First impressions count, or why I haven’t used Chrome as my default browser

A scathing review of Firefox 11 finally pushed me to an experiment I should have done a long time ago — using Google Chrome as my default browser.

I’m not an early adopter. I may hear about something the early adopters will take up, but I let them vet it out before I take a stab at it. In the case of Google Chrome, I did actually try it out when it was first released, and … it failed. I had Japanese text on my website that would not render at all.

And it was a pretty specific situation too. The Japanese text would disappear when I list Helvetica as the first font for my style sheets to render, and it would happen only on Windows XP machines. As it turned out, the version of Helvetica installed on my computer was corrupt, and it didn’t affect just Chrome but anything using Webkit, including Safari and iTunes.

But the impression was made — I can’t use Chrome if it can’t render Japanese on my own websites. Then there was the matter of add-ons. When I tried out Chrome, AdBlock Plus and Rikaichan hadn’t yet been ported, and I depend on those add-ons.

I would eventually fire up Chrome for cross-browser testing and to use Google Apps at my last job — Firefox was having issues with GMail at some point — but, like Internet Explorer 6 users who couldn’t see the value of upgrading, I didn’t see the value of switching.

Those first impressions from when I gave Chrome a shot persisted. Yes, now that I’ve upgraded my operating system (and got rid of that errant Helvetica font), Japanese fonts appear on my web pages, and most of the add-ons I use from day to day have been ported to Chrome.1 But I gave Chrome a number of chances, and those failures — or the appearance of failures — didn’t endear me to it.

There’s nothing standing in my way now of using Chrome as my default browser, which I’m doing now as an experiment.

I didn’t realize it myself, but I have been grumbling about Firefox for a while. When it loads my last session, it always freezes up trying to render my Twitter stream. And when I visit my own jQuery-heavy sites, I can see Firefox drawing the page before displaying it properly. Even Internet Explorer 9 (on 64-bit, that is) doesn’t draw that slowly.

While I am impressed with Chrome’s speed so far, that hesitation remains. Will Chrome get in the way of my user experience again? And how bad will it be the next time? This experiment attempts to addresses these questions.

1I would like to see a Foxytunes port, but YAHOO! has enough trouble keeping the thing updated for Firefox.