Firefox versus Chrome (my 2019 view)

May 10, 2019

On Twitter, I said:

I continue to believe that Firefox is your best browser option, despite the addons screwup. Mozilla at least tries to be good (and usually is), while Chrome is straight up one tentacle of the giant, privacy invading, advertising company giant vampire squid of Google.

I'm sure there are plenty of good, passionate, well-intended people who work on Chrome, and they care a lot about privacy, user choice, and so on. But existing within the giant vampire squid of Google drastically constrains and distorts what outcomes they can possibly obtain.

Mozilla is absolutely not perfect; they have committed technical screwups, made decisions in the aftermath of that that I feel are wrong, and especially they've made trust-betraying policy decisions, which are the worst problem because they infect everything. But fundamentally, Mozilla is trying to be good and I do believe that it still has a general organizational culture that supports that.

Chrome and the people behind it absolutely can do good, especially when they take advantage of their position as a very popular browser to drive beneficial changes. That Chrome is strongly committed to Certificate Transparency is one big reason that it's moving forward, for example, and I have hopes that their recently announced future cookie changes will be a net positive. But Chrome is a mask that Google wears, and regardless of what Google says, it's not interested in either privacy or user choice that threatens its business models. Every so often, this shows through Chrome development in an obvious way, but I have to assume that for everything we see, there are hundreds of less visible decisions and influences that we don't. And then there's Google's corporate tactics (alternate).

Much as in my choice of phones and tablets, I know which side of this I come down on when the dust settles. And I'm sticking with that side, even if there are some drawbacks and some screwups every so often, and some things that make me unhappy.

(At one point I thought that the potential for greater scrutiny of Google's activities with Chrome might restrain Google sufficiently in practice. I can no longer believe this, partly because of what got me to walk away from Chrome. Unless the PR and legal environment gets much harsher for Google, I don't think this is going to be any real restraint; Google will just assume that it can get away with whatever it wants to do, and mostly it will be right.)


Comments on this page:

By Matthew at 2019-05-10 07:09:34:

Chris, did you ever give ungoogled-chromium a try? Some good soul took the work upon himself to remove all the Google tentacles from Chromium. I've been using it for almost a year now, works wonderfully!

The thing that's bothering me most about Google is the way that they're executing on Microsoft's old "control the entire internet" vision. SPDY (http/2), QUIC, AMP, cookies, a <portal> tag, and their own DNS and DNS-over-HTTPS services: all easily pushed into their very popular browser/engine that is devouring the landscape (Opera, Electron, Edge.)

And relatively few people seem to think a new browser war, a new monoculture, is a problem? Do we forget so easily, in just 20 years?

So I'm hanging onto Firefox. It's the only meaningful way I can provide any check on Google's power.

By cks at 2019-05-11 00:13:50:

Matthew: I haven't tried any of the alternative versions of Chrome and I'm probably not going to. Part of my issues with Chrome are broader than Google's control over it (for example, there is the mess of Chrome addons) and can't be fixed by just stripping Google's obvious tentacles out of it. And beyond that, I would rather support alternatives to Chrome rather than a de-fanged Chrome, because alternative browsers are what we really need to keep the web healthy. A Chrome/Blink monoculture would be a bad thing in general.

By Tom at 2019-05-14 17:46:06:

According to https://blog.mozilla.org/addons/2019/05/04/update-regarding-add-ons-in-firefox/ Mozilla has released fixes for the addon issue for versions going back to Firefox 47.

Written on 10 May 2019.
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