Browser Wars: Chrome vs Firefox

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If you have a hard time choosing the right web browser for you, here we will discuss two of the most popular ones in the market today – straight to the point, without unnecessary adjectives, adverbs, modifiers and whatnots. Everything you read after this sentence will strictly rely on facts. Note: The line preceding this notification apparently lacks enthusiasm thus it is lame and definitely pregnable. 🙂

Enjoy the read!



browser-wars-chrome-vs-firefoxChrome is a web browser based on Google’s open source Chromium project, whereas Firefox is an open source web browser developed by Mozilla.

The Google-authored portion of Chromium released under the permissive BSD license. Other portions of the source code are subject to a variety of open source licenses.

Mozilla Foundation started and now continues to support Firefox as a free and open source browser.


Chrome vs Firefox – Performance

According to Google’s benchmarks, Chrome has the highest JavaScript performance of all web browsers released to the public due to its V8 JavaScript engine. It has a great rendering engine in WebKit rendering, which Google may have considered when choosing it over the Gecko rendering engine from Mozilla for the groundwork of Chrome, alongside licensing conditions.

Even though Chrome 1 & 2 are faster than Firefox 3.0, Mozilla fixed this in Firefox 3.5 with JavaScript, which is equal to Chrome 20 on account of JavaScript engine SpiderMonkey. The latest benchmarks reveal that Chrome 20 leads Firefox 14 on three standard benchmarks.

Light web browser users, who open from one to five tabs only and reuse open tabs instead of opening/closing tabs on a regular basis or normally open/close tabs multiple times daily, usually comment that Firefox increases speed with every new release. These user reviews show a mental picture that current development stages follow each new stable release are faster as opposed to its predecessors.

However, heavy users who open/close several tabs in a session and leave browser windows open for days or weeks report the exact opposite: all major releases display a notable wearing away in performance. Firefox 3.0 will start to stutter or experience slow hover and click response within interface elements and pages after reaching 800+ tabs, and other related problems. A similar behavior happens in Firefox 3.6 when reaching 300+ tabs, and 90+ tabs on Firefox 4.0.


Chrome vs Firefox – Interface

To save space, the user interface of Chrome hides an empty title bar in fullscreen mode, but shows the omnibox (both for opening URLs and for web search), a new tab bar, a navigation bar, extension icons and a settings button.

Firefox has a title bar (orange app menu button), a navigation bar with buttons, a tab bar, a search box and an address box.

Chrome and Firefox both have status bars at the bottom that hides automatically after the page finishes loading.

Chrome, however, will not allow users to make changes on the layout. Firefox gives users the ability to customize the placement and presence of each UI element. It also includes CSS styles for users to modify altogether each element’s visual aspect.


Chrome vs Firefox – Security

Chrome offers several features uncommon to its rivals that could help increase security, which include:

  • an easier phishing attack detection via a default feature that makes gray non-host portions of the URL in the address bar
  • webpage process segregation for multiple tabs to provide the groundwork for fuller sandboxing as opposed to other web browsers
  • an impregnable privilege separation model that Google says will have advanced sandboxing features not only for webpages in multiple tabs, but also for in-page scripts and plugins
  • an “incognito” browsing mode that conceals user identity and automatically deletes browsing history

Firefox can copy how some of Chrome features behave, which include the presentation of URL to highlight the presence of phishing attacks and a private browsing mode for Firefox 3.5 and up, which is similar to Chrome’s “incognito” browsing mode and several other features.

Many advocacy groups question the security linked with Google Chrome, with some speculations revolving around the inclusion of unadvertised data gathering to aid Google in more accurate target marketing. The company’s open-and-shut answer about this is that Chromium’s open source codebase will permit a confirmable “clean” installation of the web browser from source or via more trustworthy distributors. Binary distributions (distros) from Google could be suspects.

Firefox has the upper hand since it comes with a more mature codebase. Its core functionality already received extensive and loose tests in the wild. With the help and support of its open source community, finding vulnerabilities and securing fixes is faster on Firefox than for Chromium’s open source codebase. The former’s password management is more highly-developed and likely better at securing against unauthorized entry, at least at the moment. Tailor-made handling of cookies in Firefox, broadly speaking, is more intelligent and easier to tweak or fine-tune regardless of its poor ability to search for cookie policy exceptions.

Firefox’s system for extensions has gathered a substantial amount of handy security additions not yet found on Chrome, which include blocking capabilities for unwanted media, automatic proxy management for the likes of The Onion Router (TOR), the distributed HTTPS certificate verification system Perspectives, and other handy protections.


