Well, I guess it’s not much of an experiment if I’ve already missed three Firefox releases. So let’s make it official — Chrome is now my default browser.
There is no laundry list to explain the shift. In fact, there’s just one reason for the switch: Chrome gets out of the way of my browsing experience.
A few weeks ago, tech news sites were abuzz by a former Mozilla developer criticizing Firefox’s rapid release schedule. I have to agree that broken extensions fed into my discontent about Firefox, since the one extension that broke so often was one I really, really liked.1
On the whole, the browsing experience between Chrome and Firefox doesn’t differ much. It’s not the same jarring experience between those browsers and Internet Explorer 8. Sometimes when I have both Chrome and Firefox open for some cross-browser testing, I’ll forget which one I’m using.
Ultimately, I’ve stayed with Chrome because of the subtleties. Chrome seems just slightly more responsive than Firefox, enough to be noticeable over time. If something goes awry with my browsing experience, it’s mostly the page I’m visiting, not the browser itself intruding on my experience.
That’s not to say the transition has been entirely smooth. Perhaps it’s because I had been using Firefox for so long — back when it was still called Mozilla Firebird — that I’m accustomed to some of its paradigms. Still, this list of Chrome annoyances is small and hasn’t made me defect back to Firefox.
- Recently closed tabs is a better user experience in Firefox. I guess it must be some form of OCD on my part, but I’m particular about how my tabs are arranged. I have a series of evergreen tabs that I keep open and placed in a specific order. When I reopen a previously-closed tab in Firefox, the tab is placed at the point where it was closed. I like that experience because it triggers muscle memory. Yes, it was right around there that I saw whatever it was I was looking at before that tab was closed. In Chrome, you open a New Tab page, pick from a list of recently-closed tabs, and the previously-closed tab opens right then and there. I lose that muscle memory because the tab isn’t where I expect it to be.
- Inability to stop animated GIFs using the ESC key. Firefox trained me to stop animated GIFs by hitting the ESC key. When I tried that with Chrome, the animation just kept going. I’ve since discovered an add-on to mimic that behavior, but why is there no default method in Chrome to stop animations?
- Deleting a URL from the address bar is temperamental. In Firefox, you can remove a URL from the auto-complete history of its address bar by hovering over the URL and pressing DELETE. (Or SHIFT+DELETE on a Mac.) The same functionality exists in Chrome, but it requires a very specific set of circumstances to work correctly. In fact, it’s so cumbersome, I’ll split my findings out to a separate blog entry. Let’s just say that in Chrome, what you think is deleted may not be deleted, and it’s annoying when it pops up as a suggestion.
- No way to set a default page for a new tab. I usually set my default home page to something I host myself — either locally or on my own website. In Firefox, I’ve come to expect an option that sets the default page of a new tab to something I choose. Chrome has no such setting. Google calls it the New Tab page, but I’d rather call it the Bullshit Page. It contains links to things I pretty much don’t need, except perhaps the Recently-Closed tabs. Alas, Firefox decided once again to do as Chrome does and created its own version of the Bullshit Page. Thankfully, I can go into
browser.newtab.urlto something I choose. Chrome gives me no such option.
1So much so, I would wish someone would rescue Foxytunes from the neglectful clutches of YAHOO! and port it to Chrome.