10 Reasons You Shouldn’t Use Chrome on a MacBook

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Chrome is, for many people, the first thing installed on a new MacBook. It makes sense: in its early days Chrome gained a reputation for being lightweight and fast. It was better than Safari and Firefox, people said. And it was true, at the time.

It’s not the case anymore. In fact, I’d argue that you shouldn’t use Chrome on a MacBook if you can avoid it. Over the years Chrome became a bloated program that doesn’t integrate well with OS X, and it happened so slowly most Chrome users haven’t noticed.

Here are ten reasons every Mac-loving Chrome user should consider switching.

1. Chrome Drains Your MacBook Battery

Battery life has been a huge feature for Apple in recent releases of OS X. Mavericks brought energy impact measuring tools to the operating system, which you can find by clicking your battery icon right now.

chrome-macbook-energy-use

If you’ve got Chrome running, Chrome will show up here. Every time.

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It’s been said a thousand times, but it’s worth saying again: if battery life is important to you, avoid using Chrome. Even on 4-year-old MacBooks, replacing Chrome with Safari can give you an extra hour of battery life in some cases.

Google is reportedly working on the issue, and has made progress, but the job is far from finished. And you don’t have to take my word for it: open up the Activity Monitor on your Mac, then head to the “Energy” section. Open some tabs in Chrome and the same ones in another browser – Chrome will almost always use more energy for the same job. It’s particularly true for Netflix, if you want a test case.

2. Your Fans Will Occasionally Sound Like Jet Engines

The low battery life isn’t for no reason: it’s because Chrome uses more CPU power to accomplish the same thing as Safari. Partially this is because of inefficiency, and partially its because Chrome’s priority is speed. Either way, I’ve personally heard way more of my fan while using Chrome than while not. And I’m not alone.

3. Chrome Does Things Its Own Way, Not the Mac Way

I ranted about this extensively when I talked about the reasons I hate Chrome, but it’s worth stating again: ChromeOS is the worst thing that ever happened to Chrome on other platforms. Don’t get me wrong, ChromeOS is a great operating system, but the volume of stuff Chrome takes along with it to other platforms makes it a worse browser on the Mac. It simply doesn’t integrate with the OS well.

Case in point: notifications. Apple introduced a system-wide notifications system with Mountain Lion, way back in 2012. This means notifications all look the same, never overlap each other, and can be browsed all in one archive if you miss something.

Chrome could use this system, but doesn’t: it uses a completely separate notification system.

non-native-notifications

These don’t play nicely with other notifications, meaning they’ll cover up those ones. They also don’t show up in the system-wide notification system, so you can’t reference them later there.

There are plenty of other differences. Most Mac apps close instantly when you hit CMD-Q; Chrome makes you hold the combo for a while. Most Mac apps have their own preferences window; Chrome uses a website in a tab for that. Whether you like these changes or not, you’ve got to admit Chrome just doesn’t work the way Mac apps do. And if you’re using a Mac, it must at least be in part because you like the way Mac apps work.

4. Chrome Can Slow Down Your Entire Mac

It’s a related point, I realize, but it’s worth stating: Chrome uses a lot of CPU power. Part of this is the priority on speed, part of it is inefficient programming, but shut down Chrome on many Macs and everything feels faster.

Not just browsing: everything.

5. The Confusing Extension/App/Whatever Ecosystem

There’s a folder Chrome put on my computer that looks like this:

chrome-folder-why-macbook

You might like this feature, but it seems out of place to me. I have some questions for Google:

  • Why?
  • No seriously: why? When I click these, they only open in Chrome. How is this different from bookmarks? Why do they need their own folder?
  • Does this make more sense if you use “actual” Chrome apps? Why are the default “apps” offered just bookmarks to Google products? Which insist on showing up when I use Spotlight?
  • Why is there three of the same app so many times? Did I accidentally create some user profiles? Why don’t user profiles have their own folders?
  • Seriously, I just checked, I don’t have any other profiles, what gives?
  • I tried deleting the folder; it came back. Umm…

It’s related to the point above, sure, but it’s just another way in which Chrome seems to do its own thing regardless of what’s normal on the Mac ecosystem. Why not populate a folder with “Apps” that are mostly bookmarks, all of which require Chrome to open? It’s the kind of thing you expect from Windows crapware, not a leading Mac browser.

6. Google Doesn’t Need Help Watching You

google-watching-you

You might not know it while reading this article, but I’m actually a longtime Google fan. Getting access to Gmail during the invite-only beta was a college triumph of mine, and I’m pretty sure I had a Google sign on my dorm room wall back in 2004. I’ve worked extensively for companies that do little more than set up Google Apps for Business, and I think that Chromebooks are an excellent device for the education market.

Having said that, over the years I’ve grown increasingly uncomfortable with how much information Google has about me. My Gmail account is an archive of my communications, for example, and search is basically an extension of my conciousness. It’s part of why I switched to DuckDuckGo last summer and haven’t looked back. I was just tired of feeling like my internal monologue was being watched (and monetized).

Using Chrome to search with DuckDuckGo feels weird, though. Are the auto-suggestions still coming from Google? Is Google still using my Chrome account to track me in some way? It sounds paranoid, post-Snowden being paranoid isn’t necessarily being irrational. I feel more comfortable just not using Chrome.

7. Mac Support Feels Like an Afterthought

I’ve written more than once how I feel like Hangouts sucks on the desktop, and to me the lack of a dedicated app is the reason for that. Put simply: if you don’t use Chrome, there isn’t a dedicated app. If you do use Chrome, it doesn’t fit in. Here’s the Hangouts extension covering my dock, something no other app on the Mac does:

chrome-hangouts-covering-dock

The app version behaves weirdly too: it shows up on every desktop by default, something no other app does. The fact that there is both an extension and an app called “Hangouts” that serve the same function but behave completely differently is bad enough, but the way neither behaves like a proper Mac app makes it so much worse.

Oh, and the notifications for Hangouts: they don’t integrate with the OS X notification center. Why would they?

8. No Support For Snow Leopard, Lion or Mountain Lion

Mountain Lion came out in 2012, not that long ago, but if you’re still using that operating system Chrome updates are being cut off. Google announced the change back in November, in case you missed it. Sure, you can update your OS free of charge, but many people don’t want to for a variety of reasons, including older computers that don’t support the latest version of OS X.

9. Safari Has Gotten Really Good

For a long time, the collective response to the above points was “Sure, but nothing is better”. Which was fair back in 2012, but recent versions of Safari is faster, sleeker, and better than Chrome. And none of the above criticisms apply to Apple’s browser, which is well-integrated on the Mac.

Seriously, if you haven’t tried this browser out for a while you don’t know what you’re missing. Even the extension ecosystem has come a long way: the most common tools are already waiting for you. It’ll be an adjustment, but you’ll never look back.

10. Safari Integrates Better With Apple Products

If you’re all-in with the Apple platform, Safari is the better choice. All the little things just integrate better: your passwords, for example, are managed by Apple’s system-wide tool and synced using iCloud. Same goes for your Bookmarks. Continuity only works with Safari.

I could go on, but you get the idea: Apple’s browser is better integrated with Apple’s ecosystem. If you care about that, Safari is the clear choice.

Reasonable People Can Disagree

Maybe you absolutely love Chrome on your Macbook – fair enough. Maybe you hate Chrome, but feel trapped. If you use Android, for example, or a Chromebook, the full browser syncing might be a killer app for you.

Whatever your take, I’d love to have a chat with you about all this. Let me know what browser you use on your Mac, and why. Or get into your own Chrome complaints, if you like. I’ll be around to talk either way.

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