September 4, 2019

Some reasons to consider using Firefox

Some reasons to consider using Firefox

There are three major desktop browsers right now: Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge. For the longest time I used Chrome primarily, but within the last year or so I switched to Firefox (both at home and at work). Our Chief Investment Officer, Jeff Hybiak, also switched to Firefox recently.

Just to be clear, we are not anti-Chrome or Edge. Both of these browsers have some noteworthy features. I still use Chrome when it makes sense, and our operations team still uses it exclusively. However, Firefox does have some noteable features right now that you may want to know about:

Firefox is more privacy-minded

If you've been paying attention to tech news lately, you would have noticed that Google and Microsoft have been come under fire for how they handle your personal data and track your activity across the internet. Google is especially notorious for tracking you in this way. Firefox is not perfect in this area either, but they are definitely better - you can look at their Security / Anti-tracking policy here. Also, check out these updates in Firefox's latest release. Notably:

  • 3rd party tracking cookies and cryptominers are blocked by default
  • Enabling a "strict" setting aims to block fingerprinting entirely

Firefox is not undermining ad blockers

This point is related to the last one, but honestly I am taking aim directly at Chrome here because the Chrome team has plans for changes that will severly restrict ad blockers' abilities to perform their intended functions.

As you might have guessed, ad blockers block unwanted ads and tracking technology. As a side-effect, this usually improves the browser's overall performance because ads and tracking bits aren't loaded with each page. It's not hard to see why Google, who owns one of the world's largest ad networks, would want to undermine ad blockers. Firefox obviously has no such plans, and on top of that they already make an effort to block tracking cookies and allow you to tackle the problem of fingerprinting with no addons.

Firefox integrates with Have I Been Pwned

Last year, Firefox partnered with Troy Hunt - the creator of Have I Been Pwned - to notify people when their data had been compromised in a known data breach. Even before that, Firefox was using Have I Been Pwned to notify users if they were browsing on a web site that had recently been breached. Here's an image of that feature in action:

Chrome and Edge both have some sweet security and privacy-related features too, but this integration with Have I Been Pwned is not something that the other browsers are doing.

Firefox is not slow anymore (and is not a RAM hog)

Before I started using Chrome as my daily driver, I was using... Firefox (I've come full-circle now, I guess). The reason that I switched to Chrome back then was that Firefox was so much slower than Chrome - in fact, performance was one of the reasons everybody started flocking to Chrome. After a major overhaul two years ago, Firefox became much faster and has continued to improved since then. Plus, there are not nearly as many complaints of excessive RAM usage compared to Google Chrome.

This is your RAM, and THIS is your RAM on Chrome.
Google Chrome eating your RAM

Measuring browser performance objectively is hard, but most subjective tests will say that Firefox is still slightly slower overall compared to Chrome. In my experience, this difference is negligable. I used to find myself switching between a few browsers to see if a slow-loading page would load faster in a different browser, but I have not had that temptation since switching to Firefox full-time.

Summary

You can't really go wrong with any of the three major desktop browsers that are out there right now (Chrome, Firefox, Edge). We are no longer in an era where websites will break catastrophically if you use a different browser, so we are pretty much free to choose at our own discretion.

My personal choice right now is Firefox because of the reasons listed above, and some other technical reasons (I think the developer tools are much better than what Chrome has, for example). As time goes on and things change my opinion will likely shift again - for now, I recommend Firefox but have no strong objections to other browsers. Unless you're still using Internet Explorer...