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[dupe] Google Just Gave 2B Chrome Users a Reason to Switch to Firefox (forbes.com/sites/kateoflahertyuk)
547 points by mhr_online on June 2, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 214 comments

Not only dupe, Forbes also has the most click baity title amongst them all. Forbes is like buzzfeed now

Blame the Forbes Tech Council.

Great to see mainstream media picking this up and giving Firefox some exposure.

With Microsoft switching to Chromium, Firefox is now the only viable (cross platform) alternative. FF gaining back a solid amount of market share is critical for the browser ecosystem in the future.

(Personally I switched back to FF after the first Quantum release, which brought performance back on par with Chrome. On mobile, the ad blocker is even more essential to get somewhat acceptable load times...)

It’s not mainstream media. It’s a contributor site. You can pay some money and get one of your own. You can post whatever you want on there. They offer to do a little bit of editing and proofreading to make it look professional before it goes online. There is no fact checking. These contributor sites are essentially blogs that carry the credibility of Forbes even though they don’t deserve it.

I see contributor sites being linked all over the place - social media, news aggregators, even Apple news. I wish there was more awareness that these articles are written by some regular person with no qualifications as a journalist and that there is no standard for accuracy.

I’ve been asked to be a contributor before. I don’t know what the criteria is. I got a cold call about it one day. I’ve been a panelist at a couple local events, got a mention in a niche news outlet and was nominated for an award once. My guess is that’s why I was targeted as a lead. The pitch was mostly about having a bigger platform for my personal brand if I remember correctly.

> carry the credibility of Forbes

What credibility is that? My impression is that they have lost quite a lot of what they once had for exactly this reason.

What are the "qualifications of a journalist?" They are people with opinions that write stuff. If you think journalism and writing departments are teaching rigor and factual veracity, you are mistaken. I've only come to it recently, but Gell-Mann Amnesia Affect is something to be aware of and avoid.


Try to get a job at a major news outlet without recognised journalism qualifications.

Quality and opinion of mainstream media aside, I think we can all appreciate the difference between someone paid for their work by a professional news outlet and someone off the street who is paying Forbes to host their blog.

I hope to see Firefox eventually providing an embeddable framework, considering that Chromium isn't just monopolising the web browser space... it's spreading into desktop applications through Electron. Left unchecked, Google will manage to poke its fingers into every pie within reach.

It seems like the ideal solution of using the OS's native web toolkit hasn't been successful so far. So the next best offering (aside from building on Qt), is to have an Electron competitor too.

On Android, Mozilla offers GeckoView.

I don't think that there's a desktop offering at the moment. There used to be quite a few (XULRunner, Prism, etc.) but they all died from lack of love.

I regret XUL was abandoned - it was a great idea, but much ahead of its time.

XUL was just a markup language to create interfaces, it became obsolete as HTML got refined.

Even to this day, XUL is far more capable than HTML. It has built-in widgets for many common desktop GUI elements that still need to be created from scratch in HTML+Javascript, and notably uses the native chrome of whatever OS it is running on to render them.

Abandoned by Mozilla, not by Pale Moon/Basilisk though.


XUL is a great idea but not for browser chrome. That’s an area where it is truly worth the effort to make it fast and light, secure and stable.

That was before Firefox was born, right? Or was the success of Firefox the demise of XUL?

XUL was the markup language used by the Mozilla Communicator Suite for designing user interfaces. It was what Add-on development used.

Mozilla deprecated it not that long ago in favor of HTML but stalwarts have clung to it and complained.

I use to maintain a couple Add-ons and developed some simple UIs for it. I was never impressed by it and it was easy enough to use so I had no objections either.

I'm not sure what you're asking exactly but XUL existed a long time after Firefox was born and became popular. I remember using a XUL app at work around 2010.

Plus one. This was the beggining of the rot in Mozila. This marked the moment the went from making general purpose web/http based platforms based on OpenSource principals to builing a single a www specific advertising platform. I still use Firefox and support them financially. Its the best we have. But they stopped caring about anything other that being the frontpage to the Internet a long time ago. They gave up on supporting developers.

XULrunner was a great idea, so the executives of the Mozilla Corporation had to sack it.

You mean like Positron? That was abandoned several years ago. So was Spidernode, FirefoxOS/apps, etc. Other dropped projects include Shumway, the JavaScript flash runtime. Basically every interesting thing they do that isn't directly related to improving Firefox seems to get dropped eventually.

Then there's GeckoView, which they explicitly decided not to make available as a WebView drop-in to be available systemwide on Android. In this case, at least they seem to have a reason, though it seems to me that having an alternative to Google's WebView would be valuable enough to continue.

> With Microsoft switching to Chromium, Firefox is now the only viable

I'm not sure I understand your point. Is there a public statement from Microsoft that they are following Google on this? I don't know what Microsoft is going to do, but nothing stops them from keeping the API fully working. And if Firefox was based on Chromium too, nothing would stop Mozilla from keeping the API working either. Although I expect some forks to follow Google on this, namely other ad-tech companies with web browsers, like Yandex.

Agreed. And so far in the dev releases, they are stripping out all the Google services.

MS new edge successor browser is built on chromium?

Yes, it's called Edge.

In 2019 the team basically switched to webkit/chromium


I just wish they finally fixed the bug that makes it unusable for me and thousands of other users using macbooks with resolution set to "more space"... I can't count how many people in my office I've had to help after their macbook randomly starts heating and turning fans to max power, it's always that they started using firefox.

I've been checking the tickets associated with the issue (mainly [this one](https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1404042) ) and there doesn't seem to be any significant advance, nor it seems the people in charge are aware of how prevalent and deal breaking this bug is :(

yeah, I also noticed this and this is the one reason I wont be switching to Firefox on my macbook. On other PCs I’ve been using firefox for a long time now.

It's not just that. Exporting Passwords from Chrome to FF is impossible in macOS. Not a day goes by that I don't have to enter my password for a website. Thus, switching to FF actually means re-entering tens of passwords manually (given that you do remember the passwords, otherwise you'll have to go to Passwords Manager in Chrome and see the saved passwords).

