August 10, 2010

I should be using Chrome but I use Firefox

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allWell, some people can say that about Internet Explorer or Opera too. I have been in software industry much before internet came in, heck, for that matter even before GUI came in.  I was there when Mosaic made a debut, I used the first version of Internet Explorer, I started using Firefox when it was not even called Firefox but was called Phoenix Browser and didn't even have a setup.. you simply had to copy the files in a directory of your choice and start using it. Yes, I watched the browser wars and saw IE beat Netscape.. I sided with IE then for the same reason I side with Firefox today. Let the better technology be used. I guess I am a technology junkie who wants to try out every piece of technology out there and figure out what works for me.

Do we really need multiple browsers?
HTML is supposed to be a standard and thus every browser should give us the same experience.. but reality does not follow standards and the fact it that each browser has different support for standard and different features


Today we have five major browser which are competing out there – Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, Safari and Chrome. There are many more lesser known or even unheard of (SRWare Iron, Flock, Stainless, Camino.. here is a complete list Mega list of Browsers). So, while theoretically all browsers should be born equal, all of them have different capabilities and feature and therefore users have their favourites and preferences.

So which is the best browser
Reading this far you may have started expecting that I would show you benchmarks and list out individual capabilities of each browser and maybe announce a winner… NO. I am here to say why I switched from Internet Explorer to Firefox and why I might switch to Chrome in future.

Why Firefox
firefox-logo-fullI am not a fanatic type of techie, so I don't get taken in (at least very easily) by war cries like “Open Source”, “Multi Platform”, “anti M$”. For me, the technology should impress me, suit my purpose and generally make my life more comfortable. Personally I find Windows 7 a better platform over Mac (while Mac has a smoother UX, it doesn’t quite have the apps eco-system that Windows has), Firefox a better browser than IE, .NET a better development platform than Java, MS Office a better suite than OpenOffice and Thunderbird a better email client than Outlook. In fact, I wonder if having a better eco-system lures more users to a product. Look at it – Windows, Firefox, iPhone, Thunderbird and now Android. Most of these have a huge eco-system built around them.

logo-collections-100x125The single reason why I use Firefox? Add-on. Yep, that’s right.. not speed, not open source, not HTML5 support but the ability to customize the experience for me. Chrome and Opera are busy making land speed records on browser but that does not make me lust for them. I believe, millions of other Firefox users are also with Firefox because it allows you to customize and control virtually every aspect of the browser. I am not just talking about visual themes and personas, but stuff like displaying all open tabs in thumbnail view in a sidebar, protecting yourself from rogue scripts on websites that you visit, synchronizing your password, bookmarks and even tabs across computers and devices. Firefox has created a vast eco system of extensions for its browser and while others browsers are waking up to it and realizing what a honeypot it is for the users, Firefox has raced way ahead in this area.

Firefox Add-ons
imageI am an avid surfer from the days when it was still called World Wide Wait and my lack of patience saw me opening multiple windows of IE (no tabbed browsing then) and switching impatiently between different windows to check which one has finished loading and rendering the page. With advent of tabbed browsing, all that changed was instead of windows, I was switching between tabs. Then one day I stumbled upon something called “extension” for Firefox called Tab Sidebar (check out the thumbnails in sidebar in the image). It allowed me to open multiple sites in different tabs but showed them in live thumbnail view on the side, letting me know when a particular tab has finished rendering or watching live preview in a tab while I am in a different tab. For many users this may not make much of a difference, but to an impatient user like me it brought a lot of calmness. It also introduced me to the world of browser extensions and how I could customize and personalize my browsing experience.

I have replaced Tab Sidebar with a similar extension called Showcase and till date it remains the single biggest reason why I haven't switched to Opera, Chrome or back to IE even though they are setting land speed records of performance. I have discovered a lot many more useful extensions like Fission, LocationBar, NoScript, CookieMonster (which I might blog about later). I am hoping that Chrome expands its extension capabilities the scope it has of today and the day it gives me a Tab Sidebar, its speed would become the differentiator for me.
So go ahead and give Firefox a try along with a few add-ons. If you don't like it, you can always go back to IE, Chrome, Opera or Safari.

Happy Browsing Smile

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