Why Google Chrome Is Not My Favourite Browser

As the sort of computer nerd that others could use as a yardstick, I’ve taken sides in my fair share of “religious wars” – Emacs over vi, KDE over GNOME, anything over iPhone OS. As such, it is to be expected that I would have picked sides in the constant battle over which web browser to use. This was for a reasonably long time a mostly two-horse race, with Internet Explorer in the lead by virtue of its presence on most people’s desktops, Mozilla Firefox bringing up the rear as a regular choice for the discerning internet user, and other browsers such as Opera and Safari remaining niche choices.

In September 2008, a new browser entered the fray, with the intention of taking as much market share as possible from the two major competitors in the battle. One of those periodic free programs released by Google, Chrome attempted to do things quite a bit differently than its competitors by using a minimalistic interface devoid of the menus present on Firefox and then present on Internet Explorer.

Google Chrome - a minimalist's dream, my nightmare

Google Chrome – a minimalist’s dream, my nightmare.

I suppose therein lies my major contention to Google Chrome. Being a relatively old-school computer user, despite my age, I’ve grown accustomed to the menu as a way of contextually picking commands. In fact, seeing the alternatives presented by Google, and the earlier attempts at using an alternative to the menu presented by Microsoft Office 2007, I’ve come to the conclusion that I much prefer menus. Since neither Internet Explorer nor Google Chrome see fit to present me with the old menus-across-the-top structure that I’ve become acclimatised to, this leaves me with a single alternative among the “big players” – Mozilla Firefox.

Of course, I probably would have chosen Firefox anyway; it’s open-source, unlike Internet Explorer, Opera or Safari. The Chromium base of Google Chrome is open-source under the BSD licence as well, but that doesn’t apply to the executable installer, which works under a rather repressive set of licensing conditions. In comparison, Firefox uses the strongly copyleft GPL (GNU Public Licence), which has a few interesting conditions: freedom can never be taken away from the end-user to redistribute the source code, and any program with GPL-licensed code must itself become licensed under the GPL. Using Firefox thus continues a trend where much of my most commonly-used software is open-source, from my browser to my office software to my media player and image manipulation program.

To be perfectly fair to Google Chrome, though, it does have some nice features which do make up somewhat for what I see as a poor interface. Compared to its main competitors, Internet Explorer and Firefox, it’s blindingly quick. It also has the advantage of giving each tab its own processor thread, but while you would think that this would constitute a major advantage for somebody who regularly has eight tabs open, and has had a record in excess of thirty tabs open in Firefox at once, I’ve never really had any major problems with keeping so many tabs open at once.

The main advantage of Google Chrome over its competitors would be its light memory footprint, not being subject to the absurd memory leak problems of Firefox. This would be a major criticism that I would level at Firefox, if it weren’t for the fact that I’ve run it on a system with no more than 64MB of RAM (although I wasn’t doing anything else at the time), and I was readily able to use it on systems with 128MB of RAM and 512MB of RAM in the past without major slowdown, so even this main advantage doesn’t really constitute enough of an improvement over Firefox to get me to switch.

Ultimately, like in all computer-related religious wars, your choice of web browser really comes down to preference, and in that vein, I’d like to say that I simply prefer the menu interface and strong copyleft licence of Firefox over the speed and simplicity of Google Chrome.


Google Chrome - thanks, but no thanks



Google Chrome, thanks, but no thanks.


One Response

  1. I think there’s an important difference between an editing program (e.g. microsoft office) and a browser. When surfing the internet the publishers of whatever website provide you with the content. What they allow you to do in their site is contained inside the site, post comments, change fonts, edit wikis, send emails, even batch upload large files, or hundreds of small ones (thanks facebook!1).

    The browser needs to be malleable enough so that it doesn’t impose itself on your surfing. As such i see the browser increasingly as a blank canvas, like a window to whatever content publishers decide to provide you with.

    With an editing program you need control. What microsoft did wrong was try to make the office suite ergonomic. They opted for a more natural “one-button-fits-all is best” axiom is office 2007. But that was retarded. They thought they could tell us to get used to this new way of content creation and that we’d like it better in the end. But microsoft has told us to like things before (cough-clippy-cough) and obviously it hasn’t worked. They’re going back to the more traditional file, edit etc. system for office 2010.

    So i reckon a browser needs to be reasonably uncluttered, as increasingly everything you need to do on the internet is provided within the websites themselves. So for that reason i prefer chrome for it’s unobtrusive UI. That said, i was a fan of chrome until very recently when i realized how it deals with multiple tabs.

    I had been noticing my laptop heating up a lot whenever i had a few tabs open and i figured it was time for my monthly declogging of my heatsink from cat hair (she likes to sleep next to it, it’s warm i guess, the hair gets sucked in). On opening it up i saw the fan wasn’t the problem. It seems that what’ happening is that with each tab, chrome opens a seperate instance of the program again. Crazytown! I know they advertise this as an advantage since you don’t lose all your pseudo-tabs when one crashes, but i feel like i’m typing into a hairdryer with the amount of work my fan needs to do with ~6 chrome tabs open.

    So for that reason i like the reasoning for chrome’s interface, but it’s handling of tabs has forced me back to firefox.

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