Chrome vs Firefox – Extensions

The Chrome extension system has more inhibitory capabilities to developers compared to that of Firefox’s extension system. Conjectures hint that such restrictions are there for architectural, performance, and security purposes. Several issues arise from these limitations, including:

  • discrepant use of custom keybindings, for extensions that offer effective keyboard-based interfaces like Vimium, which is the counterpart of Pentadactyl and Vimperator for Firefox
  • leakage of data in HTTP-to-HTTPS redirection, for extensions that copy HTTPS Everywhere on Firefox, which ironically brings in severe vulnerability in such security extensions

Firefox provides the most accessible extension system of all web browsers today, and an organized central extension repository handled by the Mozilla Foundation. The add-on library sparked the growth of the world’s largest extension base for a single web browser.


Chrome vs Firefox – Stability

Chrome currently offers a stable release for regular users, a beta release for testers, a dev build for developers, and a Canary build, which is the similar to the dev build. For stability, Google added a new technology that allows each tab in Chrome to run its own process. This feature gives tabs more independence from other tabs, which could come in handy if one tab crashes, improves performance for systems with multiple processors and consumes lower memory for web apps. Until now, this technology separates Chrome as a web browser from its rivals. However, there have also been Denial of Service (DoS) vulnerabilities against Chrome, including jailbreaks in the sandbox.

Firefox is highly regarded as stable in its latest release, but it experienced stability issues over its run as the world’s most popular open source browser, which includes periodic DoS vulnerabilities that could crash the browser.


Chrome vs Firefox – Memory

Chrome relatively is more of a memory hog than Firefox for fresh starts with multiple tabs left open, likely because of Google’s implementation to separate each tab process. Firefox also has a downside, as it takes more time to release memory, even though tabs have closed already. After long periods of using the web browser, Firefox increasingly eats up bulks of memory that it never frees up – a condition that we call “the Firefox memory leak”. Mozilla, however, remarked that this problem is due to memory fragmentation, which demonstrates almost similar resource consumption and performance degradation indicators as a memory leak. Web browser users who oftentimes open/close tabs will take advantage of Chrome’s fast memory release for each closed tab.

Mozilla started to fix Firefox’s memory consumption issue since Firefox 4, and opened a dedicated page for measuring its current memory usage.


Chrome vs Firefox – Start-up

Chrome cold start-up time is faster than Firefox. Among several reasons, Firefox has built-in features that require more resources than Chrome’s clean and simple interface. Evidently, Firefox’s support for more extensions could cause performance degradations if a user installs and simultaneously enables many extensions. Many extensions mean more task executions at a time.


Chrome vs Firefox – Enterprises

Google offers Chrome in an MSI installer and it has ramped up efforts in a bid to replace Microsoft’s Internet Explorer in enterprises.

The Mozilla Foundation has started to work with support for Firefox in enterprises. However, the project has been open for quite a while now and the organization has still no definite release schedule. As of February 2012, Mozilla is still unprepared for a serious discussion on an enterprise release.


Chrome vs Firefox – Popularity


May 2012 Web Browser Market. Image: W3Counter Global Web Stats

According to W3Counter’s May 2012 Global Web Stats, Google Chrome leads Mozilla Firefox with 26.4 percent and 23.3 percent, respectively. Microsoft Internet Explorer still leads the web browser market at 28.8 percent. That same month, Chrome topped Internet Explorer for more than two weeks.

Firefox achieved a milestone for setting a Guinness World Record for most software downloads in 24 hours, where 8,002,530 people worldwide downloaded Firefox 3 in the span of one day.


Chrome vs Firefox – Platforms

Chrome is a web browser developed and owned by Google that runs on the Microsoft Windows, Apple Mac OS X and Linux-based systems. The open source Chromium project – from where Chrome materialized – runs on Linux-based systems, FreeBSD and OpenBSD. The FreeBSD port went through a change in maintainer and will undergo project restructuring for it to be up-to-date with the core codebase.

Firefox supports a wide range of operating system platforms, such as (but not limited to): Apple Mac OS X, Linux-based systems and Microsoft Windows.



Chrome wins our comparative review for not compromising too much features with its clean and simple interface. With better memory usage, separate-process-per-tab technology and faster start-up times, Chrome is an easier choice for light web browser users. Firefox, even with its flaws, is still useful for having the world’s largest repository of add-ons. Heavy users who open and close tabs multiple times will notice that it consumes more memory than Chrome, but combine all the latter’s processes and it actually is more of a memory hog than Firefox. The advantage is that in Chrome, once one tab crashes, it does not compromise other tabs, which is the exact opposite for Firefox. For this review, the winning edge goes to Chrome. Note: This review pitted just two of the most popular web browsers today. Real-time experience between the browsers depends on the user and how light or heavy they are used.


In your own experience, which between the two best catered to your needs? Which one proved its claims?

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Author: Francis Rey

Franz believes voracious readers become good writers. So, he reads anything that piques his interest. He spends his downtime on road trips and binges.

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