Might it be worth using a password manager instead, like 1Password, or KeePass and its variants?

Sorry to be completely off topic here as HN does not support private messages or replies to old threads.

A long shot but you may be able to save us countless hours of effort. Over at the OpenJ9 project we're trying to get z/OS testing for our JDK and one of the dependencies is the XML::Parse perl library which depends on libexpat. In [1] you mentioned you worked on porting this to work with EBCDIC. Did you ever succeed? If so are your changes available in open source anywhere?

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14084875

Maybe, but the problem of exporting passwords from Chrome still exists.

Oh god! That's why my battery life is better since switching back to the standard resolution. What an awful bug.


In my experience the bug is usually overlooked because people won't notice that they only have performance issues when the browser is open - for most people, the browser is always running nowadays.

I wonder if this bug also applies to using the "Looks like 1280x800" option on a MBP with a 2560x1600 screen (this is what I use). The default is "Looks like 1440x900".

It doesn't, or it's at least better.

> FF gaining back a solid amount of market share is critical for the browser ecosystem in the future.

But firefox has shown no indication of gaining marketshare. I'd reckon that a large amount of firefox's current marketshare are people who had pre-Quantum extentions that were critical to their workflow, and who are now using an outdated browser version. One big vulnerability or generally adopted new feature would probably knock a third off even the 5-10% share they currently have.

Firefox's share is so small that the other two-thirds is probably evenly split between google-haters, a constant turnover of people just trying it out for a month or two before going back to Chrome, and people who use Chrome for most of their browsing and switch to Firefox for porn because they are afraid google is watching them.

When firefox was at 40% of the market and shrinking, they somehow decided that their problem was that they didn't look like a cheap knockoff, drop-in replacement for their competitor. They succeeded in making themselves totally disposable.

IMO, their only hope is and has always been to strip their browser down to a virtually featureless embeddable UI component, implement the rest of the current features as a core curated package of plugins against an API that all developers have equal access to, adopt all community-developed plugins that reach a certain usage level, and add a rating system for plugins that communicates the level of mozilla's involvement, e.g. gold for in-house, green for having employees intimately involved with the code, yellow for periodically reviewed by mozilla, red for never reviewed by mozilla, and flashing red for never reviewed by mozilla, has had complaints, and has not responded or been contacted by mozilla.

Other vendors will end up putting together different core suites, and will offer their own ratings, ultimately spawning 5-10 major concurrent firefox versions and swamping chrome out of existence. Through being able to lay off much of the reviewing work to outside vendors, firefox developers can concentrate all of their efforts on streamlining the core, educational outreach about the internet and the web, and lawsuits against the monopolists for adding anti-features to their sites targeted to ruin the user experience on specific browsers.

Instead, firefox has settled into being the token opposition party in a dictatorship that just exists to make sure that there's another name on the ballot come election time, and the dictator only gets 96% of the vote instead of 100%.

This is not mainstream media. It is just a blog hosted on Forbes' platform.

Right on. Forbes.com hosts my blog. They provide minimal editorial oversight, usually limited to making sure you capitalize every word in the title per their style guide.

Wow, I never knew/ expected MS to switch to Chromium. Given how much MS boasts about Edge's battery life over Chrome.

Hopefully Google leaves a workaround to enable ad-blocking. Otherwise, I will switch, it will be a bit of hassle, but I'll drop them none the less. No ads & lower power usage would be nice though.


They have Github developers already deep in Chromium for Electron which is powering VSCode so rather than maintain two separate teams, better to focus everybody on Chromium.

>With Microsoft switching to Chromium, Firefox is now the only viable (cross platform) alternative. FF gaining back a solid amount of market share is critical for the browser ecosystem in the future

Why are multiple rendering and JS engines critical for the browser ecosystem? Everyone would be much better off if we standardized on one.

The next Chrome standard manifest says that ad blockers are a deprecated feature since they hurt Googles business.

Looking a bit further (into possible future business needs of Alphabet) you might see that chrome will refuse to serve anything not based on Googles AMP standard and globally remove anything that hurts their partnership with the Chinese government.

This is the single standard JS engine we are looking forward to.

>The next Chrome standard manifest says that ad blockers are a deprecated feature since they hurt Googles business.

Ad blocking isn't part of the rendering or JS engine.

>Looking a bit further (into possible future business needs of Alphabet) you might see that chrome will refuse to serve anything not based on Googles AMP standard and globally remove anything that hurts their partnership with the Chinese government.

>This is the single standard JS engine we are looking forward to.

This is just unsubstantiated fear mongering and mostly flat out wrong. If worst came to worst and Google rammed something like that into Chromium everyone else could just fork it and remove the offending parts. A Google Chromium and a Non-google Chromium fork is still way better than what we have now today with four distinct engines in Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and IE.

> Ad blocking isn't part of the rendering or JS engine.

If we believe Google it is in a very performance sensitive part of the APIs, I would say that makes it a prime target for future optimizations just to hard wire the performant behavior directly into the engine.

> This is just unsubstantiated fear mongering and mostly flat out wrong.

Of course we can always count on a profit driven company to do the right thing and there was never a project Dragonfly at Google, just as there was never a Tiananmen Square massacre. Trust in Alphabets morality absolutely, trust that when they are doing something obviously wrong that they are doing it for the right reasons.

> Google rammed something like that into Chromium everyone else could just fork it

Maintaining a fork is going to be quite difficult when upstream wants you dead, already ships black box modules for some features and represents the de facto standard for 99% of the world.

I don't think so. Google is abusing their power with Chrome to force their standards on others. I hope they lose their grip on the browser market like MS did, and standards become open.

The standards are open. The problem is that browsers don't implement them 100% the same and they add in their own features. Settling on a single implementation fixes that issue. Different browsers can compete based on ancillary features like Linux distros do.

> Settling on a single implementation fixes that issue.

When Microsoft was in a monopoly position, they ignored the standards and pushed ActiveX plugins. Chrome this year wanted to push other browsers to adopt obsolete U2F specifications because they used them in Google products. If there's a single implementation, and the gatekeepers are majority from one company, standards and interoperability become irrelevant.

