Which browser should I use?
May 21, 2010 2:09 PM   Subscribe

Which browser sucks the least for OSX?

I have been a dedicated Firefox user for years, but at this point, between the way it bloats up memory, takes forever to open, and generally fails when on flash-intensive websites, I think the honeymoon is over.

I pose two questions:

1: Why should I NOT fire Firefox?
2: If I am to ditch Firefox, what is the best alternate option?

I'm running OSX 10.5 on a MBP 2.5GHz (last generation).

I find Safari to be generally more stable, but seems to have issues with Google apps. Chrome loves Google pages, but seems a little funky around flash. I have no experience with Opera.

posted by aloiv2 to Computers & Internet (34 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I tend to use Chrome 90% of the time and fall back to Firefox for a few specific plugins when I need to (UrlHeaders, LiveHTTP, debugging stuff) or Camino which seems to work better than FF on OS X. But I generally don't deal with a lot of Flash stuff and flash seems to work good enough in Chrome anyway.
posted by GuyZero at 2:11 PM on May 21, 2010

From an office of web developers, 80% use mac, of mac users, 75% use Chrome. Chrome is funky around flash - I'll agree there, but flash will become less and less of a 'thing' in the next year, when the biggest websites adopt HTML5. (I'm not an idealist in that area, just seeing that YouTube etc. accounts for a huge amount of flash traffic on the web)

So, use Chrome unless there's a Firefox extension you can't live without. Opera's good, but there's no huge, compelling reason to use it over Chrome.
posted by tmcw at 2:13 PM on May 21, 2010

I have not had issues using Google apps with Safari, but maybe I'm not trying hard enough.

I see Safari and Firefox as serving different needs: a lightweight browser vs one with scads of add-ons. They both have their place, but I use Safari day-to-day. I've tried Chrome and it seems fine, but I haven't switched to it. I do need to use Firefox for a certain website that doesn't play nice with Safari (specifically, the PDFs generated by USPS.com's click-n-ship. Grr).

You're using 10.5, so this isn't a problem for you yet, but with 10.6, plugins don't work in Safari (they were a hack all along), so the one add-on to Safari that I found really crucial—ad blocking—was gone. Then I discovered Glimmer Blocker, which works as a proxy, so problem solved.

They're all free and hard-drive space is cheap. Try sticking with each for a week or so and an answer will come to you organically. Shoot, the Camino browser is still out there. You could try that.
posted by adamrice at 2:19 PM on May 21, 2010

I use Safari. I think it's the nicest browser on the Mac. What issues do you have with Google sites?
posted by chunking express at 2:19 PM on May 21, 2010

Anecdotal: I use Safari and have no issues with Google Apps. Is your browser/system up to date?
posted by reductiondesign at 2:19 PM on May 21, 2010

Chrome here, too, on my Dell 10v Hackintosh. Yeah, flash is funky, and that's when I open FF, which used to be so good but damn now it is bloated.
posted by mixer at 2:19 PM on May 21, 2010

If you decide to stick with Firefox: BarTab helps with the loading issue, Flashblock means you only see flash when you want.
posted by TayBridge at 2:23 PM on May 21, 2010

My vote goes for Google Chrome. I'm not sure why Snow Leopard + Firefox is awful.
posted by axismundi at 2:26 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Another vote for Chrome
posted by WizKid at 2:29 PM on May 21, 2010

I'm a huge Chrome fan. I use it on both my Windows PC at work and my Mac at home. I like the minimalist interface, the simplicity of incognito mode, the robustness when a tab or a plugin dies.
posted by Khalad at 2:30 PM on May 21, 2010

I use Chrome 80% of the time, the rest split between Safari and Firefox evenly.

Chrome freezes and crashes a lot on JS and Flash-heavy sites, but it feels snappier than the other two browsers by a good margin.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:35 PM on May 21, 2010

I have yet to have any noteworthy issues with Safari. However, I don't use Google Apps, and I know that keyboard accessibility can be a bit sketchy.

