Most Chrome users can relate to this: you have a bunch of important tabs open, your laptop’s fans start to sound like a rocket taking off, your computer slows to a crawl, and finally it crashes, losing everything.
When Chrome debuted for the first time in 2008 it was the fastest browser on the block. It was light, nimble, extensible and easy to use compared to Firefox, which had become slow and cumbersome.
In the past few years, I’ve stuck with it, even as it became a memory hog, unstable and a major drain on battery life.
I was in denial. But now I have to admit it – the stable, snappy Chrome is a distant memory. As it has grown in popularity, it’s steadily got worse.
Using Google Trends to compare searches for “Chrome slow” with other browsers shows interesting results.
Searches for major competitors like Internet Explorer, Safari and Firefox all saw a drop over the last four years, but searches relating to Chrome performance problems are steadily increasing. That volume is likely related to Chrome’s overall popularity, but it’s still heading in the wrong direction.
If you pop open your task manager right now, you’ll undoubtedly see a huge list of Chrome-related processes working away. Google Chrome Helper, one that supports browser plugins like Google Hangouts or Adobe Flash, is notorious for runaway resource usage.
The problems manifest in a lot of different ways – crashing tabs, high CPU usage, memory leaks, general instability, and system lockups. But the consensus is: it’s not getting better.
It affects you whether you’re using Windows, OS X or Linux.
There are a number of band-aid fixes for speeding up Chrome, but none that last. I’ve tried deleting my profile, ditching all my extensions and countless tweaks. Some extensions even claim to fix memory usage, but I’m yet to find one that delivers.
My major bugbear is Chrome’s energy usage.
Using Safari on my 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro, I can get five hours of usage. With Chrome, I can only squeeze out around two hours. That’s ridiculous.
I can work comfortably in a cafe for the afternoon if I make sure Chrome isn’t running. If it is, I need to be tethered to a charger.
The Verge reported that using Chrome over Safari resulted in a three and a half hour shorter battery life on the latest MacBook.
I’ve always loved Chrome’s interface, its plethora of extensions, and how it integrates with services every day, but it’s time for something new. We can do better.
The problem is that the Web is now optimized for Chrome users and that means alternatives often provide a terrible experience.
Thanks in part to the browser’s massive market share, the best developer tools and Google’s aggressive adoption of the latest Web technologies, developers have gravitated toward Chrome’s rendering engine as the only one they support.
Firefox seems like the best bet, but I’m not sold on the interface yet. Safari has gotten better in recent times, but still needs work. Maybe something like Vivaldi, which builds on top of Chrome’s rendering engine, could be the answer?
Regardless, it’s time to break up. I’d say it’s not you, Chrome, it’s me, but that wouldn’t be true. It’s your fault. It will be hard, but I’m going to wean myself off.