Google Chrome is a fantastic browser, but it has plenty of problems. How easy is it for a Chrome loyalist to switch to Firefox today? I quit Chrome cold turkey to see how it went. After two weeks, I’m back to Chrome on desktop… but Firefox for Android has won me over.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I feel trapped in Chrome because of extensions and features that are exclusively available to it. But after my colleague Sandy threw down the gauntlet and challenged all of us to break up with Google Chrome, I decided to give it a go.
My browser of choice was Mozilla Firefox, what with Firefox Hello, Pocket integration and other new features. For two weeks, I used Firefox as my primary browser, and only used Chrome when there was no other option. Even on my Android phone, I made Firefox my default browser and used it almost exclusively.
At the end of the two weeks, I was itching to get back to Chrome on the desktop. There’s a lot to love about Firefox, but as things stand today, I’d choose Chrome over it and continue to be trapped in Chrome till Firefox improves its game. And the simple reason is extensions.
Extensions, Extensions, Extensions
Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer, in his characteristic crazy way, said exactly what any software ecosystem needs to survive: developers. And unfortunately, more developers prefer to build extensions for Chrome than Firefox today.
Take my recent look at the best YouTube music player extensions. I found an incredible extension for Chrome called UpNext, to replace another incredible extension that shut down. But there’s nothing on Firefox which comes even close. In fact, old Firefox extensions like Firetube no longer work well either.
As someone whose job is to keep track of new software launches, one thing became abundantly clear: Chrome gets all the love now. Celebrated Android developer Koushik Dutta released Vysor, a new way to mirror your Android screen to your Windows/Mac/Linux desktop. The only requirement? You need to have Google Chrome.
The problem has become so bad that Mozilla Firefox has also accepted defeat, in a way. Soon, you will be able to run Chrome extensions on Firefox, and maybe things will get better then. But as of now, you miss out on far too many good extensions, even though Firefox has great add-ons of its own, including some exclusive Firefox extensions.
Chromecast Support is a Deal-Breaker
Perhaps the feature I missed the most is being able to cast tabs or your entire desktop to Chromecast. The Chromecast extension for Chrome browser makes this possible, but you can’t do that with Firefox yet.
While Firefox on Android now supports Chromecast, the desktop version hasn’t got this feature or any other extension which lets me do that. Chromecast is awesome, and by itself, this is reason enough to use the Chrome browser instead of Firefox, in my opinion.
Chrome vs. Firefox: No Real Winner
If you take out the extensions, there is no real winner between these two browsers. In our definitive Chrome vs. Firefox comparison, we found there were things Firefox was better at (like customizability and text rendering) and things Chrome was better at (like speed and image rendering).
Overall, in the two weeks of using Firefox, I never felt like its performance was significantly better or worse than a fresh installation of Chrome.
That said, in terms of pure functionality, I loved how customizable the browser is, and extensions like Tab Mix Plus are sorely missed on Chrome. Firefox is a better browser for the power user who wants to tweak the Internet experience to the max.
But are those tweaking abilities enough to overlook the missing extensions and features? Nope.
On Mobile, Firefox Wins
As part of my Chrome quitting experience, I also made the switch from Chrome to Firefox on my Android smartphone. And you know what? I’m not going back.
Firefox on Android is better than Chrome for the exact reasons stated above: extensions, extensions, extensions. Chrome for Android does not allow third-party add-ons, unlike its desktop counterpart. However, Firefox welcomes them and ends up being a better browser in the process. Our list of unmissable Firefox add-ons for Android is just a small collection and you should check out all the Firefox add-ons to discover several you might find useful.
Apart from extensions, Firefox also isn’t deeply integrated into Android. So while Chrome tabs on Lollipop will show up as individual panes/apps in your multi-tasking view, Firefox is a single pane with all the tabs in it. I honestly don’t want to see the 20 tabs I have open when I am multi-tasking on my Android, so I have no idea what Google is thinking here.
And finally, Firefox for Android supports Chromecast, so that last hurdle is conquered too.
Take the One Week Challenge!
We are naturally resistant to change, but don’t fear it. For just one week, I invite you to ditch your existing browser and try out the alternative, on both mobile and desktop. I ended up switching to Firefox on Android and realized Chrome is better for me on desktop.
Take the one-week challenge and tell me what you find out.