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We Need Chrome No More (redalemeden.com)
1011 points by kaishin 22 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 517 comments



I enjoyed this post, but I take issue with the idea that Chrome was initially adopted, or served, "to break the Web free from corporate greed." Chrome's appeal was primarily technical. Each tab got its own process and could crash without taking down the entire browser. No one else had this at the time, and it was a big deal because Flash was still widespread so sites were even less stable than they are today.

Luckily, Firefox, arguably among the most "free from corporate greed" of the browsers, has now finally caught up to Chrome on stability and speed (in my experience), and is rapidly adding privacy and content blocking features and defaults that Chrome lacks. If it were still behind Chrome technically, as it was in 2008, it probably wouldn't matter that Mozilla is more trustworthy than Google.


> Chrome's appeal was primarily technical. Each tab got its own process and could crash without taking down the entire browser.

Curious, I remember speed being the primary reason. Google invented V8 (the javascript engine), with some pretty decent optimizations and a well-working JIT on i386/amd64 platforms. At the time when chromium came out, it handled some JS-heavy applications very nicely that Firefox struggled with.

There seems to be a bloat cycle with many products, browsers being one of them. They start off lean, gain features over time, and then they are or feel so heavy that a lean new competitor can feel like a fresh breeze.

Remember when Firefox was the fresh breeze, compared to the Netscape suite? I remember Chrome being perceived the same way when it came out.


I'm surprised there aren't more people on here who moved to chome for the dev tools. That is what moved me over there. Firebug was great in it's day but at some point Chrome's dev tools just became too much better to make staying on Firefox possible.


Firebug was awesome, then 2011 happened and Firebug’s lead dev joined the Google Chrome team to work on their dev tools [1].

[1] https://news.softpedia.com/news/Lead-Firebug-Developer-Joins...


Even to this day Firefox doesn't have websocket frame inspection. Its very frustrating to me that dev tools aren't a higher priority for Firefox. As they are now, they are only slightly worse than Chromes which is unacceptable considering more and more websites are being developed with only Chrome in mind.


That is frustrating, but the good news is that this is being picked up as part of (somewhat ironically) Google Summer of Code: https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=885508#c49


I find it ironic that they kept lowering the priority since an extension already added the ability, yet that very same extension no longer works thanks to their recent API changes. Perhaps lowering the priority several times wasn't that best idea after all?


The decision to revamp their extensions API also cost a lot of goodwill from the community. FF today may be faster and more secure than two years ago, but from my perspective it has permanently lost some of its utility and appeal.


As a long time Firefox user I think the change in its extensions APIs is one of the greatest moves they did and I’m glad they did it.

Chrome’s extensions were isolated, easy to develop and had a permissions system in place.

To this day Firefox is still lagging behind in its isolation. For example Chrome can disable extensions in Incognito, but Firefox does not.

Also if you’re not paying attention, Chrome won and it’s nearly a monopoly. This means browser extensions get developed for Chrome first. Having similar APIs helps with migration.

I view the change as a good thing because I can finally develop my own extensions without headaches.


> To this day Firefox is still lagging behind in its isolation.

That is being worked on though:

> The first batch of changes to not run extensions in private browsing mode by default landed, this is still behind a preference.

https://blog.nightly.mozilla.org/2019/01/31/these-weeks-in-f...


That's very good news.


Extensions are profile-specific.

Solution: change profile to launch another browser instance without extensions.

Go to "about:profiles" in the address bar, or configure shortcuts in your OS to launch browser with different profiles: https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Mozilla/Firefox/Mul...


Isolation isn’t a benefit for extensions: the whole point of extensions, bookmarklets, etc. is to be able to modify arbitrary aspects of the browsing experience in arbitrary ways.


It's a balance, right? If browser extensions had kernel access, I think we'd all agree that's bad. Now, that's obviously an extreme, but where is the line?

Up until recently†, I'm not aware of a situation where a popular Firefox extension was unable to work in Chrome due to Google restrictions.

†I'm purposefully excluding the whole adblock thing, as that's super recent and thus not relevant here.


Playing devil's advocate, many firefox extensions don't work as well or at all as they used to. tree style tabs can't integrate in the same way without extra modification, all of the FF extensions that allowed you to control your browser with vim bindings no longer work.

I actually still think the API design was a good idea and am glad for the added security. Still, the API change took down some popular extensions for sure.


But it's not about the popular extensions.

Now there is no more middle click to submit on forms and I used that at my old job to speed up a bunch of tedious tasks.


That sounds trivial to implement in an extension at least. If there isn't one already I could probably take a crack at it.


> It's a balance, right? If browser extensions had kernel access, I think we'd all agree that's bad. Now, that's obviously an extreme, but where is the line?

It is, and it boils down to the usual security vs. utility tradeoff - beyond some point, more secure means less useful. Kernel access is a stretch, but then again, I could make my computing experience much more pleasant if I had a deeper ability to control and inspect the browser from external software running on my computer.


I don’t know about you, but I don’t trust all the extensions that I want to use.

Especially in Private/Incognito Mode I only want extensions for blocking ads/trackers + 1Password and that’s it.

Also being able to see what the extension does is really valuable to me, because allowing an extension to read the data on all websites you visit is really suspicious for a majority of extensions.

Mozilla has had a good review process in place and truth be told Chrome's Web Store has suffered from spyware and malicious extensions more than Firefox. But that's only because it is more popular and Google is known for really screwed / non-existent human support (e.g. extensions being reported as being malware with no immediate action).


> I don’t know about you, but I don’t trust all the extensions that I want to use.

That's fair, but this dynamic drags down usefulness of the whole platform. Browsers could offer extended permissions allowing extensions arbitrary control over the browsing experience, but they can't trust extension authors not to get greedy about privileges, and can't trust regular users to be smart about it. It's what happened with Android: applications requested every possible permission, users learned to just accept it.

> Also being able to see what the extension does is really valuable to me, because allowing an extension to read the data on all websites you visit is really suspicious for a majority of extensions.

That's true, and I wish there was an easy way to transparently run a I/O trace on an extension, and to have super-fine-grained user-level control over its permissions. I use a bunch of extensions that modify the contents of sites; I wish I could manually restrict them to a whitelist - and sometimes blacklist. Like, e.g. I don't need Cloud2Butt to work on my banking site.


> As a long time Firefox user I think the change in its extensions APIs is one of the greatest moves they did and I’m glad they did it.

Not me. If the new extension system didn't present a loss of important (to me) functionality, then I'd think it was a good thing.

But the loss of functionality happened, and that change is what makes the new Firefox unsuitable for me, so I stopped using it (and I never used Chrome).


It could never deploy multi-process with XUL cruft. Then the argument would be that Firefox is too far behind. You can never win everybody.


"e10s compatible" add-ons were as fully-featured as the "original" XUL add-ons and did not interfere with multi-process at all. For instance, VimFx was e10s compatible and could even run with Firefox Nightly (which allowed "legacy" add-ons), without disabling multi-process, until about Firefox 65(!), without major changes.


Taking away XUL is not the problem. Leaving users with a crippled replacement is.


Yes. DevTools's superiority was the catalyst for me (and many other devs I worked with at the time).


Same here. Firebug started to feel "limited" to what I could do in DevTools and they finally got me to switch. I honestly feel like I need to get Firefox another shot since Chrome's perf tools are heavily focused around the V8 engine. (Even though there is a lot of cross over with general JS perf)


Back when Chrome was new, I'd occasionally open Firefox for the debugging tools.


When I was a QA I’d use Firefox’s network inspector to edit and replay network requests easily, changing different parameters while being in an environment that stores all the necessary auth and cookies to use the APIs. I’ve had a lot of fun with that trying to reverse engineer websites without too much effort. Chrome still doesn’t do that.


I'm not a professional web developer, but in the experience I've had building a couple of JS heavy sites, I've actually found the Edge developer tools to be the best. If there's one thing microsoft knows how to do well, it's build developer tools.


> If there's one thing microsoft knows how to do well, it's build developer tools.

This is probably very subjective, but I can absolutely not relate to that.


Me neither. It may or may not be true in Edge, I've never tried, but it absolutely wasn't true in any IE so I wouldn't naturally expect it to be true in Edge.

I certainly see where GP is coming from, Microsoft do have an awesome legacy in dev tooling that lives on to this day with products like VSCode, but browser tooling might be the glaring exception to this - perhaps since Microsoft never really was or became an 'internet' company.


It seems like people consistently love or hate Visual Studio , and a lot of people seem to like VSCode.


> If there's one thing microsoft knows how to do well, it's build developer tools.

I think that's a debatable assertion.


I've been in frontend for a long time, since 1999. The dev console is my workplace. I have to use and be familiar with all popular browsers. Chrome's dev tools are far better in my opinion.


