There’s a good chance that if you’re reading this, you’re doing so in Google Chrome. The browser may lead the pack in terms of market share, but have you considered giving rivals like Firefox, Brave, or Safari a shot? Here’s why you should.
Chrome’s Privacy is Lacking
Though privacy controls within Google Chrome are a lot better than they once were, the default values still leave a lot to be desired. This is especially true when you compare Chrome to browsers like Firefox and Brave.
You can test this for yourself using tools like the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Cover Your Tracks and Experte’s Browser Privacy Check. A standard Chrome installation scores poorly, blocking neither tracking ads nor invisible trackers. You’ll need to go the extra step by installing an extension like uBlock Origin, enabling Do Not Track, and blocking third-party cookies to bring Chrome up to par with the alternatives.
Compare this to Firefox, which scores far better, blocking both tracking ads and invisible trackers, with Do Not Track enabled by default (albeit in a limited capacity). Safari also fares better than Chrome, with partial protection against trackers and Do Not Track enabled everywhere by default. Brave also offers partial protection.
Though all browsers we tested had a unique fingerprint, the technique known as fingerprinting comprises many methods that are used to track you across the web. It’s very difficult not to appear unique on the web, which is how advertisers can pick you out even when you have blocked tracker and disabled cookies. You can see just how unique you appear on the web using the fingerprint tester Am I Unique.
On top of this, Chrome uses Google as its default search engine (shocker). If you want to do more to protect your privacy, you should ditch Google for a more privacy-centric search engine like DuckDuckGo.
Chrome Is a Resource-Hungry Browser
It’s no secret that Chrome has a bit of a reputation for taking liberties with your system resources, particularly when it comes to RAM. There are guides all over the internet about reducing Google Chrome’s RAM usage (we’ve even got one on How-To Geek).
This issue has forced Google to act by introducing a Chrome Memory Saver which attempts to limit how much memory the browser uses by allowing background tabs to fall out of memory. When you tab back to those pages, Chrome will refresh and reload them. This allows you to trade off convenience for performance.
Though Chrome’s memory optimizer will certainly help (and is enabled by default), there are other Chromium-based browsers that use the same Blink rendering engine and have historically managed resources better, like Microsoft Edge. Firefox, which uses Gecko, and Safari, which still uses WebKit, have historically compared favorably to Chrome in this department.
You Can Use Chrome Extensions in Other Browsers Now
If your main reason for sticking with Google Chrome is to use browser extensions featured in the Chrome Web Store (or even custom Chrome extensions installed from elsewhere), you’ll be pleased to know that you can use these extensions in other Chromium-based browsers.
Both Brave and Microsoft Edge are compatible with Chrome extensions, as are other browsers built on the same underlying technology like Vivaldi and Opera. Browse the Chrome Web Store using your browser of choice and add extensions directly. Though most extensions will work fine, be aware that some may behave differently from how you expect.
Despite having compatibility with Chrome’s extensions, these browsers also have their own add-on repositories. Examples include Edge Add-ons, Brave Browser Extensions, and Opera Addons.
Even if a browser isn’t compatible with Chrome extensions, alternative add-ons are commonly available for other web browser platforms. Mozilla has the Firefox Add-ons database while Safari has a dedicated section for extensions in the Mac App Store (many of which also work and sync with the iPhone and iPad version of Apple’s browser).
Google is Making Controversial Changes to Extensions
If extensions are an important reason for sticking with Chrome, be aware that Google is making big changes to how browser extensions work. Manifest V3 is an upcoming change that was first announced in 2020 which involves disabling support for the older Manifest V2 standard.
Manifest V3 is a new API designed with speed and security in mind. The newer API removes support for the webRequest API, which is used by many extensions to filter network traffic. The replacement API only allows for up to 30,000 rules, whereas many content-blocking extensions use hundreds of thousands of rules. This means content blockers must be rewritten and may not be as effective in the future.
Google delayed the change in late 2022, but Manifest V2 extensions will eventually be disabled. Google has refused to accept new extensions that use the older Manifest V2 APIs since January 2022, with the delay designed to give more developers time to transition to the new APIs.
While Edge is also completing the transition to Manifest V3 and imposing similar restrictions, Firefox has found a way to keep blockers working with its own implementation of Manifest V3. It’s hard to complain about extensions being faster and more secure, but many have criticized Google’s implementation, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Mozilla, and developers of extensions like Ghostery. Let’s not forget that limiting tracking and filtering content impact some of Google’s main income streams.
Alternative Browsers Are Great Too
We won’t lie to you: Chrome’s performance is generally very good. Despite its reputation as a memory hog, Chrome is a fast browser that consistently scores well in benchmarks like Speedometer and Kraken. Being the most popular browser, it has excellent compatibility across the web since web developers are keen to maximize their website performance on the most popular browsers.
Despite this, Chrome isn’t the be-all and end-all for performance. Many browsers put up a good fight, and it could be argued that the difference in speed is barely noticeable in real-world usage, even when a browser doesn’t quite hit the same lofty heights as Chrome in a benchmark.
Firefox uses a different rendering engine to Chrome, but its performance has improved dramatically since its 2017 overhaul. Though it still lags in many benchmarks, Firefox can now take the fight to Chrome both in terms of overall speed and resource management. If you haven’t tried Mozilla’s browser for a while, it might be worth giving it another shot.
Other Chromium-based browsers like Edge and Brave provide similar performance to Chrome, but Edge also has typically out-performed Chrome in terms of energy consumption on Windows. Google has attempted to address this with Chrome Energy Saver Mode.
Safari is highly optimized to run well on Apple hardware. Not only is it a fast browser that keeps up with Chrome in most tests, it’s also power-efficient. If you want to get the most out of your MacBook battery while browsing the web, Safari is a solid choice.
On top of this, Safari fits in well with the Apple ecosystem. Tabs sync over iCloud and appear on your iPhone or iPad, as do bookmarks and the Reading List. Safari will even sync extensions where compatible versions exist for both Mac and mobile platforms.
Chrome enjoys deep integration with Android devices, but it’s not the only Android browser to do so. Firefox has Firefox Sync, Edge has Tab Sync, and Opera has Opera Link. Just about every modern browser can sync browsing data if you want it to. Firefox on Android is particularly compelling, with the mobile release of Mozilla’s browser now featuring Total Cookie Protection as seen in the desktop version.
One Step Towards De-Googlifying Your Life
It’s almost impossible to remove Google from your life, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. We’ve covered why you might want to use DuckDuckGo instead of Google Search and DuckDuckGo Maps instead of Google Maps for privacy benefits, but that’s not the only reason to diversify.
Rejecting Google’s monopoly is a valid reason to move on from Chrome. Choosing an alternative is good for the browser landscape in general, regardless of which browser you use long-term.
Some of Google’s most recent advancements, like Memory Saver mode and Energy Saver mode, are almost certainly a result of increased competition from Microsoft Edge. Google has made strides on the Mac to improve energy efficiency, which was previously Safari’s greatest claim to fame.
Competition, as they say, is good for business.
You Should Have Multiple Browsers Installed, Anyway
Whether it’s for keeping work and personal affairs separate, using different extensions, routing through a VPN, or maximizing compatibility with various websites, it’s always a good idea to have more than one browser installed.
Windows and Mac users will already have Edge and Safari to choose from, but downloading an additional browser on top of Chrome (like Firefox) won’t hurt. Looking for something a little different? Give the highly customizable Vivalidi a shot, try out DuckDuckGo’s very own browser, or sign up for an invite to try out Arc.
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