Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Chromium plated

I never did find out what was causing Google Chrome to crash so much on my computer. However, after several months of using Chrome I found Firefox rather slow and clunky. So I had a look round to see if there were any other browsers. It turned out that there were more alternatives than I ever imagined.

The first alternative browser I found was one called Avant. This is a powerful browser with a lot of configurability, developed by a Chinese programmer. It boasts the ability to render web pages using your choice of the Internet Explorer, Firefox or Chrome rendering engines, which is probably handy if you're a website developer. I set it to use Chrome and it displayed the pages that had give me trouble with nary a murmur. But I found the user interface rather heavy after the minimalist approach of Google Chrome. So I kept it on my hard drive but carried on looking.

The next candidate I stumbled across was SRWare Iron. It almost counts as two browsers in one, as it installed two shortcuts on my desktop, one named SRWare Iron and one named Chromium, both pointing to the same executable. This turns out to be a browser built from the same open source code as Google's Chrome by a German company. Germans seem to be a bit sensitive about privacy, so the main difference with this SRWare browser is that it does not send information about your browsing habits back to Google. What, you didn't know Google Chrome did that? Neither did I until I discovered this program, though I thought I opted out of this during Chrome's installation.

Apparently you can opt out of all the Google tracking if you choose the appropriate settings in Chrome, but most users won't do this. So Iron / Chromium could be said to be a better version of Chrome than Google's, certainly from the privacy point of view. Chrome extensions like AdBlock Plus work as with the real thing. Chromium even supports the ability to log in to your Google account to save and restore your bookmarks and other settings, which was very handy.  Try it, you'll never notice the difference.

I'm happy with Chromium / Iron as my default web browser now. So far, it hasn't crashed on me. But I also discovered another Chrome clone. It's called Comodo Dragon and it's made by the Comodo security company. Dragon is also built from the Chrome open source code and omits the Google tracking code, but it     has some extra security features added by Comodo. So it looks like an even better option if you are really privacy-conscious.
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