By Joel Lee
There was a time when Chrome truly sat atop the throne as Browser King, but those days are long gone. The gap has closed, and depending on who you ask, Chrome has been overtaken. I once believed that Chrome was “the best,” but nowadays you may be happier elsewhere.
According to browser market share, Firefox is Chrome’s biggest contender if we ignore Internet Explorer (mainly used in business environments unwillingly). And over the past year, Firefox usage has risen quite a bit — from 7.7 percent in August 2016 to 12.0 percent in May 2017.
Why are people returning to Firefox? I’ve been using Firefox for the past few months and I’m happy to say that I much prefer it to Chrome. Is it time for you to switch? Here are several reasons that may convince you.
1. Firefox Is Better for Battery Life
A lot of people say that Chrome is faster than Firefox — and that’s actually true. But the main reason for this is that Chrome uses more CPU than Firefox. With greater CPU usage comes faster processing and smoother performance. The trade-off is battery drain. And to be honest, Firefox isn’t that much slower.
According to Microsoft, data gathered from millions of Windows 10 users showed that Firefox uses approximately 31 percent less power than Chrome in real-world usage. If you’re on a laptop, this means significantly longer sessions between needing to recharge.
2. Firefox Is Better for Tab-Heavy Users
How do Firefox and Chrome compare in terms of RAM usage? To test this, I ran both browsers (each one separately with no other apps running) under four test cases: one tab, five tabs, 10 tabs, and 15 tabs. Every one of those tabs pointed to the MakeUseOf homepage for consistency.
RAM Usage for Chrome 58
- 1 Tab — 49.2 MB
- 5 Tabs — 265.3 MB
- 10 Tabs — 533.2 MB
- 15 Tabs — 748.3 MB
RAM Usage for Firefox 53
- 1 Tab — 116.3 MB
- 5 Tabs — 376.6 MB
- 10 Tabs — 437.0 MB
- 15 Tabs — 518.4 MB
Two things are immediately obvious. First, Chrome actually uses less RAM than Firefox when you don’t have many tabs open. Second, Firefox scales much better than Chrome once you reach about eight tabs or so. If you’re a power user like me and regularly have 20+ tabs open, Firefox clearly wins.
Want to know why Chrome uses so much RAM? Read our overview on why Chrome needs more RAMand what you can do to reduce its RAM footprint.
3. Firefox Knows It’s Just a Browser
A few months back, I read an interesting post from a longtime Chrome enthusiast who ended up throwing in the towel and switching to Firefox. He had a lot to say, but this particular point stuck out to me:
Today, Chrome is not the speedy beast it was in 2011. Today, Chrome is some sort of weird-ass application platform that just happens to also be a browser.
This sums up a good bit of why I’ve personally fallen out of love with Chrome. What used to be a lightweight, fast, and incredibly minimal web browser has now evolved into a complex beast that no longer remembers what made it so lovable in the first place. A lot of the blame can be assigned to Google’s desire to turn Chrome into Chrome OS.
Firefox, on the other hand, is still just a browser. It isn’t the clean, barebones browser that Chrome was on debut, and some might even say that Firefox is too bloated for its own good, but at least Firefox isn’t trying to be something that it isn’t. It knows what it is.
If you want to read that Chrome enthusiast’s full essay, visit this Quora post and look for Luke Harris’s reply.
4. Firefox Embraces the Open Source Mindset
I like how Mohamed Mansour explains it in his Quora reply:
I have contributed code to the Chromium project for over two years . . . but lost motivation because of how closed that platform became. Yes it is open sourced, but it is guarded by a big organization where most of its discussions and future direction are done internally inside their organization.Google is treating Chrome as a closed competitive product more than an open product. Chrome’s open source model is basically “here is the code for the browser, do whatever you want.” It doesn’t have the same open source culture everyone is used to. Companies these days are abusing the core definition of Open Source, and it is sad.
