WHICH BROWSER IS THE BEST? (WIP: Have some sections left to finish)

Introduction and a Disclaimer

Most computing these days tends to be done on the internet, within the browser. What for? Basically, almost everything. Originally the Web was nothing more than a few documents but that time has changed quite heavily. These days it's almost impossible to go without running intensive web apps. These all take the place of native apps. Whlie internet connectivity and function is nice, reliance is not. The browser is basically becoming its own OS, which can be seen in ChromeOS devices - it quite literally is the whole OS. Unsurprisingly, however, its generally less productive. Why so? Because simply put, Javascript is not meant to do everything. It is not meant to literally replace the OS. As a result, it tends to be slower and much harder to work with. (more on JS problems soon)

Even worse, browsers are basically a duopoly. Google controls an extremely large amount of the market with Chromium, which uses the Blink HTML rendering engine and the V8 JavaScript engine. Mozilla is the only other competitor, with Firefox running Gecko for HTML/CSS & SpiderMonkey for JS. However, as we know, Mozilla is just controlled opposition at best. Firefox has become more and more like Chromium in its features over the years and alongside Mozilla's history and Firefox's waning popularity (good riddance imo), it is basically a monopoly. Google thus commands the complete design of the web - whatever Chromium implements is what the user sees, and nothing more. Firefox would likely not dare to implement anything else anyways. As a result, the Internet is basically Google's bitch.

This can be seen in EME - Encrypted Media Extensions. It's a form of DRM that many notable streaming sites use, most notably Netflix. Unfortunately, the only programs for it are proprietary. As a result, browser developers have to pay to be able to stream Netflix. See the control here? As seen in this article, open source browsers are kicked to the curb. Either run Google's spyware or lose out on a ton of services.

And what is the result of this? The Internet has become a pretty bad place. JavaScript frameworks are everywhere now and are making a good amount of the internet basically inaccessible without the latest hardware. It's even creeping its way into the Linux desktop! What's wrong with this? Simply put, converting JS to C and then C to assembly is definitely a performance drag - there's a reason GNOME is known as the heaviest Linux desktop around. And the tracking situation... it's virtually impossible to go on the internet and expect your right to privacy to be respected. Even with all the privacy addons avaiable installed it is still very easy to gather a unique fingerprint and track your data, no matter what you do. Not to mention that with JS, none of it can be modified and put under your control, on your end. At the most, you can enable and disable certain site's scripts, but that's it. Compare this to your local programs, particularly open ones with lots of customization - you basically can do whatever you want with them. Not to mention the performance - JS web apps are horrid with this from my experience. LibreOffice runs with less than half the RAM requried for Google Docs for me. Search engines like Google lock a person only into what they've already known and experienced. Not to mention the sheer censorship that has gone on through the web. There is no other way around it - the Internet is basically the opposite of an ideal computing space. It has become: (there's a lot to unpack here that I'll put into a list, wip)

With this all in mind, try to avoid using the browser for tasks if possible. You simply have no measure of control over them. Even a proprietary native app can still be controlled to an extent, but when it's all running on another server, you simply do not have power over it. (wip)

I would greatly appreciate any feedback you have. Whether it's tests to prove a claim, some new interesting link you found, or just your general opinion on a certain browser, I will absolutely read what you give me. That being said, please make your contributions meaningful and back them up with hard evidence. Make them actually quality - whatever that is will be left up to you, but do not send me meaningless rants or anything that is just objectively false. Very strong glare at the Firefox and Pale Moon lackeys here - no, I do not care that privacyfools.io recommended FF as "the only browser that will stand up to Google's evil Chromium!!!!" nor do I care that Pale Moon is the "only fast and independent browser!!!!" in your heavily biased opinion. Stop being a total shill and think for yourself.

It is also worth noting that I am just one person writing this who has only had his own experiences. I have tried to run all of these on various different systems but that does not mean that this will necessarily hold true for everyone. I've tried to test on various different platforms and OSes but I cannot cover everything. Do not complain to me about how x browser ran so much better/worse on your machine etc. Again, FF and Pale Moon fanboys beware.

That being said, if it run well for you and you like it, go for it! While this guide aims to help you get an idea of where things stand, your personal experience is the only truly good factor in the end. However, always be open minded and try new things! Trying every browser on this list is honestly not a bad idea. Even if it's not on this list, it's still worth looking at to see where it could go - Otter Browser, GNOME Web, Midori, QuteBrowser & NetSurf are all ones that have unique purposes and functionality. Remember: if you don't use one thing, you'll miss out on a little. But if you only ever use that one thing, you miss out on so much more. (this is not my quote, original was from an article about ddg as an alternative to google. if someone could find this i would be forever grateful, that quote is a huge reason why I'm here having tried all of these).

What Makes A Good Browser?

