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Why I Can't Stick To One Web Browser

Because they all suck.

I think Opera is my favorite browser. I’ve been using it for many years, it’s fast, cross-platform, it was the first browser to support tabs, [speed dial]( web_browser#Speed_Dial) (with keyboard shortcuts – very useful!), and it’s always easy to block an arbitrary item of a website with Opera. However, among all the browser I’ve been using, Opera had problems with the biggest number of websites. Be it banks, Google Picasaweb, or some other sites – I can’t use Opera as my only browser. It always needs a helper program to handle the sites it doesn’t display properly, and that sucks. Especially that it’s always been a problem with this browser, which, given its other fantastically well designed features and its maturity as a software product (it’s been initially released in 1996!), doesn’t stop to amaze (and sadden) me.

Then there’s Firefox, which I’ve first tried when it was still called Phoenix. Firefox, upon its initial release, appealed to me because it was “like Opera, but more compatible”. Unfortunately, even early Phoenix builds seemed slow and bulky, and current versions are perhaps not as slow, but you can’t call them fast either. Another flaw of Mozilla’s flagship product is the variety of versions, and incompatibility of extensions from version to version. It happened to me many times, that after upgrading the package or the whole linux distro I was using at a time, some or all of my extensions in $HOME/.mozilla stopped working and didn’t want to upgrade. After one of the upgrades, FF didn’t even want to start, forcing me to erase all my personal settings, and, in consequence, to stop using it.

And then a couple of years ago the almighty Google released its Chromium-based browser: Chrome. Chrome is cool, because it’s fast, renders most websites properly, supports extensions, has something similar to speed dial (although doesn’t support keyboard shortcuts, which is a bad, bad thing), and it’s manufactured by Google, which makes it the trendiest browser among geeks and hipsters. But jokes aside, Chrome really is a great browser. The problem I’m having with Chrome it is that its tabs freeze quite often. Or even if they don’t freeze, their behavior is very often… erratic. I can’t explain it any better, and I really can’t think of any other reason not to like Chrome, but when I end up with 12 tabs that suddenly become unresponsive, I’m mad.

So then I can switch to Apple’s browser – Safari. I bought a Mac a couple of months ago, and an iPhone1 followed, so it’s kind of neat having all this synchronization, speed and… power efficiency (seriously, my Macbook Pro’s power estimates rise significantly when I’m running on battery and I quit Chrome and start Safari; seems quite reasonable to think that Safari is very well optimized for Mac OSX). However, Safari doesn’t run on linux and it probably never will, which is a major problem since I’m still using Ubuntu on my office computer (and I’m not willing to stop it). Furthermore, there are these small annoyances, like the fact that you can’t tell Safari to remember tabs’ contents from session to session, or that it doesn’t support keyword- based search queries in the address bar (or at least I don’t know how to make either of these features work). Oh, and when Safari crashes, or suddenly eats all the CPU and memory, and I have to kill it, there’s no way to recover anything from the lost session. And no dialog window asking if I want to submit a crash report either. Weird. Then again Quakelive supports Safari, and that’s crucial for my PhD.

So here I am: a web-browser-hopper. Frustrated by flaws of one browser and tempted by advantages of another one, I keep changing them every now and then. And I sometimes wonder: why isn’t there one browser I could simply use all the time? Or  is it something wrong with me?

(I apologize my readers for more than 2 months of silence here; blogging is about writing in regular units of time, but I was a little bit busy lately; hopefully a hiatus that long will not happen again)

  1. I was actually about to write a post about my iPhone acquisition and related topics, but I realized that writing about how awesome iPhone is would be kinda lame. I might still write something about it at some point, but not today. ↩︎