9 Best Lightweight Browsers Of 2020

Firefox, Chrome, Edge, and Safari are probably the best internet browsers in the market right now; we cannot argue with that. However, they all have one thing in common: they consume a lot of system resources, especially Google Chrome.

What most people don’t know is there are a lot of lightweight alternatives available in the market. Although they are not as feature-rich and attractive as the big names, they surely have a few valuable things to offer.

Below we have listed the nine best lightweight web browsers of this year that sacrifice some of the features of mainstream browsers in order to minimize the memory footprint and consumption of system resources.

9. Lynx

Lynx and Firefox rendering the same webpage | Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Engine: libwww
Platform: Windows, DOS, Unix-like

Started in 1992, Lynx is the oldest web browser still in active development. It’s a text-based web browser that supports SSL and various HTML features.

Unlike some command-line tools, the browser is quite easy to understand and use. You most probably won’t face any issue after a short period of learning.

And since it’s a text-based browser, it doesn’t support images, videos, Adobe Flash and JavaScript. However, it can be used with external tools, such as a video player or an image viewer, to handle multimedia files.

Lynx can be extremely useful when using an old computer or slow internet connections. Being a text web browser has its own advantages: it can’t fetch information-tracking web bugs. Thus you can visit webpages without privacy concerns. Like conventional browsers, it supports page caching and browsing histories.

Because the browser takes keystrokes from text files, it’s still useful for web scraping and automated data entry. Moreover, it’s used to check page links and test websites’ performance.

8. Surf

Engine: WebKitGTK+
Platform: Unix-like

Surf is a simple, minimalist web browser that intentionally provides a limited set of features. There is no built-in support for bookmarking, tabs, and ad filtering. The only graphical element it has is the webpage view.

The browser makes heavy use of the keyboard. You can open new sites, scroll horizontally and vertically, zoom in and out, and reload the webpage without using the mouse.

Since the browser supports the XEmbed protocol, it can be embedded in other applications. You can even configure its XProperties to point the browser to another URI.

To make changes, you need to edit Surf’s source code or configuration header file and then recompile it. A few changes can be made without recompiling via hotkeys or command line arguments.

7. Otter Browser

Beta 12 version with breeze style and icons

Engine: QtWebKit / QtWebEngine
Platform: Windows, macOS, Unix-like

Otter Browser aims to rebuild aspects of Opera version 12 while seamlessly integrating with desktop environments. The main objective is to become a haven for users who can’t stand what happened to Opera after discarding the Presto engine.

The browser is designed to be very modular with the ability to support almost all features that a standard browser should have, such as content blocking, spell checking, customizable graphical user interface, mouse gestures, tabs grouping, speed dial, password and bookmark manager, and other related functionalities.

The previous versions were quite buggy, but this is no longer the case. It’s simple, fast, and has become very stable. As of now, it is holding on to features and traditions that made Opera 12.x great.

6. Pale Moon

Pale Moon running on Windows 10

Engine: Goanna
Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux

Pale Moon emphasizes customizability: its motto is “Your browser, Your way.” It is entirely built from its own independently developed source that has been forked off from Firefox code with substantial divergence.

Developers have added selected features and optimized the browser to improve its stability and user experience. In fact, they have made it compatible with a growing collection of themes and extensions.

It is different from Firefox in several ways. For instance, it always runs in single-process mode, uses the IP-API service for geolocation rather than Google’s service, and supports NPAPI, XUL, and XPCOM plugins that are no longer supported in Firefox.

Pale Moon hogs way less memory and CPU resources than Firefox, but since it’s based on much older code, it doesn’t perform well on browser benchmark.

5. Vimb

Vimb in hinting mode 

Engine: WebKitGTK+
Platform: Unix-like

Vimb comes with a minimalist user interface that doesn’t have any graphical control elements except a command bar and URL address bar. It is mostly keyboard driven and doesn’t distract its user from daily work.

You can customize the browser in many ways. The command bar, for instance, can be hidden when not invoked, leaving more space for webpages, which users with small screens would appreciate.