With the disclaimers out of the way, let's move on to what makes a browser good:

Most of these, however, come from extensions, which serve as mini-apps of sorts in the browser. Unfortunately, Google and Mozilla's effective monopoly (since remember Mozilla is Google's astroturf) means that it is almost impossible to make good use of an indie browser. I will only be reviewing browsers with strong extension support - if they support uMatrix and/or NoScript, they're good to go. If not, they genuinely do not have what it takes to stay private onthe modern web. They're still usable but absolutely not as a daily driver, and seeing that most are somewhat slower (either running on WebKit which I've found to be very slow) or their own engine (none of which I've found to be very good), indie browsers are just not a great choice.

Chromium-based Browsers

Google Chrome/Vanilla Chromium

Obviously not suitable. Completely dedicated towards spying on the users, and said data collection really slows it down. It also lacks much in the way of features or customization - the interface and functions you have are basically all you'll ever get. Absolutely hard avoid. Vanilla Chromium still harvests data I've heard and thus is to be avoided as well.

Iridium Browser

This is a rebuild of Chromium designed to be private. It does the job well, as seen here but it does make a connection to Google Safebrowsing (which is absolutely unnecessary with a bit of common sense and some extensions). It isn't updated very frequently - new releases are generally made every 6 months or so, with a notable exception in the last release, which was made 2 months after the latest release (except for Debian based systems unfortunately as their Debian dev quit, if you're interested in compiling it and you have a machine powerful enough to handle it please do look into it!). Without all the data collection, it is faster than Chrome but still not as fast as the next entry in Ungoogled Chromium. In general Iridium isn't updated as frequently - only the RPM and proprietary duo tend to be. Arch converts the RPM to something usable, but for Ubuntu or Debian you need to do this manually with the following steps:

Obviously doing this is not pleasant. Either way, its not updated frequently and only includes patches to get rid of Google connections and not even all of them. It doesn't do much else. As a result, it's not as good as Ungoogled Chromium, which has security & anti-fingerprinting patches as well as being updated more frequently. Only use Iridium if you absolutely have to and frankly even then I have trouble recommending it as an overall browser compareed to Brave - although privacy wise it si better it lags behind in literally every other field. This is the browser equivalent of using GTK 2 because you dislike GTK 3 and don't know of any other toolkits out there.

Ungoogled Chromium

This is another rebuild of Chromium designed to be private. Unlike Iridium, it does not make the SafeBrowsing connection and it actually disables direct connections to the Chrome Web Store (though extensions can still be installed as normal, as we'll see). It is updated much more frequently than Iridium - it usually keeps to around the latest version of Chromium - and the speed difference is very noticeable. It also adds some security patches which is more than its competitor Iridium can say. As a result, it ends up being the best choice for a Chromium-based browser if you wnat to use one. This is my daily driver right now and it's worked quit well for me. Unfortunately, however, it still keeps Chrome's lack of functionality and customization. It also is out of date on certain platforms.

Regarding extensions, the easiest way to do install them is:

With this, you can install extensions as normal. This is quite useful in Iridium as well, which doesn't allow updates for some reason (even though it allows directly installing from the Chrome Web Store).

Brave

A relatively new browser in the game, this browser has a built-in adblocker and other privacy enhancements. Does this add up to actual privacy, however? Not really. Since the spyware watchdog's article doesn't accurately paint the picture the way it should be, I'll go ahead and do it myself. On Brave's first run, it connects to brave.com which uses Matomo analytics. This claims to be "anonymous" but as this article will show you, anonymous data is not anonymous. It also auto-updates, which gives another chance to collect data, and for some reason, Brave refuses to allow disabling of this. Brave also enables Twitter and Facebook trackers by default to "enable functionality". Some functionality right there eh... Brave even has its own "anonymous" analytics! They collect the most random things possible like number of tabs/windows open and if you've used certain features. Granted, however, it is possible to opt-out and thus I don't hold this too heavily against them. That being said, it is very clear that they are not as private as Iridium and Ungoogled Chromium, and thus should not be used forthose purposes. The only other features it has are the famed Basic Attention Tokens, which are pretty nice (though they didn't work for me on mobile fsr, it just did not give me the tokens) and some speed improvements that are prettynice. Overall, Brave isn't a bad browser but its somewhat pointless - Iridium and Ungoogled Chromium are truly private and thus fit the purpose better. uBlock Origin, uMatrix/uBlock Origin and HTTPS Everywhere combined outclass Brave's shields by a good margin. I've used Brave portable back when my school didn't take security seriously as Brave from PortApps.io actually is truly portable (unlike many other portable apps, Iridium Browser included) and that alongside Psiphon carried me pretty well for the purposes. That in no way is an endorsement of Brave, however. Don't bother unless the BAT program appeals to you or you really need a secondary browser. Just use Ungoogled Chromium otherwise.

