Egyptian blogger from Cairo.
Revolutionary Socialist.
Partner & Creative Director at ThePlanet.

Why we should all use Firefox and NOT Google Chrome

In December 2008, tech giant Google unleashed the stable version of its browser, Chrome. Less then two years later, it has eaten up over 17% of the browser market share, growing at an unprecedented rate. It’s fast and light-weight, and boasts a sleek interface. The problem, however, is that the small advantages of the new browser, come at big costs.

Chrome

Google is definitely 'cooler' than Microsoft

Chrome is widely known as a free and open-source browser. Unfortunately, that is far from an accurate depiction. A proper open-source project has to stick to some basic rules and principles, and Google have failed to do the following:

  1. They never released the entire code, making it more like an iPhone OS type of exploitation than it is a collaborative project
  2. Instead of starting from down up, it is Google’s name that comes first, then the ‘open-source’ browser project. It defeats the purpose of celebrating the beauty of coming together from different parts of the world to bring a tool we could all benefit from. Instead, we are left with a product that gives all the credit to a company that has been making billions of dollars by ripping off advertisers (and here’s partly why it’s hypocritical, and problematic)
  3. In the open-source economy, the success of projects relies on collaboration, not competition. When we all work together, we can collectively benefit. Here’s a TED talk that does a good job illustrating the advantages and mechanisms of the open-source economy:


Somewhat of a complicated lecture, but be patient, and it will all come together by the end of it

Most importantly: Google is determined to become the richest and most powerful entity on the planet, and its real competitor is not Microsoft, nor Apple, but the open-source movement. That is because instead of competing with equivalent companies, all driven by profits, it is up against a liberating movement that involves millions of people all working for the greater good. As a result, Google’s main objective with Chrome is to weaken the support behind Firefox, divide its people, diffuse the efforts, and hinder its growth.

Just as corrupt governments diffuse labor unions and rebellious groups by bribing and/or making lucrative offers, Google boasts a single, albeit solid, advantage: performance. That is the sole plus that can be made in Chrome’s defense. On the other hand, many forget about the following disadvantages in comparison to Firefox:

  • Flexibility and customization is far superior in Firefox
  • The massive list of add-ons available that provide a wide range of features via Mozilla make that of Chrome seem more like a joke
  • HTML/CSS rendering bugs and inconsistencies in Chrome are a rare encounter in Firefox, making designers and developers work more to make their websites and applications appear properly on Google’s application

This does not mean, however, that there is something unethical about having two different open-source projects in the same industry – far from it. However, the services and functionality they offer must be different, and/or catering to different needs. Chrome is identical to Firefox in terms of who uses it and how.

While making the switch might seem appealing, let us not forget that it is a diminutive gain on the short run, and an enormous loss on the long one. Because soon, probably  by Firefox 4.0, the performance will be too close of a call. In the long term, though, we would be helping a company hiding many cockroaches behind the fridge become even more powerful and threatening, at the cost of the only movement that is seeking to benefit all of us, as well as bring the power to the people; the open-source.

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20 comments

Tarek

September 25, 2010

agreed, plus the problem with Google is that they are… hmmm just suspicious from a moral point of view, their track record regarding user privacy is not that great (WiFi data sniffing scandal?), considering that basically it is just a big advertisment company anyway. They are even hypocrites.. remember “Abo Treka” pics removal from search results and “Egypt defeated Israel” in google translate and much more..
Add to that Mozilla is the first company that really challenged Microsoft and IE domininance in browser market and succeeded to snap almost 20% of market share, and Firefox is a very famous browser in Europe.

Tarek Shalaby

September 25, 2010

What you mentioned are examples of what a profit-driven company like Google is capable of doing, and it is indeed frightening.

The cool thing about Mozilla is that is not a company, it is an organization by the people, and for the people, overlooking the open-source efforts by the millions worldwide (including the both of us, even just as users).

It’s true that Firefox was possibly what made everyone realize that the open-source movement is not a small, temporary thing, and that it is here to stay. Some may even argue that open-source has won its battle against the corporations, but we’re just not aware of it yet.

msakr

September 25, 2010

I missed the point here — how exactly is all this a reason to not use Google Chrome?

Only relevant points you mentioned are addons and customizations, and even as a web developer that needs lots of tools in my browser, performance really eased the move for me. I occasionally use Firefox for Firebug, but other than that, I don’t regret the move a bit.

I understand you’re a strong believer of open source. But, that shouldn’t necessarily mean blindly using it. Remember Linux used BitKeeper for a very long time before Git.

