With Google Chrome now firmly established in the market, and offering the same, or even more features, Firefox supporters are in a dilemma. In this write up, we see which of these two iconic browsers is better.
If one walks through the history of web browsers, it is noticeable that they date way back to the 1980s. Tim Berners-Lee put together different technologies to create the first web browser in 1991. The first few web browsers to be introduced include Netscape Navigator, Internet Explorer, Opera, etc.
In 1998, Netscape became Mozilla, and made an attempt to come up with an open source web browser. This saw the birth of Mozilla Firefox. While Microsoft’s monopoly with Internet Explorer continued, the second spot in the browser race was always up for grabs. Firefox occupied it comfortably for many years. Many tried to emulate the Mozilla Firefox model but failed.
With the entry of Google Chrome in 2008, the race heated up and Firefox had a real competitor. Initially, it did look like Chrome had pipped Firefox with a better interface and features, but over the last few years, Firefox has consolidated its position as one of the top three browsers. It has not just caught up with the rapidly developing Chrome, but has started being a breakthrough developer in many facets. A criteria-wise comparison of the two browsers give us a clearer picture.
Google Chrome has a swanky look, with tabs arranged at the top and all File menu options conglomerated under the Customize and Control Google Chrome icon at the right-most corner of the address bar. This makes for a spaced out and tidy user-experience.
Google Chrome was the first browser to introduce the ‘user tabs’ page as homepage; where a user could pin his favorite, or most visited, websites, failing which Chrome would itself list the most recently visited websites’ screenshots. This feature caught on with most regular Internet users, so much so, that other browsers scrambled to include it within their own packages.
Chrome’s web store features a splendid array of beautifully designed browser themes, by users and developers, to dress up the browser as you want it. Chrome’s interface design also features the usual browser design features such a customizable toolbar, add-on manager, and download window. However, its crackerjack scoring point ever since its inception has been, and still remains, its clutter-free, less-on-gadgets-high-on-user-space interface.
Compared to Chrome, Mozilla Firefox follows a more conventional approach, with its menu options arranged in an orthodox windows menu format. The newer versions of Firefox carry an option to put all the menus together under a bright orange Firefox tab, however, this is an optional setting. Though it comes enabled by default, the user has the freedom to revert if he feels uncomfortable with the new change.
Firefox was one of the earliest followers of Chrome’s user tabs feature and has bundled it as a mandatory and regular feature ever since. Firefox has carried the browser theme customization feature for the longest possible time now and purely by the virtue of having been around longer than Chrome, boasts of a theme library much larger in number than Chrome. All usual browser features like customizable toolbars, add-on manager, download window, etc., are present, but its ataxic layout can take a toll on browser performance if you are an amateur who has deranged the browser window with too many add-ons and unnecessary widgets.
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The Google guys are speed freaks. That’s a celebrated fact. While other websites strive to keep their visitors hooked on for the longest time, Google works the other way – give quick results and redirect the user to a relevant content location. Google uses the speed barometer for all their applications and services, and Chrome is no different. A user’s browsing experience multiplies tenfold with a browser that offers good speed, even for content and graphic heavy websites. Google scores big-time on this parameter.
Google has converted Firefox’s awesomebar idea into a full-fledged feature. The address bar is now also your Google search bar, so the user need not open Google and type his query. Google also provides the facility of dynamic (drag-able) tabs, instant bookmarking and importing settings, bookmarks and history from other browsers which you may have previously used – all as full-fledged inbuilt features, which until Chrome’s release, were either third-party extensions or native add-on applications in Firefox. Chrome’s cheer-up characteristic remains its ability to run separate processes for separate tabs. It makes controlling complex web applications easy and plays an important role in speedy browsing.
For a long time, Firefox provided its users with the most dynamic features that Chrome did on release, in the form of add-on applications. With Chrome exhibiting similar applications as features, the browser war heated up and Firefox too jumped into the fray. Where Firefox loses out to Chrome (only a teeny bit) though, is the downloads window facility. Having a separate download window, distinguished from the browser, is cumbersome at worst, and Firefox seems to have missed out on Chrome’s provision of the downloads window as just another additional tab. Firefox still carries all its tabs and processes under a single firefox.exe process. So, if a pro-user wants to get rid of a heavy or unresponsive process, the entire browser needs to be shut and restarted.
