Joshua Klinger

Going Back to Firefox

I use a lot of Google products both at work and in my personal life. They are just awfully convenient, and most of them work very well.

However, at my heart, I am a tinkerer. And actually, Google has been a bit of an antidote for my tinkering habit. Being able to open up a Chrome browser and have it “just work” has probably led to fewer distractions and a significant time saver over the years.

But somewhere in the back of my mind, I have been collecting a list of things I hate about Chrome. And today that list got one entry too long, and I made my way back to my first love: Firefox.

Let’s go over this list of issues.

The Bookmarks Bar

You can disable the bookmarks bar if you want, but it won’t go away on the new tab page. The sidebar, which was a short-lived experiment, would have been a great alternative to this, but they got rid of it. And they never let you disable the bookmark bar on the new tab page.

Auto-Fill

I have had every auto-fill setting turned off, except for addresses, for the entirety of my history with Chrome. However, even though I have password storage turned off, Chrome always shows a random assortment of logins and other things it remembers in certain forms.

I have a password manager and I will never use Chrome’s, but it doesn’t care that it conflicts with my password manager, it just wants to remember and auto-fill shit even though I’ve explicitly asked it not to.

Continue where you left off

This feature has been so buggy. 99% of the time it tells me that I closed my browser before it could save and I should restore my tabs. But I didn’t close it before it could be saved. My computer isn’t constantly crashing. It just does a very bad job of storing my tabs before it closes, and gaslights me into thinking that is my fault.

Omnibar Shadiness

You could say this one is the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. Chrome has historically done a bad job of knowing when something I am searching for is already one of my bookmarks. Which, similar to my issues with Gmail and YouTube search, is really an insane thing for a company whose primary product is a search engine.

But recently I have become suspicious that these are not actual failings, but intentional design choices.

This suspicion deepened for me recently when sites that I visit all the time, sites that are very obviously both in my bookmarks and my search history, began defaulting to Google Search instead of visiting the domain itself. I’m talking about fully spelled-out websites like “linkedin.com” which directed me to Google Search instead of just going to the website.

For instance, I have a bookmark for Secret Llama. It’s an in-browser LLM. Not only is the domain “secretllama.com” but the bookmark is titled “Secret Llama.” If I put the word “secret” into the Omnibar, that bookmark does not even show up.

I am simply unable to stomach a product that wants to give me whatever it wants to give me more than it wants to give me what I want it to give me. So after this experience, I made the quick and rash decision to just uninstall it.

Conspiracy

To put this in a broader conspiracy of “what Google is up to” I would like to outline a common business tactic. Because I love making things about something bigger rather than just leaving them be. I call this a “squeeze.”

A squeeze, or maybe another way to think about it is the VC-ification of the economy, which is the classic drug dealer free sample strategy. You get them hooked on something nice, cheap, and easy. And you slowly up the price and degrade the quality as their demand for your product slowly ruins their life.

As of writing this, it feels like the American Economy is going to squeeze itself into a recession, but that’s another story.

What I think Google is doing here is slowly inserting its profit motive between the user and the answer to the user’s query. By doing things like swapping search queries in both organic and paid search, Google is giving you what makes it money, rather than what you want.

By ignoring my bookmarks and showing me irrelevant results first, Google is revealing to me that they intend to continue this trend in my browser. The Omnibar is like the core interface of the browser. As soon as you start to fuck with that, I’m out.

So good luck to the Chrome team, and hello Firefox. I’m sorry I ever left. The next step is for me to begin donating to Mozilla and the Linux foundation so that computers can remain tools for doing the work that users need them to do, rather than a place for intermediary for-profit companies to siphon data and insert themselves to fill their pockets.