I never seem to be content with a web browser for long. Perhaps it is part of the techie nature to try new things; even when we have products and services we love to use, we’re always looking out to the next great thing. But nevertheless since I started trying different web browsers many moons ago, I’ve always tried going for underdogs or different experiences. However, I have found myself settling upon Chromium as my browser of choice because of its speed, support for numerous web standards, its availability on almost every platform, having some good built-in developer tools, and the best cross-platform syncing built into any browser (especially tabs).
Note, however, that I said Chromium and not Chrome. This seems like a minor issue of linguistics. They’re both the same browser right? Not quite. Chrome is based off Chromium, so they both run the same engine, and Google technically controls the direction of both browsers. Google essentially releases Chromium as the open source product, then takes it and adds Flash Player, a PDF viewer, the auto updater, and RLZ tracking (see Wikipedia).
It’s that last item that gets me. I like the other features, but the tracking and privacy stuff gets me. I’m not so ignorant to think no one is tracking me. I’m on the web, I know that I’m essentially in a public domain. Even if I do everything to turn off tracking in a browser, there’s somebody who’s still getting some information about me. My issue is why Google needs more of my info. Why does my browser have to send information about what I’m doing all the time to the maker?
So the initial reaction by many is to use a different browser, like Firefox for example. And I like what Firefox stands for. The freedom of the web for everyone, both for users and developers. Firefox helped kick off the browser revolution (mainly alternative browsers) as well as other ideas like extensions and tabs to make the browser more of a platform than just another program (and yes, Firefox wasn’t the only one doing this or always the first, just the most mainstream). Firefox also has the largest extension repository and is the most open of the major browsers. So why do I hesitate to use it?
The sad truth of the matter is that Firefox itself has feature problems for me. Yeah it’s open and has gotten a lot faster, but it is still pretty sluggish. Both it and Chrome are resource hogs, but I feel it with Firefox after a few tabs, while Chrome takes a lot more tabs before I notice the sluggishness. Firefox has syncing too and with it more security features that I like, but I don’t like always having to enter a recovery key or code (besides the account password) to set up Firefox on a new device. And as for mobile, I can’t really say I like using Firefox on Android (though the design is slick) and Firefox is not existent on iOS, save one or two third-party apps that don’t really get the job done.
But I cheer for Firefox because what they stand for has never changed and they’re always pushing for the betterment of the entire web and universal standards, rather than one company’s agenda or standard (ok, may that is their agenda, but the point remains). Furthermore, I like the idea of having another browser engine to work with and use. As a developer, that may make my job just a little more difficult, and I think WebKit is a fine engine, but competition is good to keep progress moving forward. I was even a touch sad when Opera announced it was switching over to Chrome’s engine and abandoning its own Presto engine. It could get kind of boring only having WebKit browsers like Safari, Chrome, and Opera on the scene, and further lead to these companies implementing standards that they have direct control over and can wield over developers, users, and other browsers.
Chrome has the features sets, but the privacy concerns bother me. Furthermore, it has done little to improve its memory hogging performance and still seems mainly there to push Google’s agenda. Google has every right to make a browser (competition again), and they’ve made a dang good one, so I use it. But I keep looking at Firefox and watching the improvements. One day, if they improve their mobile offerings, and make a better syncing tool, I may just go back to it. I’ll stand with one foot on the features, and the other on the principles.