>If there's a single implementation, and the gatekeepers are majority from one company, standards and interoperability become irrelevant.

That's a good thing. What's the point of maintaining four separate software projects who's ideal purpose is to literally do the exact same thing. It's much better to settle on one open source project. If we think Google is the boogeyman then settling on a Chromium fork is still light years better than what we have now.

I think this is incredibly shortsighted. From a programming perspective, large codebases are a bit like complex organisms and experience a sort of evolution. Forcing yourself into a single local minimum in the form of a single browser implementation guarantees that it will be much harder to avoid having the same constant set of strengths and flaws.

The common ground is the standard not the browser implementation. The web has been working well and is still working well with multiple implementations.

Forom a technical standpoint it's of course unideal, but from a governance standpoint there's a lot to be gained. The browser is a critical piece of infrastructure and handing a monopoly to one company is essentially sleeping at the wheel. As long as there's significant economic value in providing the platform, competition is in the public interest.

Which site has the most reliable browser metrics?

https://data.firefox.com/dashboard/user-activity probably has the most reliable metrics on Firefox users. Not enough to compare to other browsers, but if there's a large switch from Chrome to Firefox, it should eventually show up on the graph.

I think safari is more cross platform than IE, since you can run safari on macOS and Windows. But IE only runs on Windows.

EDIT: I have been informed that it's not cross-platform since 2012. My bad.

The canary version of Microsoft Edge now works on macOS (but that's because Edge switched to running chromium)

Safari hasn't been supported for Windows since 2012.

Ah. I apologise. I don’t use Windows, and haven’t for years but have vivid memories of using safari on Windows.

Safari is a terrible, Apple-like version of WebKit. The last viable windows version of Safari was abandoned 8 years ago, so please nobody use this browser.

Safari is the fastest browser I've ever used on mobile. It also supports ad blocking. Calling it "terrible" simply does not resonate with me.

Chrome is slower and Firefox on mobile is a joke.

Firefox on mobile has improved enormously since Quantum. It works well enough to ditch Chrome.

No it doesn't. For example to tap a link you have to tap it directly, links don't have a halo around them to make them easier to tap. Tapping things like the [-] buttons here in HN is very hard. It's stupid shit like that that makes it unusable for me. I don't believe for a second the developers of Firefox for Android use it every day and haven't fixed that. And if they don't dogfood what hope is there for that software?

> I don't believe for a second the developers of Firefox for Android use it every day and haven't fixed that.

Why is that so unbelievable? I use Firefox every day and haven't even considered that this might be a problem. I don't have difficulty hitting the [-] on HN, but if I did, I would simply zoom in until it becomes large enough.

Same, used Firefox on Android (currently on a 5.5" phone (Nokia 6.1)) for over a year without a single issue.

Chrome still had a slightly better UI the last time I tried it but the gap wasn't remotely wide enough to give up ublock origin.

Adverts are even more annoying on phones than they are on desktop so been able to run ublock origin directly on device is a major win.

I’m amazed at the tiny inconveniences that lead people to something is totally broken and completely unusable.

Have you tried Brave browser on mobile? It's quite fast and blocks ads.

A couple issues with Safari I've seen since it's slower to adopt web standards:

- buggier websites from devs who don't have iPhones. Since there are some quirky inconsistencies with how webkit handles css vs other browser rendering engines it's easy not to catch those quirks if you don't have an iPhone to check them with. And once users point them out, it's a pain to fix without a physical device.

- a smaller web feature set than chrome/Firefox. For instance, Safari doesn't allow localstorage while in incognito. I think it supports serviceworkers and webrtc now but it took years to get them.

> For instance, Safari doesn't allow localstorage while in incognito.

Isn't that good for privacy? Localstorage can store unique IDs and other data about the client's past behavior, it's much more dangerous than cookies.

It would be nice if localstorage worked in a new instance in incognito. This way webapps that require it can still function without affecting non-incognito tabs. What other privacy concerns would there be I'm wondering?

If incognito mode discards localstorage, there is risk of silent data loss. E.g. imagine a web-based editor that saved drafts.

Websites can detect the absence of localstorage and change their behavior, e.g. notify the user that information will be lost after the session ends.

> For instance, Safari doesn't allow localstorage while in incognito

It does allow (at least in the version I'm using), but doesn't persist the data between sessions. Which is the whole point of Icognito mode.

If you're on iOS it would make sense since Apple is only allowing it's own webkit as browser engine, forcing chromium and firefox to be disfigured versions of what they are on other systems.

When I was working more frontend (~1,5 years ago) no browser would cause more work and trouble for us than Safari on iOS (we didn't have to support IE9 and lower).

Nah I'm talking about Chrome and Firefox on Android. They are both worse than Safari on iOS.

Also I understand that Safari might've created some pain for you as a frontend developer, but frankly I don't care. I'm an end user and I only care about how fast and secure the browser is. And Safari wins there, it's not terrible by any measure for the end user.

Safari being faster on iOS might be more indicative of your iDevice's performance rather than Safari's (the A-series chips are quite fast). Without being able to run both browsers on the same hardware you can't really make an apples to apples comparison.

> Chrome and Firefox on Android. They are both worse than Safari on iOS

I realize that this is subjective, but Firefox Focus has been my preferred mobile browser, regardless of if I have Safari available, (iPad), or not, (Android). In fact having desktop addons on Android has been great.

That might be your personal impression but I don't share it.

Development wise it's not so much about our pain as about certain known bugs that went unfixed for up to 2+ years, similar goes for a range of CVEs (re:being secure).

Do you believe Chrome or Firefox on Android to be faster or more secure than Safari on iOS?

Performances issues will be hard to estimate, as you can not compare safari to the others on the same phone, which means that you will not be able to correct for hardware and software stacks influences.

In last version of Safari uBlock shows warning that it is not supported anymore and slow down your browsing experience. Adblockers from App Store are limited by number of allowed rules the same way as in promised Chrome API changes. If we should start to worry about browser shift then Safari should be first in the list.

