I ran a simple experiment. These are the results.
Chrome has had a lock on the market for a long time. Like most people, it’s been years since I’ve even considered changing browsers.
But when Firefox Quantum came out a couple months ago, I was surprised by how much hype and marketing came with the launch. Mozilla were making some tantalizing promises about their new browser.
I’m in favor of giving new apps a shot. Maybe it’s because I like it when others do the same for my work. So, I decided I’d run a simple experiment. I would use Firefox Quantum for a few weeks and see if it was worth the hassle of a browser switch.
I’m a tech guy, so a lot of my work and life is inside a browser. I was willing to run an experiment, but I laid down a few rules:
- I would only convert if Firefox was better than Chrome.
- In order to make clear comparisons, I would regularly switch back and forth between the two.
- I would take notes along the way to track how things were going.
- I would try to keep an open mind, both towards Google and Mozilla.
For the information, I have a Mid-2014 MacBook Pro, 15-in, 2.5 GHz Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM.
Now, on to the findings.
This is something Mozilla has touted, so I’ve been paying attention. I don’t think I have come across any of my regularly–visited websites where Firefox is slower. It feels just as fast or faster than Chrome.
The speed improvements are not absolutely mind-blowing, but they are noticeable, and that’s enough.
More direct control over privacy
My tin foil hat is more the size of a yarmulke than a sun hat. It makes me slightly uncomfortable knowing how much information Google has about me, but I’m not too bent out of shape about it.
Regardless of the maker of the browser, Firefox gives me more nuanced control over how much data I hand off to companies. I believe this is a good thing, for both me and the web audience in general.
For my elementary purposes, I’d say the dev tools are a little better than Chrome’s. I like the Style Editor, the tabs in the sidebar of the Inspector, etc. React Developer Tools is available in Firefox, too.
As far as I’ve been able to tell, the difference in resource usage between Firefox and Chrome is significant.
There are some telltale signs that Chrome is pulling harder on my machine, even with only one open tab. For example, sometimes there’s some lag when transitioning to my open Chrome window; with Firefox, everything is always smooth. When I use Chrome, I’ve noticed my fans kick on more often and my battery seems to drain faster.
I have a decent computer with plenty of RAM, but this has been one of my favorite parts of using Firefox so far. There’s a clear feeling that it just takes fewer resources to run. I love knowing that when I bring up my browser every day.
I use screenshots on a regular basis, and the built-in screenshot feature is wonderful. I can’t find a single Chrome extension that’s as simple and well-made, with just the right kind of features.
UI feels snappier
Compared to Firefox, Chrome sometimes feels a little sluggish or laggy. I’m not sure if this is because Firefox uses less processing power or because it’s coded better (or both), but I suppose it doesn’t matter.
Firefox Quantum is always fluid and snappy.
I need functionality in a browser as much as the ability to support a good organization. Thankfully, with Firefox, I don’t have to give up one to get the other—I get both.
Mozilla is a great organization that does a lot of stuff to make the web a better place. Anyone who’s reading this article should be happy with that.
I know this is a deal breaker for some, but I’m not a huge extension user. The few I do use are all available on Firefox Quantum.
Side note: this is only in reference to the visual design of the UI, not the user experience as a whole. Visual design is important, but it’s not the only factor in UX.
This is a matter of personal preference. I would say stock Chrome has a better visual design than stock Firefox. But I made some custom changes to things that were bugging me with a userChrome.css file (below) and now I’m calling it even.
Now, it’s really just a series of trade-offs.
The Firefox mobile app is not terrible. I actually like some things, like the navigation on the bottom. But to me, Chrome’s mobile app feels a little more polished.
On iOS, I’ve found that more apps have the option to open links in Chrome. Only a select few allow that with Firefox.
Hangouts doesn’t currently work in Firefox.
Edit: As of v58 Hangouts now works.
Auto-fill addresses and credit cards
These aren’t available to everyone right now. Full availability is coming in v58, so I solved this by moving to Firefox Beta. Others may not want to do that.
I’ll actually probably stick with Beta even after v58 comes out.
I’ve been surprised by the results of my experiment.
Honestly, I didn’t have much hope for Firefox. I was excited to try something new, but I didn’t expect it would be good enough to warrant a change. I’ve been proven wrong.
Firefox is now my main browser. And I’ve been really happy with it.
If you’re anything like me, switching to Firefox might be the right thing, too.