Why I Switched Back to Firefox from Qutebrowser

Author: Jake Bauer | Published: 2019-06-20

I’ve been using qutebrowser for about six months now as my primary browser after switching to it from GNU/IceCat seeking a browsing experience with solid vim-like controls. At first, I enjoyed the simplicity and shortcuts afforded by qutebrowser but noticed more and more issues as time went on. Qutebrowser, while very usable as a browser, falls short in some key areas that are important to me.

Privacy online is something that is very important to me and should be important to everyone who uses the internet. It’s one of the reasons I donate to the Electronic Frontier Foundation and probably the biggest reason I switched back to Firefox from qutebrowser. Although there are limited things you can do in qutebrowser to block some trackers such as changing your user agent string, it is still quite limited compared to Firefox. You have to launch qutebrowser with a command line flag just to disable reading from the HTML canvas and there isn’t even an option to disable WebRTC. This is in stark contrast to Firefox which—even ignoring the capabilities of extensions such as Privacy Badger and uBlock Origin—allows you to enable privacy features like fingerprinting resistance and disable potentially bad features like WebRTC from within the built-in configuration window.

Another big factor is that some sites which I would use would have elements that wouldn’t load or work properly in qutebrowser and I would have to switch over to Firefox to use them. For example, I run a Proxmox virtualization host on my server and any time I tried view my virtual machines using noVNC or Spice, the screens would be black and it wouldn’t work. Another issue happens when websites update search suggestions live as you type. With the way some websites would do this, I would get kicked out of insert mode in the middle of typing which would usually result in the tab suddenly closing or me activating something I didn’t intend to activate since I was booted back to normal mode. This made for a very frustrating browsing experience on those websites. This specific point isn’t so much a fault with qutebrowser and more a fault with some modern websites but, alas, it made using Firefox feel that much smoother and better.

I also found Firefox much easier to develop on compared to qutebrowser. It could be because I’m just not used to the Chromium-family set of web development tools but I find Firefox’s set much more intuitive and the easy-to-use live stylesheet editor makes it really easy for me to experiment with what my web pages look like right in the browser. Plus I found the network-related tools easier to understand and navigate in Firefox than in qutebrowser.

Those are the big three reasons why I switched back to Firefox but I did have some other very minor problems which, when put all together, pushed me over the edge to switch. The first of which is that, since I use KeePassXC as my password manager, the extension available for Firefox makes it much more convenient to enter my credentials instead of having to copy-paste. The second is that Firefox is using the Gecko web rendering engine which I feel better about using due to Mozilla’s commitment to a free and open web. The last minor reason for making me switch is that Firefox has multiple extensions which enable vim-like controls. Although these can’t be as full-featured as a browser designed around those controls, I have found the one I am using—Vim Vixen—to be good enough for my uses.

Overall, qutebrowser still is a commendable browser and, if the reasons I listed above don’t really concern you that much, I would recommend checking it out. Unfortunately it didn’t fit well with what I wanted out of a browser and that’s why I switched from qutebrowser to Firefox.