Yesterday, I posted about Chrome’s usability crime and why I was dumping Chrome.
Some people asked what my replacement would be. That’s an interesting question.
I’ve always had the top 3: Chrome, Firefox, and Edge/IE
First a little history
For full disclosure, when I worked at Microsoft I documented Internet Explorer for developers, which means I got to know why it was better than people said… and worse.
Sadly, IE was beholden to the enterprise and line-of-business apps that had been crafted to take advantage of IE 6, so even IE 11 was still struggling under the weight of all that legacy backward compatibility.
Edge was initially an attempt to take a decade + of legacy crap out of IE to make it more modern and run better.
Eventually Microsoft gave up on the idea of stripping down IE and then trying to build it back up as Edge and decided to adopt Chromium, the browser engine that had grown out of Apple’s Webkit, which had grown out of KDE’s KHTML. This had grown even more popular since Google forked Webkit (supposedly in protest of Apple demanding more than it contributed in the consortium).
There’s something to be said for so many highly resourced companies pouring resources into Chromium’s development too. But there are also valid concerns that monoculture can lead to outsized impact of bugs. We’ve seen that in the Log4J bug impacting SO much software or when maintainers of popular npm repositories have poisoned their repos in protest and taken down chunks of the web.
So for now, I’m working on Edge and FireFox
I’m writing this on Firefox. I initially decided I needed to try to use it singly, but I have two Google accounts I must switch between… my work GMail account and my personal one, along with their respective calendars and other resources. Despite its sins, Chrome made that work pretty well.
With Firefox, sometimes I’d try to switch and it just wouldn’t work. I’d have to close all open Firefox windows to dump session cookies and then reboot Firefox to get the change to stick. The difference is that Chrome had my Google accounts built in at the application level. I’d switch accounts at that level and a window would open that was tied to that Google account. With Firefox, it was happening at the document level, relying on Google cookies to determine which Google account’s content should display.
So right now I’m using both Firefox and Edge, one for work, one for personal. For the moment, it’s working.
What about Safari?
I’m a Windows guy and even when I have to use Mac, I avoid Safari like the plague. It was too buggy for too long for me to trust it. Honestly, it made IE look solid. When we would test sites that worked perfectly on IE, Chrome, and Firefox in the aughts, Safari would be the one for which we had to adjust/fix.
I’ll continue this arrangement for a bit. But there is a BIG wide world of alternative browsers out there: Opera, Vivaldi, Duck Duck Go, Brave, and more.
Next week, I’ll share a more in-depth critique of Edge and Firefox. I will not be me running various benchmarks and seeing which one ekes out the greatest speed in sorting algorithms. This isn’t a tech review site that loves to post graphs. It will be about how usable I find them and what I like/dislike, because this is a personal blog.
Then I’ll try some others. My kid is wild about Opera GX, and while I don’t game, their general purpose browser is worth a try. It’s got a lot of history and love behind it, so it definitely deserves a honest try.
I use Brave on my phone now and then since it blocks more ads and scripts by default. Its persona, like its name, is a little in your face, so it’s not my mobile default but it deserves a try on the desktop.
And Duck Duck Go is the upstart challenger to Google in more ways than offering its own browser. It started out as a search engine, and like Brave, claims to be serious about privacy.
So watch for browser usability reviews (based on my own idiosyncratic preferences) over the next few weeks.