What are the alternatives to Google Chrome and Firefox on Linux

Last updated on November 19, 2020 by Adrien Brochard

Say what you want about web browsers on Linux, I just miss Internet Explorer. No let's be serious. A great thing about Linux distributions is in general that they come packaged with a good browser. If that browser is not your favorite, you can easily install another one (and you don't necessarily need a browser to download your favorite browser). For most users, however, this favorite browser will be Google Chrome or Firefox, and there are reasons for that: they are both good browsers. For more adventurous users, there is also Opera, which recently improved. But, there exist browsers out there which are a lot more exotic, with particular features and goals. I shall propose you eight examples: eight browsers which may not be as complete as Chrome or Firefox, but which are definitely worth checking out for their philosophies or design.

1. Iron

Iron was born out of good intentions: clone the open source fork of Chrome, and take out all the code related to Google. What you are supposed to get is a browser identical to Chrome, except in terms of privacy as it does not communicate anything to the outside world. The actual result is probably not as ideal as announced, but the goal is noble. For example, it is possible to install official Chrome extensions, which will then be allowed to collect your data if they want to. To install Iron, download the package from the official page, extract it and run:
$ ./iron

2. Konqueror

If you are using KDE, you must have heard of Konqueror, one of the most versatile Linux file managers available on KDE. Konqueror is also a universal viewer capable of browsing the web, supporting HTML5, JavaScript and CSS3. The interface reminds me a bit of Internet Explorer, which can be a good thing if you trying to initiate someone who only used Microsoft's browser for his/her entire life. For the anecdote, Konqueror uses KHTML to render the layout of the web pages. It will definitely please all the KDE fanboys out there.

3. Links

Links is definitely not a browser that I would use every day if I had a choice. However, it is probably one of the most useful software out there. As you have guessed, it allows you to browse the web from a terminal. You should definitely get it just in case your X server crashes, and you need to read tips on how to repair it online. The navigation is not the most intuitive ever, but you can get around with the arrows keys to move, and ESC to display the usual File, View, Help options. Install Links now with:

$ sudo apt-get install links (for Ubuntu or Debian)
$ sudo yum install links (for Fedora)
$ sudo pacman -S links (for Archlinux)

4. Mantra

Based on Firefox, Mantra is specifically designed for security auditing. It comes packed with a bunch of plugins and useful bookmarks just to test the security of a website, and manages to keep the interface clean and fancy. I particularly like the idea of not having to install a lot of heavy extensions in my regular every day Firefox, and use this portable version instead. To try it out on Firefox, download it from its website.

5. Midori

You may have already heard of Midori as it is the default internet browser of a couple of distributions like elementary OS and Bodhi Linux. Publicized as a lightweight Internet browser, Midori stands out by its speed and efficiency. You get most of the features that the big names have to offer (multi-tabs, speed dial window, omni-bar, etc) in a well-designed and slim software. I tried it on my first laptop, an Acer running with 512MB of RAM, and it was working just fine. Just for that it deserved to be mentioned first. As a bonus, it comes packaged with DuckDuckGo as its default search engine and a bunch of plugins. To try out Midori yourself:

$ sudo apt-get install midori (for Debian or Ubuntu)
$ sudo yum install midori (for Fedora)
$ sudo pacman -S midori (for Archlinux)

6. NetSurf

Written entirely in C, NetSurf is famous for having its own layout engine. It is also very light, and even runs on Amiga! Despite its lack of JavaScript, I really appreciate its speed and zen design, as well as its cookies manager. It also integrates a bookmark system, and allows the user to save the dimensions of the window. If you are running an old machine, or something exotic, NetSurf may be what you need.

7. SeaMonkey

SeaMonkey is a complete Internet suite, comprised of a browser, an e-mail client, an IRC chat client, a newsgroups, and a RSS feeds reader. Its history is interesting as it reveals all the passion that its developers have for it. It can be considered as the continuation of the Mozilla suite, developed by the community, and not by the Mozilla Corporation. The code itself is inspired by Netscape which died in 2008. So in short, SeaMonkey is very efficient and is the survivor of an ancient era. Personally, I really appreciate the different managers included for cookies, passwords, downloads, and images.

8. Tor Browser

Probably the most famous tunneling project, Tor is an efficient way to become anonymous on the web or evade censorship. However, it can be a bit confusing to understand and set up. To deal with that, the Tor Project provides the Tor Browser Bundle, which is basically a portable version of Firefox packaged with everything you need to make Tor work on your computer. From the intuitive setup screen to the pre-installed security extensions, the Tor Browser Bundle is very well conceived. If you want to use Tor on Firefox, but prefer not to modify your configuration, this is an absolute must.

9. Uzbl

Uzbl stands for usable. Its slogan is clear: adhere to the Unix philosophy. In other words, it does one thing and does it well: surf the web. Do not expect to find a bookmark manager, a RSS feed reader, or anything complicated. All it does is displaying web pages super quickly. You may want to learn the keybindings before using it, but in short: 'o' to open a new URL, 'b' to go back, 'r' to reload, and the traditional h,j,k,l to scroll around. To check out Uzbl:

$ sudo apt-get install uzbl (for Ubuntu or Debian)
$ sudo yum install uzbl (for Fedora)
$ sudo pacman -S uzbl-browser (for Archlinux)

To conclude, I hope that I convinced you to go check out the exotic browsers out there. As you saw, they meet special needs, and follow particular philosophies, which makes them at least good complements to the big names. If you are wild enough, you can go as far as to completely switch to one of the alternatives listed above (and very very very wild in the case of Links).

As it is of course impossible to list all the web browsers in existence, feel free to let us know in the comments which alternative browser you recommend and for what usage.

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