Two weeks with Firefox and DuckDuckGo


4 min read
firefox
google
privacy

In a post-Snowden world, it’s hard to not be concerned with privacy and security. I wax and wane with my own interest (and paranoia) and recently decided to give Firefox and DuckDuckGo a shot for the month of February.

Unfortunately, a full month ended up being a bit too ambitious for me and I ended up bailing on both after two weeks.

Let’s start with Firefox. I already had it installed on my desktop and laptop (both running Ubuntu Gnome) and got it installed on my Google Pixel phone (Android obviously). No issues obtaining or setting the Firefox as my default.

I followed up by setting up a Firefox Account and getting all of my devices in sync. No issues there either.

My initial feeling was that Firefox seemed a bit sluggish, but moving away from Chrome was quite feasible. That was until after about a week of use when I started to notice Firefox on my desktop becoming more and more sluggish.

Firefox on Android felt a touch sluggish compared to Chrome but the performance remained steady as time went on. The desktop counterpart degraded steadily over the last week of usage, to the point that there were times when I felt like I was on dial-up and was waiting for style sheets to render on the page.

This very well could have been the result of the very few extensions I had installed. In fact, I had maybe a quarter of the extensions installed than what I have installed in Chrome. Most simply weren’t available for Firefox.

Speaking of extensions, while troubleshooting an issue I was having with the LastPass extension, I opened a private window expecting for none of the extensions to be run (similar to Chrome). To my surprise, all of my extensions were loaded.

Mozilla boasts about tracking protection when using a private session, but how private can things be with all extensions loaded? Perhaps I’m being too paranoid, but without reviewing the code of every extension, I have to assume the leak potential is still there.

Something else I noticed, and reminded me a lot of iOS is that Chrome was still being used in certain apps on my phone, even with Firefox as the default browser. I get it though, folks embed a browser in their apps and Google isn’t going to try to hack in every browser based on your default. No big deal, but I definitely felt like I wouldn’t be able to get away from Chrome entirely because of this.

The sluggishness was quite unbearable, but there were some highlights. I loved how Firefox lets you mute a tab directly with a single left-click as opposed to Chrome where you have to right-click and then select mute.

Also really enjoyed the developer tools in Firefox. Unfortunately, they too fell victim to the sluggishness like the rest of the browser.

On mobile, I really enjoyed the way “find on page” worked in comparison to Chrome. Just felt a bit more user friendly as it didn’t appear to clear out the search text between page views.

I really want to see Mozilla win the war but right now, I can’t make a full-time commitment. I do plan to give Firefox Developer Edition a go in the near future. I’m hoping it’s not nearly as sluggish on my systems.

Along with installing Firefox everywhere, I set DuckDuckGo as my default search.

I’ve used DuckDuckGo in the past and was underwhelmed with the quality of the search results. This ended up being like a trip down memory lane. Things have improved since the last time I used it, but there were often times where I had to eat crow and search on Google to get the results I desired.

Regardless of having to go back to the big G a couple of times, most of my searches yielded results that were good enough, and I loved the way that most of my programming searches resulted in the answer from StackOverflow or where ever embedded as a preview at the top of the results.

Similar to my issue with Chrome still existing inside of mobile apps, even with DuckDuckGo as my main search engine, Google still ruled the roost on my phone. Things like Google Now Launcher and Assistant only seemed to work with Google.

Full disclosure, I don’t use Google Assistant or the Now Launcher all that much, so I didn’t put much time into trying to find a way to use different search engines there.

For the most part, I was quite satisfied with DuckDuckGo and will probably make the switch again in the future. Unfortunately, the convenience of getting the right search results tends to overtake the need for privacy when you’re in a hurry.

If you’re a devout Firefox or DDG user, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Also, would love to figure out why Firefox was so damn sluggish on two separate machines, so hit me up if you have any insight!