Readers of this august website may recall that a year ago, I lauded Firefox and its progress toward becoming a genuine alternative to Google’s dominant Chrome browser. As much as I liked where Firefox was going, however, I couldn’t stick with it over the long term. It wasn’t compatible with everything the way Chrome was, its extensions were different, and, for my way of using a browser, it was slower and less responsive. So I returned to Chrome after a few weeks of Firefox, but the urge to decouple my browsing habits from Google remained.
This year, I’m pretty sure I’ve found the ideal Chrome alternative in the Brave browser. If your reasons for sticking with Chrome have been (a) extensions, (b) compatibility, (c) syncing across devices, or (d, unlikely) speed, Brave checks all of those boxes. What’s more, it’s just one of a growing number of really good options that aren’t made by Google.
Before I get too far into my Chrome avoidance methodology, a word on why I’m trying to escape Google’s browser. The reason is a sentiment you’ll have heard expressed quite often in recent times: I’m growing less and less comfortable with having Google know more and more about me. As an Android phone user, I’m already informing Google about my location (even with location history off, Google periodically pings my device’s location), my mobile gaming and app usage, my YouTube-watching habits, and my chronic failure to get off Twitter. Given that I do a large proportion of my job in a browser, Chrome fills in the rest of my daily activities for Google in a manner so comprehensive as to be disturbing. If I wouldn’t want a single person to know what I do every day down to the finest detail, I shouldn’t want a single corporation to have that information, either.
What liberates me to switch away from Chrome today, after many years of having it as my go-to web browser, is the fact that most of its competitors are now built on the same basic structure: open-source Chromium. Brave is based on Chromium, and so are other viable alternatives like Vivaldi, Opera, and soon even Microsoft’s Edge. That means each of those browsers supports Chrome extensions and provides performance comparable to — or, in the case of Brave, faster than — Google’s Chrome. All of the places where Firefox or Safari might get tripped up by a website or service demanding Chrome, Brave marches on. I’ve installed the Google Docs Offline extension on my laptop, and I’m happily typing this article with it, even though Google says it’s only for the Chrome browser.
Moving away from Chrome’s password manager
One of the more “sticky” aspects of Chrome is Google’s extremely convenient password-saving functionality. It automatically saves and fills in your login details for any website you visit. If you’ve saved a few dozen logins into your browser, you’ll be loath to ever try another one. Well, most browsers now have built-in password managers, along with the option to transfer passwords as well as browsing history when making the switch, but I wouldn’t advocate either resting easy with Chrome or setting up the same system with another browser. It’s just too insecure. What you want is a dedicated password manager.
It was once I installed 1Password that I could truly become browser-agnostic. Yes, it took me a while to move in all of my relevant login identities and passwords, but that’s a one-time investment of effort that pays off in long-term peace of mind. And because I could use the 1Password Chrome extension across Brave, Vivaldi, and Opera, I could do all my testing with the same set of credentials and without having to trust any one of those browsers with my confidential information.