Firefox burns Chrome in our trustworthy browser poll

Filed Under: Apple Safari, Featured, Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Privacy, Web Browsers

About a month ago I asked Naked Security readers Which web browser do you trust? Your answer was emphatic: it's Firefox.

Chrome burnsI asked this question because trustworthiness has become an important selection criteria for web browsers and there is no objective test for it.

Modern web browsers are mature and complex products and, despite inflated version numbers and conspicuously busy release cycles, their feature sets evolve quite slowly.

Selecting the right web browser is no longer a question of what the software can do, it's about whether or not it can do the things we expect it to do quickly, securely and with due regard for our privacy.

Our poll offered readers the chance to vote for one of the six most popular web browsers -  Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, Safari and Chromium - and asked which you trusted the most.

Mozilla's Firefox, the linear descendant of both Netscape Navigator and the original 'graphical web browser' the NCSA Mosaic, was a runaway winner.

Firefox accrued almost double the number of votes of its nearest rival, Google Chrome, and more than six times the votes awarded to perennial rival and fellow 'browser wars' veteran Internet Explorer.

Pie chart showing results for the 'Which web browser do you trust?' poll

Browser Share of the vote
 Firefox  50.5%
 Chrome  26.8%
 Internet Explorer   8.0%
 Safari   7.2%
 Opera   4.6%
 Chromium   2.9%

The results are even more emphatic when you consider how many people actually use each browser.

Below is a table that compares the number of votes each browser received in the poll against the number of unique article pageviews from each of those browsers over the same period.

Results are ranked in order of conversion rate - the rate at which page views by a given browser correlate with votes for that browser (Chrome and Chromium identify themselves in the same way and we can't separate their unique page views so their results are combined in this table).

Browser U. Pageviews Votes Conv. rate
Opera   212   274 129%
Firefox 3,027 3,011  99%
Safari   799   431  54%
Chrome/Chromium 3,881 1,769  46%
Internet Exp. 1,328   477  36%

Top of the table is Opera which was the only browser that scored more votes for trustworthiness than it had users, although it did so with much smaller totals than its competitors.

You could probably sum up the entire history of the Opera browser with the phrase "small but loyal following" and despite the regard in which its users hold it Opera seems destined to remain the perennial bridesmaid of the browser world.

The poor showing of Internet Explorer is notable but perhaps not surprising given that it is often imposed on users as a matter of corporate policy.

What stands out at me is the difference between the Mozilla and Google products. Both browsers are well established and well known open source projects, they both run on Windows, Mac and Linux and unlike Explorer or Safari neither come bundled with an operating system.

Perhaps Chrome users are more cynical or more realistic about where they place their trust. Or perhaps people who choose Chrome are also people who don't vote in internet polls.

We don't know but I suspect, as the comments on our poll seem to suggest, that the reason for Chrome's poor showing is that Google's claim to Do No Evil is simply no longer convincing.

The untrustworthiness of Google is a consistent theme across the most highly rated comments on the poll:

frankly I trust Google the least, as they have too many data points for comparison.

I don't trust Google as far as I could throw 'em. As a company, it's entirely uninterested in my security or privacy, especially if it can make money by selling my personal information.

Trusting any software completely is a bit foolish, but anyone who actively trusts Chrome is a good subject for psychological study.

You get the idea.

Of course this is only an online poll and and not a scientific experiment so my conclusions should be taken with a liberal pinch of salt.

Let me know what you think in our comments below.

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49 Responses to Firefox burns Chrome in our trustworthy browser poll

  1. Richard · 747 days ago

    I'm surprised Chromium scored so low. It's open source and you are able to compile it yourself, giving you the privacy/trust you need, and Chrome is based off of it so it has that "speedy" feel, while Firefox can feel a bit bulky at times. Chromium and Firefox are the only two browsers I use, as I trust them both. Chrome sends your searching results to Google as you are typing them in the dynamic address bar, and that's not exactly something people should be happy about. Google may not be selling my data, but they're definitely storing it.

    • wally · 747 days ago

      I suspect if they had been able to separate Chrome from Chromium you may have seen a different story.

      • markstockley · 747 days ago

        What story would you expect to see? Chromium received fewer than 200 votes.

