Friday, September 05, 2008

Google Chrome Vs. Firefox

Google recently released its new browser Chrome. I decided to give it a spin and see how it compared with my customized version of Firefox.

Things that are better in Chrome

1) Much faster startup. My configuration of Firefox with all its add-ons takes almost an entire minute to launch on a cold boot. I have no idea why it is so ridiculously slow, but Chrome blows it out of the water by starting in around 5 seconds.

2) Cool developer tools. The Chrome task manager allows you to see exactly how much memory, CPU and network resources each tab is using. The source viewer, about pages, javascript console and javascript debugger are all step ups from Firefox.

3) Speed. Depending on where you look, Chrome either has a huge speed advantage or a small one. In my experience pages load slightly faster than Firefox. But, Firefox starts displaying the content of some sites while it is rendering so you can actually interact with it faster in Firefox than Chrome. For example, the entire pages of Politico render quicker in Chrome, but you can actually start reading content quicker in Firefox. Overall I like Chrome, but it isn't that much of a difference.

4) Tabs run as separate processes. This is cool in that if one tab goes down, it doesn't bring all the other tabs with it (although Firefox 3 has been very stable for me and I can't think of the last time it crashed). It also allows for cool things like being able to drag a tab into a new window.

5) Ability to resize textboxes. When you are filling out comments, Chrome allows you to resize the textbox to make it larger and take advantage of extra screen space.

6) Incognito mode. Whether you are buying an engagement ring for your girlfriend or partaking in activities that would make her question accepting it, incognito mode turns off history and cookies so no one is the wiser as to where you have been surfing.

7) Application shortcuts. Chrome lets you save sites as shortcuts in Windows. When you launch the "application", Chrome comes up in a modified version without tabs, giving you even more screen real estate to use. The idea is that you can have your web mail seem much more like Outlook and other email clients that run directly in Windows. Kind of cool, but any time that "application" opens a new page then you get a second Chrome window that is launched. When I tried out this feature with Google Docs, Google Reader and Yahoo Mail, I found that I was launching additional tabs all the time and then had to switch back in forth between the application window and the Chrome window. The benefit therefore wasn't that much.

8) Minimalist display. No status bar, no search bar (it is combined in the address bar), and no bookmark bar by default. Lots of space for the actual content of pages. I like this, although with the customization that Firefox allows, I get basically the same result in Firefox.

9) New tab page. When you open a new tab, instead of a blank page you see your most visited sites, your bookmarks, and search boxes for sites you have visited.

10) Quick searches. After you have made a search on a site, like Amazon or eBay, you can type the first letter of that site then hit the tab key to do another search on that site. This is very useful, but Firefox allows even more customization with quick searches.

Things that are worse in Chrome

1) No extensions/add-ons. What makes Firefox great is the level of customization available via add-ons. I couldn't think of browsing without Ad block plus and Greasemonkey.

2) Display of tabs. I have a bad habit of having 20+ tabs open up at the same time, and the way Chrome displays them just doesn't work. They are all displayed on one line and with each additional tab you add all the others get smaller until they become unreadable. On Firefox I allow for 3 lines of tabs. There is no way to do this in Chrome.


Overall, I like a lot of what Google has done with this browser. Mark Twain said "I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead". Google spent the time to write a very short letter. The download is only 7 MB and the display is minimalist, but you can accomplish just about everything that you can in the other browsers. Things are well thought out on this browser and there are some nice new additions that they put into the mix.

But, without extensions there is no way I am leaving Firefox. In fact, almost all of the features in Chrome can be added to Firefox via add-ons. The key advantage that Chrome has over my customized Firefox is the faster startup time. When Google adds extensions and if it still has the speed advantages, I think I would change over at that point. Until then, it is a secondary browser to mess around with and take advantage of its developer tools.

If you want more information on Chrome, here is a good collection of links.


Trishna said...

Hey Matt -- hope all is well! Thanks for taking the time to be so thoughtful in your review. It convinced me to give Chrome a spin :) Surprised CNET hasn't recruited you to be a freelance reviewer! :)

Google Chrome vs Firefox said...

I have been doing some memory (RAM) tests between Google Chrome and Firefox3. Chrome takes 1.5x more memory then Firefox due to its crash control feature probably.
Read my article for more details.

Anonymous said...

I prefer Chrome, but thats just me.

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