Web & communication software

Chrome 10 v. Firefox 4: Open Source Browser Battle

Proxy Friendliness

Working at an office, you might need to connect to the Internet through a proxy server, depending on how your network administrator likes to run things. Mobile workers might also do this to prevent others from snooping on their Wi-Fi traffic.

Google Chrome has no proxy controls of its own. Instead, it obeys the overall Windows settings, and clicking the proxy configuration option within the Under the Hood settings dialog simply opens the Windows networking dialog box.

Firefox has its own proxy settings, which you can access via the Network tab of the Advanced section within the Options dialog box. However, it can still obey the overall system proxy settings, just like Chrome.

I prefer Firefox's approach because it gives me the freedom to alter settings without having to jump through the hoops of Windows User Account Control dialog boxes, or cause problems for other applications that need Net access, such as chat programs.

There's a range of extensions and add-ons for both Chrome and Firefox that make it easy to activate preconfigured proxy configurations with a single click, although in the case of Chrome, they merely activate the system-wide proxy.

Working Across Multiple Computers

Many workers access more than one computer to get stuff done, such as a desktop and laptop, and even a tablet computer.

Firefox 4 allows individual control over proxy settings, unlike Chrome.
Firefox 4 allows individual control over proxy settings, unlike Chrome.
Chrome 10 brings can automatically sync data among various computers. This includes apps, autofill data, bookmarks, extensions, passwords, preferences and themes. All the data is stored in Google's cloud, accessed via your Google account--if you use Gmail or Google Docs you'll already have one of these, although you could sign up for an account and use it only for syncing.

This works extremely effectively. Syncing is instant once configuration has completed, and the data is also encrypted in Google's cloud.

Firefox offers a similar service, but it's limited to bookmarks, passwords, preferences, history, and tabs. It also encrypts data, but generates a sync key that must be written down by the user. (Google encrypts invisibly, although the user can generate their own key if they wish) However, Firefox offers the option to use an alternative server for syncing, which feasibly could be one run and operated by your own company or a trusted third party.

Syncing two computers was a little troublesome in Firefox. In Chrome it was simply a matter of signing in on each computer. Firefox expects you to have access to both computers to setup sync. If you haven't, you can bypass the setup steps but you'll need the original encryption key.

In my tests I couldn't get Firefox to sync across two machines, even if I selected the Sync Now option. However, we have to remember that I was using a release candidate version of that browser. It might be that the sync servers are not yet up and running fully.

It's also worth mentioning that Mozilla is pushing hard to get Firefox onto non-computer devices, such as tablets, with its Mobile Firefox project. At present Google is limiting Chrome to the mainstream desktop operating systems: Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. Mobile Firefox includes the Weave function, which brings syncing to portable devices, so despite the difficulty of getting things working, I'm tempted to chalk up this category as a win for Firefox.

Keir Thomas has been making known his opinion about computing matters since the last century, and more recently has written several best-selling books. You can learn more about him at http://keirthomas.com . His Twitter feed is @keirthomas .

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