I’ve been a long time user of Firefox browser and I absolutely loved its flexibility, modularity and just that openness to cool features. A lot of time has passed since apparently, because Mozilla’s philosophy seems to have lost its ways entirely. With every month and every release, it’s becoming more like a clone of Chrome. And not in a good way. First they copied its basic skin/theme, then they copied the start page and then they copied their retarded last tab closing (which I’ve ranted about in my last blog post), now they are going with the clumsy and restricted add-ons (extensions). And recently, what really placed that cherry on top, the GPU blacklisting which rendered my old laptop entirely useless. It took me ages to even figure it out, because at first, I thought Windows was causing this and then that older Radeon drivers are causing this and then I realized at one point Mozilla just blatantly decided to blacklist my AMD E-450 APU’s GPU so everything runs in software. And runs like shit because it’s not hardware accelerated.
Transition to (through) Chrome
Then, I’ve switched to Chrome for a while. It’s basically Firefox anyway since that one copied half of it. I could also easily ignore the GPU blacklist via chrome://flags panel (they seem to just blindly share this stupid GPU blacklist), allowing my AMD E-450 to accelerate Youtube and webpage rendering again. And it’s working perfectly for 2 months now. No lockups, no crashes, no problems what so ever, I have no clue why the fuck they are blacklisting this GPU and probably many more). But what bothers me with Chrome is that you need like 15 extensions for various stupid little things just to make it half usable and when you have so many extensions, it’s really a bloated hog and a lot of functions still don’t work well because they can’t be done better with clumsy restricted extensions system they have. And their Android version of Chrome si rather clumsy as well.
And that’s when I (again) resorted back to Opera. My favorite browser back from the days when it was still running the Presto engine and it’s absolutely crazy configurable interface. Opera has since also switched to Chrome’s engine, but with one big difference. It has a lot of goodies already integrated. I don’t need extra extensions for adblocking, mouse gestures, last tab behavior is the way it should be in all browsers, it has a basic RSS reader. I basically need 2-3 extensions and I’m ready. Opera still has few traditional Scandinavian idiocies, but seeing the direction it’s slowly heading, I think they’ll improve that. Where Chrome and Firefox are just an entirely lost cause. They both live in its echo chamber of what they think it’s brilliant and they basically do zero useful innovations.
Opera on the other hand is currently a champion in innovation and it kinda surprises me it is not gaining higher user share. It has integrated Adblocker which is super fast since it works on browser engine level, it has integrated mouse gestures which I can’t live without anymore, has a decent RSS reader, extra Battery saving feature which comes in handy on portable devices where battery autonomy matters, it has a video pop-out feature which works on all major webpages like Youtube, Twitter and Netflix, so you can have a tiny video frame on top of browser, allowing you to browse other webpages while watching that video in the corner. Is the only browser which comes with portable install option in the original installer and even updates itself when in portable mode. Something Chrome just has no clue how to do it (Firefox does though). Bookmarks manager is also good and having it accessible from a sidebar is also nice. Maybe not as flexible as Firefox’s fixed bookmarks “browser” as a sidebar, but close enough. Everything just works so nicely and requires minimal number of extensions, I’m now sticking with Opera and I’m loving it. And the Android browser is also brilliant. With adblocking and compression, it’s saving my tiny data plan and it’s just so fast and functional. And has an EXIT button so you can close it entirely. Unlike Chrome which tends to consume quite some battery when just in the background.
So, all in all, Opera has come a VERY long way since initial terrible versions of their “modern” Chrome based browser. Back then and till few versions back actually, I couldn’t stand it. But something changed with recent Opera 45 build when it received the black sidebar. I lose few 10 pixels of webpage width, but it’s just so usable that I actually want it there. I’ve now also started making recommendations and ideas in their Wishlist section and maybe things will change into absolute perfection. We’ll see.
Yeah, Mozilla’s constant urge to copy everything Google does cost them a user. I don’t play any significance as single user, but it explains why they have been losing users for quite a while. They stopped being innovative and unique. And I think the GPU blacklisting nonsense cost them users as well. When perfectly capable device all of a sudden stutters on all webpages and can’t even play 480p video smoothly on Youtube, people will try something else. And while Chrome and Opera use the exact same GPU blacklist, Microsoft Edge doesn’t. Everything runs hyper smooth on it out of the box even on GPU that is blacklisted by others. Which could explain why people are switching to Edge. I personally don’t like it because it’s clumsy and has no options to customize, but browsing smoothness can explain why people might like it.
When Opera switched to Chromium foundations, I never thought I’d be using it again. It was just such dramatic shift from super configurable Opera 12 to super clumsy and limited Chromium, but I guess they are heading the right direction and their work is slowly starting to pay off. There is also Vivaldi which is made by few original Opera developers, but it’s still in way too early phase for me. But Opera isn’t. So, if you happen to dislike Chrome and Firefox, give Opera a try. I was pleasantly surprised.