Why I Stopped Using Chrome and Never Looked Back
It’s not even on my current desktop. After more than a decade of using what is inarguably the world’s most popular web browser, Google’s Chrome doesn’t even have a spot on my taskbar. I switched to Microsoft Edge and I’m not looking back.
What started as a flirtation with Microsoft’s Edge browser and its meme-inducing name has turned into a rock-solid relationship, one that solidified when Microsoft swapped its proprietary engine for Chromium.
The truth is, I’d been looking for years to get out of what I considered a demanding browser relationship. Google’s Chrome is smart, compliant with virtually every web page, and essentially a decent internet interface. It was also a massive resource hog that managed to spin up my system fan like a jet plane preparing for takeoff and, invariably, brought my system to its knees.
Nothing crashed as often and with such frustrating regularity as Chrome. Google simply never taught it how to properly manage system resources. I know there are millions of happy Chrome users but I find it hard to believe they’re people who usually have 20 or more tabs open. That’s not just a power-user thing. My wife, who still uses Chrome because she can’t make peace with new software, often has two or three Chrome browser windows open, each of them with a dozen or so tabs. Her system’s fan is never quiet.
Microsoft didn’t necessarily design Edge to upend Chrome. It was initially launched in 2015 with the hope that it would finally wean people off the hoary, old Internet Explorer, which, yes, is still hidden inside Windows 10 because some businesses and online services are still standardized on it (🤦♂️).
Edge was the first time Microsoft released a browser in which legacy compatibility was not at the forefront of the development efforts. Leaving the past behind is what’s helped propel Edge forward and how Microsoft was able to decide, just a few years later, to adopt Google’s Chromium engine.
Google’s Chrome hasn’t stood still since it launched in 2008 but it’s never shaken its resource hogging ways and, when Microsoft finally released the Chromium Edge in January 2020, I slowly migrated all my online activities from Chrome to Edge.
The first thing I noticed was how Microsoft Edge was able to give up resources more readily than Chrome. Don’t get me wrong, it can, with enough tabs open, still spin up an insane number of CPU cycles. But it was also better than Chrome at releasing them when I closed a tab.
In the year-plus since that major Chromium release, Microsoft’s made steady improvements that added more extension support and enhanced stability. However, it’s three of the more recent updates that have sealed the deal and make it unlikely I’ll open Chrome again.
The first is Collections, which is essentially a much simpler, smarter way of handling bookmarks. I haven’t used browser bookmarks in years, but Collections struck me as both more efficient and easier.
Like bookmarks, Collections lets you save and organize web pages to peruse later. Unlike Bookmarks, Collections live in a well-organized and attractive vertical pane that can stay expanded as you open pages and then click on “Add current page” to add them to the current or new Collections. I found this especially useful during a recent appearance on TWiT, where I needed to keep track of and access dozens of online news stories. It also came in handy for managing resource pages when I was working through how to set up and use virtualized systems.
Another life-changing update is the new Vertical Tabs. For someone who usually has 15-or-more tabs open at once, it’s a lifesaver. I usually run it as a collapsed ribbon on the left side of my browser window, one that I can expand simply by moving my mouse over the tab bar. I don’t know about you, but the endless ribbon of open tabs at the top of my browser windows (Edge or Chrome) used to cause me a surprising amount of stress. Now that’s gone.
Sleeping Tabs, Microsoft Edge’s most recent change that, despite being a visually subtle change, has had the biggest impact on my browser experience.
If you’ve been using Microsoft Edge for a while and allowed auto updates, you might not have noticed the change, or perhaps you did but didn’t understand what those grayed-out tabs meant.
Sleeping Tabs, though, is what it sounds like: Web pages that, while open, are, after five minutes of inactivity, put into a low-power state. This means they’re not talking to web servers and making system calls when they’re not front and center. Microsoft reported late last year that Sleeping Tabs could reduce system memory usage by 32%.
In practice, I’ve noticed that Microsoft Edge is not only more stable, but the system fan is almost never running when I’m in the browser.
I have no illusions about Microsoft’s Edge’s position in the browser world. According to Statista, Chromium Edge has 3.41% of the global browser market. Google’s Chrome still has a commanding 65% share (Safari on the Mac has 19.14%).
I don’t know if this is about antipathy toward Microsoft, bad Internet Explorer memories, or frustrating experiences with Legacy Edge (which has less than 1% market share and lost Microsoft support on March 9), but the devotion to Google Chrome appears almost automatic. It’s the platform most people know. They’re tied into the Google ecosystem, and Chrome is the easiest way to access it. The truth is, though, Edge places virtually no barriers between you and your Google experience. I’m logged into my Google accounts in Edge and everything works perfectly. I did, however, make one important change to the default Microsoft Edge settings: I switched the address bar default search from Bing to Google.
Other than that, Microsoft Edge is the web browser I’ve been dreaming of and I see no reason to return to Google Chrome. Ever.