I never thought I’d say this, but Firefox may not be my default browser for much longer.

I’ve adored Firefox ever since I first jumped on the bandwagon, abandoning IE’s sinking ship. (I’m just old enough to remember switching between IE and Netscape–both of which would freeze or crash when asked to render enormous 500k text files. Ah, nostalgia.)

Other Browsers

I’ve tried modern browsers besides Firefox, of course. Safari is a great browser, but it’s not native to Windows, and it shows, in several small but annoying ways[1]. Opera is fantastic, but it’s never felt quite right. Nothing I can really put my finger on, but I’ve never really been comfortable using it. It’s a shame, because it is a gorgeous browser, with a lot of attention put into the details.

More importantly, both Opera and Safari are both significantly faster than Firefox, which is one of the things that tempted me to try them in the first place[2] Still, speed alone wasn’t enough for me to make the switch. Firefox had better developer tools and extensions of all kinds, and just plain felt better to me.

Chrome

And now there’s Google Chrome. It’s been out of beta for less than a year and a half, and as of last month it was the third-most popular browser in the world. Like Safari and Opera, it’s faster and slicker-looking than Firefox, and to me, it feels more natural to use. It already has quite a few extensions, too.

Upsides

Some of the extensions I love best in Firefox are actually default behaviour for Chrome. The best example is Chrome’s download bar–instead of an obnoxious popup window, downloads show unobtrusively in a bar at the bottom of the screen. I can’t fully express how much Ilove this behaviour.

Chrome’s developer tools are a lot like Firebug, which is something I couldn’t live without. There are a few ways it could improve, but there are also things about it I like better than Firebug[3].

Extensions

There are even extensions better than anything I’ve used in Firefox. The Mini Wiki Browser is fantastic for a Wikipedia addict like myself.

The interface is just generally more unobtrusive than Firefox; apparently that was a goal for the developers, and I think they were, overall, very successful.

Downsides

Still, I’m not ready to make the switch quite yet. There are some Firefox plugins I can’t live without, which as yet have no Chrome equivalent. By far the most important of these is Scrapbook, which I used obsessively. I’ve never found any other tool quite like it, with it’s ability to save web pages exactly as they are, as well as to crawl and save entire sites, preserving their link structure.

The main feature I’d like to see added to Chrome itself is text-only zooming[4]. I’d also like to see a little control over tab behaviour; for example, I’d really like new tabs to open next to the current tab. Also, the logo is hideous. I’m sort of dreading making Chrome the default, because all web pages on my computer will display that symbol! Those are really just quibbles, though.

Verdict

I like Chrome quite a lot; better than any other browser at the moment. If I can get Scrapbook and text-zoom for Chrome, I’ll switch. Right now, I’ll probably just flip back and forth between Chrome and Firefox.