Ok that's fair. From a developer's PoV, Safari is a terrible browser. It's old and buggy and stifles innovation on iOS in the same way ie did on windows.

As a web developer, I find this to be anything be true. Safari supports loads of cool features that clients ask for, like native css carousels (css snap points), and blur effects (backdrop-filter). Chrome, does not.

As a web developer, I like my browser to implement internet standards correctly so websites actually work. People aren't trashing Safari because it's cool.. generally Apple provides a great software experience. But Safari is a bug ridden mess.

Here's an example that broke many many sites that use OAuth2 Auth Code Flow for login (including the main UI portal my company provides clients): https://bugs.webkit.org/show_bug.cgi?id=194906

There's also been issues with the handling of 3rd party cookies that create issues for login systems, js stdlib functions being incorrectly implemented, etc.

Safari generally implements standards as they mature.

Chrome generally implements everything new and shiny, no matter how underspecified it is, and with blatant disregard to whether or not it breaks the web.

I don't disagree with regards to new standards, but that doesn't change the fact that existing, well established standards are often broken in Safari (see the bug I linked in the parent comment). These bugs are much more likely to break the web than Chrome's half baked bleeding edge features because there's already a huge body of web software that relies on them.

If you're still developing carousels then you deserve everything you get with Safari. Have fun with that :)


Software has these everywhere. iOS and Android homescreens are carousels. Netflix 'rails' are carousels. CSS Snap Points is a way to create native snapping scrolling views, which Safari and IE supports, but Chrome does not.

> It also supports ad blocking.

It supports the same crippled ad blocking that this article complains about. It is also years behind the competitors in standards support, and the standards it claims to support are implemented buggily. Finally, it crashes more often than its competitors, but I suppose making a browser unusable is one way to save battery.

Since I have the new Macbook Air I also switched to Safari because it also extends battery lifetime. Still need to get used to the different keyboard shortcuts and plugin system though.

(But yes, if I do Frontend development, I use Chrome)

I'm using Firefox for mobile since Quantum, and works better that Chrome (except for a few pages that don't bother on supporting Firefox on any platform)

For me it's faster on mobile mostly since I can just install ublock origin so most pages load and execute much less crap.

You clearly don't have much experience as a developer with Safari on iOS. It's a terrible browser full of bugs and inconsistent behavior.

Google is rapidly becoming persona non-grata in my view. There is something really, for the lack of a better word, scummy about it in the last year or two.

We partnered with them on their DialogueFlow platform (voice recognition) for Google Home integration and voice command intent handling and they totally screwed us over. I won't/can't go into the specifics but it was bizarre; we had no recourse except taking a near trillion dollar company to court. We decided it was not worth it and wrote off the cost and took a hit but never again.

Totally agreed; even my enterprise clients are wary of signing up with Google. Turns out Google’s support sucks even if you pay them for it; so a lot of them are ditching G-Suite to go back into the Microsoft Office 365 world.

They’re an advertising company through-and-through.

Last year or two? Read about Google censorship in China. This article is from 2006: http://www.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=3749767

Google stopped censoring in China years ago, so in that respect, Google has gotten better. Meanwhile, Apple has handed iCloud keys to the Chinese government to access any Chinese user's data at will.

I switched 6 months ago to Firefox on all my mobile devices. Put simply I need the ability to block ads. A lot has been written on privacy but the immediate issue I was facing was around malware - a lot of it being delivered via Google's own ad networks. There were certain sites (mostly tech related) that I simply couldn't visit anymore due to frequent browser hijacking. Later versions of Chrome for Android shipped with a setting that would prevent some of it but it was disabled by default and hidden well away from the user. It started to feel like Google was not only well aware of the problem but was choosing to be complicit in all of it. I reported the ads but they clearly didn't want to know about it. I would urge to anyone that cares about their own security to make the move to Firefox, and to urge others to do the same (be it family, friends or colleagues).

The state of the debate is unsatisfactory.

Google employees such as Justin Schuh are aggressively defending the move on tech/security principles and denying commercial motivations, while uBlock Origin dev (Raymond Hill) says the change will cripple or kill uBO on Chrome and evil motives are its raison d'être.

It's good that mainstream media articles raise the awareness of the issue, but a good technical discussion by impartial analysts would also help.

Is it possible to fix the security issues of the existing webRequest API without deprecating it? Or by replacing it with something safer but just as powerful? There should be a simple answer to those questions.

(I'm tempted to side against Google because they keep invoking "performance issues", which is a ridiculous argument: nothing helps Chrome's performance more than efficient ad-blocking. But still, I'd like to know more.)

I'd say in practice it doesn't really matter. For the sake of the argument let's assume that gorhill is wrong and the Google engineers really think this is the right technical decision, that's good for them but we still end up with subpar ad-blockers.

Of course these types of compromises crop up all the time when you're designing software, but then the problem is: if in the near future one Google engineer has an idea to improve the ad-blocking interface by, say, redesigning a certain component, would they do it? Would management let them do it?

There's a clear conflict of interest here, I expect ad-blocking to suffer death by a thousand cuts on Google's platform. Not necessarily because there's an evil master plan to kill it, but merely because every time there'll be a technical argument in favor of gimping it they're very likely to go with it while every time there'll be a proposal to improve it I'm sure there won't be a lot of motivation to implement it.

So even if we give Google the benefit of the doubt here I still believe that it's a huge problem and we can't let them effectively control the web. Beyond that in this particular case I'm not even sure I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, the technical justification seems iffy to me (and the burden of proof is clearly in their camp) and there's been a clear pattern lately of Google moving to reduce the impact of ad-blocking (such as them bundling a minimal ad-blocking with chrome, most likely as an effort to dissuade people from looking for better third-party blockers).

> Is it possible to fix the security issues of the existing webRequest API without deprecating it?

The WebRequest API is not being deprecated though, only the ability to block through it is. And I don't think blocking a request has very negative security implications. It's hard to not attribute malice to this move when the status quo was absolutely fine, and google is raising a strawman to try and justify their changes.