Opera

Opera is a unique case. Originally evolving as its own browser with its own engine, Opera switched to Chromium a while back and lost a large amount of its fans to another browser we'll cover here shortly. It lost even more when it was bought over by a Chinese investment firm. Since them, its tried to keep up with some new features, such as a built-in "VPN" (it's really just a proxy), ad blocker and battery-saving mode. Unfortunately, this has not made it worth the while. It is just as bad as Google Chrome privacy wise, and it fails to offer any real features or customization that extensions don't already do. uMatrix/uBlock Origin already take care of virtually every ad out there and the proxy is fully logged. There is genuinely no merit to using Opera. Funnily enough, however, it used to be a daily driver back hwen my high school didn't take security too seriously. I used the portable version with its proxy until I learned about Brave & Psiphon. This isn't to suggest that any of these are worthwhile choices in any scenario, however.

Vivaldi

The other browser I mentioned in Opera's case is Vivaldi, founded by the former CEO of Opera after being disgruntled by the switch to Chromium. Vivaldi is an interesting case. It is by far the most customizable and functional browser here, being one of the very few browsers that allows for a full change in workflow with keyboard shortcuts, mouse gestures, actually being able to move the tabs where you want to, etc. alongside built-in functions & customizations such as a notes panel, a built-in ad blocker, fully customizable themes, CUSTOM NEW TAB PICTURES (which i haven't seen in any other browser!), the ability to actually schedule themes between light and dark, etc.. Very little of this can be found in any other browser at all and single-handedly brings Vivaldi into viability. The rest, however, isn't very good. Vivaldi's UI, while extremely functional and customizable, comes at the cost of speed - I found the browser to be relatively slow compared to most Chromium forks. Vivaldi also collects data on its users.Granted, it collects much less than most other browsers do to the point where just blocking it with a hosts file is genuinely within reason to do, but it's still not ideal. With all that, Vivaldi is actually a worthwhile choice for the sheer functionality and customization that it offers. It lags behind elsewise, however.

Summary

Chromium-based browsers don't tend to be great. Yes, they are pretty fast, but they severely lack in customization and functionality. Most aren't very private either. What do I recommend of them? The way I see it, Iridium Browser,Ungoogled Chromium, and Vivaldi are the best choices. I view Iridium Browser as an ESR-esque release of Ungoogled Chromium, which is more actively developed. I use both - Iridium Browser for work and Ungoogled Chromium for everything else. Vivaldi is also nice for its heavy customization, though it is a bit slow and it's not particularly private. I cannot recommend Brave, Opera or Chrome of course, as none of those are good at all.

Firefox-based Browsers

Mozilla Firefox

The namesake of these browsers. Firefox is shilled to complete and utter death by most guides online as the "alternative, private" browser to Google Chrome. That being said, though... it does not hold up, either as an alternative that actually fights for digital rights or a private browser by default. Granted, it can be configured to be private, as seen here but you have to do this with every single update. It's just not worth it - this browser spies just as much as Chrome does. Now, does the functionality andcustomization hold up? No, not really. It does have a few more features than Chromium by default - built-in proxy settings, built-in DNS over HTTPS (which imo a browser shouldn't need to touch and either way it defaults to Cloudflare,which is the literal opposite of private), etc. but generally it's not much more than Chromium. It also is somewhat slower from my tests. I guess its only real advantage is the greater number of themes that it has, which is not a greatdraw when you consider that GTK gives themes that work for both (and believe me, GTK themes are just as numerous as FF themes). Overall, Firefox is just not very good. Even if you make it private, the slower speed and lack of notable draws over Chromium make it a worse choice. This tends to hold true for all Firefox-based browsers.

Waterfox

Waterfox advertises itself as a more private and customizable alternative to Firefox. However, this just isn't the case. Waterfox is absolutely not private at all. It otherwise is, well, the exact same as Firefox in most ways - the UI is based off of Firefox's, and other than allowing the installation of old XUL addons (which doesn't really add much imo), there's really nothing of note. They were also bought by an advertising company, as seen here, and looking through the lead dev's reddit account, it is very clear that he could not care less about privacy at all. This is imo the worst of the Firefox-based browsers and definitely one of the worst browsers I'm reviewing. Avoid.

GNU IceCat

GNU IceCat is the FSF's rebrand of Firefox ESR, designed around their philosphies. As I've established, however, in this article, these philosophies are not necessarily a good thing. However, it does make GNU IceCat actually private by default, which is nice. That being said, it suffers from all of Firefox's other issues, including speed (which I haven't found to be much better than FF), functionality, customization, etc. That alongside the FSF's crimes make me hesitant to truly recommend it. It is a functional choice, however.

9/11/2020 edit: It's September 2020 and the official version is still 60.7. To give you an idea, Firefox just hit version 80.1 a week ago or so. There are some unofficial version 68 packages but that's still not acceptable. With that, and with LibreWolf's accessibility to almost all distros, I can no longer recommend GNU IceCat.

