1 Oct 2013

Is it time to betray?

I need to apologise before you start reading this post. It is neither about Linux, nor about Linux-run application. It is about software I use on my work laptop, which unfortunately has to be Windows-based. Although, the article relates to FOSS-world too.

And… It is very fuddy-duddy.

If you are a Chrome user on Windows or Mac, you may have seen that Google's last update to version 29 brought some very easy-to-notice changes to the New Tab Page.

This is the screen, or page, most users see when they click an "Open New Tab" button on the browser panel.
New design
Let me list at least some of the changes:
  1. Google's doodle and search bar now takes half of the page
  2. Previews of the most visited pages are smaller, because of p.1 above
  3. The Recently Closed Tabs link in the bottom-right corner has gone to the menu
  4. The same place is where you can now find the "Other devices" list
  5. The Apps button has been moved to the Bookmarks panel
  6. Google Plus and Share are now mandatory parts of the New Tab page.
Obviously, the change upset a lot of people. I am not an exception. We are all used to seeing the "old" New Tab Page since a long time ago.

Of course, there are ways to fix most of the changes.

In particular, the Apps button can be removed by right-clicking on the bookmarks bar and selecting the item "Show app shortcut".

The other points from the list, like the Share button and Google doodle and search bar, can be removed by navigating to URL chrome://flags/ and setting the parameter Enable Instant Extended API to Disable status. I found this advice on The Next Web site.

However, these "fixes" or "workarounds" do not make me any happier.

Do you know why I moved to Chrome since it was released in 2008? Because of the speed of loading and browsing. Before that, I was a long-term IE fan. But IE had become sluggish and slow by 2008. Chrome was just a breakthrough, a gasp of fresh air. It was a clear winner. I liked the speed, I liked the interface. I even wrote an article on how to convert Firefox to look Chrome-ish for those who prefer the Firefox core.

Now it is the autumn of 2013. It seems like the browser wars made all the major competitors, Chrome, Firefox and IE, invent and improve. It means that the speed of Chrome's "cold start" and page rendering is no longer a case-breaker. I can definitely say that sometimes Chrome start takes about the same as IE or Firefox. Of course, there are some sophisticated measurements and benchmarks. You can find lots of them in the Internet, and I am not much interested in them. I am just a regular user with my specific needs and my specific experiences.

Another "benefit" of using Chrome for me was an option to create "Application shortcuts" that convert a page with a specific URL to a single-tab window without any navigation elements, and places this shortcut on the desktop. I use these shortcuts for my "cloud" e-mail services, Gmail- and YahooMail-based. The Gmail shortcut, together with the GMail Labs feature "Unread message icon" gave me an option to track the number of unread messages in the inbox by a simple glance at the Windows panel, without a need to switch from my current application. It did really work well in Windows XP. Unfortunately, it does not work well since I changed my work laptop's OS to Windows 7. The number of unread messages in the panel sets at the start of the session and does not change dynamically. It diminishes the use of Application Shortcut for me.

Other Chrome features, which were unique, are now widespread: omnibox for quick search, most used pages, multi-device synchronization. Firefox does them all, IE does some of them.

The only feature which I still need to see in Firefox or IE is the option to auto-detect "search engine" on the site and include it in the list of search engines for the browser. It gives you an option to use the Tab key to go directly to the site's search function when you type the site's address in the omnibox.

What does it all mean for me? I think this is a time to move forward. It will be a move from Chrome. Call it "ditch", call it "betray", call it "dump", or call it "whatnot". Where to move to? I am not sure yet. Maybe from Chrome to Chromium. Maybe from Chrome to Firefox. I need to decide it for myself. But that's a move from Google Chrome.


  1. I feel your pain. Sometimes companies change their products for the sake of it even though the products they are changing are fine as they are.

    I have switched back to Firefox

  2. I switched back to Firefox in 2012.Speed-wise, I was pleasantly surprised by Firefox's improvements as it had become quite sluggish when I left in for Chrome in circa.2010.

    My reason to have left Chrome was that the privacy options at the time (I have not come back to chrome recently to check this out) were not fully developed, and there was no way to automatically delete history when I shut down the browser, as on Firefox. Having to manually press control + H and then delete, was becoming tedious. There was also the half baked solution of Click&Clean extension, but that somehow didn't work for me....

    Another big thing that bugged me was that somehow, when I logged off, Chrome would frequently omit to delete my login details, and I would open my browser and be logged on automatically....I really hope they have worked on that.

    1. I've decided for Chromium for now. Firefox would be too radical for me. Let's see...

    2. Firefox has a Chrome-like new interface called Australis in it's Nightly branch for now. you can download it for your personal testing in Windows (check for the .exe file) or Linux (in Linux you'll have to build it) and you can download it here: http://ftp.mozilla.org/pub/mozilla.org/firefox/nightly/latest-ux/ I will be testing this one in Windows 7 since building it in my Linux installs now it's more work than it's worth. I'm a big fan of Chrome since 2008 and i don't think i will change that but i agree with your decision to move to Chromium that was updated to version 32 in Windows this week and it's Open Source.

  3. Hi Darkduck,

    I assume you must have heard about x-notifier email extension. It is an excellent extension to get notifications from several email services.

    Also, my browser of preference is still firefox. I like google chrome/chromium for its speed, but that alone is not enough for me. I do not prefer chrome/chromium due to the following facts.

    1. There is no "official" portable version of chrome.
    2. Extensions created by developers are not supported - this may have changed now, but I am not sure.
    3. Chrome/chromium seems to save the cache/temporary internet files under the user's profile if we use the unofficial portable version. My profile directory is a network folder (from the company I work) and every one is assigned with some limited space. Unless I clear the cache manually, it fills up my network folder fast and my system becomes unstable. There is a way to specify the cache location during startup, I had problems with that too. I just don't remember it now.


    1. Balaji,
      I cannot comment on pp.1&3.
      However, who does create extensions if not developers? I use some extensions, I doubt they come from Google.

  4. Chromium is too close to Chrome, especially if you have the browser set to log into Google to share bookmarks, tabs and passwords. Google is still getting a lot of information out of you.

    And if you don't allow the browser to log you in to Google, they're pretty much the same.

    I'm using a whole lot less Chrome and a whole lot more Firefox because I really don't need to be providing more data for Google.

    1. I understand that, but I am not maniacally suspicious. I use GMail and lots of other Google Apps. This blog, for example, runs on Google's Blogger.