Firefox Quantum vs. Google Chrome

Does one edge out the other?

The two most popular desktop browsers, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, have been competing for years. But, with the release of the Mozilla Quantum browser engine, has Mozilla finally dethroned Chrome? We looked at Chrome and Firefox to help you decide which web browser is best for your needs.

This comparison was performed between Chrome version 69 and Firefox version 62 on macOS 10.14 Mojave and Windows 10 version 1809, the most up-to-date releases at the time of writing.

Firefox vs. Chrome

Overall Findings

  • Faster page loads

  • Renders pages more accurately.

  • Supports more web standards and HTML/Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) elements.

  • Actively tracks users.

  • Largest browser extension library.

  • Chrome Web Store is a target for hackers.

  • Few customization options.

  • Chromecast for video streaming.

  • Set-and-forget sync.

Firefox Quantum
  • Fewer developers test apps and sites in Firefox.

  • Supports fewer web standards and HTML/CSS features, but Mozilla is involved in the creation of standards.

  • Doesn't track users.

  • Built-in tools to block user tracking.

  • Smaller extension library but more customization extensions.

  • Customizable user interface (UI).

  • Takes screen captures of full pages.

Chrome and Firefox are two of the best, most powerful web browsers available. Both render web pages accurately, sync favorites and history across multiple devices, and are customizable through add-ons and extensions. In addition, both Mozilla and Google support and are involved in the development of standards governing the World Wide Web, such as HTML and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).

The two browsers differ, however, in one important area: privacy. Chrome actively tracks you; Firefox doesn't. So, whether you choose Chrome or Firefox Quantum may come down to what you're willing to share about yourself with the world.

Speed and Performance: Chrome Wins the Race

  • Benchmarks are clearly faster.

  • Pages load quickly and smoothly.

  • You can begin scrolling before the content has fully loaded.

Firefox Quantum
  • Slower benchmark performance.

  • Slower subjective user experience.

  • Interacting with a page before it has fully loaded can crash the page, requiring a reload.

Synthetic benchmarks evaluate how browsers stack up against one another. These benchmarks are objective and clear, but far from a perfect representation of a browser's capability.

Benchmarks can only test elements like loading time, rendering performance, and standards support. Benchmarks can't tell you how it feels to use the browser. A browser's ability to load JavaScript faster, for example, doesn't mean that the browser is better.

In evaluating benchmarks, Chrome is the clear victor. Sometimes, it's by a few percentage points. Other times, such as with MotionMark, the results are extremely different.

This finding also backs up the live experience of Firefox users. Loading pages quickly has never been one of its strengths. Firefox Quantum is superior to old Firefox, but it doesn't quite measure up to Chrome.

Rendering and Accuracy: Chrome Is More Accurate

  • Renders pages more accurately.

  • Most developers test websites in Chrome, providing the best user experience.

  • Fewer rendering bugs and errors.

Firefox Quantum
  • Pages can be rendered incorrectly, with misplaced or nonfunctional elements.

  • Users can't fix rendering bugs.

  • Fewer developers test websites in Firefox.

Load times are important but not as important as rendering web pages accurately, meaning that a page looks like it's supposed to when you visit it.

For modern browsers, rendering accuracy is effectively a nonissue. Regardless of the browser you choose, websites appear consistent. But in edge cases, differences can sometimes sneak through the cracks.

In those cases, Firefox sometimes renders a web page inaccurately. It's rarely a usability-busting error, but it can break the website. Opening the page in Chrome is typically the solution to this bug. Such a bug will likely affect only one or two web pages a month, but it's still a problem. You shouldn't need to use multiple browsers to ensure that a website loads properly.

Support for Modern Standards: Chrome Supports More

  • Supports the most web standards.

  • Supports more HTML and CSS elements.

Firefox Quantum
  • Supports fewer web standards and HTML and CSS features.

  • Mozilla does valuable advocacy work to create web standards.

The World Wide Web exists because of web standards: technologies the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) set to define how the web should be coded and interpreted. These standards allow for interoperability and cross-compatibility among web servers and web browsers. Without a clear standards body like W3C, the web couldn't work properly.

Because web standards are important to the proper functioning of the internet, browsers must support as many standards as possible. The more quickly a browser adopts new standards, the more quickly those standards can be implemented by developers and enjoyed by users.

Firefox supports 488 web standards out of the 555 standards tested by Chrome supports 528 standards. It's an objective win for Chrome, but it doesn't translate into a practical difference.

Privacy and Security: Firefox Overwhelms Chrome

  • Aggressive user tracking.

  • Tracking scope is unclear and expanding.

Firefox Quantum
  • Does not track users.

  • Built-in support for Do Not Track.

  • Built-in tools block online tracking.

Browser history can be revealing, and Google can capture more than your history. Chrome can see which links you selected and which you didn't. It uses this information to analyze the effectiveness of web elements and advertisements.

Firefox doesn't have collection mechanisms. Your Firefox browsing history is private. Mozilla, the company behind Firefox, is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to protect the internet and the people who use it. It doesn't make money from user information. It doesn't want or need it.