Tor Browser/SecBrowser

Putting both in the same section as they're effectively the same. Tor Browser is the official browser of the Tor Project, and is based off of Firefox ESR. That being said, it doesn't have to be used with Tor - you can turn Tor off in the torrc file. SecBrowser is Tor without Tor built in, though its only available for Debian based systems. Tor or not, this browser makes no phones home and otherwise is the exact same as Firefox ESR. At least Tor integration being built in makes this one better than GNU IceCat imo, but other than that it's really the same. 12/2/2020 UPDATE: At least it's more up to date than GNU IceCat is, I'd recommend using this and disabling Tor if you want (or not :D) over IceCat now.

LibreWolf

Just as Iridium Browser is the ESR of Ungoogled Chromium to me, GNU IceCat and Tor Browser are the two ESRs of LibreWolf! Similarly, Ungoogled Chromium and LibreWolf are community-developed, which make both much better - you can actually have a say in the way its developed. Better yet, it seems to actually be more than just Firefox with some configurations, unlike UC which is explicitly aimed to be just Chromium with some configurations - uBlock Origin is installed by default, there's an extension firewall so you can stop phoning home, etc.. Unfortunately, however, its development has been rocky and only recently restarted. This is no longer an issue now that packages are out but in the case that it does end up stopping development once more I can't recommend it anymore due to unreliability. However, the devs seem to genuinely be dedicated to keeping this up consistently so it's definitely a good choice as of now. 4/5/2020 UPDATE: And it's here! The flatpak and AppImage packages both run fine and are as private as they claim, though they do run DNS over HTTPS through Quad9 (which is run by several unsavoury groups most notably a big corpo in IBM and the Global Cyber Alliance, which is a group of police departments. 4/19/20 UPDATE: They got rid of this by default as per my issue on GitLab. 12/2/2020 UPDATE: There are reports on Gitlab and on UnixSheikh's blog that newer updates don't disable all the surveillance, which renders LibreWolf pointless. Do wait to see if this gets resolved, as it's a good browser with sane defaults, but if it doesn't then don't bother with it.

Summary

IMO the situation for Firefox-based browsers is notably worse than Chromium-based browsers - while the standard privacy-improving browsers are available, there are none that add actual functionality or customization and the up-to-date one has only recently become ready. Firefox in general tends to be slower, buggier and less secure while not adding enough functionality to really be worth it over Chromium. That and generally not standing up to Chromium's otherwise monopoly leads me to generally not recommend any Firefox-based browsers. If you really had to go with one, go for LibreWolf as the latest FF versions are much faster than the ESR releases. For LTS usage, GNU IceCat is likely the better choice as it requires no configuration (and it can still very easily use Tor, its more of an opt-in than the opt-out Tor Browser). If v68 is not out for your platform, however, Tor works fine.

Indie Browsers

Yes, I did note that there are very few indie browsers who can hold up. I also noted that I will not be reviewing browsers that do not support at least one of uMatrix and/or NoScript. 9/7/2020 EDIT: Fuck it, I'm gonna review whats out there regardless of support for uMatrix/NoScript, there are ways to disable JS without them. So long as I've used it I'll review it but I will note that it lacks those & thus is weaker for it. However, I will review the ones that do support these. Granted, the only one that I'm reviewing right now uses a fork of Firefox's engine (though the UI is completely original code). I was considering just putting it under Firefox but that UI is very notable and thus is worth giving its own section (and the engine is p different). GNOME Web will also be included here as soon as it supports extensions (spoiler alert though, I'm not giving it a shining review). So without further ado, here it is:

Pale Moon

This obscure browser is one of the most unique out there. It uses the Goanna engine, which takes Gecko and runs it in single process mode (which the developer claims improves performance and security), and also removes any new Rust code (which supposedly also improves performance and security). The UI is completely original and is honestly the second most customizable of any browser I'm reviewing, second only to Vivaldi. It is one of the very few that can have complete workflow changes, which is very nice. It unfortunately runs on Firefox's deprecated XUL addons. While these are quite a bit more powerful than the new WebExtensions, many notable extensions are missing - uMatrix was only ported relatively recently, the CAPTCHA Buster is not present at all, and Reddit Enhancement Suite is very outdated. Most of what one needs to stay private and functional is still there or has a replacement, hoewver. That being said, I have found Pale Moon personally to be relatively slow and unstable - it takes forever for me to boot up, tends to load pages somewhat slowly and crashes/freezes often. It also has some spyware by default - it has a unique start page thatcontains a lot of trackers, and blocks the AdNauseaum addon purely because the dev doesn't like it, contradicting the idea of "your browser, your way". As that thread and a few others most notably this one (both sides are wrong, the dev's attitude is atrocious but spyware could have at least bothered to get off of his high horse and explainhis definition of spyware or used another word), this one (i guess choosing what I connect to... isn't my choice?), as well as this one (I have never seen a worse attitude and either way literally everyone else believes system libraries - especially hardened ones that are actually updated like OpenBSD's - are more secure, but no I guess the dev is too lazy to care smart for anyone else and hten they act like the victim? This thread alone would convince me not to use Pale Moon), and this one (not on the Pale Moon forums but this guy got kicked off for "vaporware" he was delivering next month), and this one (terrible attitude for a minor issue) and honestly too many others to put here show, the dev is honestly an arrogant, selfish douche that puts his own interests and choice above that of his community's and can't be trusted to actually follow the principle of an independent browser truly owned by its users. Its fanbase shills it as the only fast, private, customizable, truly independent browser but I am just not seeing it at all. At this point it is sliding further and further into authoritarianism and generic browser bs and thus I do not recommend this anymore. 12/2/2020 UPDATE: Even DigDeeper, who was Pale Moon's biggest advocate before, has realized whats gone on with the browser and no longer recommends it. With that, I can firmly say that Pale Moon should be avoided at all costs now.

