10 specialized browsers that will make you forget about Chrome, Firefox and IE

Sick of the Big Three browsers? These eight obscure (but useful) alternatives can scratch your niche itches.

say no to big browsers

Give the Big Three browsers the boot

When it comes to Web browsing, most Windows users are concerned with only three choices: Firefox, Google Chrome and Internet Explorer. You’ll occasionally run into someone running Opera, too. But those aren’t the only options -- far from it!

There’s a wide world of alternative browsers out there, all fighting for your attention with unique features and specializations in gaming, privacy, media consumption and more. There’s even something to appeal to old-school Internet users. If you’re looking to shake up your Web surfing experience, here’s a look at 10 great browsers not named Firefox, Chrome, or Internet Explorer.



Underpinnings: Chromium

Focus: Gaming

Coowon is designed to be a browser for gamers. Not just any type of games, mind you, but the vast array of Web-based games, from Ballistic to Farmville 2. Coowon has a sidebar with game-friendly features like the ability to record mouse clicks. You also get a built-in screenshot tool and an icon that lets you toggle between keyboard and gamepad controls. There’s also a “boss” key (Alt + F1) to make it look like you’re hard at work while you’re really getting your game on.

In my test on Windows 8.1, the Web-based installer didn’t work very well, but Coowon has an offline installer that worked just fine.



Underpinnings: Chromium

Focus: Media

Torch is a browser for media junkies with features for music and games. There’s a built-in YouTube-based streaming service called Torch Music. Torch Games gives you one-click access to a selection of Web-based games. Torch also has some handy drag-and-drop sharing features: Drag Web content to the left and you get a sidebar for sharing content on social networks, or drag content to the right to search for it.

Torch is also a media pirate’s dream, with a built-in tool for downloading audio and video from sites like YouTube and Vimeo, as well as a built-in torrent client for… well, you know.



Underpinnings: Trident, Gecko, or WebKit

Focus: Browser lovers

Lunascape is an interesting choice for those who can’t decide which browser they like the best. It can run on one of three major browser engines, including Trident (Internet Explorer), Gecko (Firefox) or WebKit (Safari and formerly Chrome). And if you also love browser (small “c”) chrome then Lunascape is for you, because there is nothing minimalist about this browser. There are buttons everywhere, and Lunascape comes with a scrolling news feed that can be set to a variety of news sources, such as the BBC, CNN or The New York Times. It also has a built-in RSS reader.

Lunascape ships with Trident as the default browser engine, and WebKit is also included. If you want to use Gecko, however, you’ll have to download a plugin.


Comodo IceDragon

Underpinnings: Gecko

Focus: Security

From security firm Comodo, IceDragon is one of several browsers promising enhanced security. IceDragon’s security props include webpage scanning for malware, the use of Comodo’s Secure DNS service by default, and active blocking of known phishing and spyware sites. Similar to Torch, IceDragon lets you drag content from a webpage to the right to share it on social networks, and to the left to use that content as the basis of a Web search.

You might be reluctant to try a Comodo product after PrivDog, a Comodo-associated piece of software, was found to be loaded with the dangerous Superfish adware. But fear not: IceDragon doesn't come with Superfish—at least the version we installed.



Underpinnings: Chromium

Focus: Power users

Currently in its second technical preview, Vivaldi is a Chromium-based browser that targets hardcore power users. It’s a very simple browser at the moment, taking a lot of cues from current and former Opera features (Opera’s former CEO is leading the Vivaldi effort).

Vivaldi has a speed-dial feature for quick access to favorite sites and a built-in note taking app, while a built-in mail client is under development.



Underpinnings: Gecko

Focus: old-school all-in-one Internet suite

SeaMonkey has been around for nearly ten years, and it’s still going strong -- but SeaMonkey is an ideal choice only for hardcore Web users who want almost everything you could possibly think of in one package.

SeaMonkey integrates a browser, an email client, a RSS and newsgroup client, an HTML editor and an IRC client. The only thing missing from this suite is the ability to download torrents… but you can get that as an add-on.



Underpinnings: WebKit

Focus: Lightweight

Midori has long been a popular choice for underpowered Linux systems, but there’s also a Windows version for anyone who needs a lightweight browser.

You’ll find Midori to be pretty simple, lacking any major features and sporting an almost XP-like interface. On the upside, it’s responsive and very simple to use. There’s also a portable version if you want to run it from a USB stick.


Maxthon Cloud Browser

Underpinnings: Trident and WebKit

Focus: Multi-device browsing and social

The biggest feature for Maxthon is its cloud-based account, called Passport, which syncs browsing data across your devices. That’s a common feature among the major players, but not as common in the world of alternative browsers. Passport also has a feature called Cloud Push that lets you share content with your friends via email or text message.

Maxthon comes with its own RSS feed reader, a note pad, AdBlock Plus and a link to Maxthon’s games site. There’s also a “reader mode” to read articles more easily without all the distractions of a typical website.

Similar to Lunascape, Maxthon isn’t a single-engine browser, instead relying on both Trident and WebKit. Unlike Lunascape, however, Maxthon determines which engine to use on the fly.


Epic Privacy Browser

Underpinnings: Chromium

Focus: Privacy

If you like Chrome but don’t like forking over all your info to Google and other advertisers, then Epic Privacy Browser may be for you.

The browser doesn’t deviate far from its Chrome-based roots, but it comes with a bunch of privacy-enhancing features like a built-in proxy, always-on private browsing, and built-in blockers for third-party cookies and trackers. Epic dumps Google account integration, so don’t use this browser if you want to sync bookmarks and open browser tabs with Google’s servers.



Underpinnings: Internet Explorer

Focus: Privacy

Unlike Epic, Browzar is billed as a throw-away browser that lets you get online on a PC without leaving any visible trace afterwards. The browser comes with several skin options and doesn’t install itself on your system the way other browsers do. Just click the EXE file and it fires up in seconds. It’s also crazy-small at just 222 kilobytes. That speediness and compact size is due to the fact that Browzar relies on your PC’s built-in Internet Explorer files to run.

To keep your browsing private, Browzar deletes Web, Flash and Java caches on the fly, doesn’t save your Web history and blocks auto-completion.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.