Like many users out there, I’ve been a long time Firefox fan. It is fast, secured, and most important of all, very customizable. However, very recently I have noticed that my Firefox browser crashes a lot. And I mean a lot! After digging around, it didn’t take me long to find out that the crashes were due to a certain related process called plugin-container.exe. As it turns out, this feature of Firefox is suppose to help isolate Adobe Flash, Quicktime and/or Microsoft Siliverlight plugins to provide for a “uninterrupted” browsing experience. However, many users found out that this simply wasn’t the case. I took this opportunity to switch over to Google Chrome as my main browser of choice and so far, the experience has been fantastic.If you are also experiencing Firefox crashes out of nowhere, plugin-container.exe is a high candidate to blame for it. While it is suppose to give users a more uninterruptible browsing session, it’s simply not the case. Browsing to a site would sometimes completely crash my Firefox session and I would have to restore it. I could load all of my tabs back but if the crash took place while I was downloading a file, I would have to restart all over! This quickly became a nightmare.
A simple solution I have read is to simply disable the plugin-container.exe process. Right now, if you browse to any flash enabled site such as Youtube.com and then look in your Task Manager’s Processes tab, you would find the resulting “plugin-container.exe” process. To deactivate this feature of Firefox, type in “about:config” without the quotes in the URL of Firefox and accept the warning. In the Filter field, type in “dom.ipc”. Simply disable all the items by double-clicking on them one by one until the value under the Value column is set to false like so. I can’t guarantee that this will completely eliminate the crashes but everything looks good from my time testing it. My testing pretty much consisted of just browsing the web like how I usually do while waiting to see if the crashes would reoccur. So far, it hasn’t. Your experience may vary.
I couldn’t have picked a better time to make the switch. Just the other day, Google updated the Chrome browser and launched the Chrome Web Store, which I’ll talk about later. Google also has been making headlines (when haven’t they?) with plans to launch their Chrome OS for netbooks. Although the OS has been moved back till 2011, many tech journalists have at least gotten a sneak peak at it. Anyways, the point is that I couldn’t have picked a better time to see what the Chrome browser has to offer than now.
Fans of the Chrome browser will indeed claim that it is the fastest browser right now out of all the competition. After some time with it, I have to agree. Mind you, Firefox is also a speed demon in its own right. Internet Explorer has also made great strides in this department as well. However with Chrome, everything just feels more fluid and natural. Its pretty hard to describe the experience until you have tried it out for yourself. Videos load very quickly and playback is very smooth. In Firefox, some of my videos would stutter for a bit whenever I launch new websites. That’s why I had to use the IE Tab add-on in Firefox to launch my streaming videos in an Internet Explorer tab/process to prevent the hiccups. So far with Chrome, this really isn’t an issue but time will tell. Also, after using Firefox for a while, it begins to lag. Chrome also does not exhibit this problem as far as I can tell.
As for stability issues, Chrome did manage to crash for no apparent reason whatsoever only once. I was in my Downloads tab trying to clear my download history when the browser went belly up for no reason. This also scares me because Chrome behaves different than other browsers. If you look in your Tasks Manager, you should see a lot of Chrome.exe processes. This is due to Chrome wanting to isolate each and every tab and plugin to their own container. Sort of like sand-boxing. The idea is that if one plugin or process acts up, the rest of the other processes wouldn’t be affected. This can be compared with the idea of Firefox’s plugin-container.exe process mentioned earlier. However, if that is the case, why did my entire browser still crashed and had to be restarted if my Downloads tab was in a “separated” process? Shouldn’t the rest of my browsing session ignore the crash and function as normal?
The latest version of Chrome have even more support for hardware acceleration than in the past. It’s one of those things that got me very excited when testing the Internet Explorer 9 beta. As the Internet moves forward, hardware acceleration should play a big part in that progression. Hardware acceleration can provide for a much more interactive experience as developers can create websites with much more freedom and creativity without having to worry about hardware. A good place to test the hardware acceleration feature within Chrome 8 is oddly, from Microsoft’s Test Drive site. There are a good number of tests you can initiate to test out Chrome 8′s performance. I’m not sure if the tests are geared specifically towards IE9 or not but many, if not all, of the tests loaded under Chrome 8 with no problems. Obviously, I don’t know what’s going under the hood so I wouldn’t know if the site’s coding has a performance impact due to me not using Internet Explorer.
Most modern browsers are alike in a lot of ways. Having a private browsing mode, being able to easily clear your cookies and history data, hundreds of extension plugins, etc etc.
