Which Browser Should I Use: Firefox Or Chrome?

Dear Lifehacker,

I've been a huge fan of Firefox for years (prompted in great part by Lifehacker's recommendation), but it seems like Google Chrome has made huge strides lately. My question: Which is better, Chrome or Firefox? Which should I use?


Uncertain About My Browser

Dear Uncertain,

Yours is a question we've been hearing more and more lately and with good reason. The fact is, Google Chrome has fixed a lot of problems with Firefox that most Firefox users didn't even know they had, and Firefox is still working to catch up. (Restart-free extension installation, isolated processes that keep one bad tab from crashing the entire browser, etc.) As a result, Chrome's smart feature set has been winning over a lot of Firefox die-hards.

The answer to your question depends a lot on what operating system you're using, so we'll separate our answers for Windows and Mac users.

Which Should I Use on Windows: Firefox or Chrome?

There's no short answer to this question, really, since neither browser is clearly better, so instead of a straight out "Use X" recommendation, let's consider the pros and cons of each.

First, in our regular web browser performance tests, Chrome has regularly beaten up the competition or come in a very close second in most categories, while Firefox rarely leads the way. That might seem like a pretty big deal, but most browsers actually perform really well these days, so the fact that Chrome beats Firefox in most of our performance tests doesn't mean Firefox is extremely slow — it just means that compared to Chrome, it's not the fastest.

But that brings us to another important point: Bloat. Despite the fact that Firefox generally does pretty well on memory use tests (strangely enough, it regularly wins that test in our browser performance tests), a lot of Firefox users are increasingly frustrated with slow-downs caused by what they see as browser bloat. It's not at all uncommon to see a Firefox installation eating up more than any running application on your system, and while the memory consumption itself isn't that big of a deal (Chrome eats a lot of memory too), the high memory usage is often accompanied by serious browser slowdowns, which is a very big problem, and one that, anecdotally at least, we hear from tons of Firefox users and very few Chrome users. (Presently company included.)

So what keeps Firefox users coming back despite Chrome outperforming it on Windows by most accounts? One of the biggest issues is extensions. Firefox's extension ecosystem has long been a selling point of the popular open-source browser, and if there's anything you wish your browser did differently, chances are there's a Firefox extension to address it.

Chrome, on the other hand, has its own flourishing extension gallery, and while it doesn't have close to the extension support that Firefox does, every day more and more really popular extension functionality makes its way to Chrome. Want to sync Chrome up with your existing Firefox bookmarks? You can use Xmarks for that. (Or you can use Chrome's built-in bookmark sync tools if you prefer.) Want to securely sync and automatically fill your passwords? The LastPass extension, which we recently raved about, can handle that at more. Even the must-have for web developers, Firebug, has made its way to Chrome in a very functional lite version.

If you use a ton of Firefox extensions — especially some more obscure ones — chances are you may not be able to find replacements for everything in Chrome. But if you only use a few of the more popular Firefox extensions, odds are very good that you could transition to Chrome without noticing a difference.

On the other hand, a lot of people shy away from Chrome specifically because of its affiliation with Google. Those who believe Google already has enough of your personal information might prefer to stick with Firefox just to temper the growing piles of information Google has collected about you, anonymously or not.

The Answer:

At the end of the day, both Chrome and Firefox are excellent web browsers for Windows, and you can't go wrong with either. From our perspective, more and more power users seem to be swapping happily to Chrome from Firefox (several Lifehacker editors have made this switch and haven't looked back), and their switch has been spurred mostly by the bloat issues mentioned above. If you've been frustrated with Firefox, we'd recommend kicking the tyres and Chrome to see how you like it; you can always switch back if you decide your heart lies with Firefox.

If, on the other hand, you're perfectly happy with Firefox, we don't see any reason to upset a good thing. (If it ain't broke and all that.)

Which Should I Use on My Mac: Firefox or Chrome?

The answer to this question is very different from the one above, but luckily it's much shorter. If you read the Windows section (and you should, because a lot of it still applies), you know that Chrome has a lot of great things going for it. Chrome is snappy on OS X, the same extensions that work for Chrome on Windows work in OS X, it isolates processes so that one crashed tab won't bring down your browser, and so on.

Unfortunately, in our experience, Chrome for OS X is still much too young for full-time adoption. Remember, Chrome for Mac launched quite awhile after the Windows version and has been around much less than a year overall. Like Chrome on Windows, it shows a whole lot of promise, but it's also prone to the occasional non-responsiveness and other bugginess that we aren't used to and probably shouldn't be seeing from a prime-time browser.

While we'd love to say you should give it a try full-time if you're not happy with Firefox on your Mac, we can say from experience that it's probably not ready for you to do that.

We get a little long-winded when we start talking about web browsers, so our apologies for the length of our reply. Hope that helps, though!



P.S. We didn't cover Linux because we don't have enough experience with Chrome on Linux to make an informed call, so feel free to offer your suggestions in the comments. Similarly, we understand that you may disagree with out assessment, so if you've got more to say on the subject, we'd love to hear it in the comments.


    Dear Uncertain (if that's your real name), both browsers are free. The solution is to invest less time in asking vague questions and more time in experiencing for yourself. kthxbye

    I use Chrome on both Windows (XP and 7) and Ubuntu Linux (desktop and netbook). I find it works exactly the same on both platforms. It also integrates well in the Gnome desktop. Apart from feeling faster while browsing, on Ubuntu especially it appears to initialise much faster. I am a convert to Chrome's spare layout, and have not found any functionality I want or need not present natively or available in extensions.

    I prefer chrome, however use firefox because chome fails to load my universities website properly; which is a good enough reason when over 50% of the content is delivered online (which is fail in its own rite)

    I've said it before and I'll say it again, Chrome may be faster but is far from being functional enough to be my main browser. When they implement a decent print setup maybe then I'll switch!

    +1 for Chrome on Ubuntu.

    It works brilliantly, is super fast and can be set to use the GTK+ theme, or the standard Chrome theme. No problems with stability or lack of features. Firefox on Ubuntu seems a bit heavy.

    Chrome on Mac: "but it’s also prone to the occasional non-responsiveness and other bugginess that we aren’t used to and probably shouldn’t be seeing from a prime-time browser."

    Using it as my main browser since it has plugin support and no problems at all.

    Well, this is something that deserves very close inspection. I'm a long time firefox user and have "must" extension list that can't live without. Having said that, I do use SRWare Iron v5 alpha and very much looking forward to a stable v5 from them. It feels very much like firefox, it has all of the extensions that I use including adblock.ini adblock solutions. The only thing that is stopping me from switching completely to Iron is the occasional problems with some websites. For some reason they work ok in firefox but not in Iron. But, yeah I will switch to a webkit based browser, so will firefox :)

    Ivan K.

    Firefox because its Add-ons make it a much richer browser, and I prefer to have a statusbar, and the interface is more intuitive than Chrome's.

    I made the switch to Chrome for mac. Brilliant.

    Firefox has firebug for web development. Chrome has Firebug Lite, yes, but its atrocious.

    I use Chrome for its speed but find there are some sites that it just doesn't work for and I need to go back to IE and copy the address in to see them.

    Bit of a pain, but still SO much faster than IE. Used Firefox for a while but never got into it I must say.

    I use neither. Both crashed on me with monotonous regularity so I switched to Opera instead, which seems to be kind of good.

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