Google Chrome may still command a lion’s share of the desktop web browser market, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right browser for you. I once believed Chrome was “the best,” but these days you may be happier elsewhere.
According to NetMarketShare, Mozilla Firefox remains Chrome’s biggest contender if we ignore Internet Explorer (mainly used in business environments). And over the past year, Firefox’s market share has hovered steady around 10 percent throughout 2018.
For me, if it weren’t for Chrome’s nifty user profiles feature, I’d be using nothing other than Firefox. Why am I, and others, still enamored with Firefox? Is it time for you to switch? Here are several reasons that may convince you.
1. Firefox Is Faster and Leaner Than Chrome
Everything changed with the release of Firefox 57, also known as Firefox Quantum. At its debut, Mozilla claimed that Firefox Quantum ran twice as fast as the previous version of Firefox, while requiring 30 percent less RAM than Chrome.
What does this mean in practical terms? You can have more tabs open without feeling a slowdown. Web apps and web games perform better, especially 3D games. The browser itself loads faster on launch, and just feels more responsive in day-to-day use.
But these improvements come with one big drawback. In a 2018 battery test, Microsoft showed that its Edge browser lasted 60 percent longer than Firefox and 20 percent longer than Chrome when all three browsers looped the same HD video on identical laptops. In other words, Firefox’s power drains battery life.
Plus, there are some simple things you can do to speed up Firefox if it starts to run slow.
2. Firefox Knows It’s Just a Browser
A while back, I read an interesting post from a long-time Chrome enthusiast who threw in the towel and switched to Firefox. He had a lot to say, but this particular point stuck out to me:
“Today, Chrome is not the speedy beast it was in 2011. Today, Chrome is some sort of weird-ass application platform that just happens to also be a browser.”
This sums up why I’ve personally fallen out of love with Chrome. What used to be a lightweight, fast, and truly minimal web browser has evolved into a complex beast that no longer remembers what made it so lovable in the first place. A lot of the blame can be assigned to Google’s desire to turn Chrome into Chrome OS.
Firefox, on the other hand, is still just a browser. It may not be the clean, barebones browser that Chrome was when it debuted—and some might say that even Firefox is too bloated for its own good—but at least Firefox isn’t trying to be something that it isn’t. It knows what it is.
3. Firefox Embraces the Open-Source Mindset
Technically, one could say that Chrome is somewhat open-source since it’s based on the Chromium browser, which itself has spawned many Chrome-like browsers (e.g. Opera, Vivaldi, Slimjet, Brave).
But the open-source mentality is more than just letting others use your code. Mohamed Mansour explained it best in his Quora reply:
“I have contributed code to the Chromium project for over two years […] but lost motivation because of how closed that platform became. Yes it is open sourced, but it is guarded by a big organization where most of its discussions and future direction are done internally inside their organization.”
“Google is treating Chrome as a closed competitive product more than an open product. Chrome’s open source model is basically ‘here is the code for the browser, do whatever you want.’ It doesn’t have the same open source culture everyone is used to. Companies these days are abusing the core definition of Open Source, and it is sad.”
On the other hand, Firefox has a complete public roadmap that’s influenced by contributors and community members. That kind of community cooperation is what real open-source development should be about.
4. Firefox Actually Cares About Privacy
In 2014, Mozilla released a call-to-arms for users in an effort to promote online privacy, stating that “fighting for data privacy—making sure people know who has access to their data, where it goes or could go, and that they have a choice in all of it—is part of Mozilla’s DNA.”
In 2015, the State of Mozilla report reaffirmed the organization’s beliefs: “There are billions of people online, but not enough transparency and control in the form of security and privacy protections for users from companies, app developers and governments. Mozilla is focused on influencing key internet health issues like privacy and security.”
But the real win here is that Mozilla isn’t Google. The one thing we know to be true is that Google is a gargantuan data collection company. Google already knows too much. Do you want it to know every aspect of your browsing habits, too?
5. Firefox Allows More Customization
Degree of customization is the biggest difference between Firefox and Chrome. Every Chrome browser looks nearly identical, even across operating systems and devices. Other than hiding certain toolbars or removing a few icons next to the address bar, the most you can do is skin the title bar and tabs.
Firefox can do more. In addition to moving things around and skinning the general appearance, you can install complete themes to change the browser’s look-and-feel.
6. Firefox Boasts Unique Extensions
Chrome has a vastly larger collection of extensions, but Firefox has several unique extensions that aren’t available to Chrome users. And some of these extensions are so good that you won’t want to leave Firefox after having experienced them.
The best example that comes to mind is Tree Style Tab. This extension turns the tab bar into a sidebar and lets you organize tabs into a tree-based hierarchy that can be shifted around at will. It’s amazing and really shows how much a shame it is that no other browser can do this. (Vivaldi supports sidebar tabs, but they can’t be organized hierarchically.)
In fact, I would probably say that Tree Style Tab is the main reason why I love Firefox so much. Check out this roundup of other unique Firefox extensions.
7. Firefox Can Do What Chrome Can (Mostly)
At the end of the day, the differences between Firefox and Chrome are mostly minor. One might be slightly faster or use less battery, but in terms of usability, they’re both excellent. In other words, anything you can do in Chrome can probably be done in Firefox too.
Want to synchronize tabs, bookmarks, profiles, and more across devices? Need to develop websites with the aid of an element inspector and console? How about sandbox security to prevent malware infections? Or a task manager to pinpoint performance issues? (Hint: Navigate to about:performance in Firefox.)
Chrome can do these things, and so can Firefox. If you’re reluctant to leave Chrome, just remember that the two browsers have more in common than not.
For more on Firefox’s synchronization feature, check out how to use Firefox Sync for your browsing data.