Staying away from Google Chrome after six months or so

March 16, 2019

Just short of six months ago, I wrote Walking away from Google Chrome, about how I had decided to stop using Chrome and only use Firefox. Although I didn't mention it in the entry, I implicitly included Chromium in this, which was really easy because I don't even have it installed on my Linux machines.

(A version of Chromium is available in Fedora, but it seems to be slightly outdated and I was always using Chrome in large part because of Google's bundled Flash, which is not in the open source Chromium build.)

Overall, I remain convinced that this is something that's worth doing, however small the impact of it may be. Subsequent developments in the Chrome world have reinforced both the alarming nature of Chrome's dominance and that Chrome's developers are either shockingly naive or deliberately working to cripple popular adblocking and content filtering extensions (see here, here, and here). Using Firefox is a little gesture against the former, however tiny, and provides me with some insulation from the latter, which it seems rather likely that Google will ram through sooner or later.

(It is not complete insulation, since many of the crucial extensions I use are developed for both Firefox and Chrome. One way or another, their development and use on Firefox would probably be affected by any Chrome changes here, if only because their authors might wind up with fewer users and less motivation to work on their addons.)

On a practical level I've mostly not had any problems sticking to this. My habits and reflexes proved more amenable to change than I was afraid of, and I haven't really had any problems with websites that made me want to just hit them with my incognito Chrome hammer. I've deliberately run Chrome a few times to test how some things behaved in it as compared to Firefox, but that's about it for my Chrome usage over the past six months (although I did have to do some initial work to hunt down various scripts that were using Chrome as their browser for various reasons).

My only significant use of Chrome was as my 'accept everything, make things work' browser. As I mentioned in my initial entry, in several ways Firefox works clearly better for this, and I've come to be more and more appreciative of them over the past six months. Cut and paste just works, Firefox requires no song and dance to remember my passwords, and so on. At this point I would find it reasonably annoying to switch much of my use back to Chrome.

That's the good cheery bit. The not as good, not as cheery bit is that after some experiences with Firefox on Javascript-heavy sites (especially some of our Grafana dashboards) and some experimentation, I've become convinced that on Fedora, Google's official Chrome is still faster than Fedora's Firefox on such sites (as it was a couple of years ago). There's a lot of magic that goes into compiling the actual binary of a modern browser (as I found out recently), so there are many potential causes; it could be Fedora's Firefox build, it could be that in general Linux Firefox builds are less focused on and less well optimized than Windows builds, or Firefox could genuinely be slower here for various reasons (including that people have tuned their Javascript's performance for Chrome, not Firefox).

For me the good news is that Fedora's Firefox on my office and home machines qualifies as fast enough for me. Perhaps I could get Chrome to update heavyweight Grafana dashboards somewhat faster, but it's not massively faster at that, and on more sane sites either Firefox works fine or Javascript performance is not the limiting factor; instead, it's things like whether or not either browser uses hardware acceleration for video decoding, which is somewhat variable and not always in Chrome's favour.

Written on 16 March 2019.
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Last modified: Sat Mar 16 01:01:22 2019
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