Tarek Shalaby

September 25, 2010

I guess I wasn’t clear enough, but when I talk about becoming part of the open-source movement (simply by using the browser), I mean supporting the entity that will provide us all with the best possible tools we can all benefit from. Incidentally, Firefox is already way ahead of Chrome, and is ONLY trailing in performance (and I hope this will be sorted out with FF 4′s release, very soon).

Moreover, it is beneficial for all of us in the long run because these ‘products’ will only improve with time. However, Google and all corporations, are not interested in making the best for us, they are simply after profits, whatever it takes.

No one ever said to ‘blindly’ trust open-source, I say to believe in it. After all, its aim is to empower us all, not exploit us for money.

msakr

September 25, 2010

It’s unfair to think of performance as a single factor tbh, but I’ll that slip.

Firefox is only ahead because of how long its been in business unlike Chrome, which is relatively new. Besides that’s not entirely accurate, Chrome is undoubtedly gaining (even more) momentum as its extensions gallery is picking up.

I believe in open source — very strongly to be honest. The way I see it: Chrome has simply out-engineered Firefox.

mike

September 26, 2010

And what about Chromium, the open source version of Chrome? I think you can’t even say that Chrome is an open source browser, but it’s rather based on the open source Chromium product.

Tarek Shalaby

September 26, 2010

@msakr: You sound like you’re willing to go out of your way just to help Google Chrome, which is shocking because, if anything, you should be doing the exact opposite.

I don’t think Chrome has out-engineered Firefox. I think Google is attempting to out-engineer the liberating open-source movement, and will inevitably fail. We just need to be aware and make the wise choices.

@mike: Chromium, as far as I understand, is the core of the browser, it’s not a complete browser within itself. This means that you can use Chromium and develop your own browser from it. So Chrome’s the only mainstream browser that’s making use of Chromium.

You’re absolutely right, though. Chrome could be seen to be as much of an open-source browser as Mac OS is an open-source operating system (built on UNIX)!

Chrome Uuser

September 26, 2010

I don’t know about that comparison to ‘corrupt governments.” In the world of browsers, having “performance” amounts to have a pretty decent government(given your analogy). For the vast majority of people, all they want is to open their browser, type in an address and get to it with the least complications possible. The fact that Chrome has that on its side is not a “single” advantage, it’s THE advantage.

Plus, Chromium is actually a fully-fledged browser –- so much so that Ubuntu is considering to replace Firefox with it in its Netbook edition 10.10. Given that, it’s hard to see how Google is necessarily trying to take on or demolish open source per se.

See this regarding Chromium: http://techie-buzz.com/foss/ubuntu-is-not-replacing-firefox-with-google-chrome-its-chromium.html

Finally, Google is one of the rare 21st century corporations that treats its employees like royalty. This, along with stuff like Google Transparency etc., makes Google one of the few crazy profit seeking corporations that I don’t feel too bad about supporting (despite its less attractive policies/hypocrisies).

The real hypocrisy I would say is in having such sentiments towards the company while owning a Google Phone – the one example where you see Google starting to seriously dabble in the ultra-exploitative industry of mobile phone making. Downloading Chrome on the other hand is (comparatively and ultimately) a pretty harmless venture.

Tarek Shalaby

September 26, 2010

Hey Chrome User, I appreciate you taking the time to bring forward these points.

– Corrupt governments include those that offer good services to people, at the cost of many others who suffer as a consequence. Google offers better performance at the cost of hindering the blossom of a movement that is not driven by profits

– Most people just want to open the browser and surf the web. That’s what people said about Internet Explorer 6, remember? It turned out to be a browser with serious security flaws, scandalous web rendering issues (making many sites dysfunctional on it), and abysmal performance. People used it, and some still do, because they don’t know any better. Their ignorance destroys their experience and they don’t even know about it. That is why we all share the knowledge we have (which is, itself, an open-source protocol), and that is why some have tried to show the real disadvantages of using Chrome.

– I think you’ve overlooked what I said about how the advantage comes at a too high of a cost in the long run

– I don’t think you’ve followed through the article you posted. For one thing, it says that it’s against the Ubuntu philosophy to use Chrome (which proves what I’m trying to argue). Moreover, Ubuntu will BUILD Chromium for their netbook version, not ‘install’ a ready-made desktop browser. You can see for yourself at the Chromium Browser Project homepage (http://www.chromium.org/Home)

– Google treats (some of) its workers like loyalty, very true. I wish all companies would do the same. But then again, you might be taking a rather superficial and innocent approach to this. Besides what’s mentioned here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Google , don’t forget the teaming up with the different corrupt governments for censorship (China’s only an example).

