Tell me your browser and I’ll tell you what kind of person you are.
Ok, maybe I won’t. That’s a lot of information to glean about someone simply from a piece of software that they probably haven’t actively chosen. You may not even know the answer. On many computers, Safari, Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome are all just different ways to say ‘the internet’. Someone buys a computer, turns it on, opens the default browser and never looks back.
For another segment of people–myself included–their browser is part of their technological identity. Recently, I had an identity crisis and I’m giving another browser a shot as my daily driver.
When I start using a system I almost immediately install Google Chrome. It feels light and quick, it has a great community, and its built-in dev tools are out of this world. It fits so well into my workflow as a front-end developer that it’s hard to consider using anything else. It’s great.
Until it’s not.
Chrome is seemingly so advanced that it can interpret your error-riddled code and see the forest for the trees. Things will work flawlessly until a lesser browser points out their flaws for everyone to see. This is usually evidenced by Chrome being able to auto-close tags that–when left open in the code–will stop other browsers in their tracks. Yes these bugs are caught in testing, but Chrome has made it so that they’re often caught much later and with much more effort.
The version of Flash that gets bundled with Chrome will–on occasion–pitch-shift any audio that it plays, making the user feel insane for a few weeks. Flash is bundled, as mentioned, so the version cannot be changed.
No sidebar. It’s 2013. We have widescreens. Let us make use of them.
A challenger appears.
Since I own a Windows laptop and an Ubuntu PC and work on a Windows PC, Firefox was the obvious candidate. In the interest of transparency, Firefox was the entire inspiration for this post.
From conversations with friends and other folks working on the web, Firefox was being praised as having fixed a number of the issues that I had when I switched to Chrome. Guess I should mention that I was a Firefox user who converted to Chrome around 2007 for various reasons.
I always seemed to be among the segment that experienced the infamous memory leak issue, which doesn’t seem to be plaguing me now.
Previously, you couldn’t pull a tab out of a Firefox window without reloading the tab, so pulling an in-progress YouTube video out of the main window would cause the video to reload. That has been addressed.
The dev tools in Chrome–much like its version number–also quickly surpassed those found in Firefox for me. They were much more intuitive and easy to use for a front-end developer. Not to sell short Firefox’s native dev tools, but any issues I had with them are quickly being remedied Firebug. You can even skin Firebug using Stylish (my personal fav is Monokai since it matches my text editor). My only issue thus far is that you can’t display both the Style and Layout tabs of the Firebug panel (that I know of) – functionality which exists in Chrome’s native dev tools.
The sidebar. For the love of god, the sidebar. It slices, it dices, it displays your bookmarks, and even lets you open sites in it! This is a non-issue for many people, but I can’t get enough of the sidebar. Most websites don’t take advantage of the approximately 1920×1080 resolution that is commonly found on the desk of a person working on the web. Bookmark http://m.twitter.com, then set it to open in the sidebar. Open the bookmark and it runs in the sidebar. Did I mention that the Twitter mobile site doesn’t auto-display images (yet)?
On the fence, kind of.
It’s been a few weeks now, and I’ve gotten good and used to Firefox again. I still find myself opening Chrome sometimes out of habit, and I’ve needed to install a few extensions in Firefox to restore all the utilities that I’m used to, mainly the Omnibar extension to mimic Chrome’s behavior of being able to search Google from the address bar (many ISPs hijack this traffic to show their own search results, mine included). Seems that training myself to use Ctrl+K instead of Ctrl+L was a bit too difficult.
Overall, it’s been a great experience and it will likely mean that Chrome takes a back seat until a reason appears to act otherwise.