They have to raise a strawman though, their cash cow is advertising and often advertising to people who don't want advertising, ublock origin and others allows those people (including me) to block the advertising.

To put it in a simple form, I will not use a browser that can't run ublock origin, full stop, I don't care what other features it has, ublock origin is the single killer feature for me.

I think Google may be about to find that a non trivial number of people share that last sentiment.

I'm sure they did the calculation of users lost vs advertising increase from users who still use them after they break adblockers.

Honestly though it makes me glad that I never stopped using FF as my primary browser, Chrome is used for dev/testing so this doesn't really affect me directly, I'll just make sure that Chrome can only access sites under dev/testing and carry on.

I've also seen privacy issues cited, and I don't understand the argument at all, since a read-only, async API will remain, so privacy isn't improved.

There have been extensions out there that are close to amusing the current behavior.

Example: https://www.zdnet.com/article/google-cuts-fake-ad-blockers-f...

My understanding of the current behavior is that an extension like uBlock can programmatically read requests. Extensions will be made to abuse an API and people will install them unwittingly.

The existing webRequest API lets extensions run arbitrary third-party code over all the requests you make, and Chrome won't process the request until it's done. That inevitably means that a badly written extension can hurt page loading performance, and a malicious extension can get a lot of sensitive data about you.

Whatever Google's true motivation is, there's no way to solve those problems without limiting the power available to ad blockers.

The performance concern can be addressed by monitoring it and informing the user when extensions slow down page loads.

The security concern is difficult to solve (more fine-grained permissions might help), but also seems a bit disingenuous since extensions can also inject code into the HTML of all sites and already syphon off a lot of data if they want to. Sure, it's a sharp knife, but some tough issues require sharp tools.

> evil motives

Nowhere did I ever say "evil motives". I merely pointed out that Google has a duty to its shareholders.

Are they removing url-rewriting requests as well? Perhaps adblockers could modify the URL of the ad to go to a different domain (example.com) rather than blocking it entirely.

The article recommends Brave and Pi-Hole, as well.

For folks looking for simplest anti ads and tracking browser (for friends and family, for instance) should consider Firefox Focus [0] instead of Brave. It is light and works like a breeze on lowest of configurations.

And folks using Android not bothered enough to setup Pi-Hole should consider using Intra with nextdns or adguard-dns [1].

I've installed Intra for friends and family on their phones, on their AndroidTVs... It takes a quick one minute setup and another minute to show them how to use it. Esp, nextdns' analytics dashboard is a real eye-opener for them. When they actually see the results, they start taking notice and are bothered enough to figure out how to blacklist additional domains.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15049171

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20051049

Agree completely for Android. I've used Focus since it came out and set as primary browser because it is so light. It works great from Materialistic (HN Reader) and Reddit App or for one time website browsing. It also allows opening in Firefox or chrome if site is too broken though that is usually ad or captcha related.

I setup DNS66 easily and that helped with some ad heavy apps as well. Only issue is it cannot be used with actual VPNs.

I open Firefox manually if I want a heavier browser with tabs and ublock or umatrix but focus is usually first.

As the antitrust investigation of Google progresses, they must find a fine line : get as much control as possible of the web while leaving enough margin for competition to avoid an antitrust ruling. That move to limit adblockers might be strategically required from Google at this point, and the fact that they might lose market share an expected result. They've already reached 70% market share, limiting adblockers will allow them to extract more value from their current users and also avoid becoming too obviously hegemonic.

The original article has an update (5/30) from a google spokesperson: “Chrome supports the use and development of ad blockers. We’re actively working with the developer community to get feedback and iterate on the design of a privacy-preserving content filtering system that limits the amount of sensitive browser data shared with third parties.”


> Another option is using something like Pi-Hole, says Wright. “This works on the DNS level and has blacklists of adverts as well as malicious URLs.”

I think nextdns is fantastic for this purpose and has a barrier of entry that makes it usable for non-tech folks as well.

I created an account recently and linked my WireGuard server's IP (when connected) to a saved nextdns configuration.

Ads/trackers are now blocked on all my devices that use the WG egress when the provided DNS server is set in each peer's conf.

This is obvious given the scale of their blocklists, but let me just say the browsing experience and speed boost is utterly phenomenal. Does a better job at blocking than both my old Pi-Hole server and my localhost AdGuard Home daemon.

[0] https://nextdns.io

I really want to use Firefox because of Quantum and other Rust goodness, but until they catch up on usability I'm happy to stay with Brave. Tab-to-search is sorely missing in Firefox, and the tab creation and switching experience on Android is awful.

Tab management is what keeping me from switching to FF on Android. The option to use extensions and to customize the browser to the desktop level is amazing though. I hope they will look into tabs' UX later when more people are going to use it.

>Another option is using something like Pi-Hole, says Wright. “This works on the DNS level and has blacklists of adverts as well as malicious URLs.”

You can also run a ridiculously simple script from time to time (or create a cron job that does it for you, for example) to update your hosts file periodically, using the same blacklists[0]. No extra hardware needed.

[0]: https://github.com/StevenBlack/hosts.

Does anyone know the status of the Chrome native ad blocker, the one that would block just the "obtrusive" ads? I remember hearing about it a while back and if it comes out with this change I think it would solve the use case of most people.

Not that I don't want people to switch to Firefox/other browsers, I just feel like if Google implements their own solution I think most people won't mind...

One thing I haven't seen mentioned: Chrome OS. I have two Chrome OS devices that are useless without adblock. They can't handle the real internet. And who would want to buy a Chrome OS device that could?

My Chromebox is my most used computer in my house (it powers the living room TV) so this'll be a real inconvenience for my family.

Newer versions of Chrome OS are able to run Linux in a container. You can install Firefox with the "firefox-esr" package in that Linux. Unfortunately, audio doesn't work yet (at least not on my PixelBook), so it's not really a complete solution, but for (quiet) browsing it does work with uBlock Origin. Apparently Linux audio under Chrome OS is coming soon.

Maybe advertisers need to go back to the drawing board and devise a better way to deliver their message. Ad blockers exist because ads are annoying and even crippling.