    • Thomas · 746 days ago

      Chromium and Chrome are from the same company, are they not? Why would you trust Chromium to give you privacy?

      • Seymour Fundiz · 745 days ago

        Not true. Chromium is a long-standing open source project, much like Firefox in its infancy. Google took Chromium, added their own misfeatures to it, and released it as Google Chrome.

        • markstockley · 744 days ago

          Chromium is a project started by Google from which they take code to make releases of Chrome and it reflects Google's priorities and design philosophy entirely - fast, lightweight and both a traditional browser and a shell for ChromiumOS their web-centric operating system.

          The component that renders the HTML is based on the WebKit rending engine which is an older open source project used by Safari and Konquerer IIRC.

    • Bharat Indian · 726 days ago

      would be great to get the experts views on browsers like Avant, Maxthon, SRWaare Iron and Midori.

      even users views welcome.. because browsers like SRWaare Iron really help if the snoopy geographical location based or other targeted advertising (like Google's) has to be avoided.

      Wish Sophos Labs would go beyond the ordinary! Com on' guys.. with you this is surely expected to be true- normal is boring!

      Disclaimer: I am just another cranky computer user/ internet user. I was never and am not presently associated with any of these names. But am surely willing to take the guillotine (criticism) for making lives of other users better

    • Calle.N · 699 days ago

      Exactly, and that last part is why I won't get Chrome for some time. Also, Chrome supports HTML5 more and more, and while it's not bad in itself that format has turned out to be a major security flaw. Besides, while Firefox isn't faster or that much more stable, it sure is safer to use, and I can have as many plugins as I desire.

  2. Anonymous · 747 days ago

    So true, Firefox is probably a safer browser than Chrome and IE. Since it used to be Netscape Navigator years ago. Firefox is very similar.

  3. Me. · 747 days ago

    Just because it is open source doesn't mean it is secure. It means that somebody with the capability could review it. And what they deem OK may not be what you feel is OK, for example, the ping home on first run, etc etc.

    • markstockley · 746 days ago

      Agreed. But it's more than code reviews - it's fixes and forks too.

      I think the increase in trust and security that can come from open sourcing is a result of the activity open sourcing can, but isn't guaranteed to, create.

      The open source browser projects have strong communities and forks happen from time to time. Firefox was a fork of Mozilla that ate Mozilla for breakfast. Mozilla was the open source community's radical rewrite of Nescape Communicator, Opera is a fork of Chromium and I'm sure there will be others, the new rendering engine in Chrome is a fork of the WebKit rendering engine used in Safari.

      All these forks came about because one group of people deemed that what another group of people thought was OK wasn't.

  4. michael · 747 days ago

    Actual and perceived security do not necessarily correlate.

  5. MikeP_UK · 747 days ago

    Worth noting perhaps is that many do not trust the data collection activities of some browsers - but they are somewhat hidden and corporate denials about it are not believed by many.
    Then look at the development direction of each browser and you see a shift, unwanted by many, towards the 'smart phone' style of UI, Opera 15/16 being recent example of the change.
    To my view, that change is counter-productive and counter-intuitive so makes web browsing less transparent - and more difficult to set up and control as the ability to set your own home page seems to have been lost, as have all the useful menus we like.
    I prefer to use Firefox, v24 at present, but it's not perfect for my purposes.
    I currently use XP Pro and Ubuntu 13.04, but will probably move to W8.1 early next year (with modifications) as well as researching Ubuntu 13.10 for the alternate OS.

  6. Raphael · 747 days ago

    Chrome worries me ACUTELY as it tracks every move I make. If I look at an obscure item from Outer Mongolia my screen is soon being bombarded with snowmobiles, reindeer antlers and musk oxen for sale!! They must be making filthy lucre out of my information and it will not be long before the mighty Bull of Minos will be paying for some of that info and they will drop all ethics very quickly to increase their bottom line.
    Sadly we lived in a world where it is OK for big business to lie, steal and cheat for the sake of a few dollars, and spying is very big business in the financial world!!

    • Lee · 747 days ago

      Get FF installed and then get Adblock...awesome addon!
      Even skips out all the advertisements before videos you want to watch.

      • And switch to duckduckgo as a search engine. I did it when I realized I was getting filterbubbled by Google, when I tried to check my blog's visibility. My little torpid blog was the most popular site in the net for some search strings ... yeah, right.

