I was sweet on Google for a while, but now its gotten too big for its britches.

Browse Against the Machine

Eric Petitt
May 23, 2017 · 5 min read

I head up Firefox marketing, but I use Chrome every day. Works fine. Easy to use. Like most of us who spend too much time in front of a laptop, I have two browsers open; Firefox for work, Chrome for play, customized settings for each. There are multiple things that bug me about the Chrome product, for sure, but I‘m OK with Chrome. I just don’t like only being on Chrome.

And that’s what Chrome wants. It wants you to only use Chrome. Chrome is not evil, it’s just too big for its britches. Its influence on the internet economy and individuals is out of balance.

Chrome, with 4 times the market share of its nearest competitor (Firefox), is an eight-lane highway to the largest advertising company in the world. Google built it to maximize revenue from your searches and deliver display ads on millions of websites. To monetize every… single… click. And today, there exists no meaningful safety valve on its market dominance.

Beyond Google, the web looks more and more like a feudal system, where the geography of the web has been partitioned off by the Frightful Five. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon are our lord and protectors, exacting a royal sum for our online behaviors. We’re the serfs and tenants, providing homage inside their walled fortresses. Noble upstarts are erased or subsumed under their existing order.

I don’t like only being on Chrome. I have friends who work there. They are smart, good people who mean well. But there is such thing as too much of a good thing. Google is just too big.

But talking to friends, it sounds more and more like living on Chrome has started to feel like their only option. And unfortunately, too many people think Firefox isn’t a modern alternative.

Except it is. Yes, three years ago, Firefox was reeling. But today, Firefox is SO much better than it was even a year ago. It’s faster, lags less, hogs much less memory than chrome, and in June we’ll release multi-process Firefox, putting us at performance parity with Chrome in most of the ways we mere humans can actually perceive.

It’s because of our newfound internal confidence with Firefox that Mozilla has started to be more aggressive externally again. Firefox’s campaign launching today, called “browse against the machine”, is a perfect example.

“Browse against the machine” is a renewed posture for Firefox, and in many ways a return to our roots. It attempts to raise important questions — should we only have Chrome? Should we really give it all our precious online minutes? Do Google motives matter?

one display ad from the new Firefox campaign

These are the 5 ideas we hope to communicate that make Firefox standout versus Chrome:

  • Firefox is leaner — its takes up less memory on your computer than Chrome, so you can run Firefox and do other tasks simultaneously. Meanwhile, Chrome seems to be getting slower and uses more of your computer’s memory.
http://www.erahm.org/2017/05/15/firefox-memory-usage-with-multiple-content-processes/
  • Firefox is independent. We just have a different reason for being than Chrome. Our goal is to help you access the entire Internet, not keep you inside our own ecosystem.
  • Firefox gives you the most control over your data and privacy. See private browsing with tracking protection — which Chrome doesn’t have, or our new Focus browser on mobile.
  • Firefox is not built by and for the largest advertising company in the world. So, there’s that.
  • Firefox is built by non-profit Mozilla, whose mission is to preserve a healthy web in part by keeping corporate power in check. If you haven’t checked out what Mozilla is up to lately, it’s worth a look.

Some folks might interpret “browse against the machine” as a desperate cry, but it isn’t. Firefox grew in users last year and Mozilla is financially healthier now than it has ever been. Yeah, we’re trying to be provocative to get our word out, with budgets a tiny fraction of our competitors. But we’re frankly more confident in the product than we have ever been in the short time I’ve been here, and its starting to show in how we talk to the outside world.

Others will say that by challenging Google we’re biting the hand that feeds us. While we do earn revenue from Google, we are financially healthier and more diversified than ever before. Mozilla has always put its independence ahead of maximizing profit. It is an imperfect world with Google’s search engine dominance, but we still remain the only independent alternative on the web today. And if we can’t act fully independent, what are we actually doing here?

For me, the sacrifices I used to make choosing Firefox over Chrome are finally fading. My Chrome minutes are going down, and Firefox is taking it back. And not just mine — my Google-bus riding friends are rooting for Firefox again. Product performance is finally back up to snuff with much more to come, and that alone should make Firefox a strong alternative for many of us. Tastes great, and less filling. So next time you need to fire up a browser, reopen Firefox. Browse against the machine.

Correction:

In my original post I made a personal dig about Edge, IE and Safari: “Edge is broken. Safari and Internet Explorer are just plain bad.” I’ve since deleted that sentence.

It’s true, I personally don’t like those products, they just don’t work for me. But that was probably a bit too flip. And, if it wasn’t obvious that those were my personal opinions as a user, not those of the good folks at Firefox and Mozilla, then please accept my apology.

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