Browser

Goodbye Firefox. Hello Chromium.

After using Firefox for six years, I've finally come to the end of the road with it. Learn why, as well as why I chose Chromium to replace it as my primary Web browser.

My relationship with Firefox has been on the rocks for a while. It officially ended this week. Time to move on.

While Firefox started out as a small, fast, and secure browser -- everything that Internet Explorer wasn't back in 2004 -- in the last several years Firefox has unfortunately become a bit of a slow, bloated, resource hog. Nevertheless, since I've been such a long-time Firefox user, I've been hanging on and waiting for the final release of Firefox 4, hoping that would give the 'fox some new life.

After using Firefox 4 for less than a week, it's clear to me that Mozilla hasn't fixed the speed issues or the resource problems, and I've finally reached the point where I'm tired of fighting with Firefox. I'm tired of constantly looking at my open processes to see what's bogging down my system and virtually every time it turns out to be Firefox.

The situation finally came to a head on Monday and Tuesday of this week when both cores of the CPU on my system were at 80% for big chunks of the day on both days, and the culprit was, naturally, my newly-installed Firefox 4. The clincher was when I took all of the tabs that I had open in Firefox (about 10 of them) and copied and pasted the URLs from Firefox into Chromium. Then, I closed down Firefox. The CPU utilization immediately dropped under 20% and everything on the system started running at normal speeds again.

I used Chromium all day on Wednesday as my primary Web browser for all of my TechRepublic tasks -- content management, blogging, selecting articles for our front door, creating photo galleries, running reports, and doing Web research. Chromium performed like a champ, opening most pages faster than Firefox and never bogging down the processor except for two occasions when I played large videos.

I'm sure some of you are asking, "What's Chromium?" or "Why Chromium instead of Google Chrome?" Chromium is the open source project that serves as the foundation for Google Chrome. Think of Chromium as the bleeding edge version of Chrome created by the open source community. However, Chromium is not for everyone. It's not nearly as polished or bug-free as Chrome, and while Chrome silently updates itself in the background, Chromium has to be updated manually (and there a new builds available almost every day). The process of updating to the latest build of Chromium is made easier by tools such as Chromium Updater.

However, my biggest motivation for choosing Chromium over Chrome is security. While Google promises that Chrome isn't reporting back to Google with any additional data about your browsing habits -- at last no more than any other Web browser -- I don't completely trust Google in that regard. The company has too much to benefit from gathering as much data as possible from every single user. Because Chromium is open source, if there was any kind of supposedly-harmless data collection going on, the open source coders would likely spot it and alert the community and the public. That, and the extra speed boost from running the cutting edge software builds, are what led me to Chromium.

I had been using Firefox as my primary Web browser for six years. That's certainly the longest I've ever stuck with a single browser -- I was on Netscape and then IE for 3-4 years each before jumping to Firefox in late 2004. Still, I'm not going to be uninstalling Firefox. I'll keep it around for occasional testing -- especially for new TechRepublic features. But, I don't see much chance of it regaining its spot as my primary Web browser.

The About pages for Chromium and Chrome show the open source roots and legacy behind Chromium.

Also read

About

Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the upcoming book, Follow the Geeks (bit.ly/ftgeeks).

115 comments
TimBroeker
TimBroeker

Maybe you need to ditch that 386SX you're using dude.

Wd40dry
Wd40dry

I am a long time supporter of Firefox. I've had some problems with 4.0 and another with an add-on to Firefox that took over the system. I have and use Chrome, too. Wyzo is faster than both of these programs and I find that I can use Firebox for some elements absent in Chrome which is not, in my opinion ~ "user friendly.' By alternating between Wyzo with Firefox, I have the best of both worlds ~ speed and familiarity ~ if some page is taking to long to load, I can avoid it. Wyzo gets my vote for SPEED! Firefox for allowing some add-on's, I don't want to live without that are kind and gentle, like being able to say, "I love" instead of "I like" on Facebook. Wyzo beats up any other browser for SPEED IMHO. Why folks aren't talking about it is a mystery to me, so I thought I would right now as it seems to be missing in this discussion. Much love, and carry on happily and with as much speed as you can muster! xoxoxox