I vaguely remember all of those things as separate phases. - Moving away from IE, I fell in love with Opera (lots of built-in features), most others with Firefox - Chrome comes in, it's Google, it's lightweight, people try it and like it - Chrome gets really fast, it appeals to even more people - Meanwhile, Firefox has enough extension power to replace Opera for me (who can live with the tabs BELOW address bar or without mouse gestures?) - Chrome implements the aforementioned technical stuff (separate processes, etc.), appealing to power users (this may have happened before speed improvements or at the same time) - Chrome finally gets extensions and I start using it personally, but it's impossible to be a web dev without Firefox+Firebug. (IE6 still sucks, but combined with Visual Studio, feels superb for JS debugging) - Chrome's dev tools gradually get better at everything. I start living in Chrome.

... years later ...

- A year ago I often used Firefox for its great Canvas debugger. They broke it. I've since forgotten about Firefox.

... 2019 ...

- Microsoft is trying to drive people away from IE, hoping for Edge adoption. I don't care for Firefox. Opera is almost Chrome with extensions. Edge sounds like it wants to be Chrome. Chrome won on most battlefronts. I don't like that fact, because of the "free from corporate greed" reasons mentioned, but it's going to be hard to change the status quo.


> Microsoft is trying to drive people away from IE, hoping for Edge adoption.

Lolno, they gave up and are ditching Edge to use Chrome because Electron. https://9to5google.com/2018/12/03/microsoft-chrome-based-bro...


That is not correct. MS is ditching Trident for Blink but Edge and Chakra are still remaining technologies. This is unfortunate because Chrome is super slow on large CSS animations


> It's going to be hard to change the status quo.

There's plenty of room to improve on privacy. Non technical people don't care too much about privacy issues yet, but they will.


That was true back then, but the FF dev tools are much superior now. Chrome lags behind severely. Last I checked, clicking an XHR link in the console just took me to the network tab instead of actually showing that request. FF shows it inline in the console. Not to mention code caching bugs in Chrome even with the cache turned off. This is the primary reason I switched back to FF.


Sadly I find that the Firefox debugger is more likely to stall and flail about.

I keep trying to change to Firefox, but bring dragged back to Chrome.

I mostly work on stupidly big Single Page Apps, which may be part of the issue.


The problem was I was so used to Firebug after using it for so many years that I just kept using it out of inertia up until the day Mozilla dropped it from Firefox entirely. Then I just moved over to Firefox's developer tools (still out of inertia).


I thought Firefox’s Developer Edition had decent dev tools.


As you alluded to at the start of your post, Chromes speed improvements were more technical than it was due to a lack of bloat. In fact Chrome consumed more memory than FF did at that time and that was down to it being multi-processed (ie one heavy page wouldn’t slow down the rest of the application in other tabs) but that came at a cost in terms of RAM used.

Obviously the v8 stuff also made a massive difference too.


Honestly, I hate the term "bloat". Most of the times when I've seen bloat blamed, the real cause has been a bad algorithm somewhere. Just as was the case with Chrome, its often the case that using more RAM (and maybe more "bloat") can make things faster.


After fixing bad algorithms, dealing with performance and resource utilization basically comes down to a series of trade-offs. In most cases:

Less RAM = More CPU or more disk space (and much slower)

Less CPU = more disk or RAM

Less disk = more network, RAM and/or CPU


> a bad algorithm somewhere

Along the lines of a custom memory manager, that never releases memory back to the OS. If you open tons of tabs, closing them wouldn't release the memory back. Which is a decent guess - it used the memory once, it will probably need it again.


Yeah, i agree. And very succinctly put too.


I think another factor is just that Chrome's speed changed the landscape of web design itself, which fed back into Chrome's popularity.

By making javascript so much faster, it allowed web designers to do things that only Chrome could do.


> Curious, I remember speed being the primary reason.

This was how I remember it as well. Not only that but the timing was very fortunate for Chrome because at the time Firefox had some very bad memory leaks which in my opinion really helped with Chrome adoption since people who use Firefox were more likely to be willing to switch browsers having already switched from another browser.


Chrome won people away from Firefox because it was fast enough, and it worked correctly. The "working correctly" part was what pulled me away from Firefox.

Breaking ad-blocking is sending me back to Firefox.


>Curious, I remember speed being the primary reason.

Chromes super fast start up speed and clean UI is what caused me to switch when it first came out.


I never switched because once upon a time I switched from Opera to Firefox because it was the most free (as in libre) browser and I haven't found a more free browser yet.

I try to live after the maxim: freedom before convenience (at least in parts of my life).


If there's one thing that Google does well, it's convince the relevant people that their software is open source.

See: Chrome and Android


They are though. There are no Edge forks or free iOS distributions.


No, they’re not. They’re based on open source software.

But by that measure safari is open source because WebKit is open source.


> But by that measure safari is open source because WebKit is open source.

There's a lot more closed source code in Safari than there's in Chrome. But sure: Why not give them credit for open-sourcing WebKit? Safari is closer to open-source than IE.


And yet I trust Safari a fucking lot more than I trust Chrome. Something about not being a business reliant on harvesting every bit of personal information possible.


And you're probably right. "Open-source-ness" shouldn't be the only measure when valuing software.


Have you considered switching to lynx?


I used it for a month or something back when I couldn't get the graphics card working, but it was not fun.


Perhaps it is the so-called "corporate greed" that creates the bloat.

The added funtionality that the browser "needs", once added, is in practice overwhelmingly directed at commercial purposes, primarily advertising-supported businesses.

In theory it could be used for anything.

Correct me if wrong, but Netscape was originally intended to be a browser for commercial enterprise where companies would pay licensing fees.

And Firefox, whatever its purpose was (perhaps an alternative to another corporate browser from Microsoft), ended up being the precursor to Chrome, a browser written by an ad sales company, as the original Chrome developers were originally Firefox developers.

Following the ideal that the web is this wonderful open platform accessible to anyone, I would like to see more browsers, with reduced functionalty (and perhaps increased safety/privacy and freedom from ads), written not by companies nor organizations that try to compete feature-for-feature with those corporations. These simpler browsers could target the non-commercial web, e.g. the web as a free information source. A web where an individual page need not be a conglomeration of random third parties vying for user attention.

Methinks it should be more troubling to the HN crowd that "browsers" are not amongst the class of programs that can be easily written, edited and compiled by anyone. They could be, but the popular definition of "browser" needs to change, moving away from "all the features of Company's browser" or "all the features Working Group is discussing with input from Companies" and more toward what a given user (cf. company, advertiser), including non-commercial users, actually needs for a given task.

There will always be corporate-sponsored web browsers with corporate-friendly, advertising-friendly features. But we need non-corporate browsers too. They may be enough to accomplish the user's non-commercial tasks but not well-suited for web advertising, e.g. optional auto-loading third party resources.


I remember using Firefox in the pre 1.0 days.

It took slightly longer to launch than IE, but since it had tabs, I didn't care, because I wasn't opening a new instances constantly.


Fwiw, IE was pre-launched with Windows. That was the secret behind its (often) fast startup.

Not doing the same in Firefox was a conscious design decision by the Firefox team, which didn't want to hoard the memory when Firefox wasn't in use.


Yeah, seamonkey (and maybe opera) also had ways to start the browser with the os.


v8 was initially 32-bit x86 only. And it wasn’t coded in a CPU independent way or word size independent way at all. Adding a new CPU amounted to basically rewriting the whole JIT. Chrome took a long time to go 64-bit for this reason.


You would need to break web standards compatibility to fight the current bloat cycle on the web. But it might happen, a simpler, faster web.


Or you could block the trackers, which are most of the bloat.


On some sites, on others it's the 2.5-5mb PWA-that-gracefully-falls-back-to-SPA-that-gracefully-falls-back-to-SSR-with-bundled-inline-styles-and-images JS app that has horrid caching that is causing most of the bloat.


That’s what AMP is..,


Good point, V8 (that is, fast Javascript) was key as well.

(I suppose it makes sense I'd agree with someone else with a Perl-inspired handle :-)


>> Chrome's appeal was primarily technical. Each tab got its own process and could crash without taking down the entire browser.

>Curious, I remember speed being the primary reason

It was probably both. I know I was definitely sick of sites (mostly Flash) crashing the browser and throwing my entire session in the bin. I was probably already using some Gecko-based "light" browser instead of Firefox, but V8 did make a difference when using the emerging web app style sites like Gmail.


If it was either, why wasn't it a patch set against firefox, rather than IP owned by google?


Probably because WebKit was easier to patch.


I always thought it was the cool name and logo. Chrome sounds way more slick then internet explorer or firefox. Plus the logo for chrome was shiny.


Yeah speed is the reason I used (and sometimes still) use it. Also the dev tools are better than Firefox's.


I assumed it was in clear relationship to the gmail era of web applications trying to be a full desktop equivalent.


> They start off lean, gain features over time

I'm pretty sure there's a copy of MooTools in the Chromium repository.


> Chrome's appeal was primarily technical

Among the tech crowd, probably. For the remaining 99.99% of users, absolutely not. Chrome's appeal came from the pervasive advertisement campaigns, from the bundling strategy with other pieces of software, for the pre-installation on new computers or from the ads on Google SEarch homepage.


