My Friendship With Google Chrome Has Ended, Now Firefox Is My Best Friend

Last year, I spent a chunk of time playing around with different browsers. Microsoft Edge, much to much dismay, got a run for a couple of weeks. I mucked around with the early days of the Firefox Quantum beta. And then, just like everyone else, I went back to Chrome.

But even though I returned to the home of Google, I've still been angling for something different. And over the last few weeks, I found myself using Firefox more and more, until the browser finally became my default option across all platforms.

This story has been updated since it originally appeared in April 2018.

Even before I abandoned my temporary move last year, Firefox had already offered several compelling reasons to switch. From a non-productivity aspect, the gaming performance and WebGL implementation was vastly more efficient than Chrome's. Playing something like the open-source Tomb Raider fan remake was basically impossible in Chrome, because the controls were largely unresponsive and the frame rate was piss poor. Firefox: smooth as silk.

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Gaming in a browser, even as someone who runs a gaming site for their day job, isn't close to the main reason I switched browsers though. The main things I was looking for were all productivity based: I wanted something that was memory efficient, especially when I've got multiple browser tabs competing for memory space with Photoshop, occasionally Open Broadcaster Software (if recording) and other apps.

I wanted something that was fast. The early Firefox Quantum betas were much better than the Firefox of old - but our work sites still loaded up faster (without adblock, to be clear), which was one of the major reasons I switched back.

That's no longer the case. I've run some eyeball tests this morning, and while Chrome pops up a fraction of a second faster, that's all it is. It's neck and neck for practical purposes, which brings the other major benefits of Firefox into play:

  • Firefox actually saves passwords: I can hear people groaning in the background already at the security implications of this - and yes, I do use separate password managers personally and professionally. But sometimes I need to login to an app or browser quickly, and for whatever reason - probably enforced by the developers - Chrome never actually remembers the login details. Firefox doesn't have that problem, and you can access your saved logins which can be a lifesaver in a pinch. Again, not the most secure option, but bloody handy.
  • Chrome only spell-checks the lines around the cursor, rather than the entirety of a text box as soon as it's active: I can see the efficiency argument here from Google: if a user hasn't clicked on a text box, why waste resources on grammar and spell checks until it's needed? That said, if you're typing for a living - and many of us do, even if you're not in the world of professional publishing - being able to quickly parse the errors of a document is super handy. It's a lifesaver for myself and Amanda when we're localising stories, or fixing my own fuck-ups, and it's something I wish Chrome would just let users enable by default.
  • Firefox's in-built screenshot tool is fantastic: I always have a third-party app for taking screenshots - Faststone Capture is lightweight and very, very good - but those apps don't always work across, say, PC and Mac. And while Firefox's tool only works within the browser, it's pretty smart: it'll auto-target individual boxes if you just want to capture those, or you can make freeform selections by clicking and dragging from empty space. There's an option to capture the whole browser window, or just what's visible. A+, Mozilla.
  • Automatically blocking HTML5 video: Ever gone to a news site and immediately regretted it because you had to deal with an autoplaying video that just won't stop? Firefox has blocked that stuff for years, and it works damn well. Absolute lifesaver.
  • Tracker blocking off the bat: Firefox has always had a pretty strong stance against website trackers, and the benefits aren't just for privacy concerns either. Earlier this year, Mozilla split their tracking protection tech from the private browser, which results in substantially faster load times. It's one checkbox to turn it on, although note that it can stop some embeds (like Instagram, Twitter) from displaying properly.
  • Chrome's mobile preview mode sometimes borks out: This one's purely related to the realities of my job. If you're reading something in a browser, you don't generally care that much about how it looks like on a phone. But since it's my job to make sure things work across mobile and desktop, I'm a regular user of Chrome's Inspector tool or Firefox's alternative, Responsive Design Mode.

    It basically brings up a mobile version of the page you're on, which looks like this:

  • In my experience, Firefox's responsive mode has been just a little more consistent and accurate. I've had instances where embedded iframes or (for example) Instagram messages wouldn't display correctly, or at all, in Chrome's mode. Firefox had no problems whatsoever, and so if I need to make sure something won't break, Firefox is the go-to.

It's not all gravy, though. Tweetdeck looks utterly horrific on Firefox, with Chrome substantially smarter about how it displays scroll bars between each of the columns. Our backend doesn't always play nice with Firefox, and Firefox's responsive mode doesn't let you click and drag the window, like you were scrolling the page with your finger.

The one big kicker that has kept Chrome alive, at least in my workflow, is the laptop. Edge is still the best for battery life, if you're on the go, but Firefox's battery usage savages the life out of my Surface Laptop. Mileage will vary from one device to another, but Firefox's battery and memory usage is vastly more tolerable on laptops than desktops. It's not as big an issue on mobiles, although if you want to switch from Chrome there Brave is a recommended alternative.