Midori

11/2/2020 EDIT: Midori is a really messy situation now. There are new packages available on their website that... they're Qt based Chromium clones. In spite of this all the information online has overlooked it all and there are still old versions on most repositories. Either way there's no compelling reason to use it over any of the other private browsers, since at least those aren't in nearly as messy a situation. Avoid.

GNOME Web

GNOME Web is the default browser of the GNOME project. Like Midori, it also uses WebKitGTK, which is already not a great start here. Outside of this, it honestly resembles Safari in terms of UI which is pretty clean. It still keeps the privacy that Midori has. That is where the praise ends for this unfortunately. I have consistently found the performance to be relatively poor - it used about the same as Chromium in terms of RAM while being slower and offering less in terms of functionality due to a lack of extensions. That lack of extensions does nick its privacy down just as it does iwht Midori. This leads to it being on the other end of the spectrum of Midori - while it has consistently better functionality (at least the adblock works lol), it lacks the lightness that Midori otherwise has. With that, avoid GNOME Web.

Eolie

So was GNOME Web and Midori really it for WebKitGTK? Fortunately not, as Eolie is a recent new browser in the scene. Eolie still uses WebKitGTK and is still a GNOME package. Its UI resembles Vivaldi and Safari mostly, with a weird flow that honestly still works. Eolie, mosti mportantly, lives up to what it aims to accomplish. Unlike Midori, it actually has good functionality - it's pretty fast, its adblock actually works, etc., and unlike GNOME Web, Eolie is actually mostly lightweight - it uses around 200 MB of RAM on bootup for me which is a lot lighter than any of the other browsers except Midori. Eolie in this sense is the best WebKitGTK based browser, and if you're willing to deal with a lack of documentation (there's very little about it on the Internet, I only found out about it through the Arch Wiki and even then it doesn't have a page there but just a brief mention in the applications page) it is the choice to use if you desire WebKitGTK.

Falkon

Yes, I did promise to not cover anything without support for uMatrix and NoScript but imo this definitely deserves to be covered. Falkon is KDE's browser (as Konqueror iirc is deprecated) and runs on QtWebKit, which is deceptively named - it is actually a wrapper around Chromium. Unfortunately, this does not give it extension support, which is honestly this browser's only real flaw. It's quite fast, as Chromium based browsers tend to be. Functionality-wise, it actually does have a lot of built-in settings - a load of privacy settings such as JS, proxies, WebRTC and even a User-Agent switch, which no other browser has by default! etc. alongside support for userscripts, mouse gestures, a CSS stylesheet for all sites (which only Firefox has otherwise), the ability to add tabs to the sidebar, and more. The interface is really quite clean and has all it needs with no additional bloat. I definitely like the UI more than the default Chromium one. In all honesty, if this had extensions, it would likely be my daily driver and my most recommended browser. Until then, however, I cannot recommend it as a daily driver. If you can find enough userscripts to take the place of extensions, then go ahead and make it a side browser. Otherwise, it's not there quite yet. This project probably has the most potential of anything I'm reviewing other than maybe LibreWolf, and is worth keeping an eye on and contributing to. Hopefully it stays in that direction though...

9/7/2020 UPDATE: I was a bit overly positive about this. Turns out adding custom rulesets doesn't work - it just says "Error: Cannot load subscription" every time which is super lame. It also is extremely bloated - for a browser without extensions it takes more space than the others because of endless KDE dependencies (which tbf can be uninstalled later on). It's to where I don't recommend it anymore unless you're in a Qt based desktop and a lot of that is already installed. It's a shame because it otherwise is really really good. If it gets extension support I'd recommend installing it regardless of if you have a Qt based desktop or not.

Summary

The situation with indie browsers is honestly quite bad. Noneo f them are very good - while they do offer some unique functionality and customization, they lack in speed and actual ease of daily use, as well as mostly lacking extensions which is not acceptable. It's really a Chromium-FF world and most of these won't even work with some sites, so I cannot recommend any indie browsers atm. I also plan on reviewing Otter at some point but that time is not now.

