benefits of web browsers. But while they are related - and do overlap in certain areas - they aren’t the same thing.
So, before we get to our reviews of the best browsers for Mac, let’s quickly clarify the difference:
Think of privacy like the shutters on your windows. You can control how much or how little the outside world gets to see of the inside of your home.
And that makes security the lock on your door, preventing the outside world from gaining access to your home.
It has never been more important to select the right browser where online security is concerned.
Let’s talk numbers.
Here are some of the most common online threats that you need to know about:
You can take steps to protect yourself from the threats outlined above by doing the following:
Like most Mac-related decisions, selecting your web browser will come down to personal preference.
Do you value the ability to customise the look and layout? Vivaldi and Firefox are great options.
Do you want faster, ad-free browsing? Then it’s Brave for you.
Does privacy and security matter? Try Tor.
Or is it all about syncing data across multiple devices? You can’t go wrong with Safari or Chrome.
Whichever you choose, just remember, a web browser is only one part of staying secure online. For further protection, check out our list of Mac antivirus software to keep you safe while you surf.
Head of Community at MacUpdate
Marta Turnbull is a MacUpdate OG and has written about technology, marketing and brand creativity for over 10 years. She splits her time between Michigan and Ukraine.