On top of that, it's more intuitive to find images through Chrome Inspector than Firefox (which has them neatly located in the Page Info, rather than the debugger). That's a big time saver, especially as a lot more publishers embed bullshots in weird and wonderful ways.

And those gripes have been around since I tried Firefox the last time. But the rest of the browser experience has picked up to the point where I genuinely prefer Firefox as my daily driver, rather than The Thing I Load Because Chrome Forgot A Bloody Password and I need to login now instead of in a minute.

Will that always remain the case? Maybe not. I'm always curious to see if Edge can finally get it together, although my previous experience was aggravating enough to ward me off for several months.


Comments

    Firefox is the less intrusive, Less resource using king, Firefox is distanced from Google's owelien censorship too.

      @alexwalker I hope Mozilla does a digital storefront for gaming because they will put Steam to shame.

      Last edited 11/04/18 12:10 pm

      Of all the things mentioned in the article, I don't know why it's a comment having to say the obvious reason Chrome is losing.

    grrr moderation cue for edits

    Last edited 11/04/18 12:31 pm

    I never switched off of Firefox from back when it was the one everyone was using, mostly just because the more open and less stalker-y a platform is the better.

      I'm a bit the same, I've been using Firefox for ages. The difference being lately it's been giving me grief. There are a few websites that will absolutely 100% guaranteed crash the video card driver. Humble Bundle is one of them. I tried Vivaldi and it doesn't have the same problem.

      I'm really hoping Mozilla sort out the problem (or nVidia do) so I'm not stuck using two browsers.

    I use Firefox for pretty much everything, except to use Edge for overseas netflix, since it's the only browser that outputs it at 1080p.

    It's probably irrelevant to most, but the big thing for me has been tab containers. Being able to have different sessions for different tabs is amazing. What attracted me to it was testing websites with different users with different access levels (something I have to do as a web developer). Previously I'd use an incognito window, and if I needed more than two accounts at once I had to open up Edge or something as well.
    But once I had my head around containers, I started using them to separate accounts; e.g. Personal sessions and work sessions. Google does an okay job at account switching, except when it doesn't (*Shakes fist at google sheets*). But just having separate sessions is even easier and I can see by the colour below the tab what accounts will be logged in. It's great.

    Microsoft browsers have been shit for literally as long as ive been alive

    Going to take a lot to convince me that edge isnt pure garbage and its failed to even remotely start convincing me

    Even shitty mobile browsers do better

      It has its quirks but I can tell U it's still rubbish. A lot of webpages don't load or loads slowly and the worst crime is the memory it takes up. Without extension, Just one tab it is running at 600 mb. That's insane

      Last edited 12/04/18 12:59 pm

    Mozilla seems to be one of the few companies still pushing to maintain the integrety of the internet. Google was ok for a while, but they seem to have shifted to a Facebook style data company where you are the product. Mozilla constantly fights for better user privacy and protection. The ideal of the internet being an open platform where any and all information canbe freely shared is still a stronh philosophy there. Google is increasingly a gatekeeper over a gateway.

    I've been using it since it was netscape. I could never understand why everyone was so keen on using a google browser. It's just straight up giving them all your info and eliminating the middle man.

      People will and do trade speed for almost everything else, basically

        People like what they think is fast, not what necessarily is. Fire fox has been faster and more secure for quite some time. I never left it, dunno why anyone would use Chrome

          Because it was leaner and faster than firefox for years?

            The memory model in Chrome is still considerably better than Firefox, even though it takes up slightly more of it. People only care about the number (hurr durr lower is better) instead of the why, it seems.

            For that matter, people think memory use is bad. Memory is worthless if it's not being used, usage should ideally be as high as possible. The system has mechanisms built in to prioritise release of non-essential use when another process requires it for essential use. Memory use also has negligible effect on battery life, that's not even remotely a concern.

              This reminds me of one previous version of Windows where it would use all your memory to make things as quick as possible. People lost their shit. Pretty sure it went away in an update fairly quickly.

                It still does in a fashion, it just doesn't report a difference between standby and free memory. There are tools (eg. RAMMap) that show a more detailed breakdown of memory usage. For example, IntelliJ IDEA running on my system right now reports 450MB of RAM usage in Task Manager, but has almost the same amount as cached data in standby usage.

                  I realise I clipped off the headings from RAMMap, derp. The usage columns are left-to-right private, standby and modified,

      Wait... Mozilla used to be Netscape?
      As in Netscape Navigator Netscape?

        Sort-of. It was based on the code. Vastly updated though.

        Super late response:

        "Mozilla" was actually originally the code name of Netscape Communicator. It's actually a portmanteau of Mosaic and Godzilla, where NCSA Mosaic was the first major graphical web browser - there were other early browsers but Mosaic was the first to show images inline with text, among other things. Netscape was originally named Mosaic Communications Corporation and many people there worked on NCSA Mosaic.

        When Netscape was running into financial trouble down the line after repeatedly releasing an inferior browser then having a big cry about it to the US DoJ and the whole Microsoft Antitrust thing, they decided to make the product free and released the source code, later setting up the Mozilla foundation to curate it.

