It’s Time to Quit Chrome

Google’s Chrome browser is by far the most popular on the planet – it runs on 67% of desktop computers globally. But Chrome is also one of the worst for user privacy and it’s about to get even worse. We need to support private alternatives or they may not exist much longer.

Google Chrome & Chromium

Google is an ad company – period, full stop. They happen to make a web browser, a search engine, a mobile operating system (Android), a social media platform (YouTube), and a lot more. But they make money on highly targeted advertising – targeted based on the information they learn about you from all of these “free” apps and services.

What you may not know is that the core functionality in Google Chrome is the engine that powers may other popular web browsers including Microsoft Edge, Brave, Vivaldi, Opera and DuckDuckGo. Google’s web browser engine called Chromium is an open source project that is the basis for all of these browsers and more. When you include those browsers, Google’s share of the desktop market rises to 85%. While most Google tracking features are not in Chromium, it still gives Google an inordinate amount of control over several browsers and the browser market in general. Google is so powerful that it can basically dictate web browser standards – and that’s bad. And it’s about to get worse.

Thumb on the Scales

Google’s Chromium engine has a standard with which all browser extensions must comply. That is, if you want to create a browser plugin that works with Chrome or any Chromium-based browser, it must adhere to the Google standards defined in what’s called the Manifest. Google has released a new version called Manifest V3 (version 3) and all browser plugins will need to support this new standard starting in June 2024.

While this change brings several new features, it will also implement restrictions that will make it impossible for ad blockers like uBlock Origin to function properly. Did I mention that Google is an ad company? Google says that it’s doing this to “improve the privacy, security, and performance of extensions”, but it’s also going to help its bottom line. And since Google controls the way most people on this planet access the internet, they can pretty much do what they want. (The uBlock Origin team is working on uBlock Origin Lite to work with Manifest V3, but it just won’t be the same.)

Google’s dominance has allowed it to basically dictate how the web works. Google has been pushy at driving web standards that benefit them as part of the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium). They’ve also been blamed for killing a web standard that would have allowed for more secure use of passkeys in restricted environments. The bottom line here is that Google has way too much influence in the browser space, and therefore in web privacy standards.

Try Firefox

So, to summarize, I’m making two arguments against Chrome here. First, privacy. I’ve written about this extensively – here and here, plus a whole series of articles on ditching all things Google. If you haven’t done this yet – even if you’re already sold on Google being bad for privacy – I strongly encourage you see what Google knows about you. Go to myadcenter.google.com and log in (if necessary). If you haven’t already turned off “ad personalization”, you should see a tab called “Manage Privacy” at the left. Click this and poke around this page a bit to get an idea of what Google knows about you. (This TikTok’er posted a video of her Google info, if you’d like to see an example of what could be there.)

But the second argument I’m making is that we’ve ceded too much power over web protocols in general and privacy standards in particular. Google has way, way too much influence here – not just because they’re a massive company with lots of money and engineers to dedicate to these endeavors, but because of their absolute dominance in the web browser space. If we don’t support non-Chromium browsers, the competition will die off and then we’re really screwed.

While the Brave browser is an excellent option for privacy, it’s still based on Chromium. Safari is good, too, but it’s only available for Apple users. That leaves Firefox, which is my personal favorite. Just install uBlock Origin and maybe Privacy Badger and you’re set. You can also look at Librewolf or Mullvad Browser, which are both based on Firefox. You can use Firefox on iOS and Android, as well.

Once you have Firefox installed, change your default search engine to something besides Google. I recommend Brave Search, but DuckDuckGo is decent, too. You can also transfer all your bookmarks and more from your previous browser.

Want to do more? Get friends and family to switch, too. And consider donating to the Mozilla Foundation.

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