The real question is: why ditch one for another? What's wrong with using more than one? I personally use Safari when I choose which one to use, but don't stop OS X from opening Firefox for email links and whatnot. Most of the time, I don't even know which browser I'm using.
posted by davejay at 2:40 PM on May 21, 2010

Safari first for some reason, then Firefox and Chrome. I basically alternate between the three for when Safari starts to wig out, Chrome decides not to display anything and Firefox gets fat.
posted by subaruwrx at 2:40 PM on May 21, 2010

Chrome for a majority unless I need a special add-on then it is Firefox. When I am borrowing another mac at home I default to Safari. Really, use more than one.

Heck, I still use IE on my PC because certain CMS work REQUIRES IE, but chrome for everything else.

I am also a heavy google apps person.
posted by jadepearl at 2:53 PM on May 21, 2010

Chrome for everything but flash video. Safari is garbage. No undo close tab? No thanks.
posted by nathancaswell at 3:10 PM on May 21, 2010

Safari first, then sometimes Firefox as a last resort. I like using Safari with PithHelmet and ClickToFLash.

If you don't like Safari, try the Nightly Builds which are updated frequently with new features.
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:37 PM on May 21, 2010

FWIW, I've found that keeping passwords in sync between browsers is one major barrier to using two or more. I've been pretty happy with LastPass, which allows me to sync passwords for Firefox and Chrome.
posted by jenkinsEar at 4:12 PM on May 21, 2010

I use Firefox with Flashblock. That takes care of random flash-related wonkiness, at least. Tried Safari and hated the way it handles tabs. Maybe when Chrome has more extensions I'll make the switch but right now it's the add-ons that keep me with Firefox. But I'll load up a Flash-heavy page in Safari if it's one I don't want to white-list on Flashblock in FF but has enough Flash that I don't want to keep clicking F.
posted by 6550 at 4:26 PM on May 21, 2010

My usage is probably at least 80% Safari, the rest Chrome. I almost never turn to Firefox lately.
posted by JiBB at 4:39 PM on May 21, 2010

Hi, I work for Mozilla. The first thing I'd try is disabling your Firefox extensions (or create a new profile). You might find that some of them are slowing your browser down a lot.

Firefox 4 nightly builds are a rough around the edges, but they have some major performance/efficiency improvements. You can try one if you're curious to see what's coming later this year.

One of the improvements - running plugins like Flash in a separate process so they can't slow down or crash the browser - is already available for Windows and Linux in Firefox 3.6.4 beta, but Mac users will have to wait a little longer, sorry.

(And don't tell my co-workers, but I also enjoy using Chrome.)
posted by mbrubeck at 4:43 PM on May 21, 2010


Want addons? Use Firefox.
Want to use a lot Google stuff? Use Chrome.
Want speed? Use Chrome or Safari.
Want to be different for no real reason? Use Opera.
posted by Kippersoft at 4:55 PM on May 21, 2010

I like Chrome, and I'm not sure what might have changed in the last week or so, but Flash has gotten slightly less flaky for me in Chrome.

I keep FireFox around because I still like FireBug way better than the web inspector/debuggers in Chrome and Safari.
posted by usonian at 5:05 PM on May 21, 2010

I use Safari for everything, except Google Docs, for which I use Chrome.

ClickToFlash is an essential add-on for Safari.
posted by vkxmai at 6:56 PM on May 21, 2010

I would say Glims is an essential add-on for Safari as well. It adds Undo "Close Tab", along with a lot of other features.
posted by the biscuit man at 7:16 PM on May 21, 2010

Firefox on SnowLeopard here. Honestly, I don't have any issues with what little Flash I encounter. I think AdBlock helps with that.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:25 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

Safari for regular surfing.

Firefox for anything that won't work in safari (rare now) or anything where I want to use a plugin (noscript for suspicious site research, debugging, Selenium for developing test suites and stuff, etc).