On the other hand, Firefox has a complete public roadmap that’s influenced by contributors and community members. As of this writing, I can see eight months into the future of Firefox development. That kind of community cooperation is what real open source development should be about.
5. Firefox Actually Cares About Privacy
In 2014, Mozilla released a call-to-arms for users in an effort to promote online privacy, stating that “fighting for data privacy — making sure people know who has access to their data, where it goes or could go, and that they have a choice in all of it — is part of Mozilla’s DNA.”
In 2015, the State of Mozilla report reaffirmed the organization’s beliefs: “There are billions of people online, but not enough transparency and control in the form of security and privacy protections for users from companies, app developers and governments. Mozilla is focused on influencing key internet health issues like privacy and security…”
But even if Mozilla wasn’t so gung-ho about privacy, the real win here is that Mozilla isn’t Google. The one thing we know to be true: Google is a gargantuan data collection company. It already knows too much — do you really want Google to know every aspect of your browsing habits?
6. Firefox Allows More Customization
Degree of customization is the biggest difference between Firefox and Chrome. Every Chrome browser looks nearly identical, even across operating systems and devices. Other than hiding certain toolbars or removing a few icons next to the address bar, the most you can do is skin the title bar and tabs.
Firefox can do more. In addition to moving things around and skinning the general appearance, you can install Complete Themes to completely change the browser’s appearance. You can even emulate the look-and-feel of other browsers with FXChrome, FXOpera, and MX4.
7. Firefox Supports Chrome Extensions
Starting with Firefox 48, Mozilla declared stable support for WebExtensions. WebExtensions is a cross-browser API that allows developers to create extensions once and have them work in multiple browsers. With WebExtensions, Firefox can install Chrome extensions.
All you need to do is install Chrome Store Foxified. After that, you can visit any Chrome extension in the Chrome Web Store and the “Add to Chrome” button at the top right will become an “Add to Firefox” button.
Note that WebExtensions support, while stable, is still a work in progress. At the moment, not all Chrome extensions work, even though many do. Complete support is anticipated by the release of Firefox 57.
8. Firefox Boasts Unique Extensions
Chrome has a vastly larger collection of extensions, but Firefox has several unique extensions that aren’t available to Chrome users. And some of these extensions are so good that you won’t want to leave Firefox after having experienced them.
The best example that comes to mind is Tree Style Tab. This extension turns the tab bar into a sidebar and lets you organize tabs into a tree-based hierarchy that can be shifted around at will. It’s amazing and really shows how much a shame it is that no other browser can do this. (Vivaldi supports sidebar tabs, but they can’t be organized hierarchically.)
9. Firefox Can Do What Chrome Can (Mostly)
At the end of the day, the differences between Firefox and Chrome are mostly minor. One might be slightly faster or use less battery, but in terms of usability, they’re both excellent. In other words, anything you can do in Chrome can probably be done in Firefox too.
Chrome can do these things, and so can Firefox. If you’re reluctant to leave Chrome, just remember that the two browsers have more in common than not.
When Is Chrome Better Than Firefox?
As much as I love Firefox, I still have Chrome installed as a backup because there are certain situations where Chrome is actually better.
- Chromecast streaming only works with Chrome.
- Advanced web development is often easier in Chrome.
- Chrome prioritizes polish and simplicity over freedom, making it easier to use for those who aren’t as tech-savvy.
- If you’re deeply integrated with Google services and you don’t care about the privacy implications, then you can use your Google accounts to set up various Chrome profiles.
- Chrome has more market share than Firefox and Google appears to have significant influence over the direction of web technologies, so websites and web apps tend to work better in Chrome.
Are You Ready to Make the Switch?
The future of Firefox looks good. Give it a shot and have an open mind. To make the transition easier, you may want to consider these tips for switching from Chrome to Firefox. Also, look into our collection of Best Firefox Addons.
How do you like Firefox? If you decided against switching, what are the main reasons why? And if you use neither Firefox nor Chrome, we’d love to hear which browser you do use. Share with us in a comment below!