It's not only about browsing history. It's also about built-in tools to keep you safe and your data secure. Firefox includes active tracking protection built into and automatically activated in the browser. Firefox is always on the lookout for software that can track internet use. It actively subverts these tools, which is beyond what the Do Not Track list does. Chrome doesn't offer this type of protection.

Extensions and Customization: It's a Tie

  • Greatest number of available extensions.

  • Fewer customization extensions available.

  • Chrome Web Store is a target for scammers and hackers because of its size.

Firefox Quantum
  • Smaller library of extensions.

  • More customization extensions available.

  • Lower usage rate provides some security through obscurity.

  • Extensions must be rewritten to work with Quantum.

Both Firefox and Chrome have large extension libraries. These browser-based software packages extend browser functionality and make up a major part of the browser infrastructure. Extensions include tools like ad blockers, software to download video, password managers, virtual private networks, and more.

Both browsers have access to libraries of extensions built by users and developers that are available at no cost. There may be quantitative differences between Chrome extensions and Firefox extensions, but the qualitative difference is minimal.

Chrome has a slight edge here because of its usage rate. It's easily the most popular desktop browser on the market. As a result, extension developers would be smart to concentrate their development resources on Chrome. Some extensions exist in Chrome but are unavailable in Firefox.

However, Firefox scores by including deep options for customization. Firefox Color, for example, provides a graphical UI (GUI) to change the browser color so that users can effortlessly build themes. There's more beyond Firefox Colors. Power users can write CSS to customize how the browser appears. If you have the time and inclination, you can make Firefox look however you like.

In the end, these browsers are tied. Chrome has a slight edge for users who want to plug and play. Firefox has perks for people who love turning knobs and fiddling with settings.

User Interface and Ease of Use: Chrome for the Win

  • Well-designed and accessible GUI.

  • Few customization options beyond approved themes.

  • GUI doesn't match the host operating system's design language.

  • Fluid drag-and-drop reorganization tools.

Firefox Quantum
  • Default GUI is accessible and navigable.

  • Careless customization can quickly muddle the interface.

  • Power users can gain total control over the GUI.

  • GUI provides a better match for the host operating system's design language.

A browser can't do much good if it's difficult to use. The GUI—the layout of the browser—determines how easy the browser is to use. Small changes can make big differences.

Chrome and Firefox follow the same broad layout. While Chrome is easier to use, Firefox offers more options for customization, complicating the GUI. Menus can be confusingly organized in Firefox, while Chrome tends to get right to the point.

Google's Material Design language is also apparent in Chrome, and it shines. It's a legible, clear method of layout. Even with the Photon Design System, Firefox doesn't have the same consistency.

It's also easier to manipulate the Chrome GUI. You can drag buttons and extension icons around Chrome toolbars without entering a customization mode, as you do with Firefox.

Additional Features: It's a Tie

  • Easy to create and switch between user accounts.

  • Chromecast support for streaming video.

  • Sync between devices is robust and set-and-forget.

Firefox Quantum
  • Customizable reader mode.

  • Built-in tracking protection enabled by default.

  • Pocket provides suggestion posts and save-for-later features.

  • Screenshot tools can capture full pages.

Browsers aren't created equally and don't include the same or comparable features as the competition.

Firefox Quantum

Firefox includes excellent tracking protection. It also has a reader mode that removes the ads and layout elements on a page. You're presented with only the clean text, attractively rendered. A similar experience in Chrome requires an extension.

Firefox ships with Pocket integration that saves articles for later. Users of Pocket can quickly save articles, but these users aren't the only ones who benefit. Firefox also recommends popular posts on the New Tab page. You can disable this feature, but it's a great resource when you want to keep up with the news of the day. The mobile version of Firefox has a night mode feature that changes white backgrounds and black text into night-friendly colors.

Firefox on the desktop includes built-in support for web screenshots. You can capture the full scrollable length of a web page with the included tools. This requires an extension in Chrome.

Google Chrome

Chrome provides unique features, such as support for multiple users. User profiles in Chrome separate browsing history, extensions, appearance, and more into distinct silos. This makes it easier to use the browser on shared computers. It also enables users to sort their browsing habits into buckets and improve their online experience.

Firefox offers something similar with Containers, which separate browsing data. Multiuser support does technically exist in Firefox, but it's hard to find and harder to use (not to mention less useful).

Cross-browser syncing of data is available on both platforms, but Chrome is superior. Sign in with your Google account, and your browser settings, history, cookies, and extensions are shared with every Chrome instance that uses your credentials. Firefox can sync data between browsers, as well, but the sync isn't as robust or simple.

Chrome users can cast a web page to a Chromecast device to transfer a video from a computer or laptop to a television. Firefox includes nothing that approaches this functionality.

In the aggregate, the features Firefox offers make it a better fit for reading online. The features in Chrome are better for multiuser and multidevice support.

The Verdict: Except in Security, Chrome Is the Winner

If you're concerned about privacy, Firefox is the superior pick. For most people, however, Chrome surpasses Firefox in nearly every measurable category.

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