browser cartoon The Trouble w/ Browsers: Chrome, Firefox, Safari & Oh So Maligned IE (maybe Opera mobile)

UPDATE 3-20-12: After a year of Chrome, I've opened FF and am enjoying some of the features I missed in Chrome. (mostly plug-ins) The only reason I'm even considering the permanent move back to FF is performance. I have a number of Chrome/Google+ plug-ins that are amazing, but I've been frustrated by chrome's "Waiting on cache" message. I don't like to wait for the browser. AT. ALL.

So I'm FFin right now. BUT… I seem to be seeing the pinwheel of death in FF. And the keyboard seems much more lag prone. (not good when I'm writing at top speed) I'm going to go look at all my FF plugins and see if I can streamline it back into the fast dev-friendly engine that it used to be. Or I'm back to Chrome. (I can see that this post needs a new write up.)

+++ the original post +++

This graphic sort of captures some of the fun we are having these days with "browsers." If you call it fun…

In the course of a day I launch two browsers over and over again. I used to launch three, but I've killed Safari, for now. So I am fluidly moving between Google's Chrome and Firefox all the time. What I like better about one of them I don't like something else about the other. I can cache my WordPress site with Google Gears on Firefox but I can't on Google Chrome (figure that one out for me) and I am starting to get frustrated with the limits of each one.

Let's take a quick peek at the big 4 browsers. (Sorry Opera, love ya on my Blackberry, but not much else is happening for me in your browser.)

1. Internet Explorer. Ah the dead horse metaphor is a good fit. Except it goes deeper than the browser. Windows is actually the dead horse, IE just happens to be Windows browser of choice. Every innovation Microsoft has proposed with IE has been bad for web developers and web viewers since the early days when they KILLED Netscape. (Okay, maybe AOL killed Netscape, but IE did it's best to destabilize the playing field at every turn.) So today, if we are looking at developing a website we have to install and browse (meaning troubleshoot) IE 6, IE 7 and IE 8. And guess what? The bugs are different and awkward for each one. And while the cry has gone up for the masses to put the dreadful IE 6 out to pasture, it simply isn't happening. Even today, on this blog, the majority of windows web browsing is coming in via IE 6. I hate it, I don't want to admit it, but we still have to deal with each version of the dead horse Microsoft cares to roll out. Cause much like Windows XP to Vista to Windows 7, with IE browsing, if I ain't broke don't upgrade it.

2. Safari. Apple was pretty innovative initially with Safari. It seemed a lot faster than Firefox when it arrived. But this perceptual speed increase could have been due to all of the wonderful extensions I was (am) running with Firefox. But each time I have allowed the Mac OS to default to Safari, I have found myself cursing aloud when I would find something it didn't do *right.* So for now Safari is tucked away, offline.

3. Google Chrome. There is so much I really love about Chrome. The promise for a better browsing experience is there. But the details often have me clicking over to Firefox again to use my faithful dev tools like Firebug and WhySlow. But some of what Chrome does is neat. The way it displays and updates you on downloading items is very nice. It's tabbed interface feels like an advance over the other browsers. And I am just now beginning to play with some extensions, but overall Chrome is probably my number one choice for a browser. BUT… I can't do everything I want to do in Chrome. Some things simply don't work. There's a java site that uses something that Chrome does not like. And I am puzzled by the NO GEARS hole in Chrome. I know HTML5 and all that. But GEARS is awesome. And a browser without it, doesn't feel as fast. And perhaps in WordPress Firefox with GEARS is actually better.

4. Firefox. The mother of all that is good with open source and developer led projects. Mozilla-to-Firefox is a great story by itself. And though I type this in Chrome at the moment, my Firefox app is almost always launched as well. Often it's because I have the Mac OS to default to Firefox when I click on something that the system perceives to be of HTML heritage. And the extensions for Firefox can do truly amazing things. And here's the BUT… in Firefox. Do all of the add-ons in Firefox make it slow and buggy? When the activity icon is going and nothing is popping up on my web screen I twich with the need to open the site in Chrome. I know that perhaps Chrome will have a problem with some exotic page, but I always perceive Chrome as faster. But I've only got 3 chrome extensions running. So is my problem with Firefox that I use it for too much?

So here's the trouble. I want it all. I want speed and I want maximum flexibility. One of my early gripes with my Apple iPad is I only have Safari for a browser. (Make a note to check and see of Opera is up for the iPad.) BUT that flexibility and expandability comes at a price. What I am frustrated with more than that is when I look over at my dock and see that I have Chrome, Firefox and Safari open. (I brought that potential down to two last week, but still…)

I want one browser to rule them all.

One of the main roadblocks on this front however is the old dead horse. While I worked at Dell, everything we had internally was based on Sharepoint, IIS or some other Microsoft technology, and guess what? Sharepoint does not play well with non-IE browsers. I did try running IE Tab inside Firefox, and I see that Chrome has an IE Tab as well, but my goodness, could we make a system any more screwy than to make it NOT work on other browsers. Now Microsoft maybe wanting to play nice these days as they try and leap into the LIVE model of online apps. But their products and technologies still write code that is only viewable on other Microsoft products.

So let's do kill IE and Microsoft's unfair bullying of the online world, but first we'd better get all those Sharepoint sites ported over to something more OPEN. And that's a lot of Sharepoint sites, folks. A LOT!

@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)
permalink: http://uber.la/2010/04/web-browsers/
Browser graphics from College Humor.

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  • http://uber.la jmacofearth

    Thanks for the comment. We need them all to rock, but what are the odds.

  • http://twitter.com/txfoundationrpr Brady James Barnett

    I absolutely agree, my firefox browser is always open and crashes about 3 times a week, for some reason, now they don't just reinstate all tabs, they load a page that has all open tabs that you had running and ask you to close one. I don't know how many times, in haste, I've clicked start new session, and lost all tabs I had opened before. Frustrating! Google Chrome is fast and fun to use, but it's just not powerful enough like firefox is. IE – Forget it, it doesn't even work on my machine anymore! Safari is nice and fluid, and I like reading in it, for some reason the text seems nicer.

  • http://uber.la jmacofearth

    Thanks for the comment. We need them all to rock, but what are the odds.

  • http://twitter.com/txfoundationrpr Brady James Barnett

    I absolutely agree, my firefox browser is always open and crashes about 3 times a week, for some reason, now they don't just reinstate all tabs, they load a page that has all open tabs that you had running and ask you to close one. I don't know how many times, in haste, I've clicked start new session, and lost all tabs I had opened before. Frustrating! Google Chrome is fast and fun to use, but it's just not powerful enough like firefox is. IE – Forget it, it doesn't even work on my machine anymore! Safari is nice and fluid, and I like reading in it, for some reason the text seems nicer.

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