In the Chrome vs. Firefox war, I’m siding with the Google users. But I don’t want to. Chrome isn’t my browser of choice because it’s necessarily the best; it’s because it has certain features that I can’t live without.
Chrome Is Fast, So Is Firefox, So Is Everything Else
Until last year, I used to switch between Chrome and Firefox every few months. Every time I switched, I found that the other browser was faster. But this joy lasted only for a short while.
I’m not sure about the technical reason why browsers slow down with repeated usage. But it’s not just extensions; I’ve had 15 extensions in Firefox, found it slow and switched to Chrome, then came back to the same Firefox with 15 extensions and found it faster. And that’s happened with a Chrome-Firefox-Chrome switch too.
The bottom line is this: When you switch to a new browser, it seems faster for a while and then it slows down with usage. You can almost count that as the norm now.
I don’t want to switch away from Chrome to Firefox because it’s faster, I want to switch away because Firefox is more customisable and it’s really easy to switch from Firefox to Chrome. For example, I usually have at least 10 tabs open, often upwards of 30. In Chrome, those become tiny and unrecognisable. But on Firefox, I can get tabs on multiple lines and solve all my worries. Also, some of the new features in Firefox 35 are really cool, like built-in video calling.
Most of my computing happens in a browser, so getting to customise each aspect of the browser is important for me. But not important enough to overlook some things that are only available on Chrome.
The App That Traps Me In Chrome: WhatsApp Web
Recently, after years of users demanding it, instant messaging app WhatsApp finally released a web version. It’s brilliant, it just works, and it’s available only on Chrome or Chromium-based browsers.
While there are some slick alternatives to WhatsApp, it is a big part of my life. It’s the default chat app for my family, my friends, and several colleagues too. In India, a large population of smartphone users will simply send you a text on WhatsApp instead of SMS (since data charges are cheaper than the pay-per-text tariff plans in India).
The developers claim that the notification system of Chrome is superior to all other browsers and that’s integral to the WhatsApp experience. I’m not sure if that’s really the reason, but no matter what, it’s only on Chrome and so I’m sticking with it.
Update: WhatsApp is now also available on Firefox and Safari. Go check them out!
The Extension That Traps Me In Chrome: Chromecast
More than any other reason, what makes me stay in Google Chrome is its compatibility with Chromecast. Chromecast is a fantastic device, only made better once you install the Google Cast for Chrome extension to cast images from your computer to your TV.
Not only does this make it easy to play Chromecast-compatible apps like YouTube or Plex, but the real benefit comes with casting a tab. So if you have Tweetdeck open in a tab, or even a video stream that doesn’t support Chromecast natively like ESPN, you can cast the full tab to your TV. It’s a seamless experience and works flawlessly.
Finally, you can even mirror your entire screen, not just the tab, serving the same purpose as a second monitor. It’s the easy way to make presentations, among other things, and all without any wires.
The Feature That Traps Me In Chrome: Mute Tabs
This is one Chrome feature that Firefox can’t duplicate, and it’s a game-changer for me. I’m someone who always has at least 10 tabs open, if not more. And I’ll rapidly open links in new tabs while browsing. Without fail, some tab will start playing a video or some audio that is annoying and distracting.
In Chrome, I can see which tab is playing audio and quickly mute that tab specifically. In Firefox, not only is there no way to see which tab that is, but also no way to mute just that tab. The closest you can come is blocking sound on annoying Flash-based ads.
By default, you can see the tab that is playing audio, but to get the ability to mute it, you need to enable it from the dev channel. Here’s how to do it:
- Copy and paste this into your Chrome’s URL bar and tap Enter:
- Click “Enable” under “Enable tab audio muting UI control”
- Relaunch Chrome (i.e. shut it down and start it again, or click the Relaunch button that pops up at the bottom of the screen once you click Enable in step two)
Now you can click on the audio icon on any tab to mute it! There’s also an extension called MuteTab, but the above method is far better.
Soon, you won’t know how you use a browser without it. It’s like missing jump lists when you switch away from Windows. It becomes such an integral part of your way of doing things that you take it for granted; and sorely miss it when it’s not available.
Are You Stuck In A Browser Or OS?
I’m sure I’m not the only one here who is using a browser they don’t want to. I know several people who even use an OS they don’t want to. It might be because of work requirements, it might be because of budget, or any other reason. Why are you stuck with technology you don’t want to use?
Image Credits: Hand reaching out Via Shutterstock