Surfs up

firefoxRecently a lot colleagues and friends have been telling me about how awesome browser x is or why I should use browser y and at the back end of last month Windows users booted their machines to be greeted by an update informing them that there were other browsers besides IE and were prompted to decide which one they wanted to use. I wonder if any of them realised just how big of a decision they were faced with? I took the time to investigate all of the browsers that people recommended, but found myself going back to the browser that I had been using all along, Firefox.

Right off the bat I’m going to say that I think IE sucks; nobody should brag about scoring 55% on the Acid 3 test. For sure 55% is an improvement on 20%, but it’s a long way behind the competition, most of whom are chalking up 100%. I want to use a browser that is standards compliant and I want you to use one even more; as a web developer I don’t appreciate having to blight my HTML with hacks just to get my pages to render/function correctly in IE. Acid test scores were not what drove me back to Firefox though, after all, the current version of Firefox scores only 94% in comparison to Opera, Safari and Chrome, all of which are in the top marks club I mentioned earlier.

Firefox isn’t the fastest browser either, it is fast, but Safari is no slouch and Chrome is Usain Bolt fast. Where Firefox wins is in the content blocking department and it’s all thanks to the open source community and the add ons that they produce and maintain. Content blocking seems to be a rather controversial subject and mainly because by content blocking people generally mean ad blocking. This slashdot article discusses an experiment performed by Ars Technia where content was hidden from users of popular ad blocking tools. I understand why people like Ken Fisher, the founder of Ars Technia, object to ad blocking, I just think they are missing the point entirely: I value my browsing experience more highly that I value your business model. I actively block certain content in webpages using NoScript and AdBlockPlus, adverts are included in this. With NoScript and AdBlock Plus I can decide what I want to see and what I want to allow, Opera, Safari and Chrome all provide an ‘all or nothing’ option, but none of them offer the granularity of control that I want need. I do not want random code from random 3rd party sites being executed on my machine, I do not wish to be tracked across the web, I do not want hideous [Flash based] adverts hoovering up all of the resources on my laptop and I certainly don’t want, and this is a particular bug bear of mine, stupid ad word type adverts which pop up an annoying box whenever the mouse happens to move across particular words on the page.  If you decide that your site cannot exist without these things and place your content behind a paywall then I accept that, but don’t expect to me sign up.

If Apple ever decide to implement proper support for add ons in Safari then I’m there, but all the time things have been hacked together as Input Managers that require me to run Safari in 32 bit mode I’m not. Likewise, if Google ever decide to allow proper content blocking then I might consider switching to Chrome, but I think this is unlikely as they have failed to add the necessary hooks even with direct coaching from Giorgio Maone. All of the currently available Chrome content blockers use an easily circumventable CSS hiding approach that can be coded around in about 3 minutes which isn’t that surprising when you consider that Google make a sizeable amount from adverts themselves! So like I said, around the world in a multitude of browsers only to discover that the grass was greener on my side.

7 thoughts on “Surfs up

  1. I use AdThwart in Chromium and I can honestly say adverts are not a problem – it allows you to add new filters, and whitelist sites. I never thought I’d jump ship from Firefox – I love the extensibility of it, but since swapping to Chromium, whenever I’ve gone back to Firefox it feels like I’m browsing through treacle…

  2. @Gruntfuggly: As Giorgio Maone explains in the article I linked to, the Chrome ad blockers can be easily coded around, besides which, how are you controlling flash, javascript and everything else?

  3. Well it might be easily coded around, but I honestly don’t see any adverts. If it works in practice, surely that’s good enough?

    If you haven’t tried Chromium (not Chrome – I’d rather be free of Google if I can) I’d recommend giving it a go…

  4. @Gruntfuggly: CSS hiding might prevent adverts from being displayed, but it does not prevent them from being downloaded and it does nothing to guard against scripting attacks. I believe that Chromium and Chrome (I did try both) are both lacking in a NoScript type plugin.

  5. Why is it important not to download them? By downloading and then hiding, you keep everybody happy…

    The latest Chromium build has content settings enable so you can black list or white list javascripts from sites.

    You can also block plugins from sites – works with your link to Giorgio Maone’s page…

  6. @Gruntfuggly: I don’t want to download adverts that I don’t want to see, I pay for the bandwidth, so I choose what I download. I will definitely take another look at Chromium though, especially if it enables selective scripting white listing. Thanks for the heads up.

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