Chrome's main appeal was that it was much faster than firefox and IE. At everything. I had no technical knowledge when chrome came out, was using firefox, tried chrome, never looked back.

It's not really possible to separate out the effects of advertising from the effects of the product actually being better. Maybe I installed chrome because I saw an ad, but I stopped using firefox because it was clear that chrome was better. The fact that you're emphasizing ads over the very real performance advantages just means you've got an axe to grind.


I've had to use both on and off for years.

My patience with software is small but I had few issues with Firefox except on Google properties.

Not saying your experience didn't happen but it doesn't match mine.

I even used to be a Google fan and without being able to pinpoint a date I have memories of trying (and failing to) start using Chrome as my default browser at least once.

So I agree with GP and personally think the real story is more that Chrome:

- had massive marketing budgets and misleading campaigns

- won a number of benchmarks (but nothing to write home about on my Linux or Windows boxes)

- sometime between 2009 and now web developers forgot what we fought for when we fought against IE until 2009: that sites should work in all mainstream browsers. We didn't fight so much to kill IE as to let everybody else live.

- Suddenly sites started showing up that only worked in Chrome. Every new browser including modern versions of IE is more capable than anything we had back then and we also have polyfills and whatnot and so if someone cannot be bothered to do basic testing in more than one browser then I don't know what.

- I cannot say that Google was the worst but they certainly have had their "weird issues that doesn't affect Chrome". And I cannot say they did it on purpose and everyone is innocent until proven guilty but let me say that for a company that almost prints their own money their QA departement might have been slightly understaffed :-P


Until the Firefox quantum update, the reason a lot of sites only worked in Chrome, was that it was the only browser with kind of decentish performance.


This is plain wrong.

1. Firefox worked very well, thank you and I'm no natural saint when it comes to patience with software.

2. I am frontend (and backend) developer so I should know the difference between using bleeding edge features that doesn't exist in all browsers yet, non standard quirks that developers abuse, and performance problems.


Very well is relative. Chrome is better, even now, from a feature and performance perspective, but the tradeoff has become acceptable for a sense of privacy.

That’s my opinion anyway.


Won't argue about the performance, you might very well be right and I cannot prove anything.

Feel free to expand on what features you still miss in Firefox that exists in Chrome though.

Looking from the other side Chromes extension API looks like a toy compared to Firefox, even after Mozilla "nerfed" it. (And ours is improving while Chrome is actively trying to remove even some of the most used features from theirs.)


My issue with Firefox is that it's just slower. I've read the articles showing that the rendering engine is just as fast or faster, and I don't doubt it, but it definitely feels a lot slower in real-life tasks with dozens of tabs and windows, constantly switching, opening, closing. I know Chrome "fakes" it's speediness using tricks, but I wish Firefox did the same.


I don't know who downvoted you but here's my upvote. Your experience is as valid as mine.

I wish we could be honest about things like you && at the same time behave like grown ups.

Yes: I've been arguing against a couple of Chrome fans here but hopefully only when they're plain wrong or are presenting their personal ideas as truisms without any evidence :-)


Rather Electrolysis. Switched it on when it was not default yet, and happy with it. That killed the performance plus for Chrome (Chromium at least), but either way I was never satisfied enough with Chromium.


While Chrome was definitely very good, it did benefit from a huge worldwide marketing campaign, even without counting omnipresent ads on Google properties, or tech evangelism.

All this at a time when Mozilla was spending lots of time trying to come up with a good Firefox 4.0, and was about to bet the farm on Firefox OS (and lose).


I've used firefox and never bothered with chrome as a daily driver. The speed issue is entirely marketing driven. Nobody cares about a few tenths of a second of load times until the ads were shoving stats down our throats that chrome was so much faster

Firefox is and has always been perfectly adequate, except maybe for a few html5 canvas type apps.


No one is quite the overstatement, and I suspect it is completely wrong. Anecdotally, I and several people I know switched to Chrome when it came out due to it's blazing speed.

It would seem that was the case for many more people, see for example for a fairly old article: https://www.cnet.com/news/why-i-switched-from-firefox-to-chr...

Of course, many were using plugins with Firefox which contributed to the speed advantage of Chrome. But milliseconds matter, even program startup time.


It wasn’t entirely market driven. Chrome was collectively faster, smoother and tab crashes were isolated which was critical back then. My dad was firmly middle aged when it came out and was very attached to Firefox. After a few debates we did some very unscientific desktop-to-page render comparisons as well as loading some pretty js heavy sites and chrome beat Firefox handily.

He still took a while to come around and ultimately it was the tab isolation that convinced him. Tabs were a critical component to how he did research and a few crashes were all it took.


Sounds like your Dad would not have switched without your advocacy.


It was less about advocacy and more about arguing with him. I was a teenager at the time eager to best him in any argument I could.


True as that may be, we're arguing that you would not have argued it had Chrome not been advertised the way it was.


Firefox was incredibly slow by that time. It was having maintainability problems for a few years, with unfixed memory leaks, deadlocks and core instabilities. Mozilla had a large ongoing effort for fixing those things, but it took some time until they got results.

Javascript heavy sites were also very slow on every browser, except for Chrome that invested in a good JS interpreter.


back then, for me, there was a massive qualitative difference between chrome and the rest. i didn't have any particular preference, but chrome just was a far superior user experience.


> The fact that you're emphasizing ads over the very real performance advantages just means you've got an axe to grind.

Alternatively, it could mean that, like me, they had NoScript installed when Chrome came out[0], making Firefox genuinely faster by dint of brute do-less-stuff-ism.

0: or when we heard about it anyway.


I'm not sure why so many HN posters feel the need to boast about not executing JavaScript.

All that means is that you've opted out of the web that the rest of the world is using. Good for you. But people who have disabled JS make up such a small porportion of web users (~.2% of pageviews) that your experience is pretty much irrelevant to the question of general browser trends.

I'd also bet that Chrome was faster at painting pages than Firefox, so it wasn't just a JS engine advantge.


> I'd also bet that Chrome was faster at painting pages than Firefox, so it wasn't just a JS engine advantge.

That may very well have been true, but if Chrome spends 10 cycles rendering the page and 100 cycles executing malware, and Firefox spends 20 cycles rendering the page and zero cycles executing malware, Chrome still loses despite being being twice as fast at the only thing that matters.


I surmise it is because HN attracts a higher percentage of critical thinkers than many other boards. A startling amount of JS on the web falls into the following categories: 1) Advertisement 2) Tracking 3) Useless animation I don't care for any of those things. I generally prefer simple html pages that load <1 second, take very few resources, do not track any information about me, and don't use any mouse-reactive animations while I'm trying to get work done.


It's more likely that most of the "critical thinkers" you speak of write JavaScript for money everyday. Even on HN the amount of JS blockers is tiny but it seems higher because they always have to mention they block JS.


So is "I block JS" the new "I don't own a TV"?


FWIW, I also don't use a TV[0]; I just don't bring it up often because it's rarely relevant. I brought up javascript because javascript is usualy the reason why <any webbrowser that executes javascript> is slower than <any webbrowser that doesn't executes javascript>. See "do less stuff".

0: unless you count monitors as TVs, or disassembly-for-parts as use.


I also don't own a TV. And as soon as I go vegan, I'll gain superpowers and ascend into the Mothership, where I can hang out with Tom Cruise and Ronny Hubbard!


Compare firefox or Opera market progression back in IE heydays to chrome progression when it came out.

Marketing and the antitrust against MS are the difference.


> The fact that you're emphasizing ads over the very real performance advantages just means you've got an axe to grind.

No, it means I have a mother, siblings, friends, colleagues, ... that understand next to nothing to computers and would probably not even notice if I switched them from Chrome to Edge. And if any of them use Chrome, it is definitely not out of a conscious choice.

With all due respect, the single fact that you are commenting here on HN makes you more tech-literate than an overwhelming majority of the Web users. For a simple experiment, got to see your mom/dad, and just ask them what browser they are using, and why. IME, in every case, they will tell you they use ‶Google″, because they are not even necessarily aware of the whole browser concept, just accessing ‶The Internet″ – and I say it without any contempt; I'd be unable to do the tenth of what they are able to do in other fields.

Once again, I'm not saying that Chrome had/has not technical advantages; I'm saying that they were not decisive in making people switch.


IIRC, it was faster than Firefox 3 specifically, which caused many FF users to migrate. Something happened between FF2 and FF3, since the latter appeared noticeably slower.


YES! I remember Firefox 2 being so much faster than 3 that I kept using it until most websites started to break. Then I switched to Chrome.


> Maybe I installed chrome because I saw an ad

Or maybe you did because it was drive-by installed with other software, like common malware, something Google paid millions for.

Imagine if MS did anything similar with any of their products. There would be no end to the outrage.


