First of all, a disclaimer. This is not a tech article (for that, see below), but my experience of the browser wars. I’m a huge fan of the Guardian’s Comment Is Free pages, because their writers cover pretty much every nuance of the human condition, from a celebration of the Krankies as swingers, through quirky subjects like limericks, to solid broadsheet articles on politics, religion, and society. All with a liberal perspective and a certain wit in the writing that’s missing from other newspapers. Like the Independent. Worthy, but a bit stodgy.
I’ve been commenting on this largesse for several years, using Mozilla Firefox as a browser. Not because of a critical assessment of its capabilities, of which I’m incapable, but because it’s open source, a rebel against the corporate machine. Then, a few months ago, the Guardian introduced a couple of much-needed improvements to CIF. The first is a preview function, for those us with a tendency to post without first checking grammar, punctation, and spelling. Easy to do in the heat of debate, and extremely embarrassing when you realise there’s sod all you can do about it after the event. So far, so good.
Another brilliant innovation is the respond function, which links your comment to a specific post, putting the username and link at the top of the post. Before that you had to put it in yourself to get a specific poster’s attention: @soandso, with the date and time of posting. Trouble is, it didn’t work with Firefox. Or rather, it did if I disabled Adblock Plus.
That was non-negotiable. I hate internet advertising like poison. It’s like being trapped in a room with a horde of obnoxious spivs, all of them trying to grab your attention at once. If I want to buy something, I’ll go and look for it. So I had to find a new browser, one that would allow the respond function to work and still let me block all the advertising crap. Lest you imagine the search was methodical and logical, think again. If I dink around long enough, something’s bound to work right. I have very little sense, however, of what steps took me to that happy conclusion.
Safari is already installed on my MacBook, so that was the obvious alternative. Lo and behold! It worked with its own Adblock extension. I was well pleased, and transferred the toolbar bookmarks to save the trouble of switching browsers when I wanted extra information for a post. I still loved Mozilla the best, and planned to use Safari only for CIF. And yet there was was a fly in the ointment. A small tic or mannerism in someone you like a lot can become so irritating over time that you have to break up rather than tolerate it any more. Just so with the Safari/CIF interaction, and it wasn’t that small of a problem even to begin with, just something I thought I could live with.
CIF would crash after a fairly short time, under an hour, although it varied from session to session. The only remedy was to clear cookies, empty cache, and reboot Safari. When you’re in the full flow of eloquence, this sort of speed bump is really irritating, to the point where I couldn’t stand it any more. Time to move on.
So I gave Google Chrome a try, and it was love at first sight. Birds twittering, butterflies fluttering by, and so many fawns underfoot they were a danger to navigation. Chrome was fast, smooth, with its own version of Adblock purring quietly in the background and slaughtering the ads with efficiency and pleasure. Nary a glitch in the entire process. I was chuffed pink, and plan on moving in with all my favourite bookmarks. Sorry, Mozilla, it just didn’t work out.
Happy ending, then. Apparently. But with my luck, Chrome will probably turn out to be an axe murderer.
P.S. For a proper discussion of the relative merits of the various browsers, please visit the site where I stole the splendid graphic from: Explorer.