Ken Nguyen

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Choosing A Browser in 2019

03 Oct 2019 | technology

When I was in high school, Internet Explorer (IE) was the default for Windows so my family only used it. Since they were older and less tech savvy, they clicked yes to every single request asking to add a new toolbar. I was sharing the computer with my family so whenever I open up IE, it looked like a bunch of people just vomited all over the screen.

IE toolbars

I removed all those toolbars every chance I had. Then my family added them back again. It became a constant tug of war until one day I realized I couldn’t win and looked for an alternative browser to use. There were a few other good browsers at the time: Firefox, Safari, and Opera. Chrome just came out for a few months at the time so I didn’t want to use something so new. I tried out Firefox first and it was love at first use. It was fast, easy to use, and it became my default browser for years to come.

Firefox Add-Ons Fiasco

Firefox logo

Back in May this year, Firefox had a big issue regarding an expired certificate that disabled all add-ons. You can read more about it here, Firefox expired cert. The issue wasn’t a big deal if you didn’t rely too much on any add-on. But all of us have at least an ad blocker. I used uBlock Origin all the time and I felt the effect immediately. Websites started to display a ton of ads and YouTube videos were showing me commercials after commercials before the video even started.

I also use a password manager add-on to handle all my authentication. It was extremely frustrating since every website required me to sign in. If you’ve ever used a password manager, you know what I mean. I became so reliant on the service that I have absolutely no idea what password I used for some sites since I generated a random password for them. Of course I can get around it by resetting the password but I don’t want to do that for dozens of websites. All Firefox users across the board were also facing the same issue and you can read through their reactions here, add-ons disabled thread.

Without a solution in sight, I was forced to download Chrome while Firefox fixed their mess.

The Privacy Issue

Chrome logo

I knew that I wouldn’t be using Chrome long term due to privacy. While Chrome is definitely one of the best browser out there, it’s still a product designed by Google to collect data from users. I’m guilty of being a long time Google customer. Everything they make is extremely convenient, such as Gmail, Google Calendar, and the Google search itself. I made efforts in recent years to remove myself from the Google ecosystem but it’s still a work in progress.

The same point can also be made for Edge. It’s also a product bundled together with Windows 10. While it’s a decent browser, I don’t see why I need to use it when Chrome is a better alternative. If both are collecting data from me anyway, I’d rather use the better browser.

A Brave New Browser?

Brave logo

Let’s talk about a browser that I started to use recently, Brave. It’s a browser built on top of Chromium that offered built-in ad blocker. When I first used it, I was pleasantly surprised at how fast it was. While the built-in ad blocker it not as good as uBlock Origin, it was decent enough that I don’t mind using it. Since it’s based on Chromium, any extension I use on Chrome or Firefox can easily be transferred over.

Another feature that was interesting was the integration of cryptocurrency directly into the browser. Brave gives users Basic Attention Token (BAT) for viewing ads while they are browsing. This is not required and users can easily choose not to participate. Ads are served based on local data so Brave does not track its users. The ads can be repetitive but I have the option not to view them if I don’t want to.

The browser keeps track of the websites I visited most and distribute the BAT I have accumulated based on my browsing habit. For example, if I visit a website a lot, the creator of that site will receive a percentage of my BAT corresponding to my time spent on there. I opted in to see what this is like and personally I think it’s a nifty feature.

Interesting but Unfinished

Now on to the bad. Since it does not track users, it uses something called Sync chain to keep all your bookmarks in one place. You create a chain with any device and you’re given a 24-words passphrase to link different devices together. At this time, Sync will only store bookmarks data and nothing else. So if I use Brave on another device, I will need to download all the extensions over again. Depend on how many extensions you have, this can be a minor annoyance or very frustrating.

Another issue is that since Brave is new, it’s prone to crashes quite regularly. One time I was viewing YouTube video, it crashed on me halfway through the video. I opened it up and when I tried to watch the same video, it crashed again. I repeated the process several more times before I gave up and do something else. Keep in mind that this browser is still under development so bugs are expected.

Going Back to Good Old Firefox

It has been several months since the Firefox add-ons issue. They’ve fixed it now so I installed and used it again. Brave has a lot of potential but in its current state, it’s not something I want to put up with. Firefox had a big fall out but it recovered quickly and everything seems to be stable so far. With privacy being a big consideration for me, there’s no better alternative for everyday browsing to Firefox.

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