Google's Adsense (or whatever you call those text ads that appear next to search results) was a reasonable compromise, unobtrusive and often useful, whereas full window timed ads that force you to click the "x", and similar excessively animated distractions and pop-ups, are what motivate people to install add blockers.

by the way - if you want adblocking on Android, Firefox accepts extensions, including uBlockOrigin.

IMO Brave is the best Android browser. Blocks ads by default and performs much better than Firefox.

Are there web developers in this thread?

The only praise for a browser that I am hearing in this and similar threads is about how a browser is superior for content consumption (browser X is faster, etc.). It’s never about how one browser offers better developer experience than others. And I have not yet found a browser that is nicer to develop in than Chrom(e/ium).

Chrome's dev tools are quite a bit faster, but FF's dev tools give a better overview. IMO. In general, I'd say it's mostly personal preference and inertia.

Probably, but both Firefox and Safari are continuously making improvements to their devtools. Specifically, Firefox has pretty good tools for debugging layout (incl. CSS Grid) and accessibility (an entire panel in devtools that shows the accessibility tree).

i only use firefox for development -- i actually prefer its dev tools to chrome's.

also, since i'm the only one on my team that does it, i often get CSS issues that only appear on firefox because the frontend people are using chrome specific hacks.

I've sort of switched: mobile is FF; desktop is Chrome. The thing that still gets me with both is that memory usage is -insane- and I cannot figure out why it is so high. After a few days of usage I'll close all but one tab and will have a 4+GB process.

Thank you to FF for maintaining AdBlocking but memory usage needs love, too.

Being shown ads is a requirement for many web sites. Responding to them is not. The focus of ad blockers is all wrong; the priority should be to appear to see ads without actually seeing them, and to protect privacy.

A browser of the future will fail to display ads, while giving no hint of this to the ad source; ads need to be downloaded as usual.

A browser of the future will cloak its identity by sandboxing each website, manipulating browser signature and apparent IP address (some variation of VPN services) to destroy tracking.

The issue isn't saving resources, it's winning the privacy wars.

Glad to see people caring.

99% of people don't even know that adblockers exist. Those same people are generally scared of computers.

Trust me, this isn't gonna matter. I saw these same arguments during the IE/Firefox war. Didn't matter that much.

> 99% of people don't even know that adblockers exist.

How can that be when mainstream publishers complain about 20% and more of users using adblockers?

Tried out Firefox again a few days ago. Still prefer chrome. If add blocking becomes an issue with chrome, I'll definitely make the switch because of that and just hate it or go back to safari and hate it just as much

What don’t you like about Firefox?

Speaking as a FF user I have a hard time using Chrome too. In other words you get used to what you use and FF is a decent option.

Not the original commenter, but Firefox has noticeably poorer performance on my MacBook pro 2018, especially on react-heavy sites like the AWS Console or Twitch.tv

Mostly this, performance is atrocious on a lot of sites I use.

I also dislike its history management, download management, auto-complete, search in address bar functionality, pocket integration, and much more. I'm sure if I were forced to spend more time with it I could possibly find configurations to customize all those things in a way I like, but even using it for a few days the easily findable settings weren't flexible enough.

I realize your comment says you’ve already switched back, but should you ever try Firefox again most of these can be tweaked directly from about:config

I know, but not enough to my preferences at least from as far as I dug into those settings.

To me Chrome has poorer performance, especially when switching between tabs. I've seen Chrome take minutes to "load" a tab.

Yeah, there's an issue on Mac's with scaled resolutions. Not a problem on other platforms, but not sure why it's so sticky on the Mac.

Firefox has awful performance on nearly any web page for me (2014 Mac). Even its own settings page alone puts a core at 100%. I can get past bad font rendering and giving up pinch-to-zoom and not reading PDFs in the browser, but I can't give Firefox half my battery life. I'll use it on my work PC but it's still a huge waste of electricity.

Huh? I read all my PDFs in firefox.

Both Chrome and Firefox are noticeably heavier than Safari on macOS. The most obvious sign of that is battery usage.

Here’s a tip for saving battery on MacOS:


I also made the switch but firefox is definitely slower than chrome and sometimes it borders on being unusable on some website where chrome's performance was spotless.

Memory usage.

I know everyone says Chrome is a memory hog, but for me Firefox turned out to be even worse. It kept crashing with the same tabs Chrome was running with ease.

I have stuttery performance on mac with firefox.

biggest issue for me is firefox's lack of audio pitch correction on sped up videos. at 3x the audio is unclear; chrome handles it perfectly.

I also prefer Chrome; it has always felt more stable on Mac OSX; I often find myself with 50+ tabs open and it is no issue with Chrome, Firefox can't even come close.

Have you checked out Brave Browser?


Yes. As with firefox, they've made some design/ux decisions I'm not a fan of.

Man, the backlash against Google is extreme. It's much faster than the backlash against Microsoft back in the day - at least, that's my feeling. Note I'm not saying it's not well deserved!

Actually, it's far more muted than the backlash against Microsoft was, in public as well as by government officials. The memes were far more mainstream in nature [1]. Hell, even my non tech-savvy parents were aware of it and worried by it. In fact, Chrome's success owes a lot to the public backlash and antitrust lawsuits against Microsoft.

[1] http://www.tjscafe.com/tjs/gallery/billborg.htm

I'm worried that this is just "the outrage of the week" and then nothing will change. People are very quick to voice their discontent online these days but they're also very quick to forgive or merely forget. I might be a pessimist but I doubt that this is going to significantly change anything.

Now when this change lands if it really turns out that adblocking doesn't work well on Chrome, then things could move.

The backlash has been happening for awhile now. Lots of concerns about google in the last couple years.

>It's much faster than the backlash against Microsoft back in the day

Fool me once, shame on you...

I have one system I still use chrome on - my late-2013 Macbook Pro.

The reason I use chrome as my main browser there is because Firefox and Slack do not seem to be friends on MacOS. I use slack in the browser rather than the native app and FF seems to get copy and paste functionality all messed up.

