Dec 9, 2009

[Google] Going Chrome (For Real)

Google Chrome screenshot of the English Wikipe...Image via Wikipedia

When I first reviewed Google Chrome while it was still in beta, I made a declaration that it was pretty decent and that I was willing to experiment with using it as my main browser. Of course my dependence on more complicated websites and more innovative Firefox extensions eventually had me going back to my roots and using Chrome as an alternative when Firefox was buggy.

Of course since then Chrome accelerated to drop the beta label, came up with a beta version of the browser with new features along with a developer version for the more hardcore Google adventurers and over time it has secured a larger segment of the browser market.

Now with the announcement of extensions for Google Chrome beta, I find myself pretty excited to venture forth into this new realm. Sure, I had already been testing a few extensions using the developer version of Chrome, but this was different. This meant there's actually an extension gallery. Oh fun.

Now that Google Chrome has a decently stable library of extensions and much better handling of complex Javascript and Flash sites, the time has finally come for me to decide how I want to handle my browsing moving forward. At the moment, I've been primarily using Firefox at work while using Chrome supported by Firefox at home. The reason for the difference is that I've recently started using an Asus EEE PC 1005HA, which is a netbook. Naturally Google Chrome makes more sense in terms of giving me more screen real estate versus Firefox given Chrome's minimalist approach to things. It has worked out fairly decently so far and I have no regrets.

However I am forced to go back to Firefox time and time again given that (1) I use Zemanta to assist with my blogging efforts (hence the Zemified icon at the bottom of this entry), (2) the ease of using Echofon / Twitterfox as a built-in Twitter client, (3) the joy of sharing bookmarks with my partner via Xmarks / Foxmarks, (4) my need for efficient ad blocking and (5) the persistence of unsual browser behavior like whenever I try to upload photos to Photobucket. At work I've stuck to Firefox since it's a lot more stable. The addition of extension support to Chrome has changed the game related to these items - and this is despite Mozilla's recent Jetpack experiment (which I've also tested).

First off, Zemanta and Xmarks both have decent versions of their extensions on Chrome. While Xmarks is still rather buggy and lacks password sync support, it decently works and I can still share stuff across browsers with my partner, which is cool. Plus there's also the option to try syncing bookmarks through Google that I just night explore sometime, but it's not a pressing item. So that address items 1 and 3 on my earlier list easily enough.

Next, there's Chromed Bird, which certainly seems to be a lightweight Twitter Client that ingrates nicely with Chrome. I've never been big fan of separate Twitter clients given it just adds another application to my limited netbook memory load and thus I keep pushing for solutions like this. This certainly beats using TwitterGadget, which was decent but not too friendly given my needs and the number of pre-existing gadgets I have running in Gmail.

Adblocking options seem to be many within Chrome's new library of extensions, but effectiveness is arguable. I've actually stopped using the AdBlock and AdThwart, the Chrome attempts at ad-blocking, since they don't seem too effective. It was more prudent to just install FlashBlock instead to curb all those memory-eating Flash-based ads. It has a decent Whitelisting feature that ensure certain Flash sites that you deem safe (like Youtube maybe?) will always have Flash enabled.

Lastly there's the increased stability over time that Chrome has managed to demonstrate. I don't get as many dead page errors as I used to when I first started using Chrome and now Facebook works a lot better for me there as compared to Firefox, which is pretty interesting. I still get the errors related to the Flash plugin becoming unresponsive, but I think everyone gets that error, even in Firefox. Plus nothing beats being able to kill a tab entirely, free up the memory then continue working wit the rest of my tabs intact. Damn you Firefox for still bloating memory usage for me.

We all have our reasons for using one browser versus another whether the priority is this one extension that you absolutely love, an interface you've become comfortable with or just the overall speed, there's a browser for you. At present, my need for faster page load speed, more screen real estate and my love for process sandboxing has me choosing Google Chrome for now. Let's see how long this venture lasts, hehe.

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