One of the main disappointments when using Chrome is how it saves my browsing history. As of right now, I have no idea how to disable this feature. In Firefox, this isn’t an issue at all. The only work-around that I know of is to having to manually clear out the saved data by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Del while in Chrome and then deleting the data I don’t want saved. However, this doesn’t address the issue that I don’t want my history saved in the first place! This is a particularly irritating feature due to how the URL address bar works. By default, the URL address bar returns results of what you typed in it by going through your bookmarks, prediction results, and browsing history. This makes it a pain for me to use the URL address bar to search because I only and only want results for my bookmarks, NOTHING ELSE. Firefox allowed me to do this with no problems whatsoever. In Chrome, I instead get a whole list of items that I don’t want to see in the results pane. As far as bookmark searching goes, I still have yet to find a browser that can efficiently search my bookmarks besides Firefox. Similar to a issue in the IE9 beta, text I type in the address bar returns mixed results for my bookmarks. Also, why do I only see such a short number of items in the results list? With Firefox, I could simply scroll through all the search results to find the bookmark I want to use. There has to be a tweak to this….there just has to.
Chrome’s Incognito mode is similar to Firefox’s Private Browsing Mode in that it helps to protect your privacy by not saving the session’s browsing history and cookie files. The best part about using this mode is that you can allow which extensions you have installed to also work inside Incognito mode. A lot of users recommend using Incognito mode if you don’t want your browsing history saved. True, but inside Incognito mode, cookies won’t also be saved and that’s a hassle to work with.
If you always want Google Chrome to start in Incognito mode, there is a simply trick to enable just that. Simply find the Google Chrome’s executable icon within your Start menu, right click on it and select Properties from the menu. In the Target field, navigate to the end of the text and right after chrome.exe, type in “-incognito” with out the quotes like this:
As a modern browser, you would expect Chrome to at least allow you to easily set images as your desktop background. However, right-clicking on an image gives you no option to do just that. Luckily though, there is an extension that will give you back this option when right-clicking on an image. It’s just sad this has to happen.
Another quirk I have similar with the IE9 Beta has to do with the download status information bar. Currently, there is no way for me to see what my current download speed is. I do however get to see the time left until the download completes. Not even hovering my mouse over the download will allow me to see that information. The only way to actually see my download speed for any particular download is to navigate to the Downloads area by either clicking Ctl+J (which for some reason doesn’t work for me) or by clicking on the wrench icon and selecting Downloads.
Chrome Web Store
There are many more things to download in the web store such as themes to dress up your Chrome browser as well as games. The web store is the main focus for Google’s Chrome OS because users are not allowed to install their own programs. Due to the immense popularity of apps (you can thank the iPhone for that), it is only a matter of time before other browsers create their own app store as well.
I have to admit that when I first tried out Chrome, which was a long while back, I was fairly disappointed with the extensions category. Looking at it now, the extension store certainly has blossomed. There are a lot of useful extensions. Of course, a browser isn’t complete without a pop-up blocker. Luckily for Chrome users, there’s Adblock. While not as good as AdBlock Plus for Firefox, it still does a pretty darn good job. One major element missing is the ability to block video advertisements other than on Youtube. I’m hoping the extension will continue to evolve as time goes by. Oh and did I mention there’s no need to restart the browser for every extension or theme install?! Sweet!
If you want to see what is currently running within Chrome, simply press Shift+Esc on your keyboard. Google Chrome’s Task Manager should appear detailing everything running within your Chrome’s browsing session. Basically, every item you see here should have its own chrome.exe process within Windows Task Manager as well.
In the End…
I’m still in the learning process when it comes to Google Chrome. Therefore, I’ll probably find a fix or two for some of the complaints I have for the browser. But all in all, I have to say that it’s been a fantastic experience so far. The two biggest issues I have at the moment is the inconsistent bookmark search results along with the saving of history data. The latter is big enough of a deal that users are actually staying away from the browser until a *fix* appears. I can’t really blame them because users now realize that data is what is most important. If the user doesn’t feel safe enough to be able to control what goes on with that data, then you’ll most likely lose a customer at worst. It’s not that big of a deal for me as I really don’t have anything to hide but it just irritates me to no end that I cannot eliminate those data from appearing in my URL search results. It feels as if Chrome got some things right but for every right, there is also a wrong. I have no idea why Google would cut out some of the most basic features in a browser. Please don’t be like Microsoft and change things for no apparent reason at all. You’re just confusing and angering a lot of your users. And trust me, in this day and age, you don’t want to do that.
With that being said though, Chrome is still a enjoyable browser to use. The recently added app store should be huge in the coming years and no doubt it will set the trend for other browsers as well so look out for that. Hardware acceleration should also be another big game changer in the coming years as far as the browser world goes. Couple that with HTML5, we should be seeing a whole new breed of websites that are much more content and media friendly. Developers have free reign to pretty much do whatever they want to so that should be exciting to watch in the years to come. No doubt, other browsers will also follow suit and have all of these features as well and so it’ll most likely come back down to which browsers can pump out the most useful features to stand apart from the rest and of course, user preferences.
Love or hate Google Chrome? I would like to hear your experiences with it, good or bad.