Mobile Browsers

For what its worth, this is assuming Android-base, as iOS can never be private (if you're truly forced to use it, go for Brave) and other Linux-based OSes can just run desktop browsers. Unfortunately, most mobile browsers suck really badly. Very few have extension support, and the few that do tend to be slow or not very private. Mobile devices tend to be inherently spyware anyways. I will not cover browsers with a lack of basic adblocking at the least unless they're very prominent. Come on guys, at least try to make a functional, private mobile browser.

Google Chrome

I don't feel like repeating myself - this is the same case as with the destop version. It doesn't have extensions nor any sort of customization, functionality, or literally anything that makes a browser worth the while. Avoid.

Bromite

This is the Ungoogled Chromium of Android (not to be confused with the actual Ungoogled Chromium project that is available for Android, which lacks an adblockerit has extensions now but uMatrix doesn't work so it atm effectively does just have an adblocker). It has a few decent features, most notably a built-in adblocker thatruns on Adblock Plus lists you provide and is quite fast actually (it's Google's own filter engine actually), DNS over HTTPS support (Android has this anyways), built-in proxy settings and an always-incognito mode. This is the fastest browser avaiable on Android from my tests - it really is quite snappy. That being said, an adblocker is not enough to stay private, even if you load up good filters. This simply cannot keep you private enough, and thus I cannot recommend it as a daily driver. It is a very good backup choice, however. I use it as one. Edit: With Ungoogled Chromium Android adding extension support that could potentially make uMatrix work on it soon, there is no reason to Bromite anymore until it chooses to implement its own.

Ungoogled Chromium Android with Extensions

And it finally has them. Ungoogled Chromium Android is really just a port of Ungoogled Chromium to Android. There's nothing more to it... but it has brought extension support! This its own extension implementation based off of the latest Chromium, unlike Kiwi Browser which seems to borrow from multiple sources. It seems to work for the most part, but it does not have it in the settings nor does it support per-site settings for it. This renders uMatrix useless and thus effectively reduces this to having an adblocker. That being said, Bromite has actively refused to support extensions so I'd use this over that for now.

Brave

Couldn't recommend Bromite without mentioning this at least. Brave's filters are quite good and get the job done on mobile very well. It also gives an easy JS toggle and HTTPS Everywhere. Depending on how you use it, this could be considered private and functional enough for a daily driver. They're even planning on bringing extension support pretty soon.That being said, however, I find it to be quite a lot slower than Bromite. The devs are generally less trustworthy people as we've seen, and the JS toggle & HTTPS Everywhere is not enough for me to truly recommend it over Bromite's speed, proxies and other features. For mobile, however, it isn't a terrible choice, and once it gets extensions, it'll probably be the best choice for mobile.

Kiwi Browser

One of the very few mobile browsers with actual extension support. From my experience, most extensions tend to run pretty smoothly. It also has a force night mode, which turns everything on pages into a night themed version. Thistends to break sites quite often from my experience and doesn't tend to be worth the while. That being said, it does make a few phones home (screenshot here) notably to update its adblock filters and to check for updates, neither of which is very good. It also is deliberately closed source - its Github is intentionally dated. According to the developer, this is to keep it competitive so he can get donations. That being said, having watched development in his Discord, he does seem to have genuinely good intentions, if not very privacy-focused. If you're willing to live with a few phones home, which from what I have collected don't seem to be designed to collect a ton of data, this is arguably the best choice out there for sheer functionality (and decent enough privacy). 4/19/20 update: IT's now fully open source, haven't checked for updates or if it's free of spying yet. Either way, it's now clearly the best mobile browser.

12/2/2020 UPDATE: It's December and it seems like thisi s still on a highly outdated version of Chromium to where its a security risk. With that, unless you relaly need extensions, I can't recommend this anymore.

Mozilla Firefox & Fennec F-Droid

Again, same case as on desktop, except its even harder to put in a user.js file, making it impossible to configure to be private at all. It also is somehow even slower than its desktop counterpart and is easily one of the slowest browsers I'm reviewing. There's a new, faster revamp being developed called Fennec Preview but it doesn't even have extension support, which makes it utterly useless. Fennec F-Droid does not remove any of the privacy intrusions and is otherwise no different outside of a few proprietary components being removed. Don't waste your time here.

Firefox Focus/Klar

Putting this here for completion's sake. This is basically Firefox with basic adblocking and always incognito on. That being said it still keeps most of Mozilla's spying and doesn't even support extensions. It thus is useless.

IceCatMobile

IceCatMobile, however, actually is private. My tests came up blank so it seems private enough. It still allows you use extensions just as its desktop counterpart, though I've found some extensions to not be available. That being said I have not gotten themes to work for whatever reason - they install but just don't show up. This is probably the only truly private mobile browser out there. That being said, it is even slower than Firefox. The speed is just absurdly bad - of all the browsers reviewed here, desktop and mobile, this is easily the slowest, often failing to load basic HTML pages for me - I genuinely think sometimes that my net's gone out due to the speed making it seem like such. It also suffers from Firefox's general issues, as an ESR rebrand would. That being said, this isn't a bad choice at all and is probably worth using if you can handle the speed. I tried to make it my daily driver several times but I simply cannot deal with the speed issues.

