For the entirety of the last decade I have been using Chrome as my main browser. I started using it when Google’s motto was still “Don’t be evil” and have since lived to see the hero become the villain, so I wanted to give Firefox a serious try by making it by main browser. Here’s a very subjective report on things I liked, didn’t like, and why I’m switching back to Chrome. Disclaimer: all of this represents a snapshot in time of the features present in both browsers, and my views are entirely subjective. Your mileage may vary.
The reason I went with Firefox is because of its extensions, and its attitude towards free software. I fundamentally believe that software should be free, and having an open ecosystem for web technologies is something that Firefox contributes to, whereas (again, in my opinion) Chrome tries to take that away. Google would love nothing better for their users to be tightly tied into the Google ecosystem, which is an idea that I really dislike but at the same time benefit greatly from. Chrome’s sync for bookmarks, passwords etc. is just better than Firefox.
Another reason I wanted to switch is that, at the time, there were rumors that Chrome was going to completely get rid of ad blocking extensions in Chrome, and that would have been a dealbreaker for me. As of June 2023 this hasn’t happened though. I’ve also switched from an Android phone to an iOS phone during this time and have found the differences to be less, since both browsers use webkit underneath on iOS.
I’ll get to the core of why I’m switching back: Firefox annoys me. It’s just less user-friendly than Chrome. Here’s some things that Firefox gets wrong on mobile:
- I have a bookmark with the word ‘weather’ in the url, and a different site that I visit every day to check the weather for my area. Chrome is smart enough to present me with the site that I just visited first whenever I search for ‘weather’. Firefox insists on showing me a stale bookmark that I haven’t visited in years and I have to scroll down to actually to get to my recent sites.
- For some reason I’ve also seen the exact opposite behavior in Firefox as well, where I’ll have a bookmark for my online banking site that I want to go when I type ‘bank’, but because I’ve visited some obscure unrelated website that had ‘bank’ in the url, once, five years ago, I keep getting that recommendation rather than the bookmark I visit every month.
- Speaking of bookmarks, I’m probably old-school in this, but I have a lot of bookmarks. One thing I do a lot is bookmark a site on mobile to my bookmark toolbar and then later check it on desktop. Firefox mobile never remembers the last folder I saved my bookmark in, and it always expands all subfolders in all my bookmarks, so I have to scroll down for half an hour and read through every folder name to get to the toolbar folder. It sucks. Chrome usually gets this right and remembers the last folder you used, but if I recall correctly this behavior did vary during the last years or so, so it is or was not perfect either.
- Speaking of sync, I’ve occasionally had issues where the sync just didn’t happen and I sat at my desktop waiting for the bookmark to pop up. Chrome’s is pretty much instant.
- On Firefox sometimes the most frequently visited sites on the start page just disappear. I don’t recall ever seeing this in Chrome.
- Firefox crashes a lot, both on Android and on iOS. I’ll try to navigate to a site and the entire app just goes away and performs a load-from-scratch routine when I next tap the app icon. Again not something I’ve ever seen Chrome do.
- Firefox is just laggy when the phone is on power-saving mode. Seriously, it takes several seconds to close a tab on my iPhone 12? That’s very, very poor. As usual, Chrome’s UX is lightning fast even in power saving mode.
- Controversial ding: Firefox doesn’t know as much about me, so its recommendations are worse. I know, I know.. I say I care about privacy, but I have to admit I just like Chrome’s recommend articles way better than whatever Pocket comes up with. Though on that note, Chrome sucks in a different way: whenever it thinks I’m interested in “Thing A”, it will start recommend me all the local newspaper sites that write about “Thing A”, and I have to blacklist those sites one by one. I really don’t care about what some local town 200 miles away writes about the topic, but Chrome will happily recommend the same thing from a different local town 210 miles away instead.
And here’s a couple more things that Firefox gets wrong on Windows 10 compared to Chrome:
- Firefox mutes tabs once, Chrome mutes sites and remembers it for all eternity.
- Firefox sucks at multi monitor. It never remembers its window size correctly when you have two monitors with different display scales.
- Site compatibility: this is not a huge thing, but some sites just look better in Chrome. I’m not sure what it is: different fonts, minor layout differences, but you can tell. It’s not a good thing because it means the web is over-optimizing for Chrome, but it’s just the way it is.
I know things may improve. I was really hoping that they would, but right now I think Chrome just has more (human) resources to throw at these things, and that, in my opinion, makes it an obviously better browser than Firefox (disclaimer: for my purposes). Perhaps I’ll try this experiment again in the future, but I think the only thing that would make me do that is if Chrome somehow becomes worse. Then again, given the kind of anti-user behavior that Google thinks is ok these days, it’s entirely possible that Chrome will become worse year of year, but for now Chrome is definitely still the clear winner for me. Let’s revisit this in a couple of years and see whether my trust in Chrome turned out to be misplaced or valid.