For me it was a nice UX that kept me on chrome... the performance was really nice too. There was some chrome in IE extension iirc that I pushed for around 2010, as one of our SPA applications tended to really bloat in IE7-8, and worked fine in chrome and ff. (Note this was an actual application, not a website)


Heh, that just shows how wide chasms can be. I find Chrome's UX to be horrible (and unfixable), and it's why I never adopted it.

Firefox's has been horrible for a long time, but at least (until they dropped the old extension system) it was possible to fix it.


I spent years stridently recommending Chrome to non-technical users, because it was by far the fastest and most secure browser available.

Google's primary objective for Chrome and Android was simply to get people to use the internet more, on the (entirely reasonable) assumption that they'd probably use Google and they would see a lot of AdSense units. They invested heavily in getting better software into the hands of as many users as possible. Of course they harvest a whole bunch of user data, but dragging up the quality of the browsing experience was a far bigger factor IMO.

Would Edge exist if Chrome had never happened? Would Firefox have a fast JS engine and proper sandboxing? What would the non-Apple smartphone market look like without Android? Whether you like Google's business practices or not, they've massively increased our expectations of browser software, in the same way that Starbucks created a world where you can buy a half-decent cappuccino in McDonalds.


>Google's primary objective for Chrome and Android was simply to get people to use the internet more, on the (entirely reasonable) assumption that they'd probably use Google and they would see a lot of AdSense units.

Google paid Apple 12 billion dollars last year to be the default search engine in Safari and another half billion to Firefox for the same. Google's primary objectives with Chrome was to lower that amount and to guard their monopoly on search.


It's very hard for me to consider Chrome as a "most secure" browser. But I suppose it depends on what you do and don't consider security threats.


Or the fact that in the beginning it was just blazing fast and very hassle-free (single click installer, automatic updates, no "IE toolbar hell").


Good point. Auto-updates were a groundbreaking feature (at least in browsers) that most people have largely forgotten about.


I'd also add that 2008 Google was trusted by the public a lot more than 2019 Google.


> by the public

by technical users

I imagine the general public still trusts them all the same or maybe even more.


I think with the recent focus of privacy by the media, users are beginning to trust Google less. Maybe not enough to stop using their services, but enough to at least question what Google might be doing with their data.


This stuff has been on the front pages of mainstream media for long enough. Ask your non-tech acquaintances what they think about Google, Facebook etc - you might be surprised.


In general, they don't care. They care about the conveniences forsaking privacy brings. Haven't talked to everyone on this topic, though. So who knows, there might be some.


Technical users are multiplicators though.


multiplicators? You mean because we advocate with those near us? Normal users also advocate in favor of products based on features which are sometimes based on forsaking privacy.


Reads to me a descending attitude towards normal users.

I was a non technical users when chrome come out. I was studying civil engineering then in college. I certainly like Google as a symbol of freedom and technology superiority in the more pure sense than msft.


Not condescending (if that's what you mean), it's more of an attitude of hopelessness. After all, it will be "normal" users that control where the market goes.


>For the remaining 99.99% of users, absolutely not. Chrome's appeal came from...

Bingo! Thank you for pointing this out. For those younger readers, Chrome's penetration was forceful and uninvited. A browser add-on/search hijacker/ persistant spyware known as Google Toolbar was it's predecessor project from Google. It was an epidemic across the PC landscape for half a decade and all those infected machines became Chromes initial foothold. There's plenty of positives from the project, but for Chrome to achieve browser monopoly status, user consent sure did seem to get sacrificed.


I beg to disagree. Chrome was also extremely lean, but very well thought out.

- a bit unrelated but installer was a shim, ~downloading it took 3 seconds and 500kB

- Few buttons

- Transient status bar

- Transient download widget

- Good ergonomics (easy to close tabs in rapid successions without moving your mouse, the next one would fall in place)

- Clear preference panel

- Maybe later: pdf support and print dialog


I'm not pretending it was not well thought; I'm merely saying its technical advantages were not the main drive behind its huge adoption rate.

With all due respect, none of the pluses you mentioned would be a reason for a random, tech-illiterate, using-a-computer-for-FB person to install Chrome.


You're right, there's also a bootstrap thing, they couldn't know before installing. The only thing they'd know would be "it's by Google". But all the point listed above were strong factors for newbs too. They could easily discard it if it was an annoyance I believe.


For the remaining users I reckon tech-literate family members set it as their search engine for them. I certainly switched over A LOT of people this way.


I switched to chrome before I became technically literate, because it seemed a lot faster and less prone to breaking. I couldn't describe why, but the effect was felt.

Now, I still struggle to move to firefox as I'm on a retina MBP, where firefox riles up my cpu and drains my battery.


Yup. I'm using Firefox on macOS as well and suffering from the same bug. If you use your Macbook with the resolution set to 'scaled' Firefox absolutely murders your battery. On top of that there's a bug where H264 video doesn't get properly accelerated. Both these bugs have been in Firefox at least since FF62. Both have alternatingly been marked 'priority 2' or 'fix-optional' which is absolutely baffling to me considering how crucial battery life is in today's portable world. I've even gone into the Firefox IRC multiple times where the fix has been promised to be in a 'point release' since FF63..

I get that they have limited resources but it makes getting people to switch (and stay) on Firefox increasingly hard if it cuts battery life of their laptop nearly in half.


It isn't a bug; it's the fact that Firefox uses a transparent window and doesn't yet use Core Animation, which offloads scrolling to the window server. Switching to CA involves heavy lifting inside the compositor and is not an easy task. My planeshift crate does some of the work needed to make the WebRender path use Core Animation.

In the meantime, setting gfx.compositor.glcontext.opaque to true in about:config helps battery life significantly, at the cost of rounded corners and vibrancy.


I'm curious (genuine curiosity, not meant sarcastic), why is Firefox only now switching to CoreAnimation? AFAIK CoreAnimation has been around since Leopard which makes it nearly 12 year old, which is positively ancient in the tech world.

Also, coincidentally, do you know what exactly causes the H264 problem on macOS? I've tried to track it down in bugzilla to no success, but I am 100% sure it is a bug. The energy impact for playing a H264 YouTube video in Safari has an energy impact of ~25. Firefox used to be ~60, but these days its ~180 (!)

> In the meantime, setting gfx.compositor.glcontext.opaque to true in about:config helps battery life significantly, at the cost of rounded corners and vibrancy.

Thanks for this! :)


> I'm curious (genuine curiosity, not meant sarcastic), why is Firefox only now switching to CoreAnimation? AFAIK CoreAnimation has been around since Leopard which makes it nearly 12 year old, which is positively ancient in the tech world.

I think CA was only moved to the window server relatively recently. Before then, my understanding is that it simply used OpenGL in-process, so it had no energy advantages over Firefox's built-in compositor. There was also a long time when the APIs to host CA content in the window server were private APIs and only Safari could use them.

> Also, coincidentally, do you know what exactly causes the H264 problem on macOS?

I believe, but am not sure, that H.264 is decoded in software in Firefox but is decoded in hardware in Safari.


Thanks for clearing up the CA stuff

> I believe, but am not sure, that H.264 is decoded in software in Firefox but is decoded in hardware in Safari.

I am 100% certain it is (was?) on Firefox as well, because it would have been impossible to hit the aforementioned 60 energy impact without hardware acceleration. This is done through VideoToolBox, but that might have changed.


Unless the intended behaviour is to cut battery life in half then yes it's a bug. Just because it's hard to fix doesn't mean it's not a bug.


I think Chrome's design appeal is obvious just from looking at a screenshot of Chrome and Firefox in 2008: https://imgur.com/a/uyBcxI0.

Firefox and Edge eventually adopted Chrome's design choices to have more content area, no "File, Edit, View" menu bar and an integrated search and address bar. But for years Chrome was ahead.


This. The most refreshing thing I felt when Chrome came out in 2008 was that it let me treat a webpage as an application _per se_, instead of a document being opened by an application (i.e. the browser).


Agreed, the google homepage wouldn't shut up about it.


> Among the tech crowd, probably. For the remaining 99.99% of users, absolutely not.

Guess who sets up the computers for the remaining 99.99%? If you seduce the tech crowd, you also get the other users.


Chrome's growth was due to speed initially, but at least a decent chunk of it later was due to trickery. I've had to uninstall Chrome from my Mom's computer multiple times. It's one of the most popular bundleware apps out there. Free antivirus, games, system 'utilities', Adobe Flash updates, etc all got paid to employ dark patterns to sneak Chrome onto PCs and have it automatically set as the default and pinned to your task bar.

Examples: https://imgur.com/gallery/WWZxj


This reason alone is tragic enough to NEVER use Chrome.

And of course it has a complete garbage resources management which can be easly tested by opening few hundred empty tabs.. (mostly freezes whole OS around 180-270 tabs on modern desktops)


which browser right now can handle 180-270 tabs lol?


289 tabs open right now in Firefox (I have a little addon installed that counts them for you).


Firefox does so easily, although Chrome did too last I used it.


