Why I’m not giving up on Firefox yet

Google is upping the ante on pretty much every major producer of operating systems and web technologies. The release of Google Chrome might not have been as ground-shattering as a lot of people of made it out to be, but it was certainly a clear message that Google was taking the control of the web seriously. The announcement of Chrome OS has ruffled even more feathers and set the rumor mills to work overtime and if you like around the web you’ll see all sorts of opinions regarding the whole situation. I’ve previously said that I wasn’t ready to take a side until I saw an actual release of Chrome OS and decided firsthand if it met my needs. I’m going to stand by my word and for the time being at least my browser of choice is still Firefox on all platforms. Here’s why:

1. Extensions

Chrome is growing support for extensions and I hear they’re going to be really easy to make. But it’s going to be a while before they catch the community support that already exists around Firefox. I use a number of extensions on a regular basis including Zotero, the Diigo toolbar, Twitterfox and Down Them All. Some of these extensions allow me to use stand-alone web applications, but without actually visiting the website (Twitterfox and the Diigo bar). Others let me easily perform common web-related tasks without requiring a separate program (FireFTP and FireBug). Some of these could easily be their own programs, but even compared to full desktop equivalents, they are outstanding tools (Zotero). Equally important are more experimental extensions like Mozilla’s Weave and Ubiquity tools. These are still experimental tools but already provide useful functionality that I think I’m going to use more and more as they mature. Until Chrome can sport equally compelling and useful tools, I’ll stay put.

2. I don’t use Windows all that much

My use of Windows varies from about once a month to once a week. My computer time is divided almost equally between OS X and Linux. Though the open source component of Chrome compiles and runs of both of them, they are still far from complete. I don’t mind trying out something experimental to get the feel for it (or if I have an active interest in it), but considering that Firefox already offers a high quality browsing experience already, I don’t see a need to switch.

3. I don’t quite agree with the ‘every tab is a process’ model

A large part of Chrome’s innovation is in treating the browser more like an operating system and each tab as an separate web application. While this is probably a good idea in terms of safety and reliability, it also turns the browser into a very memory heavy application. Combine that with Vista’s own inefficiencies and the fact I often run other heavy programs (compilers, IDEs and the like), I really want my browser to not take up more memory than it has to. As the article I linked to shows, Firefox does much better in memory terms than other popular browsers. The number of web applications that I leave open for any period of time are trusted applications and most of them do not stay open for more than an hour or so at a time so I’m not sure I need a full multiprocess browser for now.

4. Firefox is catching up

When Chrome first came out, it did come up with a number of cool new features. Besides the memory model, it sported an incredibly fast JavaScript Engine and (in my opinion) a really clean interface. Firefox was left in the dust to some extent, but it’s quickly catching up. The new 3.5 release has seen improvements in JavaScript performance and support for the HTML 5 video tag. JavaScript isn’t quite as fast as on Chrome (for example, Chrome experiments doesn’t quite work right), but it’s fast enough for the differences to be unnoticeable for most people (including myself). Thanks to theming, users can make the Firefox interface as clean as they want it to be. There’s even a good theme that closely mimics Chrome.

5. Chrome still has bugs that need fixing

While Chrome sports some great new technologies, there are still some problems that really need to be fixed. In particular, there are issues with image sizing (that I saw while viewing this blog with Chrome). As well as issues with the implementation of the HTML 5 canvas tag. The later is especially important to get right as it’s going to be really important for the future of web apps. One example that I think will become really important is the Bespin code editor which doesn’t work right under Chrome (and not all under Chromium). Until these bugs get fixed, I’m not going to be able consider moving to Chrome for full time use.

Though I’m not ready to leave Firefox yet, I’m certainly not making any promises for the future. I’m sure that Chrome will continue to push innovation in the browser sphere and all net users will benefit as a result. At the same time Firefox is also taking the initiative in a number of areas (especially in respect to HTML 5) and it will be interesting how they keep up the pace. I personally would like to see some amount of cross-fertilization between the open source browser communities. In particular it might be worthwhile for Firefox to consider adopting the V8 JavaScript engine. In return, Chrome could learn a few lessons from Firefox with regard to HTML 5. The following months and years are certainly going to be an interesting period for web technology and I’m sure to make some careful consideration before making any sort of browser move.

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Published by

Shrutarshi Basu

Programmer, writer and engineer, currently working out of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

One thought on “Why I’m not giving up on Firefox yet”

  1. Very good overview. Lately I have been suggesting people use Chrome, and the main reason is that it is fast and has a very smooth interface. (Most people don’t use extensions and plugins.)

    As for me, when I am on Windows I usually have Chrome and Firefox up. But if I am just browsing the web I have been using Chrome. I love how I can easily split windows and tabs. (I know firefox does it, but it is not as quick and smooth at separating tabs.)

    But if I am working on my website I am using Firefox + Firebug. However, the last site I designed, I didn’t have any issue with getting things to look correctly in Chrome. What I saw in Firefox was what I saw in Chrome (IE is another story).

    But if I’m on Mac OS or Linux I of course use Firefox.

    As for the topic of memory. I don’t see it as an issue. New computers are now shipping with 6, 12, even 24 Gigs of memory. And Windows 7 is much better at memory management.

    I like both of them, and I’m glad Chrome is here. It seems to be the first browser to give Firefox a run for it’s money. Hopefully the two of them can really push the web.

    No matter what browser you like, the day we completely get rid of Flash, it will be a good day.

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