I would use Safari, but some quirk of the office webmail (Outlook of some sort) means that email from Safari gets flagged and blocked as potential spam by an outbound mail server :/

But everywhere else, Android phone included, it's Firefox because they don't pull these kinds of shenanigans.

See this comment a lot but absolutely disagree. Firefox works and is only getting better on MacOS. (And if being friends with MacOS is the point, then why not use Safari, does not get more friendly than that)

I love FF, really do, but as I said I have two specific issues keeping me on chrome right now.

I hope they can be sorted out.

I’ve got the same generation MBP. Why not just use the slack desktop app? I’ve never had a problem running that side by side with Firefox. And performance for both is nearly as good as on my current model laptop at work.

IIRC when I first tried that about a year and a half ago, it didn't work properly :/

Huh, personally I’ve never had a problem with slack for desktop.

I've downloaded firefox ESR and am migrating my important addons to firefox equivalents. Up to now all of them, apart from _authy_ (a crucial one) have native versions.

For me extentions like _uBlock Origin BitWarden_ & _LastPass_ are vital

Now I have to look if the latest incarnations are not as CPU hungry as the ones that forced me to stop in 2013.

If it is good on this ageing #DAW, I have my response to google's FU to us, their users

Update: Firefox still uses much more CPU on my machine, that will create a problem when google pushes their crap through our throats

The title of the article (which is different from the title here, which is merely clickbaity) is misleading, though there is the potential that ad blocking becomes much worse due to the deprecation of the webRequest api mentioned in the article. If that does have a significant impact on ad blocking, I would expect many users (both devs and casual users) to switch to Firefox.

Firefox has always been my weapon of choice, I used both chrome and firefox with a lot of tabs loaded so I can be logged into different accounts on the same Saas. I'm actually switching chrome out with Brave browser, so far it has been a pleasant experience.

Look into firefox containers.

just switched two days ago. it's been nice ten years, see you google.

my main hurdle was absence of decent support for multiple isolated profiles in firefox and it's still not great but multi-account containers are good enough for now.

What limitations have you found with containers? I use them all the time and they work great especially when you set domains to open in a container by default.

Did chrome have better support for that?

cmd+t opens new tabs in default profile, i'd like to either be able to assign which profile is default for each window (have a "work" window with some tabs, "personal" window with other tabs, etc) or for container to be inherited from current tab.

i've also tried native firefox profiles but they are somehow too isolated. chrome has this behavior where clicking a url outside the browser would open in new tab in most recently used chrome profile window. in firefox it's always the first(?) profile window that you opened.

After the story I installed Firefox. I got it configured, and was happy to see that it's as good as Chrome. For now I'll keep using Chrome, but the moment the adblockers stop working, I'll be on Firefox.

Chrome already banned adblocking on mobile, since many years. Interesting (but good!) that this relatively minor api change now gets even mainstream media to barricades.

The big question: Will Microsoft fork or take the change also?

talk about branch sawing..

A valuable lesson I learned from @dhh was: never put your customer back in a buying position[^1]. For example, if you discontinue your legacy[^2] 1.0 product, and force them to switch to your shiny/better/faster 2.0 product, when 1.0 was working just fine for them, you are forcing them back into a buying position. And this time, they might choose your competitor.

Chrome was way ahead, but by overreaching against ad-blockers, they forced their users back in a buying position, and this time Firefox had gotten way better. Unless Google messed with the status quo, their users would never consider switching. The only thing pushing me toward Fastmail is that Google keeps messing with Gmail/Inbox.

This death-cycle seems to be unavoidable for MBA-types who inherit working products, and I bet you could build a business around this idea, or at least design a consistent enterprise takeover strategy.

[^1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJkiCpPeYuI [^2]: Legacy = any code you can't (safely) change.

i think its time to replace pichai

It needs to be dupe'd every day until Chrome is fixed or goes under 50% market share.

Can we not turn HN into even more of a political soapbox than it already is? It's fm fine that you have a cause to fight for but this is seriously getting tiring.

Until what is fixed? Every version of Chrome that exists today supports uBlock Origin.

Google is famous for measuring everything. If you think they did this without extensive testing/polling/... you are naive.

You think they went all in on google+ without extensive research?

All of this "debate" is pretty absurd.

Yes the webrequest v3 proposal seems problematic for scripts /malware / crypto / ad / etc blockers. This is consensual.

Chromium is open source and has those two main actors: opera and Microsoft.

Almost everybody seems to consider chromium in the debate as a proprietary software owned by Google. And thus argue to switch to Firefox. Let's be clear, when you look at the technical, chromium is a far superior browser. Chromium has far more active devs, far more features (look at caniuse.com) and has almost systematically better performance. And it has many others kinds of advantages. All of the stated advantages are sufficent to consider chromium as the best browser.

So instead of arguing that opera or Microsoft or simply open source community will simply stay in sync with chromium master but keep the patchs for keeping the current webrequest api. You want people to choose a poorer, less featureful browser which has real consequences on what web devs can offer as user experiences. This is forgive me, dumb.

What everybody should ask for is to mozilla to get rational and to migrate Firefox to chromium while backportikng the best parts of gecko to chromium 1) and to ensure the respect of privacy in the chromium source code 2) This would lead us to a web that evolve far more quickly, to the fastest browser and to an implementation which satisfy every interests (the ones of Googles and the one of Microsoft/mozilla) If Google and mozilla disagreed on something, mozilla should maintain a set of patchs for applying their custom changes (a micro fork)

That's simple but there's still a long way for the medias and the people to understand that. I would have hoped that hackernews community, wanting to be like the pre-eternal September would debate with intellectual riguour in the common goal of seeking true, sound progress.

I find parts of your post quite offensive, to be honest, but let's have a debate anyway.

The way I see it is that my (and other's) interests are not aligned with yours.

You want a web that evolves quickly, I want a web that is not a constantly moving target.

You want one web engine implementation to rule them all, I want an open web where standards are respected, not constantly changed by a single conflicted (as in conflict of interests) actor, where multiple implementations can thrive and where users can still expect every website to work independently of the user agent they use.