It's probably worth referring back to the comic that Google produced as an introduction to Chrome: https://www.google.com/googlebooks/chrome/

I think the focus was technical-- stability, speed, security being the main focuses. There is an element of breaking away from proprietary software in the comic too. (Rather ironic, to my mind, considering that it's Google's Internet now... >sigh<)


Beyond even that, Firefox was already stripping market share away from IE at the time. Around 2010 or so it was really a 3-way split, which was really nice in terms of getting a lot of things worked out between the three (relatively speaking). A lot of people would have migrated away from IE, it just would have been more Firefox, less Chrome.


Id argue it was a 4 way split honestly. Mobile Safari absolutely dominated the mobile browsing space which was growing by leaps and bounds at that time.


At one point Firefox's growth stopped or slowed considerably. Without Chrome I doubt many would've migrated away from Internet Explorer.


firefox had been taking market share from IE slowly, then when it started to make some real gains, chrome came around and swiped it all out from under firefox.

i've mainly used the mozilla lineage of browsers (all the way through netscape and back to mosaic) and was really dismayed when this happened because even by then it was pretty obvious that chrome was part of google's wild west landgrab before regulations and law had a chance to catch up to online surveillance.


> online surveillance

I think the drive behind Chrome was to compete with Microsoft, by making a browser that was good enough to deliver your applications, and so make your OS irrelevant.

They have succeeded to the point where the only thing I would use Windows for now is Excel (and sometimes some obsolete development tools).

Chrome (when not on Android) seems far more benign than most applications as far as "surveillance" goes.


yes, chrome was part of google's hedge against microsoft, but microsoft poorly understand the web and badly bungled their internet strategy, to the point that it seemed that they were desperately trying to cede the leadership position to anyone but themselves. google really hadn't needed to worry about microsoft there.

make no mistake, chrome's primary strategic purpose was to control the web in ways that extended and solidified google's reach in search, ad views, and personal data. they flanked it with a suite of tools (e.g., gmail, maps), content (e.g, youtube), and platforms (e.g., android) and made them work best on chrome (à la microsoft with IE).

chrome phones home constantly and uses increasingly intrusive techniques to identity us (like requiring a google account). whether you believe it's benign or not, that's surveillance. they're slowly boiling the pot and we're the frogs.


Microsoft has always been a non-innovator. Their whole MO has been to wait to see what innovations catch on, and then dominate that space. The software/products they create in these spaces tend to be competent but not brilliant. They are almost a market-follower which happens to gain significant market share due to shrewd business tactics and, eventually, their sheer size. They have always mostly taken a 'wait and see' approach -- just look at the way Azure has come around as a response to AWS.

I agree with your views on privacy and Chrome. I've stopped using Chrome except at work, where (sadly) the Chrome dev tools are too valuable to ignore.


I don't entirely agree with that. Up until IE6, MS made a LOT of efforts towards making web apps work relatively well compared to alternatives. DHTML worked a lot better in IE5-6 than in the Mozilla counterpart at the time imho. It wasn't until around when Firefox (then firebird) came out that it started to really shift. IE was stagnant for what seemed like forever. IE7-8 were relatively insignificant shifts supporting some newer features, but still didn't resolve some of the huge memory holes with the JS engine and rendering engine separated by discrete COM layers. (separate issue)

I can agree with that in some regards, but I do think that MS has done a lot of things better. I think classic ASP was much better than PHP, though most of the unique functionality you might need was captured behind third party COM components. I think C# was/is a significant improvement over Java, and prefer .Net in general. .Net Core has been a very good shift, though some things seem more convoluted than they probably need to be.

As someone who tends to reach for Node first, I really do appreciate MS's efforts in that space to get things running as smoothly in windows as in Linux and Mac. As an early adopter (0.6/0.8 era) windows use was pretty painful. VS Code is imho was leaps and bounds ahead of brackets and atom at release. I also really do like MS Teams, though lack of a Linux build of the client is just stupid and short sighted.

I still use chrome first, but have ublock origin enabled, and tend to be picky about my exclusions, pisses me off to no end when sites just don't work with it enabled.


i’m not sure i’d go as far as to say they were non-innovators. microsoft famously employed “embrace, extend, extinguish” but it required quite a bit of “extend” to be successful. ms-dos, windows, office, exchange, sql server, etc. were all solid advancements in their time.

but they’ve certainly stagnated in my mind. i still use outlook/exchange and excel, but generally migrated away from microsoft many years ago now.


I do think their Office 365 and Azure strategies will keep them around for a long while. It's significantly better than the alternatives. All the same, most of my efforts have been towards not deploying to windows centered infrastructure, though Azure itself is decent enough.


> Each tab got its own process and could crash without taking down the entire browser. No one else had this at the time

IE8 Beta 1 shipped March 5, 2008; Chrome's beta release wasn't till September. OK, admittedly, Chrome's stable release happened before IE8's, but MS was working on much the same thing.


I'm pretty sure that a very old version of IE (maybe IE4?) was released with multiprocess before Microsoft killed that project.


I switched back to Firefox before it was cool to switch back :-)

And no, for me if Chrome is superior, it’s absolutely irrelevant. The only thing that matters is that I cannot trust Chrome and that Firefox has been good enough for quite some time.

Yes I know the general population doesn’t think like me. I also think that ignorance in tech is dangerous.


I like the car analogy for browsers back then:

Back when I first started using Chrome (I think in 2008), I used to describe it as a weekend race car with all the seats, upholstery, and HVAC stripped out. Fast, no frills.

Firefox, on the other hand, was your 1970s custom van with a cool wizard painted on the side, really comfortable seats, and lots of room for further customization. Not fast, but certainly versatile and designed to your liking.

IE7, naturally, was a Yugo.


In my experience I can't stream video on firefox without the video freezing within the first 5 minutes, and it feels clunky even with non video webpages. I really hate google the company, and I'd love to stop using their software, but so far I have yet to see a browser that even comes close to chrome.


What OS, hardware and video platform(s)? I haven't had any issues with Desktop Firefox on Windows 10 on any of my Core i7 machines, when watching YouTube/Vimeo. Even my old dual-core budget Inspiron 3137 laptop works for YouTube and Firefox as well as Pandora/Firefox/bluetooth audio blasting.

(It does like to consume RAM as if it was running SQL Server though.)


It happens both on my Mac Book Pro and my Windows 10 desktop. I don't have the problem as much with pre uploaded videos but with live streaming sites like twitch.


Also having a good time with Firefox on macOS running on an early 2018 MacBook Pro. It has fully replaced my Chrome use at work.


Same here on Arch Linux for me.


I am able to stream video on Firefox on Windows, Linux, and Mac, including on a computer with a 2nd-gen i3 with 4GB RAM. I suspect there may be something besides Firefox at fault for your issue.


I've been using Brave, which is basically Chrome but even faster, and with more privacy features. All Chrome extensions work.


The only problems I have with video in Firefox on Mac are with Hangouts / Meet sometimes not working correctly. This is likely due to Google not cross browser testing.


This, very noticeable with something like shadertoy.


I certainly feel the gap between chrome and firefox has narrowed. I struggle to think of a reason NOT to use firefox anymore. I do find myself clicking on that red fox more and more. I've sort of made firefox my incognito "browser".

If the firefox vs IE wars taught me anything its that tech savvy users have a huge impact on adoption. If you win over the nerds they will install firefox absolutely everywhere. They will develop their stuff to work well with firefox.

Chrome hasn't quite become ie6 yet but I feel like if trends continue Firefox will become power users favored browser. Firefox even today is still more extensible and customizable. It also has a more credible reputation for privacy. I believe even now the threat of Firefox is what makes Google hesitate to do things like kill ad blocking.


That's living in a bizarro fantasy world where any meaningful number of people evaluate anything on technical merits. Even the speed argument below is suspect. People can't tell the difference between their browser and their internet connection.

Chrome was widely adopted because it didn't suck and because google--a brand they already learned to trust for search--was constantly beating them over the head to upgrade.

IE wasn't just bad on technical grounds. It genuinely sucked for everyone. It was constantly getting infected with toolbars, popups, and generally crashing all to hell. It was confusing for people to use even when it wasn't any of those things.

Chrome was adopted by the majority of users because it worked at all. IE just didn't.


> I take issue with the idea that Chrome was initially adopted, or served, "to break the Web free from corporate greed."

Indeed. When Chrome was first released Firefox had already broken the IE monopoly having reached around 33% of the browser "market share", and was still growing. Speed was the issue I seem to remember most people switching to Chrome for at the time.


Firefox started with a terrible backdrop (Netscape 4), but after it's mozilla and phoenix days it was fairly fast fairly quickly.

It then started adding bloat and terribleness, which Chrome didn't have.

It's recovered now though, and is far better than chrome. It saddens me that so many on HN champion google and actively push for competitors to fail.


I remember it grew to about 26% and then sort of stalled.

I don't remember where IE was at the time but I remember some websites were still only supporting it.