Amalgam
Amalgam

I have to agree, I kissed Firefox goodbye and now use Chrome. I was experiencing constant freeze problems with Firefox, in W7 Home Premium and W7 Professional, resulting in system restarts every time. Even when it was performing, it was ferocious slow and just became tedious. Chrome is lightning fast in comparison and once I found my way round, bookmarks,etc.etc.,I am really enjoying it. No matter what Firefox does next, it will take some persuading for me to revert.

minori_aoi
minori_aoi

Until other browser have ImageHost Grabber or anything with same functionality, I'll stick with FurFox. The resource hog is annoying, but the functionality is far more important to me.

sskisuze
sskisuze

Hi, I am extremely surprised by your experience. First I must that I have used firefox since its early days and it has kept improving since. Before the release of FF4 I read in this same TechRepublic forum some very disheartening comments about the then upcoming release. However, I must say that the author must have swallowed their words when FF4 was finally released in March this year. To me Firefox is just as good (if not marginally better) than any other of the popular webbrowsers in all respects. I personally do not realise that it is as slow as you portray, save for the loading of pdfs which I imagine is due to another application Adobe reader. Whenever a new release of FF is made I simply uninstall the old version and install a new version and always the new version performs in the same way. I take care to clear old browsing history and have just a few addons (SQLite Manager and Xinha) installed. If thats the magic that keeps my FF4 flying on Windows Vista Business (whose performance is erratic) then I suggest that you try it on a good day, I believe you will not be dissappointed. Best regards

hbates
hbates

I dunno -- my experience has been completely different ... I was a big Chrome fan until Firefox 4 Final Release, and I find Firefox to be faster than Chromium without any CPU hangups. And on my Windows machines, it trumps both Chrome and IE9 for speed and just general useability. Go Firefox!! I have used the latest on Windows 7, Server 2008, OpenSuSE 11.4 and Ubuntu 10.10, and 11.4 Beta ... and on various hardware platforms as well. Amazing how unique everyone's experiences are :-) I guess I'm a unique individual with a unique computing environment -- just like everybody else :-) Long live competition and diverse technology streams!

lindasr
lindasr

I have been reading your comments and info regarding FF4. I have downloaded it and Chromium both, and will test them. I too have been using FF only since early 2000, but I am also having issues with memory usage and it ALWAYS leads to FF. So, I will try them both and submit my vote. Thanks for all the great information so those non-techies out here can decide what to do! THANK YOU. Linda.

peanut88
peanut88

FF 4 have good performance and snappy to me so far. I used it for 15 hrs a day and I used quite a number of add-ons and opens up to 30 to 50 tabs. You should troubleshoot what is the actual problem you are having with FF. Tweak it via about:config and some available speedup programs. Keep a wary eye on all addons. Add some ram memory. I am sure FF will be just as fast and snappy on your system. 8 )

krsmav
krsmav

I installed Chrome but couldn't find a way to run my bookmarks down the left side as in FF. Instead, it spread them across the top, taking up more and more screen space. I have hundreds of bookmarks in a complex directory tree, so this was a killer. I'd add Chrome in a minute if this problem could be solved, and my favorite addons (Uppity, Autocopy, Flashblock, Surfkeys, Greasemonkey) were available.

aaronwindsurfs
aaronwindsurfs

I agree with the article, except I use Chrome instead of Chromium (If my info serves their purposes... so be it. Google gives us plenty of great free services and software). Chrome is much leaner than Firefox. Firefox in safe mode barely keeps up. I switched a while back and keep Firefox installed for some novelty add-ons, but honestly, I haven't used it in over a year... and don't miss it.

greytoma
greytoma

after reading your article have starting using Chromium instead of FF4 which I found to be troublesome starting and loading some pages. I have loaded Chromium up with.. RSS feeds, Adblock plus, lastpass, wot and xmarks, Chromium still loads better, faster and is generally easier to use than FF4. Thanks for your article Goodbye Firefox, Hello Chromium, I'll drink to that.