Is this enough for intellectual rigour?

When has it ever been a good idea to leave control about something to just one company? Have you somehow been abstinent from tech during the last couple decades? Do you not remember how hostile Microsoft acted towards Linux around 2000? Are you suggesting we would be better off now if Apple and Linux would have left the field to Microsoft back then? This situation now is no different.

Creating patches might work in the short run, but over time when according parts of the code base change and get refactored, you're constantly busy keeping your stuff compatible. Case in point safari: They severely lack behind in several areas. Why? According to your post it should have been trivial for them to just take any improvement from Google's fork and apply it to webkit. Didn't seem to have happened.

And counting on Microsoft, a company active in the ad business as well, doesn't sound too convincing in this context either.

> All of this "debate" is pretty absurd.

Your attempt to crudely quantify something as vague as "superiority" of something as complex as a browser is far more absurd.

> Almost everybody seems to consider chromium in the debate as a proprietary software owned by Google.

For many intents and purposes chromium _is_ proprietary by sheer mass of code, if you don't think so, go and fork it by all means.

> Let's be clear, when you look at the technical, chromium is a far superior browser. Chromium has far more active devs, far more features (look at caniuse.com) and has almost systematically better performance. And it has many others kinds of advantages. All of the stated advantages are sufficent to consider chromium as the best browser.

You have a terribly one dimensional view of browsers, do you still measure your CPU performance in Hz? Browsers are extremely complex, chromium does many things better than FireFox and FireFox does many things better than chrome (even from a purely technical perspective ignoring "user" issues as this one).

> Almost everybody seems to consider chromium in the debate as a proprietary software owned by Google.

Yes, because Chromium is owned by Google and uses its own Web services and binaries. See “Ungoogled Chromium”, which was on HN homepage a couple weeks ago: https://github.com/Eloston/ungoogled-chromium#motivation-and...

Let's be clear, when you look at the technical, chromium is a far superior browser. Chromium has far more active devs, far more features (look at caniuse.com) and has almost systematically better performance.

I use firefox for speed reasons and only use chrome when I'm forced to. Chrome opens up 20 small processes firefox used to open one main thread now a dozen.

Not sure what is being measured in the technical tests you mention but in userland firefox has a lot of support for those of us still on windows 7.

I think it would be a good idea for Mozilla to move to a Chromium base. That way they could have a built in ad-blocker and turn it on by default.

If they did that with Gecko then websites would simply detect and block Gecko even if they changed the user agent. Because it's only in the single digits on desktop and non-existent on mobile.

However I know Mozilla isn't interested in that since that would still likely break websites. Also, they officially believe ads are good for the web.

However, I want them to continue to work on Servo since I think it's important to be able to parallelize reading/parsing and rendering the web.

I really think that's an oversimplification.

There are always the pro and con arguments about software mono culture and there are good points on both sides, and in this case there is indeed a gigantic cost to maintaining more than one implementation -- no one is debating that. Also, an across-the-board evaluation would probably find Firefox technically inferior at the moment, although I think that's more of an interesting debate and also a measurement where I feel the gap has lessened these last few years. My disclaimer would be that I'm a long-time user of both browsers, but ethically on Mozilla's side.

However, I think the following

> and to an implementation which satisfy every interests (the ones of Googles and the one of Microsoft/mozilla)

doesn't put nearly enough emphasis on exactly how different those interests are. Google's main source of income depends on user surveillance and privacy intrusions (to use some loaded wording), and while Mozilla's indirectly does too through their sources of funding the two entities have very different goals and core beliefs.

That in itself doesn't preclude sharing an implementation, but thinking that those differences won't (and don't) cause conflicts of interest that affect both the evolving of the standards and how the actual implementations work would be, I believe, a big mistake.

Just saying "ensure the respect of privacy in the chromium source code" and that they should maintain a set of patches or a "micro fork" I think ignores the level of control they will be (or rather won't be) able to exert over the Chromium code base. I don't think Opera, Brave, Microsoft, Mozilla or anyone else that decides to either be a downstream user of or active participant in Chromium will be able to keep Google from doing whatever is in their best interest with the code base. Additionally, I think keeping patch sets (that won't end up being very complicated and will slow down or put to a grinding halt independent development) won't be able to make up for the implementation differences caused by the differences in goals. Keeping patch sets can be extremely painful.

> Chromium is open source and has those two main actors: opera and Microsoft.

I really apologize for my tone, but... Please. In what regard are they main actors? Certainly not to the extent that they have any significant control over the main direction of the Chromium code base or any power to stop Google from completely controlling it.

The core beliefs and goals of the entity exerting the main control over the code base matters a lot more than your post makes it sound like. And if Chromium really were the only code base able to browse the modern web, then that would also put the standardization of the World Wide Web more or less in Googles hands.

Also, for someone asking for better "intellectual riguour", you do a pretty so-so job at showing your understanding of the arguments of the people you don't agree with.

A chunk of users (Linux desktops mainly) are locked into chrome because of h.264 / mp4 video.

On Linux, I have "OpenH264 Video Codec by Cisco" and "Widevine Content Decryption Module by Google" as Firefox addons.

This seems to be the norm [0], as Firefox will download them on-demand so long as the user agrees.

[0] https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/enable-drm

Says here the Cisco codec allows you to use H.264 in WebRTC with gstreamer and Firefox. It does not enable generic H.264 playback, only WebRTC.

https://github.com/cisco/openh264/issues/2835 https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/OpenH264

Because generic support for H264 in Firefox came in Firefox 43, four years ago. If Firefox finds ffmpeg, it uses it.

True but it’s a poor experience getting it to work. It breaks every few upgrades, poorly documented and mainly in the the bugtracker, and is unofficial hack because it’s not a licensed decoder.

Pretty sure Firefox can use this too even though it's a proprietary binary blob.

Could you elaborate? Firefox doesn't seem to have any problems with h264 to me

"For now, Wright thinks people should use Brave instead: “Brave is built upon Chromium so all existing Chrome plugins and even themes work on it. This is perhaps why it's seen an increase in user numbers.”"

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