Hey hey. My name is Michael. So, just did a quick cut&paste of part of your comment that I wish to comment on: "Luckily, Firefox, arguably among the most 'free from corporate greed' of the browsers, has now finally caught up to Chrome on stability and speed (in my experience)," No, you're not alone. I will absolutely agree with you about Firefox quickly catching up to Chrome and at an alarming (but satisfying) rate. By that, I only mean that Google is no longer a sort of "underdog" like it was-at least when standing next to Microsoft-(and hasn't been for some time).And I have to agree with Reda's comment that Google has become the very thing that it was trying to stomp out in Microsoft: a sort of monopoly-just-short-enough-of-being-a-monopoly to escape the law's notice. What I fear is that Google will get so big and powerful that if they did get close enough to technically qualifying as being a monopoly that they could and quite possibly would be like, "SO?! WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?" And being able to because at that point, who COULD do anything? I never thought it possible for any one company until recently. It is too close for comfort. Thanks, Michael

ps- sorry it was so long. I actually am working on that.


It still is behind technically isn't it? Does Firefox support Site Isolation yet?


There are features Chrome has that Firefox doesn't. There are also features that Firefox has that Chrome doesn't, such as Stylo and WebRender.

You can argue that Site Isolation is more important than large performance improvements (I think that's a losing argument, given that Site Isolation as presently deployed in Chrome doesn't even defend against compromised renderers and as such is restricted to being another Spectre mitigation), but you're being way too glib here.


I'm not being glib, my current work involves security and privacy, and so I'm more sensitive / concerned about those issues than rendering performance. Current JITs like V8 even give me the willies in terms of attack surface area, such that I'm willing to stomach something like a WASM interpreter for my use cases.

I recognize that WebRender is a huge technique achievement and I absolutely love it when people achieve silky smooth 60fps renders, and if I was working on games or graphics or UX, I'd probably rank that over top of Site Isolation.

The original post mentioned process isolation and flash, so my comment was more a long the lines of 'it's still behind chrome (in isolation)'


Even if all you care about is security, I don't think Site Isolation makes a real-world difference right now, as it's simply a defense-in-depth Spectre mitigation in case the first-line Spectre mitigations, which are deployed in both Chrome and Firefox, fail. At present, using Site Isolation to protect against compromised renderers is a TODO for both Chrome and Firefox. It's true that Chrome is closer to getting there, though.


Please correct me if am wrong: But I think both Chrome and Safari have disabled/removed their Spectre-mitigations in the JS engine.


For Chrome the TurboFan (jit optimizing compiler) Spectre mitigations are turned off when site isolation is on.


No, Firefox doesn't have Site Isolation. It's a planned feature addition.


It doesn't matter if Firefox has caught up if their usage share is still dropping. With Microsoft moving to a Chromium based browser as well, Firefox is very close to being irrelevant. More than 90% of the market will be Webkit or Blink.

In my opinion, despite their technical achievements, Firefox is currently headed down the same path Opera went down before they became essentially a Chromium reskin. Their dropping usage share is negatively affecting sites compatibility with Firefox, which is the only reason I went back to Chrome after giving Quantum a try.


Not disagreeing with the rest of your post, but...

> No one else had this at the time, and it was a big deal because Flash was still widespread so sites were even less stable than they are today.

I never saw a site crash my browser/tab until I used chrome.

To me it seemed like a workaround to a immature code-vase, because Firefox never had issues like this.

Either way: not really a selling point to me, at least.

WRT crashing stuff: I’ve used mostly Windows and Linux. Is unstable web browsers just a Mac thing?


>Chrome's appeal was primarily technical. Each tab got its own process and could crash without taking down the entire browser. No one else had this at the time, and it was a big deal because Flash was still widespread so sites were even less stable than they are today.

Actually IE8 had the same thing (and it was in development by 2007, so the few-months-later release date vs Chrome doesn't matter in terms of architecture).


Here's the original announcement from Sundar Pichai - who was then the VP of Product Management, now CEO: https://googleblog.blogspot.com/2008/09/fresh-take-on-browse...


Chrome was the first browser to give each tab a unique subprocess but it did not start out with this. I think this may have been 2010.

Also when Flash crashed it would crash its container opposed to the outer page. Flash was also a separate process from the containing page.


> Chrome's appeal was primarily technical. Each tab got its own process and could crash without taking down the entire browser

This was my main initial reason for switching - sick of constantly having one tab lock up the entire browser. It was also prettier, and I liked the combined search and URL bar.

Now, I have no reason to change. Plus, Firefox is on all the machines at work, and really badly handles multi-system user accounts - if logged in on one computer then you cannot use on any others without launching with a special command line flag and switching to an entirely new profile (where none of the settings/logins are kept). Last I checked they had no interest in fixing this.


> Each tab got its own process and could crash without taking down the entire browser

Chrome has never been process-per-tab - this is a common misconception. It's process per domain, except there are certain circumstances in which two tabs on different domains will still share the same process (such as opening a tab through a middle click).


This is what I remember about Chrome's release: https://www.google.com/googlebooks/chrome/

The first change it referenced was a process per tab, and then on page 13 it referenced V8.


For non-technical users: faster pages, account syncing, google name recognition and default searching. For technical users: V8, dev tools, better privacy, evergreen, frequent updates, tabs as processes, fast implementations of new specifications. There were many reasons that Chrome rapidly gained market share.


> better privacy

Pardon ? Its completely opposite, same with performance, try to open more than 100 tabs on firefox and chrome..


They're commenting on why "Chrome rapidly gained market share.", not commenting on the current situation.


How did Chrome have better privacy than Firefox at any point in the past?


Chrome's primary competition wasn't FireFox as they've never been anything close to a market leader. My post was about what features led to Chrome gaining such high market share, and their default privacy settings were superior to some other browsers.

I'm making an effort to stay on Firefo, but frankly the experience on mobile is IMO not as good as Chrome in term of navigation. I miss the pull to refresh, the inability to hide the URL bar when using a PWA (could be some websites that aren't fully compliant though..)


I mostly use FF, but often Chrome. On my Dell laptop, I frequently get notified that "Firefox has been blocked from accessing the graphics hardware" or something to that effect. It's never happened once in Chrome.


For me, it was the unified bookmarks across all ones machines with Chrome. No more fiddling with copying bookmarks or syncing - it was done automatically and it worked.

No other browser had it built in at the time.


Speed was nice, but this really hooked me. What really blew me away not long after was synced tabs between my computer and phone.


> Each tab got its own process and could crash without taking down the entire browser. No one else had this at the time

IE8 had a public release with process-per-tab before Chrome debuted.


Did folks really switch because of the tab /per process? I honestly didn't know until I saw memory hogging + folks posting about it.


Yeah, before Chrome became popular, Firefox had close to 50% marketshare, and Firefox is a lot farther away from your typical corp than Chrome.


> Firefox, arguably among the most "free from corporate greed" of the browsers, has now finally caught up to Chrome on stability and speed (in my experience)

I’m sad to say that I hope that was my experience, but I’ve being trying Firefox (again) for the last 6 months and I still manage to make it irresponsive while developing, and very slow when using plugins like dark reader. So I had to revert to Chrome but I’ll try again in a few months.


The dark theme in Firefox isn't great, it's why I can't get people to switch, I've tried a half dozen add-ons, and while some of them are acceptable, FF flashes white between every page load, producing a blinding beam that immediately sends people back to Chrome.

I know enough to try to change it in the config files, but I couldn't figure it out in the time I spent attepting = /


and firefox had deep memory issue, while v8 transformed the webapp experience.

the main selling point to me was closing it and opening it back with all the tabs was not a dramatic event but part of a clutter-free workflow


> has now finally caught up to Chrome on stability and speed

Arguably, with its market share dwindling fast, it's not enough to just be technically on par.

Further, it is absolutely not up to par on Linux and from what I know, MacOS as well.


As someone who recently switched to Firefox on Linux partially due to performance.. it is really a toss up. Some sites FF renders faster, others Chrome. Chrome does tend to do a bit better on large javascript heavy 'single-page-app' type sites while Firefox crushes Chrome when displaying large (as in lots of text) pages. The latter made reading documentation impossible, such that I always had to use FF for it.

Plus you get the benefit of Firefox not corrupting its session weekly. Losing all your cookies, tabs and history frequently got super annoying.


Both synthetic and real-world benchmarks show the opposite [0] [1]. My own experience and unresolved performance bugs that I've filed show the same [2].

I want Firefox to be faster and superior to chrome in every way. Ignoring it's problems won't make them go away and definitely won't make them a priority for the devs.

[0] https://blog.macsales.com/46993-rocket-yard-testing-lab-whic...

[1] https://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=article&item=firefox-...

[2] https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1408699


> Further, it is absolutely not up to par on Linux

I am sitting on Arch here, Firefox Wayland and it's absolutely up to par, in fact Chromium seems less responsive these days. Granted, I have a very tuned, minimalist install, maybe on the likes of Ubuntu it's a different story.