ddesigns
ddesigns

Amen ! My first trouble came a few weeks ago when I saw a little yellow ToolTips dialog box over my SysTray, with something about an Update. I tried to "X" close it, thought I had, but began having troubles with my Firefox 3.16.xxxx whatever. It seemed to have partially Updated itself - but maybe failed. When I finally became desperate, I downloaded and installed Firefox - which, Surprise ! was ver. 4. I have had NOTHING but PROBLEMS with it since then. For a week or more, the Browser would not stay up and running for more than an hour, and usually just a matter of minutes. It would crash, and ask to send a Crash Report to Mozilla, and over and over again. Needless to say, I was incensed ( polite for PISSED ! ) because I had, as usual, about 30 tabs open. And I very rarely view any Streaming Video on any of the Web sites - just occasionally. And I had none at the time. For the last few days, it has been "fairly" stable - but still crashes regularly. Does anyone know what the problem is ? Also - Resource Hog ? Anyone ? Yes ! At first it was using almost 2 GigaBytes of my 3.25 GB RAM ! Unbelievable ! Now it "only" uses about 750 MB - 1 GB ! It was REALLY slowing my Pinnacle Studio 9 down to a crawl. I also have Win Media Center 2005 and watch TV on 1 or 2 channels. And that only uses a couple hundred MB's of RAM. That's all for now - I have to send this RIGHT QUICK before it crashes again.

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

It's so danged BIG. I only have a 16 gig hard drive! Of all the browsers I've tried, Opera seems the smallest.

docesam
docesam

i use Firefox because it is feature rich , i don't care about that performance issue because my computer is a monster.

Who Am I Really
Who Am I Really

2006 MB Intel DG965RY Intel Core2Duo 2.40GHz 4GB PC6400 DDR2 dual channel RAM 320GB Seagate 7200.9 SATA-II (first 40GB partition assigned to C:\) XP Pro SP3 (configured for performance) Firefox also configured for performance .

Ahmad Samiei
Ahmad Samiei

I work with Firefox 4 and enjoy ! this is much better than older version for me! Also I dont see any performance issue yet. Maybe because my computer is powerful ! because I dosent test it in other computer with lower performance. I also test Google Chrome. I love it and i believe Chrome is very low weight and super fast modern browser. But the biggest problem with Chrome is Addons ! I dont know wich addons you use. for example Stumbleupon or Y! Delicious have poor and bugggy addons in Chrome. it is biggest problem I've experienced.

luisfco_w
luisfco_w

I've being using Firefox, Chrome and Opera for the last year, hopping that when FF4 I can just simply return to use it for all web browsing, primarily because of the extensions. But 2 of the most important extensions I use (save as MHT and save/restore Sessions) are available in Opera, not in Chrome. Also I can use Google Bookmarks in Opera with a trick. Opera is safe, faster, less resource consuming, etc. Try Opera for a few weeks and you will love it. Saddly I think we all have to use 2, 3 or 4 browsers for the time being.

Old Timer 8080
Old Timer 8080

Firefox just has EOL issues, just like many other software prducts before... They usually start out lean and mean, but get old and pudgy after about 4 years... I timed this morning's load up on several computers..about a minute before you can start using it... Just like booting up Win95 in those days... I've diligently filed the reports for over a month with no response.... It's time to move on. I've tried Chrome, I'll try Chromium...

kpdriver
kpdriver

What's he talking about it being a resource hog. I don't think he knows how to use a browser, much less give anyone else advise on which one to use.

cheyCoder
cheyCoder

This is just strange. I'm not doubting that some have had serious slowdowns and other issues with FF4. It's just weird that others are not. I'm one that has not had any serious issues with FF4. It has been rock solid for me on three different machines since it was released. One is my Win7 work machine, another is my Vista home PC, and third is my ancient XP laptop. I've kept multiple tabs open and used it as normal and the memory footprint has been within reason and that is on all three machines. The speed has been very fast with no discernible difference between FF4 and Chrome. There has to be some explanation of why some of us are seeing great performance, low memory use, and stability while others are not. Some have mentioned that add-ons could be playing a role, but some people are using little to no add-ons. I have a lot of add-ons on my home PC and it's memory use has not been out of control. In fact it was on par with the same tabs open in Opera. Maybe there are profile issues, I don't know. Hopefully the Mozilla team can iron out what some users are experiencing and provide answers to why some us have had great results.

beans100
beans100

What???? FF is fantastic. FF4 is not much better, but still fantastic. At least it's not IE.

