Google Chrome versus Firefox

First, let’s meet Google Chrome in the flesh, now that is has been released.

To keep it as short as possible, let’s see what Chrome has that Firefox users may miss.

I would say the greatest advantage of Chrome over Firefox is its ability to handle tabs in independent processes which means a browser or plugin bug, or an incorrectly coded web page can’t take down the whole browser, but just that tab or plugin alone. This architecture also enables the cool task manager which as noted by John Resig, lets once and for all be able to know whether it is the browser or a badly coded web site the responsible for a slow down.

There is a noticeable memory overhead but what’s the point of having 1 GB or 2 GB of RAM if you’re going to care about 200 or 300MB. Slim is always good, but snappy is even better.

Then there is the really slick theme: no main menu, the status bar is overlaid at the bottom when needed, just like the find bar; there is no search bar which is integrated with the location bar, it has a new tab button, it has cool animations when accessing the bookmarks toolbar or moving tabs which definitely helps feel the browser more responsive.

Its private mode, Incognito, sounds like a nice to have rather than a must have feature for me, but with its implementation along with Microsoft’s and Apple’s, its definitely becoming a standard feature just like antiphishing protection.

It scores a 79/100 in the Acid 3 test (ahead of Firefox 3 (75/100) and behind Firefox 3.1 nightlies (85/100). In the Sunspider JavaScript benchmark, it clearly beats Firefox 3.0.1: 3700ms vs 5100ms in my Dell Inspiron 6400 (2GHz Centrino Duo, 2GB RAM).

Another positive thing is what Google didn’t do: they haven’t stuffed it with Google applications integration: there is no Gmail integration (or any other web mail service), Google Reader, Google Docs, Gtalk, etc. Google is of course the default search engine but you can easily change it to any other provider. Of course this is just a beta, and Google integration may be already in the plans, but it’s good to know that there is Chromium, the open source project from where Chrome is derived, so developers will be able to modify it as needed.

What Chrome is missing from Firefox? Well, that’s a much longer list that of course starts with the lack of extensibility in the sense Firefox provides it: a way to make the browser do whatever you can imagine, to the point of making it a completely different application like FireFTP or Pencil do.

As said before, I think Google will try to bundle Google Gadgets and present it as the way of customizing the browser, but of course it would be as limited as developers found when Apple announced the same for the first iPhone.

What else? Hold tight. In no particular order: there is no tab overflow handling, no tagging or smart bookmarks handling, no download resume between sessions, no multiple dictionary support, no toolbar customization beyond hiding the Home button and the bookmarks toolbar, the bookmarks toolbar is only accessible via Ctrl + B, no kind of web feeds support, no native video/audio support, no discontinuous selection option, no page printing options, etc.

The list goes on but since it’s a beta we can expect to see some of these features added, completed or corrected before the final release. Or not. This is Google and the final release may never come so I think if Google doesn’t provide a roadmap soon (ha!), we can treat (and beat) this as Chrome 1.0.

Conclusion

I like Google Chrome, and I believe it will be able to take a significant slice of the browsers market pie, hopefully mostly at the expense of Internet Explorer, but it remains to be seen.

While I don’t find it strong enough to beat with Firefox, it is definitely a yummy option for the hundreds of millions of Google users who will be prompted to install it through a web search results page, or any of the several Google products. Which at this point in time I think is fine. The web only benefits of more and more competition but my concern in the long term is: where do Google stop?

After all Google is a public company, and all its good public benefit intentions are second to those of their shareholders at best.

Features aside (they can always be copied, even extensibility) the main difference between Chrome and Firefox, both being open source projects, is what company stands behind and their mission. Mozilla is a public benefit organization, cares about the Internet and the Internet alone, which as noble, good and idealistic as it sounds, I still have to see any evidence that proves the opposite.

It has struggled in the past for sticking to its mission. Today it enjoys success for the exact same reason, in large part because of a business partner like Google, which is not the same as saying that Mozilla would die  without Google: be sure there is no lack of companies interested in reaching 200 million users, daily.

I’m glad to welcome new products, specially products as good as Chrome.


63 Comments

  1. Lance June 3, 2010 10:24 am 

    My favorite feature is the full screen which I know Firefox has but Chromes is better but thats not enough to turn me to the dark side.

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