Tor Browser

This is, again, basically Tor desktop on mobile. However, there is no torrc file and no way to use it without Tor. As a result, it's less accessible in most use cases - using Tor will eat up mobile data limits. That being said, it's still just as good of a choice as on desktop.

Privacy Browser F-Droid

This unique browser is based off of Android WebView, which si the integrated browser you see with in-app page viewing. This is quite a bit slower than Chromium, though not too bad compared to Firefox. While this doesn't have extension support, it does give a strong amount of control over what data you give, with decent adblocking, a good JS toggle and proxy support. This makes it one of the better choices out there, and the speed isn't shabby enough for me to not recommend this. It's worth the while, though I do prefer Bromite's speed.

Vivaldi

Well, it has an adblocker now so it's ready for review. Vivaldi still retains a good amount of customization in their Android version but... the UI is love it or hate it. I dont' see the need to separate the "library" from the main button on the upper right hand corner, like how Firefox on desktop does it. It just leads to more time being spend going around. Otherwise it's quite good - it's pretty fast, the adblock is some of the best I've seen and works pretty well wihle giving you more power over it, it's still more customizable than any other mobile browser, and is honestly worth using overall as a side.

Summary

And this is basically it for mobile browsers. There's very little choice and the few options we have tend to be lacking in functionality, speed, privacy or a combination of these. As I stated above, mobile OSes tend to be inherently spyware and none will have the full functionaliity of desktop OSes. As such, avoid using them whenever possible.

Some General Tips & Guidelines

Introduction

Obviously, none of these browsers are great just straight out of the box. They all require a lot of configuration before they're truly going to be private and functional enough to shine. As stated above, most of this comes from extensions. I might write an article on which to go with but for now, read digdeeper's article on extensions, which is pretty decent to follow.

With that, (wip):

That being said, I'm not the only one you should trust with this. I will recommend a few other privacy guides in another article but until then, Digdeeper's site is probably the best to go with. I could go with recommending where not to go and frankly that's a lot easier. For now, avoid privacytools.io, r/privacy (I run a new sub called r/realprivacy that imo could be a great alternative once it gets enough members, do check it out!), prism-break.org, restoreprivacy.com - all of these are very obvious shills of Firefox and other false marketers. In general, if they recommend Mozillaware or Proton A.G.'s stuff it's best to avoid it, those tend to attract shills a ton.

Conclusion

As seen with everything thath's gone on with the Internet and the browser situation, there are almost no truly good browsers.We're locked into an effective monopoly, and that monopoly is being used to push us all into the now-closed platform that Google controls in the modern Internet. It only gets worse day by day. With that, I'll say it again - try to stay local with your computing, and use your browser as little as possible.

With that being said, however, we have to make do with what we have. So for your convenience, I've made a table for my recommendations. And hey, if you skipped all the way to the end of the article, read it through because the information in this table cannot possibly capture the full picture!