JLChaconM
JLChaconM

Same behavior in my quad core desktop pc... read the possible fixes and found that must of the problem were due Add ons, then uninstalled several of my favorite and the change was big, after resetting memory leaks when from 1.138 Mb to 128 MB... Did same in my labtop with similar results.

xangpow
xangpow

I have been using FF3 for a while now and i never have any hang ups, and i have had about 7 pages open? So that just leads me to ask whats wrong with your computer that it cant handle FF4? You have to have something else running to make it take THAT much resources. Here is a little friendly hint, dont play WoW or do fantasy sports while surfing the internet. Im just saying. btw i do play wow and use FF3 and have no problems. once again, im just saying.

mpass057
mpass057

I did the same thing for exactly the same reason about a month ago and haven't looked back. Like you, I had about 10 tabs open in Firefox and the cores taking turns reaching 100%. I looked at the processes and sure enough it was Firefox. I didn't even have many add-ons. As soon as I did the same thing with Chromium the whole system flew and was very responsive. I'm glad I made the decision. I didn't know the difference between Chromium and Chrome though so I'm glad you showed us the differences.

gonarin
gonarin

Well, I also moved to Chrome and for the same reason. I am happy with Chrome and my computer runs smoothly.

jm.reyes.0320
jm.reyes.0320

I think I need to try first the chromium browser to see the difference of Firefox and chromium.

Jaqui
Jaqui

1) it's the useless user interface firefox and internet explorer are duplicating. 2) try getting it to remember login information if the login name is different than the local system user name. 3) no menu bar. chromium's basic ui premise makes it absolutely unusable for me. then, throw in the fact that it's based in the INCOMPETENT DEVELOPERS work of webkit rendering engine. Yup, webkit, the devs are completely incompetent. it started it's life as khtml [ KDE rendering engine for html ] and a Linux app. Yet webkit's first release would not work on Linux. that level of incompetence makes the entire engine critically flawed for quality. the webkit devs may have gotten it to work on linux now, but their original screwup is still there, they don't know what they are doing.

stevenospam2000
stevenospam2000

I had already switched to Chrome because FF (will all addons disabled) took forever to start. I have now switched from Google Chrome to Chromium but I hope someone writes a piece about how to do that without losing the saved passwords, etc.

ejhonda
ejhonda

Not that I don't doubt you had problems, Jason, but it's safe to say this will not be everyone's experience. I've been a FF user since the 2.x days, and FF 4 has been pretty solid for me. The add-ons available for it make it the most convenient, and secure, browser I have. I have IE 8 and Chrome installed, but 98% of my surfing is done on FF, safely and reliably.

d_g_l_s
d_g_l_s

is that in windows sometimes our profile becomes buggy for many reasons. Often the best way to correct the situation is to simply create a new profile, transfer your data and basic settings over and Voila, a better and faster "system" all 'round. This will no doubt also "fix" the so-called FF4 slowdown issues.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

On Windows, I use Chrome -- but my primary workstation is FreeBSD. There I use Firefox 4 by default, though I have Chromium installed. The main reason: Chromium limits extensions too much, so something like Vimium doesn't work all the time. I use Pentadactyl on Firefox so I don't have to reach for the mouse. Also, until recently, the chromium port to FreeBSD didn't keep up with security updates. That seems to be fixed now.

oldbaritone
oldbaritone

I have been a staunch FF supporter for years. But FF4 has become another version of Chrome, and Chrome does it better. My top two add-ons, AdBlockPlus and NoScript (NotScript in Chrome) are available and work. And it starts FAST, runs lean, and (so far) hasn't crashed yet.

Who Am I Really
Who Am I Really

just like we don't go to war without the proper equipment I simply will not go out into the web without these; - NoScript - FlashBlock - AdBlock Plus - Better Privacy

aforal
aforal

Chrome does not print backgrounds, making it useless for many purposes

david.stanfield@spcorp.
david.stanfield@spcorp.