    • Bob · 747 days ago

      Pathetically, they only seem to try and sell me the stuff after I've bought it.

  7. slipstream · 747 days ago

    Ever since I installed Chrome though the browser choice dialog, I've never looked back; and yes, I have used other browsers, but I prefer chrome/chromium now. Which means I trust it completely, as if I didn't trust it, I'd move to some other browser :)

    However, I do know that chrome has been bundled with other applications (in a pay-per-install style I guess; if I remember correctly you have to opt out of the chrome install); obviously some people find it unwanted (and therefore wouldn't trust it at all!!) due to this.

    • Richard · 747 days ago

      I read your newsletter all the time. I think you do a wonderful job, monitoring the internet and keeping us/me informed. I therefore put a lot of stock in what you have to say and follow your recommendations. I did switch to Firefox from Safari. Thank you for your great work. Keep Going.

  8. Metzger · 747 days ago

    It's probably useful to note that Chromium is open source, but not Chrome. That's why they're different products. Chrome is based on the open source Chromium, but includes many things that the former doesn't.

    Also, Firefox has been around a lot longer and earned a lot more trust because Mozilla has always demonstrated that they're not in it for profits, but to help people and keep the web an open and safe place.

    It's also important to note that many Chrome users implicitly trust Google's browser simply because it integrates best with Google's services, which they use almost exclusively. It's the same kind of trust that Apple gets. The "who cares, it's easier this way" kind.

    • markstockley · 746 days ago

      I looked into this when I was researching the original poll. As far as I can discover Chrome is Chromium with some very small changes.

      Aside from small config differences there appear to be two components that are added to Chromium to make Chrome - the auto-updater and the RLZ library.

      The RLZ library is the component involved with tracking and is the bit that attracted all the interest and conspiracy theories. Both of those components are now open source and it appears the RLZ library was open sourced to scotch some of the bad publicity.

      • Metzger · 746 days ago

        Interesting. I'm glad to hear it, though I have to wonder how you're certain it's just a few minor changes? Do you have the Chrome source code, or are you just looking at symbol tables in binaries or some-such?

  9. Larry Marks · 747 days ago

    Firefox wins because it has the greatest library of free gimmicks (i.e., add-ins) that only a geek could love--and geeks read this newsletter and responded to this poll. I have worked 45 years in the IT industry and I have avoided Firefox since an early trial where it repeatedly crashed with excessive memory leaks. I concluded that all the open-source contributors wanted to add their own gimmicks but no one wanted to test for and fix memory leaks. Nothing has changed.

    • Adrian Nabarro · 744 days ago

      This used to be the case. Now, on OSX at least, I find Firefox has the best memory management out of the available browsers.

      You should give it another go, you might like it! Just be sure to disable Flash.

    • Ashley Redman · 669 days ago

      Abit of a big statement there, myself and i'm sure others track and fix issues regularly, you sound like you love your IE8 a little too much...

  10. G. Kruger · 747 days ago

    It also shows more people using the Chrome browser, so maybe many didn't bother to vote. Firefox users also seem to be trying to convince everybody that it's better, so felt compelled to vote. I am a chrome user for many years, like it, trust it and didn't bother to vote.

    • Thomas · 746 days ago

      Yeah right! I'm a Firefox user because it is intuitive for me. I've never pushed it on anybody and nobody has pushed it on me. But if I had a dollar for every time I've unchecked a box for "Install Chrome and make it my default browser" I could replace my old desktop, buy a couple of new tires, and pay off my medical bills. I could care less which browser anybody uses. However I do push people to buy Walmart shoes and Subway sandwiches. I spend 4 hours each day at each place with a sign people driving by can see. Really, I do.

    • Guest · 741 days ago

      Funny, Google tries to shove their web browser in my face everytime I go to Now whose being pushy?

      Never mind all the hacky developers who provide free advertising with the "Works best in Chrome" slogan.

  11. Greylady2 · 747 days ago

    I have a great deal of trust in Firefox. I have zero trust in Chrome/Chromium or any Google product. I love the Firefox add-ons particularly ad-block, which makes browsing a great deal more pleasurable. Can't imagine changing.