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Chrome witnesses fewer crashes than any of its counterparts. In case of a crash, Google, like Firefox and a few others, have the option to restore tabs that were abruptly shut down.
Importing bookmarks in Chrome seems to be a problem though. The results are inconsistent and unreliable. All imported bookmarks are piled in a separate folder called Imported Bookmarks. It’s a pain to have to go through a hierarchy to access the bookmarked websites you have loved and used for so long. To get these bookmarks to appear like normal bookmarks, you have to drag and drop them into the bookmarks folder. No points for guessing, everyone will want to (or surely will do this), so why doesn’t Chrome itself do it in the first place. Why make your user go through all that pain? Baffling!
Firefox’s menu format allows for easy managing of bookmarks. Bookmarks can be dragged and dropped, created and even renamed on the go. This is a less tedious task than the one Google Chrome makes you go through.
Firefox too offers a restore previous session option in case of an abrupt shutdown, but the time it takes to start is still lagging as compared to most other browsers. The situation dips greatly in case of a cold start (after a reboot) – for Firefox takes almost double the time of its counterpart to start. Not to forget, Firefox’s lack of a full-fledged Sandbox security model (available in Chrome), only worsens its reliability quotient. More on that in the following two categories.
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Chrome’s principle of running every tab as a separate process and yet its acute focus on delivering speed means that Chrome eats up a lot of memory. The bright side though, is that Chrome runs its plug-ins, extensions, and add-ons support in a Sandbox. A Sandbox is a feature that runs as a separate process from the browser. This acts an additional layer of process for the processor, but keeps user data and the browser chaos-free. Thus, the performance of the browser doesn’t get largely affected by related processes, since the browser is carrying them, but not running/executing them in any way.
While Chrome’s separate process for separate tabs feature is a boon in most cases, for advanced users, it acts as a major impediment. If a user has 20 tabs open, it’s virtually impossible for him to keep track of each process in the task manager. Chrome’s about memory page does solve this issue partially, but it’s still a not-so-pleasant situation to put your processor through.
Firefox is a one man show – everything runs as a single process – firefox.exe. This includes your browser’s themes, extensions, plug-ins, add-ons, etc. While this does great service to the processor, a single process jamming up memory can result in its own death sometimes. Firefox’s heavy memory usage adversely affects its performance and even to a newbie, the browsing is noticeably slow when too many tabs are loading, and/or when Firefox has been under use for a long time.
Firefox too, uses the Sandbox model of security, but ‘limits’ instead of ‘banishing’ unauthorized external access. Firefox may need to start thinking of a full-fledged Sandbox-like feature (available with limited parameters) to separate extensions, plug-ins, add-ons, etc., in a separate process altogether. While this will increase the load on the processor, it will dearly improve performance.
There are add-ons and external tools to reduce the amount of memory consumed, but that means adding another process in the processor’s kitty. And honestly, it would be much better if Mozilla itself took care of this problem.
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As mentioned above, Chrome runs its extensions, plug-ins, and add-ons in the Sandbox to keep them separate from the browser and its processing. This prevents third-party apps from gaining unauthorized access to user’s data. Furthermore, Chrome has gained a reputation as being the fastest amongst all browsers to roll out patches for bugs.
On the other hand, while Google does well to grapple with external threats, it is liable to internal security issues. Google does not encrypt passwords like Firefox does, and this is a major security crack. In fact, if a user has a simple password, it may not even require a hacker to use a brute force attack to crack it. At the end of the day, Chrome is a Google product and all your information shared with Google is NEVER private. One sign-in with a Google username-password and you are out there if you are using Chrome. While this has never posed major problems to consumers, it is still a major security threat and will remain one.
Firefox’s biggest plus is that all your passwords can be encrypted using a master password. Then again, since all third-party extensions, plug-ins and add-ons run in the same section with the browser, user data is at risk. Where Firefox needs to follow in Chrome’s footsteps is in more frequently updating its blacklist of harmful and malicious URLs.
