Till the Chrome Wears Off

I spent all of the past week using only Google Chrome (build 5.0.307.11 beta for the mac) as my default browser. I wanted to post a few of my observations as a ardent FireFox user.

Speed

First of all, it is very nimble when launching and page loads are fast. To give an example, I use a three year old iMac Core 2 Duo w 4GB of RAM. I always keep my browsers to load the last set of tabs that were open on closing. For a Chrome to launch and load ten web pages only takes under 13 seconds. Additionally – for you mac nerds – the dock icon only bounces twice. FireFox, eat your heart out.

Now, all of this isn’t to say that the browser is always fast (more on this in a bit).

Extendability

Extensions are available to replace most all of those that I actually used in FireFox; as well as some basic FireFox functionality which I was surprised wasn’t included. I currently am using:

  • Chromeleon – a user-agent spoofer
  • Delicious Bookmarks – a social bookmarking tool
  • Tab Buddy – a tab manager
  • BugMeNot Lite – a tool for bypassing web registration
  • Google Voice
  • RSS Subscription – A tool to add easy feed subscriptions (how was this not integrated to begin with?)

Another nice feature of Chrome is the ability to add web-site specific searches into the address bar, as opposed to FireFox’s separate search field, with a drop-down menu to select a search engine. Both are about as easy to add a new site to, but Chrome’s integration feels more seamless.

The lack of a history in the navigation buttons annoyed me. I actually use that when I’m doing some web searching to go back to a point I branched off on my current rabbit hole. It made for a lot more clicking on my part. It seems like the sort of thing that could be easily added in, but neither Google or any third party extension writers have done so yet.

Flash & Video

Personal preferences aside, the real downside is when it comes to video. Flash is really awful in this browser. If found that YouTube regularly locks up. Pages with lots of Flash-based ads can completely choke the browser. Further, Microsoft Silverlight isn’t even available for Chrome, which means1 no Netflix2 That may not be a deal-breaker for many, especially as many users (myself included) would like to move away from Flash and Silverlight. However, they are a reality of the web right now and something I end up using everyday.

I’m also notices some website tools don’t function so well in Chrome. For example (though albeit not a great one), the "Quick vote" poll tools on CNN.com’s site don’t seem to work for me in Chrome. I click Vote and nothing happens. It’s Javascript, so I’m not sure what is going on there because as I understand it this is the place where Chrome really excels. It’s not the sort of thing that has bothered me so much I’ve felt the need to even investigate it, but something worth mentioning.

Conclusion

I have to admit, I figured that I would find myself needing to open up FireFox everyday when using Chrome. Honestly, other than the occasional hard-to-remember login or accidental click, I haven’t missed it at all in over a week of using Chrome. I could easily find myself using Chrome full time on my mac and may even give it a whirl on my beleaguered Windows laptop (which needs all the corners cut possible in terms of speed).

And, for the Apple fanboys, my next experiment is to switch to Safari for at least a week to see how well that browser works for me. I haven’t seriously re-visited it since I got my mac three years ago.

  1. Silverlight works fine in Chrome, not sure why Netflix won’t play nice. []
  2. A Safari-based extension, similar to the IE Tab extension for both FireFox and Chrome, would solve this issue. However, those are bulky and far from ideal solutions. What’s more, it’s only hypothetical at this point, as no such extension exists for Chrome ont he mac. []