Thursday, May 24, 2012

Web Browsers

(Road trip note: We'll be in Toledo Friday through Tuesday morning. Follow along on Twitter!)

Big news this week from StatCounter: Google Chrome has passed Microsoft's Internet Explorer as the most widely used web browser in the world. Well, unofficially. Whether StatCounter's sampling is statistically representative of the entire world is a separate issue from what I'm going to discuss. Fact is, I used Chrome as my browser of choice for two discontinuous time periods, and both times, I ultimately switched back to Firefox.

Why is Google Chrome now number one (allegedly)? I don't think it has to do with the quality of the browser, other than that the browser (like other mainstream browsers) is perfectly functional, of course. It's because Google is marketing it. I use a lot of Google stuff (Docs, Gmail, Calendar, the search engine itself, etc) and I see a lot of "Try out Google Chrome!" ads. And, I did try it. But I didn't find that Chrome had anything useful that the other browsers didn't have. It's just an average, functional web browser. So, meh.

Meanwhile, Firefox has one thing that I really like. I have a lot of "frequently visited" websites, but I don't have a whole lot of bookmarks to keep track of them. And with Firefox, I don't really need bookmarks. I can just type in a portion of the website name or address, and if I've visited it before - particularly if I've visited it frequently - up it comes, almost immediately! For example, if I want to check out the latest Drought Monitor report, all I have to do is type "dro" in the address bar, and up it comes, right at the top of the list. This is my favorite thing about Firefox, and it's the main reason why it's my default browser. Chrome does this to some extent, but it's much more hit or miss, and your web history usually plays second fiddle to Google search options. Hey, Chrome, if I wanted to use Google search, I would type what I was looking for in the separate Google search box!

Firefox isn't perfect, though. With one recent version release, Firefox - for some unknown reason - changed the default background image color from white to black, and didn't give you a way to change it back to white. This made some images, such as my counties visited map, almost unreadable.

I first started using Firefox way back when Internet Explorer was considered "evil", prompting me to look for alternatives. I tried Opera for a while, which has some nice exclusive features (e.g. mouse gestures), but I also found that Opera didn't work correctly with some websites. Many web developers make sure their sites work correctly in the three mainstream web browsers, but since Opera is not a mainstream browser (3 to 4% worldwide market share), not everything is going to work with Opera, necessarily. At least, I'm assuming this is still an issue. (This was several years ago when I used Opera.)

Really, the main knock on Internet Explorer isn't that they're associated with Microsoft (who doesn't seem so "evil" now, honestly), but that it's always been slow. I don't know if it's still as comparatively slow as it used to be, but besides, is there really any reason to go back to IE?

So, yeah, as far as I'm concerned, Firefox for the win. But to each his own.

1 comment:

bubba0077 said...

FYI: the name for that Firefox feature is "awesome bar". I sat in a lecture at PSU by one of the devs shortly before the launch that premiered it.

I've also tried to jump to Chrome a couple times (mainly because I like the idea of each tab being its own thread), but there's always some missing feature I don't want to do without (though I can't remember what it is right now).