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As mentioned above, nothing is private with Google. Your information is out there, it’s being used, it could be abused. Google links all your search history and browsing history to your Google account, if you are signed in. Google creates a cookie for this and while the opinion about good or bad on this is divided, it is potentially hazardous for users. This is where the private browsing feature comes handy. Sensitive and important transactions could be carried out as Incognito, without leaving behind any traces.
Another possible loophole is the usage statistics; while some of these could be turned off, some are sent to its development lab for improvement and review. Chrome also keeps a track of installation metrics and usage metrics (mandatory) and personal data (optional) for patching and building purposes. While it is not a major issue with standalone consumers, major corporations may feel the heat of such a security breach.
Firefox encrypts user’s passwords if they are using a master password. This offers more privacy and better security. Firefox too has a private browsing feature which can be used to browse the Internet without leaving behind any trace or saved passwords.
Firefox’s telemetry, unlike Google Chrome’s usage tracking, does not intrude into a user’s private data. Also, it is safe to say that through inbuilt features and/or through external third-party security extensions, Firefox offers better privacy than Google Chrome. For all that is worth, user privacy is one feature where Firefox beats Google Chrome hands down.
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Google Chrome’s Web Developer Tools are located in the tools menu under the Customize and Control icon. Chrome’s developer layout is a bit of a mess and hard to get around if you are not a pro. The more you use, the more you get used to it. The resources are well-organized though – for web queries, for database queries, network tracking, etc.
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Firefox’s ability to pipeline its internal processes means the end results related to speed are more or less always constant, but the fact that Firefox keeps all the extensions and plug-ins stacked in itself only hinders the speedy loading process, putting it a step behind Chrome.
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Google Chrome performs significantly well in low-load conditions, but the more tabs are opened, the more its performance degrades. Google’s ‘one-tab-one-process’ policy may lead to better speed and browsing experience, but it acts like a disaster to the system processor. This policy though, works towards cementing a big plus – a stable browser. Incidents of Chrome crashing or freezing mid-way through a process are few and far in between. Since each tab has a process for itself, the non-responding tab can be independently taken care of without affecting the running performance of the browser.
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|No. of tabs tested||Google Chrome||Mozilla Firefox|
|1 tab||87,830 k||65,112 k|
|3 tabs||150,845 k||98,356 k|
|5 tabs||218,573 k||127,144 k|
Websites Used: https://www.ibuzzle.com, http://www.twitter.com, http://www.facebook.com, http://www.pinterest.com, http://www.apple.com
Browsers Tested: Google Chrome Version 24.0.1312.56 m, Mozilla Firefox 17.0
System Specifications: Windows Vista Business SP2 (32-bit), Intel Pentium E5200 2.50 Ghz, 2GB RAM
Each browser was tested through a cold start to give the processor a fair chance of running each browser afresh. The 3-tab comparison tests were done through 3 different warm starts to allow the browsers to shake off (if any) stacked up memory cache. No other process (except the browser and other necessary system processes) was running at the time of testing
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|Benchmark Test||Google Chrome||Mozilla Firefox|
* – Robohornet presents its rating in the form of a normalized score on an index of 100. A score less than 100 indicates that a browser’s performance is below par compared to its counterparts; a score of 100 indicates that a browser’s performance is as good or bad as its counterparts; a score above 100 indicates that a browser’s performance is better than most of its counterparts. According to Robohornet, this Index is re-calibrated periodically with constant tests being performed on all browsers and their features. Back to Top
We compared and rated the two browsers for each of the above mentioned criteria. Here’s the lowdown:
|Parameter||Google Chrome||Mozilla Firefox|
All parameters are rated on a scale of 10.
Both Chrome and Firefox have their own positives and negatives. The winner of the Chrome vs Firefox bout is certainly not a straightforward answer, since both offer the same service, but in a manner of their own. If Firefox scores in the developer tools department, Chrome scores in the speed department; if Chrome gets a jolt when it comes to memory consumption, Firefox takes the beating when it comes to performance. It’s up to the individual or organization to decide which browser suits their requirements. Most personal computer owners prefer to keep both installed on their system, and choose one for their regular activities, keeping the other as a backup. Which one among Chrome and Firefox tick those boxes for you, you have to decide.