Even worse, now Google is cooperating with Verizon and other telecommunications companies to end Net Neutrality and seriously threaten the freedom of the web of information. Info here http://www.wearetheweb.org and here http://www.savetheinternet.com/frequently-asked-questions

– Google are not British Petroleum, nor your typical evil corporation. However, as mentioned, they are very unethical and hypocritical. Which means that, as long as we have the choice, we should always give priorities to the open-source projects if they are just as good. I would argue that we should bend over backwards for them, but that’s what I (along with many others) think, definitely not something for the selfish and narrow-minded

– What you say about mobile phones shows that you’re missing the point. There is not a single hardware product (not just cell phones) that does not exploit labor and resources from all parts of the globe. However, we should do the best we can given the real choices we have. I would strongly defend Google Android against any of the other mobile operating systems out there, because it’s the only real open-source project and the best one out there. Maybe if they try to play dirty one way or another, and a group of people start an alternative OS, I will be pushing that. Until then, if you’re going to fully communicate on the road, you need a cell phone, which equals inevitable exploitation. If you’re going to install software, you need an OS, and Android is the only open-source initiative (unfortunately named after Googole)

Downloading Chrome is harmless if all you care about is yourself, right now. However, from an ethical standpoint, and for the greater good that will benefit all of us collectively, downloading it, knowing what you know now, in my opinion, is immoral.

taha

September 28, 2010

on a bit of tangent – but i think still somewhat related to this conversation – is this time/bank thing:

“time/bank is a platform where groups and individuals can pool and trade time and skills, bypassing money as a unit of value. Time/Bank is based on the premise that everyone in the field of culture has something to contribute and that it is possible to develop and sustain an alternative economy by connecting existing needs with unacknowledged resources”

http://e-flux.com/timebank/

and if click on the “read more..” on the website it gives you a whole history behind similar schemes – starting with an Anarchist in 1827!

Chrome User

September 29, 2010

Hey Tarek Shalaby,

- You say Google offers better performance at the cost of hindering the blossoming of a movement not driven by profits. Has Chrome really hindered the open source movement in any significant way? Could it even in the long run? Knowing what little I know, I doubt that. But once I see any evidence for that happening, I will feel obliged to switch back to Firefox.

- I agree about Explorer but fail to see how it’s relevant. Explorer offers really bad performance, Firefox offers better, Chrome even more so. It’s even catching up with extensions pretty fast (plus, it’s way ahead in terms of adding extensions without having to restart your browser, isolating tabs so if one crashes the browser stays up, extension synching, and other stuff Firefox has yet to incorporate).

- I did read the link I posted actually and I am very aware that Ubuntu said it won’t use Chrome because it’s not in line with its principles. I was never trying to argue that Chrome is open source. And no it doesn’t say it will BUILD Chromium. I happen to be using Chromium right now. The fact that Ubuntu may tweak it in whatever way doesn’t change the fact that Google offers an open source browser right now.

- I don’t think how you treat employees is a superficial and innocent way to assess a company. And it’s funny that a good portion of these “criticisms” are because Google is giving the middle finger to copyrights and trying to make books/info accessible to its users for free. As for China, yes unfortunately Google has to bend over when a potential billion+ of its users are at stake.

- It’s interesting you say I didn’t follow through with the link I posted, when you posted a link that says: The supporters of Net Neutrality include leading tech companies such as Amazon.com, EBay, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Facebook, Skype and Yahoo.

- Yes, we should always give priority to open source projects when they are just as good. I converted away from Firefox when it started becoming so bulky and began crashing enough times it was making Explorer 6 look pretty attractive. But that’s just my experience (I even reinstalled it once before finally switching to Chrome).

- My point about mobile phones is that if you are going to go all out against a “non-typically evil” company, it would be more interesting if you wrote a little less one-sidedly.

- Ultimately, I’m trying to say that Chrome offers stuff that you don’t seem willing to acknowledge –- you seem to solely see it as a threat to open source. The fact that you think it’s actually “immoral” for knowledgeable users to download Chrome suggests to me that you’re doing to open source what communism did to socialism. You’re giving it a bad extremist smell that leaves me thinking maybe competition in software isn’t so bad after all.

I don’t mean for any of the above to be taken personally. These are my (still developing) views.

