Web Browsers

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BROWSERS AND SEARCH ENGINES ARE DIFFERENT THINGS

A search engine is a website that keeps an index of other websites, which you can then use to look up (or "Google") those websites. A web browser is the program running on your computer that loads HTML, CSS, and JavaScript (and sometimes Flash and PHP) to make human-readable and interactive websites.

To make it simple: google.com is a search engine. Google Chrome is a web browser.

Now that we've cleared that up, let's talk about search engines. Search engines are the main way people interact with the Internet ("surfing the web") nowadays, and especially because most people use Google Chrome with Google search, the distinction between a web browser and a search engine has been lost to many people. I don't have any evidence to back this up other than the existence of articles like these.

Here's how to change your search engine on Chrome and Chromium-based browsers like Microsoft Edge and Brave

Here's how to change your search engine on Firefox

Here's how to change your search engine on Safari

Now that you know how to change your search engine, which should you use? First of all, here are the ones you shouldn't:

The reason why you shouldn't use these search engines is very simple: their signature product is not their search engine. These search engines exist to collect information about your interests and activities so that they can develop an advertising profile about you, which is their actual signature product. If you don't have an issue with that, consider that the United States government has access to all of this information as per the PRISM program. Don't believe me? Safe to say, the danger that the advertising-surveillance industry poses to personal freedom is considerable.

The objective is to try to find a search engine that simply doesn't cultivate personalized search profiles. For most browsers this leaves a winner by default: DuckDuckGo. For those who still want access to Google's search results without their privacy being compromised, there is Startpage. For the tech-savvy, there is searx, which allows you to run your very own search engine.

In all honesty, none of these choices are truly perfect. But being 90% anonymized is better than being 0% anonymized, and now that your search engine is more private and secure, it's time to move onto your web browser.

Web Browsers

You're probably using Google Chrome, like 70% of all Internet users. If so, even if you stop using Google search, you're still using literal spyware:

Even if you don't care about all that, Chrome is just bad.

The Alternatives

Brave

Brave is a Chromium-based browser that offers ad-blocking, fingerprinting protection, and automatic HTTPS upgrades out of the box along with a built-in torrent client and some other quality-of-life and privacy features. In my opinion, this is the best browser for a Google Chrome user who wants more privacy and security without much change in user experience. However, it's worth noting that Brave's flagship "feature" (gimmick), Brave Rewards, allows users to opt-in to receiving Brave-sponsored ads in exchange for payments in a cryptocurrency called BAT. Because Brave is cultivating its own advertising network, along with some suspicious behavior from the company, many privacy-minded people are skeptical of it. As I've said before I think it's the best choice for someone switching from Chrome, but I don't see much reason to use it if you're already using Firefox.

Firefox

Firefox is the only major web browser not based on Chrome/Safari, and is the default on most GNU/Linux distributions. In my opinion, Firefox offers the best balance of convenience and privacy compared to other browsers. Because of its use as the basis for the Tor Browser, Firefox offers many privacy features that Chrome-based browsers lack entirely. Firefox also offers automatic HTTPS upgrades, though not by default like Brave. All Firefox users should go to to create a profile with good privacy defaults, although in my experience it's better to install add-ons directly from Mozilla than from ffprofile.

Firefox is also used as the basis for Parabola's web browser Iceweasel and the GNU Project's IceCat.

Pale Moon

Pale Moon is a now-independent Firefox fork that strives to provide a browsing experience focused on customization, as well as maintaining support for legacy Firefox extensions and Flash Player. The developers of Pale Moon have created their own browser engine, Goanna, and continue development for Mozilla's "obselete" XUL platform. These technologies form the Unified XUL Platform (UXP), for which the developers created Basilisk as a reference implementation. In spite of its cult following, Pale Moon is slightly controversial, almost entirely due to its creator's eccentric and at times irrational behavior. I don't recommend Pale Moon to the average user because its design philosophy is intentionally divergent from other modern browsers, and most people find that it feels outdated or unintuitive.

Basilisk and UXP are used as the basis for Hyperbola's web browser Iceweasel-UXP.

Tor Browser

IF YOU USE TOR, DON'T INSTALL ANY ADD-ONS OR TORRENT. DON'T EVEN CHANGE THE WINDOW SIZE.

With the gradual increase of surveillance on the Internet, using the Tor Browser and abstaining from centralized clearnet services will eventually be mandatory. If you think this is hyperbole, maybe you'll change your mind when your credit score is based on your browsing and purchase history. If you'd like to get a head start on browsing anonymously, try to use Tor instead of using "private" or "incognito" browsing modes. Brave has this feature by default, but I'd recommend just using the Tor Browser for anti-fingerprinting purposes.

The Three Essential Add-ons

uBlock Origin

Decentraleyes

SponsorBlock


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