Why I switched back to Firefox

Remember when you ditched Firefox for Chrome and pinkie-swore you’d never go back? Yeah, me too

Why I switched back to Firefox
Blair Hanley Frank

Remember when you ditched Firefox for Chrome and pinkie-swore you’d never go back? Yeah, me too. But recently I needed to test a web-based app in Firefox, so, with some hesitance, I took the plunge and installed it.

I opened the browser, and saw a lean, minimalist user interface with cool, gray icons on the toolbar. But where was orange-y Firefox? Did I launch the wrong browser?

Turns out, the good folks at Mozilla took their shrinking market share to heart and fought back with one of the most notably improved products I have seen in recent memory. Impressive performance improvements (Mozilla claims that Firefox is now the fastest of the top three browsers), a customizable menu and toolbar, 64-bit architecture, streamlined ‘reading’ view, and a way-better-than-Chrome-or-IE settings manager that could easily set a new standard.

Firefox also boasts excellent browsing privacy. I don’t like snoopware, and the web browser behemoths have been getting on my nerves lately. Snoopware isn’t just cookies. If you’re a Chrome user on Windows, take a look at the processes running in your Task Scheduler in Windows. You are likely to find at least two, sometimes more, such as Google updater and other Chrome-related tasks running in the background on your PC or laptop pretty much around the clock. And just when you thought you had defeated rogue processes by tweaking your msconfig settings.

+ RELATED: See screenshots from Firefox | Firefox’s market share is bigger than that of all Microsoft’s browsers combined +

Browsers like Chrome and IE seek to ‘manage’, or at least stealthily observe, as much of your online life as possible.

Firefox takes a refreshing approach to web privacy. It actually seeks to protect it. Many of the privacy settings are part of the ‘private browsing’ feature. With ‘private browsing’ enabled, Firefox operates in stealth mode, where no information, such as cookies, passwords, files, browsing history etc., is saved to the user’s computer.

It also provides ‘tracking protection’ which prevents websites from tracking your browsing data across multiple sites. How often have you made a search on Amazon, only to see ads for the very product you searched for appear on websites afterwards? Tracking protection prevents this from occurring. You can essentially stay in ‘private browsing’ mode by enabling the ‘do not track history’ setting.

There are also a number of security add-ons for Firefox; one provides the option to allow browser scripts such as Java and JavaScript to run only from trusted sites to prevent cross-site scripting (XSS) and other script-related attacks. For those who enjoy ad-free browsing, there are several ad-blockers, some that block all ads and others targeted at specific sites.

Another notable improvement is the move to 64-bit architecture, which Mozilla rolled out late in 2015. Although many older add-ons aren’t compatible with the new 64-bit version, the improved performance and fault tolerance far outweigh this minor inconvenience.

These improvements are great, but I saved my favorite feature for last, the new ‘Reading View.’ This is an option to view a streamlined version of the web page you are on, eliminating videos, ads, and background images. The Reading View allows you to get straight to the heart of the content, with no frills or distractions. I really appreciate the clean format for doing research and reading news, especially when traveling and needing to conserve bandwidth.

Mozilla offers online support with quick solutions to common issues such as how to optimize Firefox to work with specific sites such as Facebook and YouTube, or how to run a Firefox Health Report, which provides information about your browser’s performance and stability over time. The Firefox Developer edition provides tools that are not available in the standard version. Firefox is also available for Android and iOS.

The new Firefox is definitely worth another look. I actually switched back to it as my default browser. This time I didn’t pinkie-swear but instead vowed to never say ‘never’ again.

Perschke is a web and database developer with 15+ years of industry experience. You can reach her at susan@arcseven.com.

This story, "Why I switched back to Firefox" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

How to choose a low-code development platform