I switched to Firefox about a year ago on Mac, and coming from Chrome I've been totally satisfied. Not that I've run any comparison benchmarks or anything, but it'll load basically anything I want to throw at it, has the right set of extensions to keep me rolling, and the only real performance issue I've noticed with sites is the occasional rendering block waiting on content I have blocked with uMatrix. But that last one's my fault, not Firefox's.


I use a 2017 Macbook Pro in work, on which I use Firefox as my main browser.

I also have Firefox on my Windows 10 gaming machine at home and while I haven't run any performance anaylsis, I can;t tell the difference between the two in terms of speed and responsiveness.

The Mac version has crashed on me a few times though whereas my Windows 10 version hasn't.

Other than the OS they are on the two browser instances are set up exactly the same way.


It’s got great performance on macOS, and I suggest that people try it again.


Firefox still feels non-native on OS X as a result of its reliance on XUL. My main issues are around UI. The menu bar only fully populates once the browser is almost loaded, not when the browser is first opened. The other thing is that UI elements exist in an uncanny valley, where they are not quite native, but not quite foreign.

Camino meant to fix that, but it has moved onto greener pastures.


> "Firefox still feels non-native on OS X..."

As opposed to Chrome? Or Opera, Vivaldi, etc?

Browsers are a class of application whose UI's have been "native" only to themselves for years now.


Didn't they get rid of XUL entirely several releases ago?


See jorvi's comment: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19264960 there are some bugs that drive me back to chrome when I try it


I've been heads down building an app which relies on Google Chrome and I go back and forth on this.

Polar is an app for managing your reading. It also supports advanced features like caching web pages locally, annotating PDFs, tagging the documents you're reading, etc.

https://getpolarized.io/

It's based on Electron and I've been going deep into Chrome internals as well as experimenting with Chrome extensions.

It's definitely a double edges sword here but I think there's an overly negative view of Chrome and/or having one platform.

Chrome is owned by Google. However, Chromium is Open Source.

Electron wouldn't exist without Chromium and there are other browsers based on Chromium.

I don't really see the benefit of duplicating things for the sake of duplicating them.

A lot of Firefox fans here argue that Firefox provides an alternative to keep us safe.

Safe from what? Chromium? It's Open Source?

Do we really need a duplicated HTML renderer? It's not like Chromium is going to vanish.

There's the argument that most Chromium developers are employed by Google - but not if Mozilla employs them.

It's always possible for fork these things.


> Safe from what? Chromium? It's Open Source?

Safe from monopoly control over Web standards.

The Web has been a consensus ecosystem, and Google does not have a track record of proposing reasonable standards. In my mind this is most grossly evident in the case of PNaCl, which was tied to their Pepper API and effectively impossible for non-Blink browsers to implement.

Google pushed for PNaCl to become a Web standard, and it was only through years of difficult effort that Mozilla was able to show AsmJS as a better solution, which eventually gave rise to the reasonable standard of WebAssembly.

Were Google in a monopoly market position back then, they would have pushed PNaCl, and non-Blink browsers would be unable to render the modern Web.

That might sound fine if you believe that Blink is the be-all-and-end-all of Web technology. But we have Servo now, and we already know better.


Right but Mozilla could still do this within the context of Chromium.

They could fork it if necessary.

And I definitely agree that Google is faltering on a lot of their execution lately.

Most of the things they ship are like a 6/10 in terms of usability.


There would be a ton of pressure to adopt NaCl in a world in which it's just a configuration flag away. Absent other browser engines, we would be using NaCl and Dart everywhere.


I've never understood the "just fork Blink" argument in favor of a single renderer. Forking Blink results in multiple renderers that diverge over time: just look at what happened to WebKit and Blink. You can't have it both ways: either the entire Web is under control of Google management, or you have multiple competing renderers.


Chromium certainly shouldn’t die. However…

> Do we really need a duplicated HTML renderer?

Hah. Yes, and if there’s a point when we don’t, I vote we keep Servo instead of Blink. (There won’t be.)

Although it’s possible I’m replying to some filler in a comment that starts with a link to a product only related in the sense of “apps that use Electron exist”…


> I've been heads down building an app which relies on Google Chrome

IE6 called


Other browsers need to catch up to Chrome with their development tools. I'd be happy to use Safari or Firefox for development, but...

- I can't disable CORS in Firefox (yes, sometimes you have to disable CORS rather than modify the Allow-Origin header response, for example if you need to test against a production backend) (and, no, CORS Everywhere is not a sufficient solution).

- I can't inspect WebSocket frames in anything except Chrome.

- Safari does not allow self-signed certs over WSS (and there's no way to override it).

- Safari does not respect System-wide APC Config for Proxies.

There's a handful of other issues. Both Safari and Firefox do do things well, and often better than Chrome. For example, Firefox tends to actually handle standards correctly, whereas Chrome tries to be overly forgiving. And Safari's Develop and Debug menus are easily the best and quickest way to disable CORS or JavaScript, and examine service workers.

Unfortunately, some of the above issues are blockers.

I can test with Firefox on staging or in production, but not being able to test up front during development really impacts compatibility testing.

If another browser was as good or better for development, I'd be happy to use it.


I agree. While the Firefox dev-tools improved a lot over in recent years, they are still not up to where the chrome dev-tools are. Currently, I try to use the Firefox dev-tools as much as possible but keep chrome prepared for some special cases.

From a consumer perspective, the story is very different: Any browser will probably do, but choosing Firefox has the best long term effect on the development of the internet.


You just said Chrome was the superior browser for developers.

> the best long term effect

What do you mean by this?


> What do you mean by this?

Supporting Google/Chrome is supporting corporate interest over user interest. We've seen them already taking steps to remove support for 3rd Party Ad Blocking and to ignore privacy related features.


For the 99.9% non-technical people out there, we're gonna need an easy to install and manage Pi-hole like program that can be deployed on Windows and automatically set Chrome's proxy to 127.0.0.1.


Google already ignores DNS in favor of hardcoded IPs or it's own DNS for certain things.


> remove support for 3rd Party Ad Blocking

that's a bit misleading, no?


Google maintains plausible deniability but it's an odd coincidence that they first introduce their own Ad Blocker, and then soon after propose to remove an API that's necessary for 3rd Party Ad Blockers.

If you keep in mind that Google is an Ad company then adding an Ad Blocker to their product doesn't make sense until you consider that by doing so they diminish the need for 3rd party Ad Blockers. Once you can successfully argue 3rd Party Ad Blockers are unnecessary then the argument for removing an API they depend on to function is easier.


Embrace, extend, exterminate


Well, for example, there is no major OS that brings Firefox bundled with it. So they have to keep creating something good or people will stop using it. Therefore, getting into a monopoly position is kinda hard for the Mozilla guys. Browser monopolies are bad because the ruling browser's implementation will always compete with the web standards.


Yup, Chrome has the best devtools for what I need and I'll continue to use it until there's a better alternative.


What is the difference between the two?

I am primarily a back-end/services/middleware dev and don't do much front-end stuff these days.

When I do though, I use Firefox's dev tools and I don't know...I'm not sure what I'm missing?

I have Chrome on this machine too and have tried the dev tools there but I beyond layout I don't know what the differences are or what Firefox's dev tools are lacking.


Chrome DevTools is far more feature-complete than any of the alternatives. I consider it the gold standard for developer tools.

Every release they publish a blog post with new DevTools features, here's the latest one from January 2018 [0]. If you scroll to the bottom it has a section titled "Discover other DevTools features", which provides a long list of features they've been adding over time.

Their console autocomplete is just amazing. If you type `document.querySelectorAll('body')`, it shows you a preview of the result without even having to hit enter. Then if you type a period it shows you that the constructor is a NodeList, as well as its methods. They go over many of these features in their May 2018 [1] blog post. Keyboard navigation has continually been improving as well.

There's no huge killer feature, it's just very solid all-around. Over the years it has remained miles ahead of the competition. With that being said, I still use Firefox as my daily-driver, and I'm perfectly happy with their DevTools for many tasks. And they're actually superior for certain tasks, for example, when working with `display: grid` and `display: flex` [2]. I usually switch over to Chromium while I'm actively developing or debugging something, but I don't think there's any need to limit yourself to just one tool.

[0] https://developers.google.com/web/updates/2019/01/devtools

[1] https://developers.google.com/web/updates/2018/05/devtools

[2] https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Tools/Page_Inspecto...


This is a worthwhile point. I still consider Chrome handy and occasionally essential for development.

But it's no longer my day-to-day browser. Firefox became more than adequate for that with quantum, and I see no reason to enable a Google that has made absolutely sure to shape itself into a machine that will always have powerful incentives to do the wrong thing.


>- I can't inspect WebSocket frames in anything except Chrome.

For what it's worth, WebSockets show up as type 'Other' in the inspector, and the frames are listed under 'Preview'.

Edit: Safari.


It just says "WebSocket Connection Established", and then a list of "Binary Frame". Is there a way to inspect their contents? Just seeing that frames are being sent doesn't seem very useful for debugging.


