Friday, April 12, 2024

Chrome vs. Firefox

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For a few years now, the great debate between Chrome and Firefox has raged on. Which browser is faster? Which is easier to install? In this article, I’ll tackle each of these subjects, in addition to providing some personal insights on each of these topics.

Installing Firefox

For desktop Linux enthusiasts, Firefox has not only been supported longer than Chrome, it offers a bit more flexibility in terms of its installation. The most common method of Firefox installation is to install it via your distribution’s package manager. However some distributions, such as Ubuntu, offer Firefox as the default browser, making any additional action from the user unnecessary.

The downside to the package manager installation approach is that you may not always have the absolute latest version of Firefox as it comes out. This is because you’re dependent on the release schedule provided by your Firefox package maintainer, not by you specifically. Because of this issue, I prefer to download a self-contained installation of Firefox instead. Once downloaded, simply extract to the location of your choosing, then run the executable. The advantage to using this approach is that you’re able to update Firefox from within the program itself.

Installing Chrome

To install Chrome on popular Linux distributions, all you need to do is visit the Chrome download page and select the appropriate package type. If you use a distribution that relies on Debian or RPM packages, then you’re in good hands. However, if you’re using a distribution that relies on something else, you may need to look to the community-supported option Chromium, instead.

When you install Chrome, the software repository is added automatically for you, thanks to the Debian package or RPM. This ensures that Chrome can be updated using the Google-created software repositories.

Best in Installation

To be honest, I’ll have to give the winner’s point to Firefox with regard to installation. Chrome requires a software repository for its installation, whereas Firefox doesn’t. You can either use the version of Firefox provided by your distro or use the self-contained option described above.

It’s also worth noting that both Firefox and Chrome are available in Beta releases. But as the term Beta suggests, these browser releases will likely have bugs. So don’t judge the browser based on mishaps with a Beta release.

Firefox Speed

On a moderately recent PC, current Firefox releases run very fast. They’re quick to load and use reasonable system resources upon initial startup. Overall, most consider it a fast browser.

However, the speed of the Firefox browser is affected once you begin installing add-ons. Because each add-on uses its own resources, running too many will affect performance.

Performance also takes a hit when you open multiple tabs within Firefox. As with any tab supported browser, running extra tabs affects the available resources of the systems.

One of the areas where performance takes the biggest hit, is with extensive Flash media on any given page. This is especially true with websites where there are a number of embedded YouTube videos. Firefox’s handling of Flash is left completely in Adobe’s hands.

Chrome Speed

Like Firefox, Chrome is also fast to load upon startup. And like Firefox, the more add-ons you install, the slower the browser is likely to run overall. Where Chrome really drops the ball, however, is when you begin opening up additional tabs in the browser. With each new tab, Chrome uses a significant amount of extra memory.

The next area of performance to be aware of is that Chrome comes with its own flavor of Flash pre-installed, called the Pepper Flash Player. In general, I’ve found this Flash player to be more stable than the one provided by Adobe. However, if you wish to update your Flash experience, you must wait for a version of Chrome that is also updating the Pepper Flash Player.

Best in Speed

Performance in terms of the actual speed of pages loading, etc., is about the same. I should point out that Firefox generally used fewer resources with extra tabs open while Chrome did better with Flash video content. In terms of speed, it’s a tie. However, in terms of resource usage, Firefox is the clear winner here.

Chrome vs. Firefox Add-ons

In terms of add-on availability, I would say it’s an easy tie. Personally, I’ve yet to need one extension and not find it available across both browsers.

Add-on “discoverability” is also on equal footing between Chrome and Firefox, thanks to Firefox’s add-on manager and the Chrome Web Store. Where the lines blur a bit, is that Chrome enjoys the added benefit of Web applications.

For example, Chrome has a Web shortcut “app” for Dropbox. In reality, this is simply a webpage shortcut. But Chrome considers it a web application. A second example would be AudioSauna. Once installed, both of these Web applications simply open up in a new Chrome tab. Firefox however, lacks this functionality. Some might be tempted to point out that this isn’t a real loss, since the Chrome example is simply a link to a website running the Web application. But it’s the convenience Chrome has provided in accessing Web applications that has many Chrome users won over.

One last consideration with regard to add-ons when it comes down between Chrome vs Firefox is the updates for each browser. With Firefox, some add-ons aren’t updated in time before a new version of Firefox is release. Based on my past experiences, this renders “un-updated” add-ons incompatible. By contrast, Chrome doesn’t have this problem and any Chrome add-on will work regardless of any Chrome update.

Add-ons to Smooth the Process of Browser Swapping

After examing the Chrome vs. Firefox browser comparisons above, you might find yourself in a position where switching over from one browser to another might make sense. It’s happened to me personally, a few times, so allow me to share some of the add-ons I’ve used to make the change as easy as possible.

  • Adblock Plus – Because no matter which browser you prefer, being able to control over-zealous advertisements is a must have feature for any web browser. Adblock Plus is available for both Chrome and Firefox.
  • EverSync – Exporting and then importing bookmarks can be a real pain when changing browsers. With EverSync, the process of managing bookmarks becomes seamless, no matter which browser you use. And since you’re not storing anything sensitive like passwords in the cloud, security isn’t really a concern here.
  • LastPass – One of the best password managers available for your web browser today, LastPass will locally store your secured passwords on your computer and even sync them securely between Chrome and Firefox.

Final Thoughts

One of the things I love about using Linux on the desktop is the amazing software choices we have available. This includes popular Web browsers found on the other operating systems as well. If you are trying to determine which browser is actually the “best” between Chrome and Firefox, then I recommend using the following basic formula.

If you have a reasonably new computer with ample resources, both Chrome and Firefox are good choices. However, if you’re running with limited resources, I would suggest Firefox over Chrome.

And lastly, if you rely heavily on your Chrome extensions, but are considering switching back to Firefox, double-check to make sure your legacy extensions are going to be supported, as Firefox upgrades may not play nicely with their compatibility.

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