I switch browsers a lot. In the past few years, I’ve bugged friends about the joys of switching to Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. I briefly sang the praises of Edge, though I may have been drunk. I think I even tried Opera at some point.
Every time I switch, I say the same thing. “It’s so much faster!”
The speed usually lasts about a week. This change happens so slowly that I don’t even notice, until a few months later, I reach a new breaking point. A crashed tab. A hung page. Then I’ll try another browser.
“It’s so much faster!” I’ll tell myself, and repeat the cycle again.
I need to stop doing this. The truth is, every browser sucks eventually. And it’s not necessarily the browser’s fault. It’s mine. It’s yours. Our browsers suck, and it’s our fault. Here’s my story. It will probably be familiar.
I install way too many extensions
One of the first things I do after switching to a new browser is install a whole bunch of extensions. There’s Pocket and OneNote, of course, and I’ve got to have a password manager of some kind. Then there’s the one that blocks Flash, the one that converts Markdown, and the one that lets me customize the way Gmail looks. Oh, and you’ve got to have some kind of custom new tab page, right?
I know how to clear this stuff out. I should clear this stuff out. But I can’t be bothered.
But every extension I install uses up just a little bit of processing power, and just a little bit of memory, and and makes my browser just a little bit worse. Which is part of why, when I try a new browser a month later, I’m so impressed by the speed. There are no extensions bogging it down yet.
So my browser inevitably ends up slowing down. I shouldn’t install anything unless I absolutely need it. And I should be better about uninstalling things I don’t use. But I don’t do that.
I never bother to clean things out
Having an extensive web history can occasionally prove useful. If I’m trying to remember where I saw that hilarious cat picture a month ago, it’s nice to have my history to search through. Those instances are relatively rare, however, and the more I browse the web, the more I add to the massive database that is my browser history.
The address bar, which in most browsers offers suggestions based on history, is a good example of how a massive web history can slow you down. Given enough history to sort through, typing an address can slow down to a crawl. The same goes for the cache, bookmarks, and everything else I let balloon out of control. They’re potentially useful, but over time can slow things down.
I know how to clear this stuff out. I should clear this stuff out. But I can’t be bothered, which is part of the reason why new browsers seem so fast every time I try them out.
I import and sync my problems everywhere
It’s one thing to never clear out your cache, history, or saved form data. It’s quite another to intentionally import problems when you start using a new browser. But I keep doing that.
Most browsers offer this as a feature, and I can understand why. Users don’t like leaving bookmarks or their web histories behind. But as soon as I import my massive database of web browsing history, I’m importing the problem from my old browser to my new. It doesn’t slow things down right away, but it’s one brick in a wall I build for myself over time.
I don’t consider the relative strengths and weaknesses
Safari and Edge are both lightweight browsers that can’t match Chrome and Firefox for features. But more features comes at a price. Chrome and Firefox use more resources than Safari and Edge, and as such also eat up more battery life.
It’s worth keeping these pros and cons in mind while choosing a browser, because they are real. If I was smart, I’d switch browsers depending on context, using Chrome while plugged in and Safari while on the road. But I don’t, because it’s just easier to use one browser for everything.
That means my view of the browser I’m using always changes with my routine. If I’m traveling, then I might curse at my extension-laden Chrome install for sucking down battery, and switch to Edge. Once I’m back home, though, I curse Edge’s limited extension library, and switch back to Chrome. The grass is always greener.
Never trust that new browser smell
Now, I’m not saying that your current browser doesn’t suck. Maybe it does. And I’m not saying that there’s no point in switching browsers. Maybe there is. And trying out a new browser can be fun — if you’re as nerdy as me.
But don’t trust that new browser smell. It’s deceptive. You might think you’ve found a faster browser, but there’s a good chance you haven’t had time to ruin it yet. Consider cleaning out your current browser before jumping ship to another one.
And please, dear commenters. Stop me from switching back to Chrome. I’m considering it. But I shouldn’t. Send help.
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