The Day I Left Firefox Behind

A Terrible Browser

In the early times of the Information Age, web junkies like myself did not have many browsing options. Internet Explorer had been absolutely terrible for essentially its entire existence, but early versions of Netscape Navigator and Netscape Communicator left much to be desired. Then Netscape 6 was released, which was based on the young, yet promising, Mozilla Application Suite. Unfortunately, I never paid much attention to it; like many consumers, Microsoft was all I knew.

Towards the end of 2004, the browser I had been waiting for was finally released: Mozilla Firefox. It did a decent job of rendering a wide variety of web sites, and regular compatibility and feature updates were a godsend. But Firefox’s real draw was its customizability. It was now possible to install browser add-ons that were not named “Flash Player,” and the possibilities were almost endless.

Mozilla Firefox
Mozilla Firefox

As a web developer, coupling Firefox with the Firebug extension became an absolute necessity of life. I could easily inspect any element in a web page, monitor all requests made by a single page request, investigate response headers, and even edit CSS on the fly to immediately see the effects of a change.

Throughout the years, I have experimented with Safari, Opera, Chrome, and Internet Explorer 7 and 8, but nothing really grabbed me. Internet Explorer was (and is) still absolutely terrible, Safari didn’t fit my Apple-free lifestyle, and Opera and Chrome didn’t do anything I couldn’t live without. I was convinced Firefox was not only my favorite browser, it was THE browser.

Mozilla Thunderbird
Mozilla Thunderbird

Over time, my Firefox fandom led me to using Thunderbird as my desktop email client. This was another area in which there were not many good options in the dark days of computing. Outlook Express was, in my opinion, not a pleasure to work with, and Outlook was not a viable option for anything other than businesses running a Microsoft Exchange server. Thunderbird provided an easy-to-use interface for POP3 and IMAP email accounts, and the customizable UI took the cake. I was hooked.

Thanks to Mozilla, over 6 years of my cyber life were absolute nirvana, and I never imagined I would leave it all behind.

C-Day

The day that set the fateful chain of events in motion was the day that I downloaded the Firefox 4 Beta. I absolutely loved the new minimalistic interface design, leaving many more precious pixels to display the current web page. I also loved the Sync feature which allows me to use the same bookmarks, usernames, and passwords from any computer at any time.  I don’t even need to mention the benefit provided by the smaller memory footprint and faster page rendering.

Google Chrome
Google Chrome

Then an old friend from back in college made a comment on Twitter. In my own words, he said that “Chrome is better at being Chrome than Firefox is at being Chrome.” That’s when it hit me: I should be using Chrome instead of Firefox. It has all of the features that I love about Firefox, as well as many features that the new Firefox was trying to emulate. After spending some quality time with Chrome, it was clear that it is still faster than Firefox at rendering most web pages, and has an even smaller memory footprint.

Windows Live Mail
Windows Live Mail

My newfound love for another browser got me thinking about the state of my email client. Thunderbird has fallen behind, and I was not so sure I wanted to stick with it. Since the free Windows Live Essentials 2011 was recently released, I decided to give Windows Live Mail a spin.  Turns out: I love it.

Windows Live Mail is essentially a version of Microsoft Office, except focused at the home user. It even includes the nifty ribbon interface that caused everybody to hate Microsoft even more than usual when they released Office 2007. With much of the fat trimmed out of the full-fledged Outlook client, Windows Live Mail fits my needs as a home email client. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone looking to switch, as long as they don’t use Linux as a primary operating system.

Competition has done a lot to make the internet a better place. I hope the competition continues, and may my mind be open to another browser switch when the time is right.

  • I’d like to give a shout-out to Jon Paul for his Tweet that made this article possible.

  • I hope when the next “Browser Migration” becomes necessary I have the courage to do what I did on C-day and move on once again.

  • We were talking at work a few days ago about when we “first discovered” Firefox. Most of us had played with its predecessors in some form or another, and we had all been die-hard Firefox fans back when it was just the Mozilla vs. Internet Explorer days. I was one of those guys with the Firefox t-shirt (and I feel like you might have had one too, Bryant?).

