The Browser Dilemma: Firefox or Chrome?

To many, Mozilla’s Firefox has been the home to our browser needs for over six years. I myself used it all through college on a flash drive as a way to get around security features and later embraced it for my writing online and my work in general. Chrome in previous iterations didn’t feel right to me and I always went back to the Fox because it offered everything I wanted.  And then, somewhere along the line, things broke. With version 4.0 the speed was gone, replaced by a new interface that supported Aero Glass, breaking compatibility with the absolutely lovely personalisation options available. And all my download managers!

It looks nice, but was once as slow as a herd of snails stampeding through peanut butter. In slow motion.

Moving on, I got tired at the way Mozilla began to accelerate Firefox releases. If it wasn’t breaking my third-party add-ons, it was ruining the experience with ridiculous features like tab grouping and that garish button on the top-left. I eventually gave up with many of my add-ons, choosing only the ones I really needed and allowing others to fall by the wayside. As time got on, I got less and less interested in how Mozilla could find new ways to mess with me and the way I had things so nicely set up to ensure maximum productivity. So it was with trepidation that I took the plunge to Chrome three months ago. Now I look back and wonder why I didn’t do it sooner. 

Of course, the first few days it took some getting used to. The speed improvement was tremendous – I use Chrome for nearly everything now. Since I had a Gmail account, I started to take advantage of everything Google had to offer me – from the integration with Gmail to the excellent App Store and Angry Birds, along with Adblock Plus, I didn’t have a single thing to complain about. I even had Google Docs at my disposal and the option to sync everything from my browser history to my calendar if I ever invested in an Android phone or tablet.

Chrome's Sync is possibly more powerful than...well, everything, really.

No doubt most of you reading this will agree. With Chrome’s market share bumping up to over 39% of desktop users worldwide, its now more popular than Internet Explorer and Firefox. The kind of growth Google has seen over the years is phenomenal and shows that they’re hitting the head on the nail in a lot of things. From the speed to the minimalistic interface to the apps and features, there’s a lot to like about Chrome. But I later found it to be lacking in some respects.

For instance, Chrome doesn’t give devs a lot of leeway in how they integrate into the browser. Your apps and add-ons get their own space and buttons, but because Chrome isolates all tabs and apps in their own memory process and sandbox, they can’t fully exploit all the features Chrome might allow, or use more processes and memory to get things rolling right. So in the case of RSS feeds, there’s not a lot of options for users who liked how Firefox got things set up natively. The third-party app API limits things like multiple connections and memory loads and that’s the main reason why my add-on, Foxish Reader, refused to work after a month. It also doesn’t work very well if the app is synced over to another Chrome install that you’ve logged in to, so that’s another thing that might have magnified the issues the add-on would otherwise never have shown.

In addition, Chrome doesn’t have the kind of page-loading stability Safari and Opera boast. Tom’s Hardware does a regular feature where they test browsers in different environments and operating systems, seeing which one is the overall winner. In the page loads benchmark, Chrome thoroughly disappoints with nearly 36% of all the pages that I load up failing to properly render in one way or another. Usually, this happens with Facebook and irritates me to no end. I am not running Safari for any reason (only if someone paid me, really) so Firefox it is. The Fox also has a lower RAM use with multiple tabs open, nearly half of what Chrome sucks up.

Lastly, I search for a lot of things. Chrome’s address bar doubles for searches, but it only does searches using the Google engine. Sometimes I only want something from Wikipedia, other times its a listing on eBay someone might have told me about. There’s no way to choose your search engine on the fly with Chrome, but Firefox does have this built-in and its massively configurable. So what with these three and other issues that I haven’t mentioned, which browser should I choose to use? Chrome is now on version 19 stable and Firefox is now sitting on number 13, with both almost on par with each other.

Its simple – I take a Symbian user’s approach. I have both browsers open now and use Chrome for work, downloads and my writing and social networking, while Firefox is used for my research and keeping up to date with the things that happen on the net thanks to my RSS feeds. I uninstalled Foxish Reader and cleared all my Sync Data on the Google Dashboard and now things are much smoother. Sadly, Mozilla’s Sync doesn’t work as well, so I’ll have to wait until things clear up on that end before I can work anywhere without hassle. Its not the most elegant solution but it works. Thanks to NoScript and Adblock Plus on Firefox, I also have no issues with long page loads and heavy websites that like to overload on the adverts.

It really is the best of both worlds. Readers, take to the comments or forum and tell me which browser/s you use and why?

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