Firefox versus Chrome

This was just going to be a blog post but it turned into a full on rant. It happens. I think Firefox has been getting on my nerves for a while - since version 3 came out in fact. It claimed to have faster javascript, yet I found that my simple form-based javascript had turned to treacle, I saw them rippling slowly down the page where in Firefox 2 they had been literally instant. There were other annoyances, but at least it still worked, and for my CMS/BMS systems I could always use version 2 if I had to. Similarly, if I wanted a printout from a modern site such as Yahoo, version 2 could manage it, version 3 would break it into 6 or more pages with the actual content somewhere in the middle.

The thing was, it seemed to be getting patched a lot, theoretically a good thing, but was creaking under the joins and welds. Hopefully version 3.5 would fix it all, I thought. At this point you might be saying Bugzilla it. Well, I submitted a couple of bugs several years back that still seem to be in the code, so I don't have a lot of confidence in that process. No, I waited for version 3.5 and the early beta looked promising. It fixed the javascript crawl, which was a key thing, but not the printing. Still, I hate printing anyway so it is a good excuse not to do it. I just have to close my ears to the wails coming from my wife when she tries to print something out to tack onto her todo pile.

When I want to choose a different program to open a file with, I have to go through a dialogue box that points me at the filesystem and says "here, fetch boy ... go on, fetch!" and I wonder how hard it would have been to pick up the mime associations list and offer me that as a starting point instead? I really get the feeling that two things are keeping me with Firefox, and neither of them come from the core project itself. The plugins are basically saving a naff browser. Yeah, I said naff. I know, I used to love it, but now it is old, fat and creaking and there is a new game in town. Chrome.


The thing is, Chrome has the two things we want most from a modern browser - lightweight and tab protection. Yesterday I did an image search on google and without warning got the whole of Firefox locked and a warning telling me I really needed to download this Windows virus software now, as I was infected. I was on a 64bit opensuse linux machine, so I knew this wasn't true. I also don't recommended clicking the close button on these just out of habit - do that one day on a Windows box and the box is effectively toast. So I tried to close the tab. No joy. I tried to switch to another tab - locked. Another instance? Locked. All of Firefox was under the mercy of this malware. How many of the logins from the other screens could it access? Who knows. If you see an advert for virus checkers on my Facebook page then we will know. Firefox really is naff in that kind of regard too. If I log in on one instance, I can go to any of the other instances and they have all my credentials ready to just carry on. ARGHH!

So ... Chrome then. Well the thing is, it isn't the browsing experience I want either. I can live without the flash plugin most of the time, in fact Flashblock is one of the two godsends that keeps me on Firefox. Go to a really bad site and there is just a little grey (f) logo, and you know not to bother going any further (one exception is which is a flash exhibition site). If you get to a site and can't navigate without clicking on an (f) logo to find the menus, you also know what you are dealing with (a site that you can't google. Possibly also an illegal site in some countries, as there may not be an alternate accessibility page either). Now and then for certain sites like youtube though, there is no point in a browser with no flash, and I like the instant flash-on option of Flashblock. The other plugins in general are also very helpful. Adblock Plus for every site, every day, and lots of other tools and options for all kinds of users.

Chrome also has a hell of a downside on Windows. Sure, they are piloting a plugin that lets you take over Internet Explorer, and the more of that it does the better off we all are. However, Windows itself is the security trap, not IE. A Windows flaw that allows SSL certificates (safe online banking and passwords) to be totally bypassed passes up the chain to Chrome and other browsers using Windows APIs to handle security, such as Safari. Firefox was patched very quickly as always, but the others DEPEND on Windows for security, so may as well not have any basically. This is obviously a rant against Firefox and its current direction, but for the love of god don't trust anything else if you have a Windows machine at the moment.

So, in summary, can the next release of Firefox please secure itself against other tabs and windows, drop a lot of weight, and be back in the running? At the moment, it is kinda wheezing and sweating but not catching up to the new boy in town. Google put Firefox where it is today, but can clearly see it isn't fit at the moment. If Chrome does nothing else but motivate the Firefox crew, that would be enough for me. What about other browsers you say? I use Safari occasionally, and Konqueror and Opera everyday for years now, but they just are not in the running. I use IE to check against site redesigns etc., but get the feeling of ants running under my skin every time something starts animating - did I just get malwared? EEK! And as for which version to run, nobody knows how version 6 survived so long, but it is still there as the baseline to work against, so improvements in the 7 and 8 series just don't count in the main.