Yes, I know that title is probably the worst I ever used. Let’s move on.
Everybody’s talking browser wars again. IE8 is out, which doesn’t matter much to Linux users, and Chrome for Linux is getting closer to being usable, which does. Webkit browsers seem to be the next big thing, even though none of them are really available yet, safe for Safari. Everything else is still in alpha/beta. Even though, people are predicting the demise of Firefox already.
While that’s certainly premature, certainly on the Windows size of the OS world, when it comes to Linux things look a little bleaker. There’s no denying that the Linux version of Firefox leaves a bit to be desired when it comes to speed, certainly the first time it’s booted. Still, it has an enormous collection of extensions and themes none of its competitors have. I’ve seen many people claim they stick with Firefox because they can’t live without a certain extension.
But I run Firefox pretty much as-is. When I started using it, it was still called Phoenix 0.3 and IE was at version 6. Everything is better than IE6, and Phoenix at the time certainly was. It was faster. It was prettier. Most importantly, it had tabs. I never used IE6 again, not voluntarily at least.
Things have remained that way for over six years, but lately I’ve become dissatisfied with Firefox’s speed. To put it quite simply, when it comes to speed Firefox is lagging behind. Opera boots faster, and loads webpages faster, although the difference is marginal. Chrome is much faster, in all aspects.That’s why at work (where I’m forced to use Windows) Chrome 2.0 Beta has replaced Firefox as my browser of choice.
On the Linux side, I’ve kept using Firefox up until now. I’ve tried Opera, but since it’s Qt it doesn’t mix well with my GTK system, it isn’t free, and as I said, speedwise there isn’t that much difference. Kazekahase is a bit too sparse to my tastes, and so is Dillo. Midori kept crashing on me.
And then I read this article. I had tried Epiphany before, but dismissed it as another Dillo. Still, I was browsing for a new browser (see what I did there? I’m so funny…), so I thought, what the heck, and installed it. And loved it.
Don’t blink when you start this browser, you’ll miss it popping up. It’s that fast. It zooms. It snaps. It flies, and all that while using the Gecko engine. It should be even faster when it starts using Webkit. I’m browsing the web, and I don’t have to wait. Fantastic.
But wait, there’s more. Since it’s a native Gnome application, it’s GTK-integration is so much better. The style matches the rest of my desktop, so do the icons and the language, and I don’t have to configure anything. It doesn’t have many options, but it has all those I want. All I changed was the startpage (blank), download location and minimum font size.
I already had the flashplugin installed, so sites like Youtube provided no problem, and loaded a good deal faster too.
And it has Adblock! Well, it does if you install epiphany-extensions, and there’s no reason not to. Who doesn’t love Adblock? It’s the best thing that ever happened to a browser since the invention of tabs.
Best thing of all? I’m not even the latest version, because I’m using Arch Linux and GNOME 2.26 (and thus, Epiphany 2.26) is still in testing. The new version comes with its own version of the Awesome bar, which isn’t essential but still quite handy. Honestly, the only things I’m missing are some shortcuts, like ctrl + Enter for url completion, and ctrl + tab for switching between tabs. I’ll just have to get used to ctrl + PageUp/PageDown.
So yeah, if you’re using Firefox with a dozen extensions, stick with it. But if you don’t, and you wish your favourite browser would boot faster, look better, or use less memory…don’t look any further. You’ll love Epiphany.