BROWSER Extension Support? Speed Functionality Customization Privacy Aesthetics Summary Recommended?
CHROMIUM-BASED BROWSERS
Google Chrome Yes Pretty meh due to the data harvesting Poor, very few features Poor, very few options Terrible, worst on this list Follows GTK & has lots of themes Overall a terrible choice, the sheer data harvesting ruins an otherwise meh browser. No
Iridium Browser Yes Decently fast Poor, same as Chrome Poor, same as Chrome Perfect other than Safebrowsing Great, same as Chrome Overall a decent, stable choice. Meh, ideally as a side to UC.
Ungoogled Chromium Yes Very fast Poor, same as Chrome Poor, same as Chrome Perfect! Great, same as Chrome A great, up-to-date choice Yes
Brave Browser Yes Very fast Poor but slightly better than Chrome Poor but slightly better than Chrome Not great Great, same as Chrome Outclassed by Iridium and UC No but usable as a side
Opera Browser Yes Meh, same as Chrome Poor, very few useful features Poor, just about the same as Chrome Very bad IIRC same as Chrome One of the worst choices here. No
Vivaldi Yes Somewhat slow Very good by default. The most customizable browser around. Not great Best here - has fully customizable themes! Worthwhile for the customization but otherwise not great. Yes, ideally as a side browser though.
OVERALL Yes Ranges but decent Usually pretty bad. Usually pretty bad Ranges Follows GTK & has themes Better than Firefox-based browsers. Yes
FIREFOX-BASED BROWSERS
Mozilla Firefox Yes Pretty bad Not very good Not very good Terrible by default but can be manually configured to be, this is tedious though Great, follows GTK & has lots of themes Inferior to Chromium-base, no real advantages and notably slower. No, configured can be a side browser though.
Waterfox Yes, old & new Worse than Firefox Same as Firefox Same as Firefox Worse than Firefox but can be manually configured, this is tedious though Great, same as Firefox Arguably the worst desktop browser reviewed here. No, configured can be a side browser but still not worth it.
GNU IceCat Yes Arguably the worst here. Same as Firefox with a few new options. Same as Firefox Perfect! Great, same as Firefox One of the few private FF based browsers but still not very good. Not until it gets updated.
Tor Browser Yes but Tor is a bitch to work with these. Same as IceCat. Same as Firefox with a few new options. Same as Firefox Perfect! Great, same as Firefox As good as IceCat with Tor integration. Possibly as a side browser.
LibreWolf Yes Same as configured Firefox Same as Firefox with a few new options. Same as Firefox Perfect! Great, same as Firefox Probably the best FF based browser. Yes, ideally as a side browser though.
OVERALL Yes Worse than Chromium-base. Not very good, slightly better than Chromium-base Not very good Ranges Great, follows GTK & has themes. Chromium's speed makes it better Not really
INDIE BROWSERS
Pale Moon Old, not new Very bad Very good Pretty good - second-best here Perfect with configuration Meh, doesn't follow GTK & few themes Customizable but very slow and terrible devs, outclassed by Vivaldi No
Midori No Mid-slow Poor and broken Bad Perfect but lacks essential addons. Really good, WebKitGTK is beautiful Not functional enough to work No
GNOME Web No Mid-slow Meh, no addons and not much else Bad Perfect but lacks essential addons Really good, WebKitGTK is beautiful. Too heavy for what it offers No, usable as a side browser
Eolie No Decent Basic but good with what it has Bad Perfect but lacks essential addons Really good, WebKitGTK is beautiful Best WebKitGTK browser out there No, usable as a side browser
KDE Falkon No Pretty fast, though lack of addons drag it down. Great Pretty good Perfect but lacks essential addons. Weak, only follows Qt & no themes Fantastic but no addons drags it down hard No, usable as a side browser
OVERALL Limited Ranges Usually pretty good Usually decent Perfect Ranges Ranges but most don't keep up with mainline browsers No, usable as side in most cases though
MOBILE BROWSERS
Google Chrome No Pretty bad due to data harvesting and no addons Terrible Terrible The worst browser here Bad, no themes but looks nice out of the box The worst mobile browser here & worst in general Absolutely not
Bromite No Very fast Decent for mobile Same as Chrome Perfect but lacks essential addons. Edit: Now outclassed by Ungoogled Chromium Android Same as Chrome Pretty good overall, very fast even but no addons stops it from being a good daily driver. Outclassed as a side
Ungoogled Chromium with Extensions Yes but limited Very fast Decent for mobile Same as Chrome Pretty good, has a lot of promise Same as Chrome Great overall, very fast but until it gets uMatrix it's not the best for a daily driver. Great as a side
Brave No but planned Decently fast Decent for mobile Same as Chrome Not great but not bad for mobile with its features Same as Chrome Not great but not bad at all Once it gets addons, usable as a side til then
Kiwi Browser Yes Decently fast Pretty good Same as Chrome Not great Meh, night mode breaks a lot Addons make this the best choice for mobile Yes
Firefox & Fennec Yes, Preview does not though Very bad Pretty bad Pretty bad Very bad, configuration is difficult Great, has themes Keeps some pros of desktop but adds its own cons, not worth it No
IceCatMobile Yes The clear worst here of any platform, borderline unusable. Same as FF Same as FF Perfect! Bad, themes are broken fsr. Good for mobile but still not very good overall Tepidly due to speed
Tor Browser Yes but Tor is a bitch as usual Same as IceCatMobile but requiresTor which is even worse Same as FF Same as FF Perfect! Same as FF Basically IceCatMobile but with required Tor Tepidly due to speed
Privacy Browser F-Droid No Pretty slow Pretty good for mobile Pretty bad Perfect, but lacks essential addons Same as Chrome Outclassed by Bromite but not bad at all Preferably as a side
Vivaldi No Pretty fast Very good for mobile Good for mobile Not great Has a dark mode which is cool Honestly a very good browser by mobile standards Preferably as a side
OVERALL SITUATION
DESKTOP Almost all do Ranges Usually meh Usually pretty bad Ranges Usually pretty great Ranges but not great overall Go for UC, Iridium, Vivaldi and LibreWolf
MOBILE Ranges Ranges from very good to very bad Usually pretty bad Usually pretty bad Ranges but worse than desktop Usually terrible There are very few good choices here Go for IceCatMobile, Tor, Kiwi & UC Extensions
OVERALL Most do Ranges Usually poor Usually poor Ranges Usually decent Overall quite poor compared to what it should be Desktop: Go for UC, Vivaldi & LibreWolf
Mobile: Go for IceCatMobile, Tor, Kiwi & UC Extensions