    Brief side note: Turns out there are some really cool Firefox shirts out nowadays. Gallery: http://communitystore.mozilla.org/gallery?pageno=1&perpage=100 and I like this one: http://communitystore.mozilla.org/gallery/view/37

    After Chrome was released, I knew I’d have some personal conflict in the future. As loyal as I was to Firefox, I told people at ODNA “Once Chrome gets extensions, it’s probably over for me”. Which was mostly true – I use Chrome 100% on my personal computers. The only reason I use Firefox at work is because of the Tree Style Tabs add-on ( http://www.techerator.com/2010/07/how-to-enable-vertical-tabs-in-google-chrome/ ) and I frequently go tab-crazy while in a solid programming session. Chrome has been dabbling with vertical tabs in their dev releases, but still nothing that can compete with the Firefox add-on ( http://www.techerator.com/2009/06/tree-style-tab-makes-tabbed-browsing-even-better/ ), so needless to say that Firefox has me for a little while at least.

    Another important thing Chrome is doing right is update cycles. With Mozilla taking, what, half a year or so to release a new version, Chrome is absolutely dancing circles around it with their 1.5 month release cycle. When we hear about a new feature, it hits the dev/beta channels almost immediately, and a few weeks later it’s mainstream.

    I know Firefox is a giant project and fundamentally can’t be as nimble as the tight dev team at Chromium, but they need to do a serious change-up if they want to compete with the up-and-comer. I always rooted for Firefox because it was the underdog (and a great underdog, for that matter), but if I’m honestly choosing a browser based on usability, speed, and features, Chrome is my new mistress.

    Finally: I’m using Firefox right now and I’m really missing Chrome’s ability to resize text input boxes. This box is very cramped.

  • Firefox 4 Beta has the ability to resize textboxes. I wonder where they got the idea from?

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention The Day I Left Mozilla Behind | Techerator -- Topsy.com()

  • Perfectly appropriate placement of a Chrome advertisement: http://i54.tinypic.com/bh8vb.png

  • Michael Graalum

    I personally use chrome now, but I find it to be much more crash/freeze prone than firefox ever was. I did make some updates, and its a little better now, but streaming video sites (for me espn.com, hulu, netflix, thedailyshow.com) still have a habit of either crashing or freezing up from time to time.

    • The only problem I’ve experienced with Chrome is that Silverlight likes to crash. But that’s probably Microsoft’s fault and not Chrome’s.

  • I agree with you about Windows Live Essentials software, there are surprisingly impressive apps in that bundle. I’m a big fan of Windows Live Writer, it hooks right up to WordPress for authoring blog posts.

  • Another thing I like about Chrome is I have a habit of closing my browser only to realize milliseconds later (almost literally) that I wasn’t done. Firefox would usually not be finished unloading and then I would have to end the task in order to reopen my browser. In Chrome, this hasn’t been an issue.

    I do feel the Adblock Plus addon works better in Firefox than Chrome. Also I have found I need to refresh the Google Calendar and Docs Gmail Labs addon more frequently in Chrome than Firefox. Neither of these things have bothered me enough to change though…

  • Anonymous

    I’ve tried switching to Chrome a few times, but I always end up returning to Firefox. After using it for six years I guess it’s just become too deeply rooted in my daily computer use.

    There are still a few extensions I can’t live without in Firefox that aren’t yet available (or are available but lacking much functionality) in Chrome. I also absolutely love Firefox Sync and Ubiquity, and once Firefox for Android finally comes out of Beta I’ll become even more entrenched.

    For how much extra functionality Firefox gives me over Chrome, I can accept it being a little slower rendering and having a bit bigger memory footprint (it’s at ~250MB right now, and with 4GB of total RAM that’s nothing).

    • I hate to be this guy, but Chrome has built-in sync for apps, autofill, bookmarks, extensions, preferences, and themes 🙂

      • Anonymous

        Very true, but it won’t sync with Firefox for Android. 🙂

  • Pingback: Internet Explorer 9: If Chrome jumped off a bridge… | Techerator()