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.
- Google promises Chrome is not phoning home with your Web data (TechRepublic)
- New features headed for Firefox 5 ... but do we need them? (ZDNet)
- Pwn2Own 2011: Google offering $20,000 for Chrome sandbox exploit (ZDNet)
- Mozilla Publishes List of the 50 Slowest Firefox Add-Ons (Wired)
- The Chromium Projects (Chromium)
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 book, Follow the Geeks.