Webkit/Chrome are there for when I need to explore bleeding edge HTML5 stuff.
posted by TravellingDen at 7:50 PM on May 21, 2010

I used Chrome for about a month or so until I got tired of it freezing all the time on a few websites I frequent (hanging for 15-30 seconds, and then it worked fine again as if nothing ever happened). I eventually switched back to Firefox because it seemed more stable. Safari just isn't as usable/extensible to me.
posted by fishmasta at 8:02 PM on May 21, 2010

I have a moral objection to using Opera now. I like it (a lot, actually) but they crossed the line with their Opera Mini browser. If you're in China they'll BLOCK every site until you download a special build for China that creates a "better browsing experience" by not proxying ("Turbo" in their parlance) to international servers. See, before, Opera worked as a way around the Great Firewall because it would send all pages to be mobilized on a different server before sending back to your phone. This is the most extreme and invasive form of self-censorship I've seen from any foreign IT company here.
posted by trinarian at 8:10 PM on May 21, 2010

The constant updates from Google along with decent extensions make Chrome the browser of choice.
posted by Mekai at 11:25 PM on May 21, 2010

Safari. Never had issues with it.
I try to stay away from Google and friends because of their dubious privacy policies.
posted by Paris Elk at 6:30 AM on May 22, 2010

I used to use Firefox, but it now feels slow and bloated. I've always loved Camino, which is still pretty nice. But I recently settled on Chrome which feels quick and responsive and has nice extensions. That said, I actually use Opera mostly due to it's bandwidth saving turbo mode.
I'm almost certainly an extreme case. Due to my extremely high bandwidth costs (as in double the cost I pay for rent), I need to have a browser which is stable with having MANY tabs open (as in 50 to 100). and then has good navigability within those tabs.

Generally speaking though, I like speed and lightness in a browser. When I'm in land of cheap bandwidth, I have been using Google Chrome as of late. It has a nice speedy feel that is reminiscent of the old Camino. (A close second). I like how it handles tabs, also has good plugins. It can get bogged down with flash, especially with a lot of tabs open, so you need to be aware of this and pare tabs or restart it every now and then. It IS resource intensive- when you check your process manager, you notice there can be many (4-7) different Chrome processes running at once! This is probably what gives it its responsiveness (at the cost of processor cycles). Thus one drawback of Chrome is that if you are running on battery and need longevity, it is more processor intensive. (Also that it's tied to Google is not necessarily a good thing).

Opera is pretty good. Fairly stable and responsive. However, I probably wouldn't choose it over Chrome. Safari is okay, but I don't like the klunkiness in switching between tabs. Camino I've loved for a long time, lean and mean and stable, but I guess it just doesn't feel as light and nimble as Chrome does for me now.

Also worth noting is that I absolutely cannot use any browser without an ad blocker. It's an absolute must. Without one, the Internet feels like a loud flashing noisy ugly place.
posted by MacChimpman at 9:29 AM on May 22, 2010

If you upgrade to OSX 10.6 then Flash in Safari is more stable. Upgrading to latest Flash beta (named 'gala', download here) provides better performance and stability.
posted by flif at 5:04 PM on May 22, 2010

I haven't used Chrome, so I can't compare it, but I can compare Opera to Firefox to Safari.

Opera tends to be the fastest of the three for me, but then again I abuse my computer (generally under 2GB free on a 200GB drive, 20+ windows open, etc.) There are some things that it has trouble with, which things they are is slightly random. Flash is done well, finally. (I used to be a huge Opera loyalist- started buying their product back when it was written in only for the PC, just did html, was lightning fast and you actually had to pay $20 for it)

I don't see the same bloat using firefox as you do, so my reasons for using opera are limited, although I like the interface more than firefox's.

Safari, at least on my machine, is a huge memory hog. It eats it up and doesn't release unless I actually do a restart. So I tend not to use it.
posted by Hactar at 7:40 PM on May 22, 2010

I'm slowly moving away from Firefox. My biggest obstacle was finding a firebug replacement, which I finally did on Chrome. The built-in element inspector will let you edit HTML on the fly, and there is a Chrome add-on that will let you append computed CSS to the page and see live results (you can't edit the current stylesheet, however). It's not ideal, but it will work until something better comes around (i.e. FF4 or firebug for Chrome).
posted by bjork24 at 7:53 PM on May 22, 2010

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