  12. WatchmanDave · 746 days ago

    Would love to see in the report:
    1. OS's used by voter's and which browser they "trusted" the most when using that OS...
    2. A section of the graph that represents those that "trust" no browsers at all.. :)
    3. Countries voters submitted their votes from.
    4.Why or how did they eventually come to use that browser in the first place (as in IE by default in Windows OS, or Safari in Apple OS)
    5. What Mark Stockley's definition of "Trust" is and was that same definition the criteria those polled were asked to take into consideration.

    As a rule of thumb to my customer base "if man made it man can break it"...and one question I ask them over and over again "Do you personally know the programmers who created the software you use, re browser, email, OS's along with "do you know the admin's in control of the Websites you you browse to or give out information to?"

    The answer is always no. I pretty much have to press the point to get them to think about how they use any personal information while using internet access...because we have the ability to "Trust" and give it where it's due and not due...and the Internet is not a "safer place" or a "safe place"... it's a a "place of information access"... created by humans, policed by some of them that can be trusted, and trampled by some that can't be...and as long as there is $$ to be made or stolen, you you'll have the UN-Trusted exercising no restraint and the Trusted trying to restrain them...

    • markstockley · 746 days ago

      Here goes:

      1) We don't have that, sorry.
      2) How would people exercise their vote without placing at least some trust in a web browser?
      3) We don't have that either, sorry.
      4) Read the comments : )
      5) I included a definition of trust in the original article: a firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something

      • WatchmanDave · 744 days ago

        Thanks Mark!
        My idea was that a particular culture may be the very influence of data depending on who and what may be doing the influencing.

        re 4. (the use of that browser that may be their choice may not be what was originally installed by default in what ever device they use...but I was thinking along the lines of desktops, laptops, notepads only)

        Again, thanks again for the reply!

        After I read the article...I decided to install Firefox just to see what difference I would find and if it would make any difference to any trust level I may have had.

        My trust level didn't change preference slightly changed giving Firefox a point or two it didn't have from me before but towards practicality.

        Then it lost points when I realized that by "default" on a new install of Firefox...their #1 choice of a Search engine provided to the user is "Google Search"...

        I wonder if any of those you polled got their "I like this browser" mixed up with "I trust this browser"? made us think Mark! :)

        • Glad it got you thinking, and thanks for taking the time to comment.

          With regard to the Google search box in Firefox, it's there because almost all of the tens of millions of dollars the Mozilla Foundation earns each year comes from Google. If Google weren't paying for that search box the chances are Firefox would be a very different browser, perhaps a less secure one. It's an interesting question to ponder - does the Google money make Firefox more or less trustworthy?

  13. Steven · 746 days ago

    I have installed Chrome yet I rarely use it - it has too many problems it better to use something else.

    My problems with Opera are something like Chrome - getting it to do something.

    I had problem with Safari yet now its doing great - its awesome

    Iternet Explorer is a big surprise it start so quick

    I found 3 others you did not show - Avant browser, Maxthon, and Comodo Dragon - they are worth the effort for example Avant is alway quick to start and works great on a Netbook.

  14. Michael Ahlberg · 746 days ago

    My Clients web site was hacked last month. Every HTML file had a set of inserted HTML (obfuscated). For what purpose I don't know. Firefox and Explorer did not register any complaint when I invoked my client's website. My Norton 360, also did not complain using these two browsers.
    Chrome came up with a big warning, saying that the site contained malware. From Google search result, it also flagged it as malware ridden. There were information about the attack and a process to follow. I cleaned up the web site's HTML using backups and already the next day I had it accepted again in the search engine and by google. I and all possible customers could safely access the web site. If I had only used Firefox or Explorer, that web site would still contain malware today!
    So in this I see value! For all the other arguments, I must repeat:
    my client's web site would still contain Malware without the Chrome browser alert, and my clients customers would cop whatever was being dished out.

    • Ashley Redman · 669 days ago

      Very good point, though this is one situation out of many which could have different outcomes. I give chrome much more credit due to this.

  15. Michael Ahlberg · 746 days ago

    Nothing is free, we all get advertising in TV, on the back of Taxis, on web sites and in our mail box and newspapers. If I have to get advertising, I'd rather have targeted advertising about things I'm obviously interested in (even if the success of that targeting is less than 100% correct), rather than advertising about horse betting, baby nappies, dog and cat food.