To make keyboard-driven navigation even better, Vimb uses a method called ‘hinting,’ which marks all clickable elements on the webpage. In particular, it assigns labels to hyperlinks through a user-defined set of characters. By defaults, these characters are the numbers between 0 to 9. To activate the hinting mode, you need to enter a character.

In addition, Vimb supports recording histories, cookies, and bookmarks – noteworthy features for a minimalist browser. However, there is no support for search engine integration by default (you can add it via configuration file though) and no tabs for organizing pages.

4. Luakit

Luakit with a dark theme and with vertical tabs enabled 

Engine: WebKitGTK+
Platform: Windows, Linux, BSD

Luakit is primarily targeted at developers, power users, and anyone who wants to have fine-grained control over the web browser’s interface and behavior.

It’s a highly configurable framework, extensible by Lua using the Web content engine and the GTK+ toolkit. The browser comes with sane defaults and nicely handles webpages that are heavy on JavaScript.

You can completely customize the browser through configuration files, which are written in the Lua scripting language, enabling almost unlimited features. And, there are tons of keyboard shortcuts, so you can control the browser without using a mouse.

3. NetSurf

Engine: NetSurf+
Platform: Windows, macOS, Unix-like

NetSurf runs on its own layout engine to squeeze the most from limited system resources. The goal of this open-source web browser is to be lightweight and portable.

NetSurf works on almost all systems, from a modern monster desktop to a humble 30MHz ARM 6 computer. The program was originally written for computer hardware, but now it’s found in several cable TV boxes and hand-held gadgets.

The browser is scorchingly fast and friendly with your RAM banks: While a newly opened Wikipedia page takes 220MB on Firefox, Netsurf uses only 76MB (on Linux OS). Multiply this over multiple tabs, and you save a significant amount of memory.

It offers most of the basic features such as cookie management, bookmarks, pop-up blocking, Does Not Track, and a bit of JavaScript support.

Of course, it won’t perfectly work on every website you visit, but if you are one of the users who spend a lot of time on Reddit, Wikipedia, and other text-oriented sites, you will definitely find it fast and very pleasant to use.

Read: 10 HeadLess Browsers For Automated Testing

2. Falkon

Engine: QtWebKit / QtWebEngine
Platform: Windows, Unix-like

Falkon (previously known as QupZilla) builds on the QtWebEngine, a wrapper for the Chromium browser core. It runs Facebook, Twitter, HD videos on YouTube smoothly and loads dozens of webpages without crashing.

Falkon has grown into a feature-rich web browser that has all functions one can expect from a standard browser. It has bookmarks, tabs, history, web feeds, and several icons set to match the native look of Windows OS.

In addition, it has an opera-like speed dial homepage, a built-in plugin for blocking ads (enabled by default), and a feature to capture the screenshot of an entire page.

The browser is best for running e-mail, calendar apps, and text-oriented websites. However, the whole concept of being extra lightweight seems quite exaggerated when you play a YouTube video on the browser. In that case, Falkon consumes as much RAM (220 MB) as Firefox.

1. Midori

Engine: WebKitGTK+
Platform: Linux, Windows

Midori (Japanese for green) makes the most out of available resources. It may only be a little software, but supports all popular parts of the web, including YouTube, Facebook, and Spotify. It handles all the latest web technologies such as HTML5 and CSS3, so you can play games, listen to music, and more.

The browser has several built-in privacy tools, including third-party cookie blocking, script disabling, stripping referrer details, and automatic history clearing after a specific amount of time.

It comes with 5 extensions: Adblock, mouse gestures, cookie management, form history, and RSS feed panel.

Read: 30 Cool Alternative Web Browsers You Didn’t Know of

Midori features configurable web search, tabs, session and bookmark management, smart bookmarks, and private browsing. You can customize the interface the way you want and write extension modules in C and Vala.

Written by
Varun Kumar

Varun Kumar is a professional science and technology journalist and a big fan of AI, machines, and space exploration. He received a Master's degree in computer science from GGSIPU University. To find out about his latest projects, feel free to directly email him at [email protected] 

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