Chrome

January 27, 2017

So put this in the bucket of “things that I do five years behind the curve”, but I recently switched my default browser from Firefox to Chrome. The change wasn’t exactly by choice, but more the result of new security policy combined with lack of U2F support in Firefox.

Luckily, it wasn’t all bad. As surely everyone in the world but me already knew, Chrome feels like a much more responsive browser. The UI, tab switching, animations, and page rendering are all noticeably speedier, and minor features like tab pinning and proportional page zooming are a lot of fun to play with.

One feature in particular that I’ve really enjoyed is Chrome’s “People” mechanic, which allows for browsing sessions that are completely isolated from each other, for say work and home. This, combined with Google account sign on that syncs extensions and other settings between computers, makes Chrome highly ergonomic to use.

Firefox’s best feature, and the reason that I stuck with the browser for so long, is Vimperator which brings Vim motions and shortcuts into the browser environment. Vimperator is still the closest to a mouseless experience on the web that you can get, and I wanted to stick with it right up until the bitter end. It’s an amazing add-on, but more recently it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows, as Mozilla has announced it’s moving Firefox to the WebExtensions API which will severely constrain what Vimperator will be able to do, and has also been breaking their add-ons API on a pretty regular basis and making developers wait a week to get fixes approved for distribution in their add-ons catalog.

Since the switch I’ve been using an equivalent in Chrome called Vimium, and it tends to do as good job or better than Vimperator for most things. Of particular note is its “Vomnibar” that lets you pull up a special textbox to search bookmarks, history, or open tabs, along with being able to enter a new URL. Its major downside compared to Vimperator is that it can’t activate any shortcuts on “special” Chrome pages like settings or a tab where the browser is just displaying a raw media file like a JPG. This seems pretty minor, but turns out to be annoying in practice.

I’ll miss Firefox, but am cautiously hopeful that ambitious projects like Servo will eventually get them their lead back by producing features that are harder to build within the frameworks of existing browsers. For now, Chrome is pretty good.

Chrome was published on January 27, 2017.

Find me on Twitter at @brandur.

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