  16. dan kellett · 745 days ago

    not a reliable poll, not a randomly chosen sample set.

    This only tells us that nakedsecurity readers trust FF more.

  17. me_like_sec · 739 days ago

    this poll is too subjective. i think firefox does a great job on security but is it better than chrome? i highly doubt it. this poll is a reflection of people's perception, not reality. if you want to test the security chops of browsers - you should let loose a bunch of researches and ask them to hunt down vulnerabilities. trust me chrome will leave ff in the dust.

    for all those who are worried about google selling your privacy to make money - who do you think is the largest funder of mozilla? they are all cut from the same cloth - again perception is not reality.

    • markstockley · 739 days ago

      The poll is deliberately subjective and isn't trying to test the security chops of browsers. It is a poll about how people feel - the question is "which browser do you trust the most?". It wasn't designed to identify the most secure browser, to be objective or to act as a recommendation or endorsement of whichever browser won.

      The reason I asked the question is because, for better or worse, how people feel has an impact on the software they choose. Apple has a midas touch which blinds people to the bad stuff they do, Google used to have it, Microsoft has a sort of reverse midas touch where even the good things they do can't seem to win people over.

      I suspect that you are right that Chome would win in a vulnerability show down (although those always seem to start fights rather than resolve them) and there are plenty of those kind of evaluations out there. What's interesting to me is that despite the plentiful sources of objective evidence in favour of Chrome it has been beaten on trust by a long chalk. That difference isn't a deficiency in the poll, that is the point of it.

  18. roy jones jr · 733 days ago

    I guess I wasn't able to vote in that poll. Because I use 3 browsers. And each one of them has issues. So when one gives me a problem one day, I use the next one. Point being NONE of them (even Chrome) was consistent. Yeah everybody will say what their favorite browser did or saved them from, but thats not useful data to come up with anything solid for a report or study.

    The same day Firefox stops a bad plugin from being installed is the same day someone opens Chrome and it freezes up for whatever reason.

  19. Khem · 711 days ago

    Indeed, Firefox + Adblock = Best way to surf :)

  20. Anthony · 708 days ago

    I'm not Tech savvy, I would consider myself a "Professional navigator". So I need a browser that does most of the work for me, that makes me feel like I'm a computer savvy minor league tech. The reason I found this site is because I have noticed Google Chrome has been slowly forcing me into using my Real name on you tube...

    [Edited for brevity]

    ...It has just become a browser intent on getting you to put your whole life on the internet into a nice neat box that show all your habits, Likes, beliefs, opinions, ect. for the world & God knows who to pick through.

  21. Rob · 704 days ago

    Here is something to ponder..

    Why have so many variant Linux distro's over the years incorporated Firefox as their first choice browser opposed to Google Chrome? Considering Linux is far more secure than Windows..

    • Rob · 704 days ago

      Oh, and here is a tip for firefox add ons: You only need two NoScript and Ghostery, noting else

  22. Gabrielle · 703 days ago

    I adore Firefox and support their massive efforts at zealously guarding privacy - BUT - there are SO many problems and glitches with FF, not to mention the constant "problem loading page" errors, that the sheer frustration of trying to run a small business online drove me back to Chrome, which I absolutely loathe, hate and despise with a fiery passion that few could comprehend.

    I went through all of Mozilla's 'suggestions' to rectify the problem (like many others before me) to no avail. It shouldn't be such a chore to use, nor should it be up to users to constantly have to 'go under the bonnet' and attempt to fix problems that shouldn't be there in the first place - particularly when they're a 'technologically dyslexic', like me.

    When Mozilla finally fix FF once and for all (and stop implementing useless updates, like the others do), then I will return.

    • Lol · 702 days ago

      Don't know what you're talking about; I've used FF for years and never had any major problems or glitches that was caused by the browser.

  23. Anonymous · 529 days ago

    In the browser wars, Chrome is like a Ferrari, fast and sleek, while Firefox is like a tank built with gears although not as fast as Chrome. I prefer Firefox just because of this reason and I am a power user.

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About the author

Mark Stockley is an independent web consultant who's interested in literally anything that makes websites better. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkStockley