Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Why I dumped Google Chrome - a review

As a long-time user of Firefox who's seen praised lavished upon Google Chrome, when I got my new computer with Chrome pre-installed, I decided to give it a go and see what all the fuss was about.

Six days later, I'm back to Firefox. But why?

Firstly, the positives. I'm a big fan of Chrome's clean, unfussy layout. The screen remains uncluttered by sidebars, toolbars and other buttons, leaving more space free for the websites the user visits.

I also really liked Chrome's automatic website translations. When visiting a site in a foreign language, the browser automatically pops up a bar at the top to ask the user if they'd like it translated into English. I normally didn't want that, as I was visiting these websites to learn the languages concerned, but it's very handy to have, and easy to turn off for specific languages too.

In addition to these features, like all good browsers these days, Chrome is very customisable, with lots of extensions to be added and removed at will. This is where my problems started however, and ultimately is the reason I switched back to Firefox.

Chrome and I didn't get off to a good start, as the version that Lenovo has pre-installed on my laptop was a little old, and wouldn't accept some of the extensions I wanted to use. (Incidentally, I wonder if this is by accident or design on the manufacterers behalf, as all the extensions it wouldn't install were ones relating to privacy or ad-blocking.) The browser then wouldn't allow itself to be updated; I eventually uninstalled it, and reinstalled it fresh from Google's website, upon doing which I was able to install AdBlock Plus.

There were three activities in particular where extensions to the browser were important to me.

The first is a service I use called Pocket (formerly Read It Later), which allows users to save webpages they want to read at a later time, and synchronises between computers and smartphone. The official Chrome extension didn't even let me read the pages I'd saved without going to Pocket's webpage, and the three different user-created ones I tried were all fiddly to use. I found a workaround using one of these, but it required more clicks than the simple Firefox add-on.

The second activity that I like to use browser extensions for is Twitter, and I had a terrible time trying to find a Chrome extension that suited the way I work. Very few seem to support managing multiple accounts, and similarly few are able to load your tweets from when you last read, instead bringing up the newest tweets each time the extension is opened. Echofon for Firefox manages both of these tasks beautifully, with a simple, inobstrusive interface, and it was my longing for this that was the tipping point, finally driving me back to Firefox.

In going back to Firefox, however, I was concerned that I would have to sacrifice one great extension I'd found, that automatically scrobbled YouTube videos to my account. I'd never been able to find a working Firefox add-on before, so I was surprised and pleased to find that now there is a Greasemonkey script that does this very well.

All of this means that I'm very happy to be back with Firefox. Other than the automatic translations, there's nothing that Chrome can do that Firefox can't, and plenty that Chrome fails miserably on that Firefox accomplishes with ease. And while Chrome is supposedly less demanding than other browsers, when extensions are taken into account it was sucking up far more system resources than Firefox ever does.

For some users perhaps, Chrome could be ideal. But for me, and for how I work, it was a total letdown. I'm pleased to be back on familiar ground with Firefox.


  1. Why don't you use Internet Explorer.... :D

    Good review. Personally I use Chrome now, but used to Firefox. I switched to Chrome because Firefox would crash on me. Probably because I like have multiple tabs open all the time.

  2. I used to use google chrome for a while but went back to firefox due to the lack of addons I wanted. Addons like convergence which is only available for firefox. I had a MLM attack with SSL exploit someone was using certificate not sure if they hacked the site that used the root cert or it was one they bought anyways once I used convergence it went away. I changed my password and now I should be ok. I reported to google security and they told me it was an error with my convergence addon when I knew there was a MLM. I will never use chrome again unless I can my own cert instead of ones on the site.