Jason, you have issues other than Firefox. I put 4 on my machine and it is as fast if not faster than Chrome (and also the Canary release). You need to dig deeper.

tech
tech

When I upgraded to FF4 I noticed a CONSIDERABLE speed difference. I don't talk about much, but I was telling everyone I knew of the unbelievable jump in performance.

ftemplin1465
ftemplin1465

I don't have problems with FF4, only have 2 addons - 'flash block' and 'full screen'. 'flash block' makes a big difference with the web sites that are bloated with flash. And it's nice not to have all the sideshow distractions 'flashing' away to the top, bottom, and sides. I occasionally run the 'cpu usage' gadget to watch what's happening. And it almost aways drops to 1-2% with FF4 within a few seconds of going to a new site. Good enough for me. Now if you want to know what really 'sick browsing' looks like, do some browsing with PS3.

NDeBord
NDeBord

Much as I used to like FireFox, I too dislike FireFox 4 so I moved to Chrome, or rather the portable apps, privacy secure offshoot called Iron. (I also use a Gecko derivative called K-Meleon which also is more secure imo (Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:1.9.1.19pre) Gecko K-Meleon/1.6.0).

medomoreno
medomoreno

My experience mirrors yours with one exception; I bought a new system about 6 months ago, immediately installed Chrome and didn't even bother with Firefox (having used both on my previous system).

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

From my tests, the browsers based on webkit generally meet more of the standards better than any of the others. What specific flaws have you found?

Spitfire_Sysop
Spitfire_Sysop

Wasn't there just an article about this called "The End of FireFox"? Something stupid like this. Perhaps FF4 Beta had a rescource issue. I never saw it. I am still using FF4 as my main browser and it is fast. I often leave it open with multiple tabs while running Thunderbird a couple of monitor apps and a game. I can Alt-Tab out of my game to look something up in FF and flip right back. Are you people still using XP with 1GB of RAM or something? This may be a perception issue. Your computer will feel slower over time, especially if you use a faster computer and then return to your old Win2k box.

Ron K.
Ron K.

I use the free Gadwin Print Screen if I need a background. Easy to setup learn and use.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

It's definitely Firefox, although part of it is Firefox's handling of Flash (which it leaves to Adobe). Chrome/Chromium keep a little tighter leash on Flash and I suspect that's a big part of the difference. If you block Flash in Firefox then things improve, but I'm ready to do that yet. In my experience, Firefox (even 4) is now the slowest browser I work with (slower than Chrome, Chromium, Opera, and Safari). Even IE seems to be on par with Firefox again.

j-mccurdy
j-mccurdy

Yeah, he's got something messed up somewhere. If it was a problem with Firefox, it would be happening to everyone.

j-mccurdy
j-mccurdy

I I have a bunch of tabs open right now, and a few other programs My CPU usage is going between .01 and .03 % on a four year old laptop. So I don't see how that is a resource hog.

Jaqui
Jaqui

[b]it started it's life as khtml [ KDE rendering engine for html ] and a Linux app. Yet webkit's first release would not work on Linux.[/b] permanently broken if they can't keep support for the original os throughout in my opinion.

j-mccurdy
j-mccurdy

Maybe one reason I don't have any problem with FF4 is, I use "Ad Block Plus" Squashing all those flash based ads is probably helping. I'm using mostly a four year old laptop. With a C2D T7250. If ABP causes any problems with a specific site, you can click the little stop sign and select disable on this page or disable for this site only. I very rarely have to do it, and it takes about two seconds. I will also disable for a site if they give me a pop up asking me nicely to do so, because they need the ads to work to generate revenue. Some ads are only hidden but the vast majority, probably 99% are actually gone. Ad Block Plus is the greatest thing since sliced bread. That and Xmarks.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

If you read this thread, you can tell a lot of people are having issues with Firefox, while others are doing just fine with it. There's not going to be a universal solution because people have 1.) Different types of systems, 2.) Load different plugins, and 3.) Visit different kinds of sites. All of those factors are going to contribute to different experiences. That's why I started the discussion, so that we can draw out some of the differences here and try to arrive at some truths and tips -- while realizing some of them won't apply to everyone equally.

xaKira
xaKira

Or did you mean 1 to 3%. Even at 3% I would think its not registering right. I have a 1 year old laptop that is registering 6 - 12% overall on both CPU cores with 4 tabs open and no other programs running. Possibly CPU usage meters are not created the same?

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