Maybe the internet really is over
Firefox is as fast as Chrome now. Specifically, it’s finally doing the thing Chrome has already done for some time now that made it faster. I know you’ve been promised that Firefox is faster before, dashed among a lot of other internet hyperbole, and these promises did not come true. Firefox has instead sucked big time. Inevitably they had to get it right, though.
With that inevitability is a feeling, and that feeling may be: you don’t care. Great, Firefox is faster, but you’re tired! You have a lot of good reasons not to care, as switching a web browser is not some fly-by-night for-fun choice. Your web browser is officially a serious tool, and you’re going to need more than Firefox being exactly like the one you already have if you’re going to switch. The switching cost is too damn high.
I can’t help but wonder if this feeling of inevitability resonates with what the artists called “postinternet.” That is, maybe this is a sign that we have reached a point of growth in internet where its existence is no longer novel. Its effect on society is ubiquitous and lasting. Postinternet isn’t a very focused concept itself, but the time period inherent in its name is appealing, and you can kind of see it happening. The word INTERNET itself, once ringing with possibility, sure just feels like annoying screech of inevitability. (The people who don’t hear this screech have an idea for a website.)
For most of us, the web browser has gone from technology to tool, even though those two words have always meant the exactly same thing. It would make sense with life under postinternet that our choice of web browser wouldn’t really exist or—more likely under our current economic and social systems—be like choosing between brands of laundry detergent. Sure, they’ll distinctively “innovate” every once in a while with tasty dissolvable globules with the taste adults love, but really, it’s just soap.
But there’s always the possibility we’re calling it too early. After all, our choice of web browser used to be a principled one. It wasn’t about the speed. Firefox was the mainstream browser that we installed on our parents’ and grandparents’ computers over Thanksgiving. We sent them an email with some stuff to download before our flight in. We confirmed you can install it on practically anything — even that older computer — and that it wasn’t evil.
So, let’s do a quick exercise to see if we should still use Firefox. If the choice between the two is like choosing laundry detergent then hell, let’s call it: the browser wars are—no, the Internet is—totally over.
Let’s start by comparing features: Firefox is open source, but so is Chrome. Firefox has advanced privacy controls, but so does Chrome. Firefox has great development tools, but so does Chrome. Features just aren’t really relevant here. You can sync your bookmarks and run most plugins, though Firefox may have some trouble with things specifically built for Chrome, as they are less popular. This lack of popularity is what hurts Firefox the most. There are fewer plugins that work with Firefox, fewer cool web experiments, and fewer websites supporting Firefox the best etc. Unfortunately, the only fix is for Firefox to become more popular.
Both Firefox and Chrome are free. This too probably doesn’t matter. All it means is, you are the product, no matter which browser you choose. (What else is new? These days we’re lucky to get two or three choices.) The difference between the two, if anywhere, may be in their principles. Essentially, what kind of product do they see you as?
So what are Google’s principles? Great question! We know for a fact that Google is no longer not evil. This twisted concept is purposefully designed to repel us from caring. It’s like looking at a terrible shape your mind can’t find the corners for, its lines spinning off into Alphabets and Androids. Fear and confusion. The only way to save yourself is to look away, which may be exactly what they want. Google’s principles are driven by the shareholders’ (a.k.a. people with money) gaze.
Mozilla calls itself “the proudly non-profit champions of the Internet, helping to keep it healthy, open and accessible to all.” That sounds nice, and is presumably something they try and follow through on, which might actually make them a much more terrifying creature than Google, in a way. (Maybe a rat king?) Firefox is built by thousands of volunteers around the world (a.k.a. people with money and time), and functions as a meritocracy (a.k.a. videogame). If anything can be said about them, it’s that these volunteers like to argue about Firefox and Mozilla a lot. It’s kind of like Twitter, but with a purpose. It’s honestly just as terrible as Twitter too, but at least something is coming out of it. That’s part of why it took so long for Firefox to become faster. These volunteers drive the principles of the Mozilla organization as well.
So there is a difference between the two browsers. Firefox is basically like environmentally friendly organic soap, and it cleans just as well as Chrome now! With that in mind, your choice of web browser might be more significant than you realize. The internet isn’t over, it’s just beat us down really bad. Your choice of web browser is not inevitable. There’s still so much to do. I mean, Google and Mozilla — fuck them both, really! We’re just canaries in their twisted coal mine. Still, we have choices.
So I say why not switch to Firefox, if only as an act of psychological resilience (something we could all stand to practice right now)? The switching cost is actually not that high (yet). Chrome may not yet be inevitable, and using Firefox may align better with your principles. Also, there are still a lot of people without internet — a very non-postinternet sign. For them, the internet is much more inevitable, and might be way more so by the time it gets to them. If we all installed Firefox, things could be very different, should we ever reach that postinternet point. You can still help create the internet of tomorrow by installing a web browser, and it’s 2017.