... making kittens cry since 2001

There Is No Good Browser 2018-07-01

I have been trying by best to manage my ongoing digital suffering with Firefox. I've tried other browsers but haven't seen anything worth using. About ten years ago Mozilla had what I thought was a decent browser. Then they had already been hard at work making a giant failure. It even included a great feature called the Awesome Bar which was so hated it never even made it to the release notes. People were willing to set good sense aside however, and they used it for a few years... then this happened. Yes, they made it fatter and cooler. Boy, I love cooler stuff.

The next major release was three months later and the subsequent major release was less than two months after that. Mozilla was adopting a Rapid Release Schedule for uhhmmm, why was it again? Whatever the reason for the Rapid Release Schedule, it was clear that some folks thought it was a bad idea. The part that hassled me the most was that it became increasingly painful to manually manage my addons because versioning was now way out of control. For a while I was able to get by with v28 from March 2014, and then v36.0.4 from March 2015. Eventually, just to make some web sites work, I had to make the jump to the ESR version of Firefox which until recently was just v52. I've been running it for a while but have been running in to irritating problems such as full browser lockups and memory leaks. I don't know how many times the FF developers have claimed to fix memory leaks and cross-tab interference, but it just isn't a thing.

The last couple of days I have been trying out Chromium. It should be clear that Chromium is some open source software made by Google, and Chrome is Google's not-open-source and custom-designed browser based on Chromium. Chrome as I understand it, has a collection of tracking and phone-home garbage built in to it and as such, is not suitable for me. Chromium supposedly does not have as much tracking and phone-home garbage, making it more reasonable for a goof like me. Frankly, the tracking and phone-home crap of Chromium doesn't seem any worse than the shit Firefox has had added to it over the years. Firefox has other issues too, like the fact that it is now Quantum, which as Mozilla will clearly tell you is not a new browser but is instead a uhhmm, well... it's this:

Quantum is not a new web browser. Quantum is Mozilla's project to build the next-generation web engine for Firefox users, building on the Gecko engine as a solid foundation. Quantum will leverage the fearless concurrency of Rust and high-performance components of Servo to bring more parallelization and GPU offloading to Firefox.

Whatever they want that to mean. Fearless concurrency? What the actual fuck? Was that written by a North Korean government official? It is almost as stupid as the catchy phrase they use to market it... Fast for good. Anyways, the adventure with Chromium wasn't all rainbows and unicorns either. It has plenty of things I would call basic common sense that are missing or damaged. Here's the list I made as I went along:

  • can not remove user sign-in button
  • can not disable cast feature
  • can not use rectangular tabs
  • simple extensions require "read and change all your data on the websites you visit" permission
  • not possible to show full url on non-https sites
  • not possible to disable temporary hiding of full URL on link hover
  • not possible to use unskinned scrollbar
  • search for text when I type only provided by extension and severely limited
  • only way to disable "new tab history thumbs" is with extension
  • not possible to use DNSSEC/TLSA Validator and proxy at the same time
  • searching for help produces many [incorrect] chrome-specific results
  • not possible to disable suggestions
  • not possible to disable autocomplete and autofill
  • no keyword aliases
  • keyword aliases can be setup as individual search engines
  • no way to set custom search engine as default
  • no user-agent switcher
  • not possible to disable sites from adding themselves as search engines

Sure, some of those are not the end of the world, but some of those are deal breakers. What purpose could there possibly be for intentionally going out of their way to hide part of the URL when visiting non-https sites? Is it really that hard to have a flag that can be turned on and off for allowing web sites to add themselves to my list of search engines? If the Internet was full of fine upstanding digital citizens then maybe, but it's a playground of douchebags and I don't want a huge list of all the sites I have visited hanging around in my search engine setup. The permission "read and change all your data on the websites you visit" is so vague and overreaching it may as well be called "do stuff to your data". The warning is meaningless when installing extensions and only serves to encourage people not to read or give a shit about application permissions.

Some day some chump will read part of this post and think I am completely nuts, and that insert browser name here is a great browser and that I must be insane for not using it. The bad news, is that browsers are used for more "stuff" every day as online services replace locally installed applications, and the list of browsers we have to choose from is ridiculously disappointing. Further, the statement that anyone is welcome to edit the source code of Chromium (or other open source browsers) and make something worth using is utter bullshit. The list of people that actually applies to is quite small, the effort required is intentionally excessive, and frankly the worst part is that I don't think anyone gives enough of a fuck to actually use a properly designed browser. We're fucked, enjoy the pineapple enema.

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