I just tested Safari 12.0.3 on macOS 10.14.3 with https://websocket.org/echo.html and it works for me. In the inspector it has a Sockets folder with the socket, and when I select it, it shows the textual content of each frame.

Edit: This is of course textual frames. I don't know where to find a site that demonstrates binary frames. I do notice that if I right-click the textual frame it has "Log Frame Text" as an option; maybe with a binary frame you can ask it to log the binary frame contents?

Edit 2: Ok I found a binary websocket test and unfortunately there is no option to log the binary info. That sucks. I recommend filing a bug report at bugreport.apple.com requesting better tooling around this. It's also worth checking the Safari Technical Preview to see if they've already added any better tooling.


In which browser?


I switched recently to using Safari for all my browsing except when I need DevTools, then I just fire up a Chrome window. Only having one Chrome tab open instead of dozens seems to help performance and battery life on my MacBook as well.


I cannot use the Firefox dev tools because they completely choke on the Angular app I'm working on, while Chrome chugs along like nobodies business.

I am using Firefox as my daily driver, because the browser itself is fast. But the dev tools just don't deliver. Waiting for a breakpoint to hit and open takes forever.


Yep. Chrome chugs on super long minified JS lines, but is fine after pretty printing. Meanwhile Firefox will crash on those minified lines, and even when they are non-minified, the size of the files causes FF devtools to run so slowly they are unusable.


Yes, totally agreed. I have given Firefox a try several times over the past year, but always came back to Chrome because of Dev Tools.


totally agree. There's one thing that safari has and (afaik) noone else: you can visually inspect all canvas elements on the site even if they are offscreen


The problem with these articles is that the recommendation always ends up just preaching to the choir: people who already switched away from Chrome nod in appreciation, but people who haven't switched literally get nothing out of these posts to convince them to switch to what is basically the same application made by a different company, with completely different conventions on where everything is, without any concrete perceived benefits (security and tracking are invisible problems, you don't sell someone on switching by saying they won't have them anymore, no matter how important you think that is). And to boot, the switch would almost certainly make things worse because add-ons people relied on won't work and now you've burdened them with having to find new and unfamiliar alternatives to what they were comfortable with.

Chrome's main problem isn't that it's overstayed its welcome and is strangling the web (whatever you want that to mean), it's that it's so pervasive that people have become accustomed to it to such a degree that you're now faced with needing to convince people to give up what they're accustomed to. And that's a _much_ harder sell. Using chrome needs to literally be a grating or even damaging experience before someone will voluntarily switch to a different browser.


I gave Firefox a solid test last year (about 3 months of dedicated use at work + home) and I ended up coming back to Chrome. There are some really great things about Firefox. It has gotten so much better and faster than it was, but Chrome still struggles less with troublesome websites, and seems to load all pages faster overall.

I'm keeping my eye on Firefox, but Chrome still gets my business for now.


I use both on a daily basis, and even I have no idea why I'd pick one over the other, except for power-user functions that 96% of the world couldn't care less about. In normal use, even standard dev work, they both do what I need them to do, and I (infrequently) run into bugs for both of them.

And honestly, at this point I don't even bother opening sites that struggle in one with the other: I just go "you clearly just didn't care to develop your website to work cross browser, good job, goodbye forever" and close the tab.

For almost everything, both browsers are identical except for the veneer their UIs present. They have different quirks, but a reasonably generated website or React app will work just fine in both. So while, if someone asked me to recommend one, I would absolutely tell them to get Firefox: not one asks for recommendations... everyone's already using either Chrome, or "the ios browser".

(and safari on iOS really _is_ the new IE6. I 100% disagree with the article's claim that Apple is making good strides, there. It needs to get out the shotgun and take Safari out to the back of the barn)


I dev with Chrome for the dev tools and use firefox for literally everything else, the Tab containers thing was the latest in a long sequence of "man they make that so much easier than Chrome" features.

Used both for a long time.


I'm okay with the dev tools in either. Install the React dev tools addons in both browsers and you're basically 99% of the way there =P

(I like chrome's mobile 'simulation' better, but both still lack lots of things I wish I could do, like simulating tiny CPUs or limited RAM, actually tracing through setTimeout, etc)


I use both regularly, and the only differences that I've noticed are related to Google web properties (particularly gmail and youtube), where Firefox has to rely on inefficient polyfills for chrome-specific features (I think, based on some googling one time, take this with a grain of salt.) What troublesome websites does Chrome work better on in your experience?


Same here - made a switch and switched back quickly after.

1. Compatibility - random sites would just break...I reckon 15% of the time

2. Battery life - FF destroyed my battery life. To the tune of 8 hours on Chrome vs like 2 on FF.


Did you have add-ons in Firefox? I almost never have sites break—certainly not anywhere near 15% of the time. And at least 95% of the time I've had issues in the past, it has turned out to be an add-on causing problems, rather than the browser itself. (Ad blockers would be the first thing to check in the case of random breakages.)


I don't think 15% is accurate, I only know of 1 site that breaks under Firefox and that is operated at minimum budget by a chinese electronics shop. I've literally never found any other site that broke on Firefox.


I suspect more detail regarding your setup would prove to be useful for context as neither one of your bullets point towards an issue with Firefox directly.


> and I ended up coming back to Chrome

same, except i use Brave (Chromium minus the Google crap/tracking.)

I try Firefox after every major update, but for me "pinch to zoom" not working for the trackpad is the biggest flaw. It's so frustrating/such a basic feature.

Safari and Chrome have had this feature for at least 6 years.


>the switch would almost certainly make things worse because add-ons people relied on won't work and now you've burdened them with having to find new and unfamiliar alternatives to what they were comfortable with.

I have no data to back this up so you could say I'm just talking out of my ass, but I would guess that the non-technical users who makes up most of Chrome's userbase either don't use any add-ons at all or mainly use extremely popular ones that have equivalents in other web browsers like adblock.

I 100% agree with everything else though, the average user who uses a web browser exclusively for instagram and gmail does not see things like small performance increases or privacy as being worth changing habits for. Hell, some of the technical people I work with have no problem with companies/the NSA spying on them because they have "nothing to hide". I really think the only reason Chrome got so popular was because the meme that Internet Explorer sucks premeated our culture so strongly that basically everyone started to know that the first thing you do with a new computer is use IE to download a different browser, and what better to use than the one made by the search engine you use every day?


I think you'll find that a billion dollar company throwing literally hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising to get people to use their product, all at the same time across multiple continents, has far more of an effect than you are giving it credit for. If you're using IE, but your _train station_ has a wall-sized poster going "pst, give Chrome a try", and every other train station does too, then your average person will absolutely give in to that poster's suggestion after being exposed to it for 14 days straight. Even if it's only so that they can tell their friends they tried it.

Chrome's campaign was a phenomenal example of a successful international product launch. Made even more impressive because it was for software, something most people /really/ don't care about.


You hit the nail on the head: the problem with overturning the status quo is that you can't offer an alternative that is just as good -- it needs to be better.


We don't know that this kind of article doesn't have effects.

If there's always some subpopulation who's never heard of diet coke & mentos (https://www.xkcd.com/1053/ ), it's pretty likely that there's some subpopulation that is unaware of the implications of Chrome's dominance combined with Google's business model and amenable to arguments that something like Firefox or even Safari might be a better choice.

And I think it's also worth considering that Firefox made significant strides into IE's marketshare back in the early/mid 2000s when users ostensibly had no reason to care by the standard of "no concrete/perceived benefits", since everyone had to code to accomodate IE. There's no other reasonable model I can think of other than IT professionals frequently recommending FF, and many non-pros finding that recommendation compelling enough to switch.


I only recommend Brave nowadays and tbh it's an easy sell because it's: familiar as it uses Chromium and so compatible with Chrome plugins, much faster than Chrome, and uses a lot less battery compared to other browsers (particularly on mobile).

The speed and energy usage points instantly resonate with less technical folk who aren't so invested in browser wars.

For those who care a little more the increased security, ad / tracking blocking, tor integration etc are just the icing on the cake.


>"with completely different conventions on where everything is"

...what?


GP is talking about how other web browsers have different conventions for where different web browsers place standard UI elements. Tabs on top, tabs beneath the addresss bar, separated search bars, different icons and terminology for the same concept, different items in the "share" pop ups, different placement of global menus, different customisability of the basic user interface layout, etc.

These are things to which we technically minded can easily adapt, but for the less technically literate it's bewildering, confusing, and possibly enough to make them angry.


Agreed. Aside from some vague intimations that Google is using Chrome as a business tool, it really didn't present much of an argument to switch to something else.

Furthermore I'd argue that if the author hasn't used Chrome since 2014, he's not well positioned to comment on its usability today.


> Agreed. Aside from some vague intimations that Google is using Chrome as a business tool

Not sure about 'vague', they're using non-standard APIs to advantage their browser accross Google products, implemented a forced Chrome login and are planning to remove ad blocking APIs, the last one being the most clear case of Chrome being used to support their primary source of revenue.


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