nicolas leroy

About Google Chrome, Firefox and agile development cycle…

October 13, 2009

I’m using Google Chrome as my primary browser for a few months. Speed, simple, lean… Those are the words that come to my mind to explain why… Before Google, I was using Firefox… Slow, bloated, slow development cycle… Yes, that’s what I’m thinking about Firefox these days.

A few years ago, I switched from Internet Explorer to Firefox for the same reasons… What happened to Firefox?

Speed

Without talking about benchmarks or “does javascript engine speed matter?”, on the three computers I daily use, Chrome is far more responding than Firefox… It may not be the fault of Firefox: I have a few Firefox extensions that may slow down the beast… Yes, Chrome doesn’t support extensions (at least the support is not ready for prime time yet); yes, I should take this into account… Still, from a user experience point of view, Chrome is offering me more on my most frequent task: browsing. When I need a specific extension (like a proxy switcher), then I switch to Firefox.

Simple

As stated before, Chrome has less features than Firefox; surely one of the reasons the user interface is far more simpler. And it does matter to me: less visual clutter, focus on the site I’m browsing… Personal taste? Maybe.

Lean

Chrome has 3 development channels: stable, beta, development. Updates are automatic… A new major release every 6 months.

Firefox has also stable releases, beta releases, nightly builds… A new release every 12 months.

Quite recently, Mozilla has published some user interface studies for the next major release of Firefox… Those are promising… But the roadmap shows that Firefox 4.0 won’t be available before 10’H2…

About perception

It’s difficult to put in words what Google is doing right these days with Chrome comparing to Firefox. My feeling is that the Chromium / Chrome teams have embraced a development process that makes them more agile, able to quickly launch, get feedbacks, fix each features. For sure, they have less pressure with a few % market share compared to the Firefox team with their 20 to 30% market share.

Challenges ahead: will Google teams be able to maintain the fast pace if they gain market share? Will Firefox teams be able to react and improve their development process?

For the latest question, it seems Mozilla management is conscious they need to improve  – see the vision of Firefox.next. Exciting times ahead: the browser war, reignited by Mozilla and Firefox a few years ago, will go on. Who will be the winners? Users and web sites, for sure.