        For a long time, Mozilla was continued as the same sort of All-in-One product with email and everything that Netscape had been, while people worked on taking the core components and breaking it out into two new, lean products, Firefox and Thunderbird.

        Pretty much everything in Firefox has been rewritten since then, but yes, Firefox has Netscape (and Mosaic) in its Ancestry.

    I used to use Firefox all the time but it eventually started to crap out on me so I switched to Chrome. I suppose I could give Firefox another shot.

    I stopped using Firefox when the latest version broke NoScript - really annoyed me. Maybe I'll try it again sometime soon..

    And then, just like everyone else, I went back to Chrome.

    OMG Alex, you were using Chrome? I'm so embarrassed for you! XD

    After the latest update to 59.0.2 I keep getting insecure connection. Using Chrome until it's fixed.

    The main reason I got back into firefox was how it handled tabs when you have 20+ tabs open. There is no way to distinguish tabs on chrome anymore at that point.

    I have tried Chrome, Opera, Waterfox and Edge and keep going back to Fire Fox. I did a dummy spit when All In One side bar was discontinued and FF kept crashing. But FF overall gives better results. I also use three tabs as I often work with 20 plus tabs open.

    Seen the light huh.
    I only wish Opera had gone with Mozilla, could have been great again...

    I also dumped chrome browser, main reason was censorship of search results and pushing leftist agenda. Also I started using Firefox as default in Linux Mint, it worked well so no reason to not do same on windows. I have also made DuckDuckGo my default search engine for same reason. I do not won't to support a organisation that is bias and abusive of my online data search and information.

    Never stopped using Firefox (it's also on my phone). There was a period years ago where it started using a lot of resources, but that was fixed. I've never had issues with it. NoScipt + AdBlockPlus (switched to uBlock after ABP went haywire) were my go-to plugin, but with the new update, I've been using uMatrix (more control than the updated noscript), it's been fine. Can also use just uBlock if you don't want to constantly allow domains and such.

    What is stopping me to go back to FF is the same thing that once stopped me from moving from FF to Chrome: the availability of my preferred extensions.

    I was a big fan of Firefox until Quantum. The UI is just awful, and takes a ton of extensions and tweaking to get it back to a remotely useful state. It's too much work to remember what I had to change to get it right on my desktop so on other machines I've just ditched it and gone to Chrome because at least the UI there doesn't constantly make me want to break things.

    Firefox Quantum feels like "let's make it like Chrome except inexplicably worse in random ways."

      I thought that was the Firefox dev's MO for the last several years and then some.

        Yeah but it was at least fixable to some degree. Quantum throwing out all the existing extensions ruined that.

    I've been using Firefox since the Pheonix days, over 15 years oof!

    Chrome absolutely saves passwords. I have a terrible memory which is why it's a little luxury I enjoy. They have an entire separate page for it to find on other browsers.

      I think he's talking about issues he's had where it saves passwords up until for some reason it doesn't.

    I'm one of those people that dabbled with Chrome when it first came out but ultimately stuck with Firefox in the end. It also has nothing to do with the fact that despite being in the software industry or maybe because of it I'm very set in my ways. I took forever to move off Navigator to Mozilla, then I took forever to move from Mozilla to Firefox. I still use Thunderbird and my music player of choice for 18 years now has been Winamp. *WhatYearIsIt.jpg*

    Support under Linux is a bit limited for this one apparently, it seems to run fine but still not as good as chromium (I use Vivaldi).

    There is also a big issue with plugin makers not really supporting firefox anymore, for example I can't get a whitelist plugin for ublock under firefox, and there is a handful of others not available.

    Many of the plugins for firefox are version restricted thus not supported in newer versions like quantum. On top of that its not always easy to customize.

    I run Chrome for the simple reason that it syncs all my settings across multiple systems. At work I run Windows, at home I run Kubuntu, and then theres my phone. All 3 have sync'd bookmarks, plugins/extensions and passwords.

    As far as memory management, Ive been using The Great Suspender, which works a treat on non-mobile versions of the browser.

      Firefox can sync settings across multiple computers. It's perhaps not quite as seamless as Chrome to set up, but it works just as well once it is.

      I've also basically quit Chrome for Firefox in Windows. On the Mac I switched from Chrome to Safari, primarily because of Safari's excellent touch bar support.

    Firefox has some little issues as:
    - take quite moment to figure out Netflix to work with Silverlight (after latest update patch)
    - Some Android phone showed ugly unicode -ttf8.
    - take more space vs Chrome ( in the term of using system title bar and border)
    - If you spend some money on your own Google account, I believe you gotta be protected by Google better than Open Source. Eg. You have bought Google Apps, Google Movies, Google Books etc.... Using Mozilla, are you sure your own data will be not cooking by third parties? IMHO, I rely on Google, That why a lot of small biz using GSuite with confident! regards.

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