Tarek Shalaby

September 29, 2010

Hey Chrome User,

I think we agree on the following:

- If the open-source movement is under threat, we should try to protect it. And we should always support open-source if it’s just as good

- Google Chrome is not ‘open-source’

- Google is hypocritical, and at least some of its values are unethical

And you disagree with me on the following:

- Google’s threatening the open-source movement

- Chrome’s only real advantage on Firefox is enhanced performance

- Google’s involvement with governments, like that of China, is catastrophic, and in no way excusable

- In open-source, there should never by any competition. There should only be collaboration

I think that’s fair enough. It’s comforting to know that when Firefox catches up on the performance, you, and many like you, will make the switch back.

Alaa

October 25, 2010

on the open source nature of chrome. the pure Free/Open Source version of chrome is called Chromium http://www.chromium.org/

chromium is what most GNU/Linux distros provide and in theory at least is open to contributions from the broader FOSS community.

the most important tech behind Chrome/Chromium is the webkit rendering engine. which is a proper FOSS project that’s central to many browsers (including apple’s safari, KDE’s Konquerer, most mobile browsers). Webkit is an amazing piece of community developed Free Software and is the reason why it is easy to make devices like ebook readers web enabled.

AFAIK google contributes back to webkit so in that particular case they are good members of the Open Source community (but not an ideological members of the Free Software movement).

Mozilla is btw also a company http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mozilla_Corporation however the company is owned by the non profit mozilla foundation. of course this does not compare to google, there are no shareholders for instance but the profit motive is not entirely absent.

however all of that does not contradict your main point.

Mozilla is community driven and regardless of legalese community owned. exists only to serve the interests of the community. their commitment to an open web is an ideological as well as practical one.

to add to the benefits of firefox, it has much better support for the languages of the world. both in rendering and in providing a localized interface. Google stupidly throw away features essential to properly render certain scripts (some required by high quality arabic fonts like http://amiri.sourceforge.net/) in the name of performance.

Tarek Shalaby

October 25, 2010

Thanks for sharing, Alaa! It’s good to make the clear division between Chromium and Chrome, especially since they’re on different sides of the spectrum in terms of what they stand for.

It was clear that Chrome had sacrificed a few features to improve performance, I wasn’t aware that the internationalization/language rendering was one of them. Yet another reason to use Firefox, and long live the open-source!

Amr

October 25, 2010

I use Firefox, and cannot see myself changing browsers anytime soon, but it is not just this. I also do not worry too much about people using Chrome. Chrome is Google’s way of locking people even more into their non-services like search, Gmail and the rest.

What I’d like to see happening is more people using better free tools. The Free Software movement has been working for 25 years making very robust tools that operate most of the internet (including Google) and much else. Recent developments in hardware and free software are promising a way that we can do largely without Google.

The brilliance of free software is that, once it is done, it is there, free, forever, and cannot be used by anyone in a non-free way. We just need to keep making, using free software, and freeing our data from things like Google.

Tarek Shalaby

October 25, 2010

You’re absolutely right. We should all also put an effort in helping free applications spread, especially since they’re up against corporate marketing, and need more awareness.

Free, open-source software will inevitably prevail. Beautiful!

nothingisprivate

October 26, 2010

uhh i use firefox as well (or atleast THOUGHT i did) and after a quick look in my registry (for other objects) i curiously started poking around..

in my registry, under the software/classes/.htm
.html
.shtml
.xht
.xhtml

the default value is ChromiumHTML..
I am not a computer whiz by anymeans, and dont know a tonne about software or internet protocols…but if these default values were set to ChromiumHTML, as opposed to FirefoxHTML would that not mean that basically, firefox IS chrome, simply hiding behind the userface that we have all come to know, trust and love???

basically, if this is a setting that has come with the most recent firefox update (as i have never downloaded chrome so can only assume this is how this change came into effect)
then we ARE all using chrome.
chromium atleast.

but i could be completely offbase as i said..since i dont know all that much about computers compared to some.

Keith Fernie

February 6, 2011

I prefer the Opera browser.
I also have Chromium installed, not Google Chrome..
I also use the Namoroka browser – that’s Firefox without any restrictions from Mozilla.

Rashelle Karlson

June 24, 2011

I used Chrome once, and I quickly found out that it (sorry for the coarse language) sucks fat hairy donkey balls! It’s worse than Internet Explorer, I mean come on! I can’t even go on my favourite MMORPG without triggering a BSOD! That’s why I think Firefox is far superior.

Dustin D

February 17, 2013

yes, I agree. I used firefox, then changed to google. However, I am planning to use less google every now because google is getting out of control. They don’t strive to benefit the people anymore. The more google, the less freedom people will have.

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