back to article Don't stop me! Why Microsoft's inevitable browser irrelevance isn't

May's nearly here, and you know what that means. Yet another round of monthly browser stats articles. If past trends are an indication of future development, we'll see the continued loss of market share by Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and the rise and rise of Google’s Chrome. I’m old enough to remember the browser wars of the …

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Unhappy

It won't be seeing my computer

I couldn't run it if I wanted to, but I don't want to anyway... for the same reason I won't run Chrome. I don't want to give either MS or Goog a free ride into all my internet activity.

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Re: It won't be seeing my computer

Exactly my reasoning, too. I make trade-offs, knowing I can't really keep myself secret if I use the intertubes, but doing whatever I can not to make my whole life a present, especially to Google, who has already filed a patent on being able to 'nudge' people on its search engine to behave the way it wants them to behave, i.e. reminding about things in their calendar so they can take actions, such as booking an Uber ride to the airport -- the supplier of the ride paying for this service.

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Re: It won't be seeing my computer

Installing Chrome in 2017 (on a Mac, at least) is like installing Microsoft Office was in 1997: it'll fill large parts of your UI with undesired mess (e.g. creating separate Launchapad icons for Gmail, Google Maps, etc) that it periodically automatically reinstates, and you can chuck an extra minute onto machine startup time as it aggressively squirrels its update service into your machine startup process.

So it won't be seeing my computer either.

(Evidence: http://www.cio.com/article/2993065/os-x/os-x-el-capitan-remove-unwanted-google-chrome-apps-from-launchpad.html https://www.wireload.net/products/guu-google-update-uninstaller/ )

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Re: It won't be seeing my computer

I'll add my voice to the crowd. I actually like Edge fine - but it signs you into Microsoft automatically. You can put it into private mode every single time you start it up but you can't set it to not try and track you every time you fire it up.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It won't be seeing my computer

"I don't want to give either MS or Goog a free ride into all my internet activity."

Microsoft don't log your browsing history though, or sell your data. Slurp do both.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It won't be seeing my computer

"I actually like Edge fine - but it signs you into Microsoft automatically. "

Only if you tell it to remember your password. You can delete saved passwords under advanced options.

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@Will

Well, one nice alternative to Chrome could be Opera. From what I can tell by reading some of the previous posts it seems less bloated than Chrome, it doesn't try to push things in your face (the browser interface is pretty slim, the only 2 visible clickable options are the Opera menu and the browser tab button).

The main reason I run Opera though is because I like a browser which isn't IE, FireFox or Chrome. Although, in all fairness, Opera is build upon Chromium so it obviously has some ties into Chrome.

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Re: @Will

Truly the only PC alternative to Chrome and IE/Edge is Firefox (and derivatives). Opera is just a Chrome spinoff.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It won't be seeing my computer

Show me the patent and I'll show you a law that they can't use it.

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Re: It won't be seeing my computer

>>"Only if you tell it to remember your password. You can delete saved passwords under advanced options."

I don't think that's correct. Or else you misunderstand me and think I'm talking about it signing you in automatically to web sites. What it does is every time you start it up connect to a Microsoft account for you, tracking any search history and browsing history, et al. The only way around this is to switch to Private Browsing every single time you open it. There's no setting to disable the Microsoft logging, so far as I'm aware. It's nothing to do with saved passwords.

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Anonymous Coward

Opera?!

Really? They were taken over a few months ago by some Chinese outfit - no way would I trust them now.

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WTF?

Re: It won't be seeing my computer

Microsoft don't log your browsing history though,

So... How do you explain those privacy settings in Windows 8+ that specifically mention using your browsing history?

[El Reg, can we please have that steaming pile of bullshit icon? Thanks.]

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Re: It won't be seeing my computer

You don't have to 'switch' to private browsing, you can start a private window with right click from the taskbar.

I presume you can also create a shortcut to open one directly and pace that on the task bar or desktop, but I didn't look further.

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Power

I use Chrome on Windows, but only when I'm plugged into AC. If I'm on battery, (and I'm REALLY trying to conserve power) I will use Edge. It is undoubtedly the most 'lean' browser on Windows in terms of power consumption. Similarly I will use Safari on a MacBook in the same scenario. On my iPhone, I will almost exclusively use Safari. In fact, I don't even have Chrome installed. Never needed it, despite my reliance on Google services. On Android (Galaxy S7) I use the built in browser because it has smooth scrolling. I find Chrome's performance in that aspect lacklustre at best. I've tried Chrome on various Android phones and I've always found it unoptimised and terrible. Mind you, I've never owned a Nexus or Pixel and it did appear to run really well on my friends Pixel. Is it only optimised for pure Google phones? That's certainly been my observation anyway.

Overall, Chrome is probably my favourite of the bunch, but it is a power sucking whore and for me that limits me on when I can use it.

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Re: Power

Chrome has become my browser of last resort. It has become a flakey bloated resource hog that often claims to have run out of memory, I now use Edge 90% of the time, it's faster and rarely runs into problems.

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Anonymous Coward

I use Chrome

And do you know why I use chrome?

I was there through the browser wars, struggling to get Mosaic to work and then almost immediately going to IE and Netscape.

My experience from those times was one of frustration - incompatible rendering of HTML tags, Netscape offering a good alternative for a while but then bloating up beyond recognition and slowing down something aweful.. IE getting ahead, then getting almost seemingly abandoned by MS once they had "won" over netscape... I remember IE being very buggy at the time, and no new features coming in.. I used opera for a while, which was small, fast and felt like the future.. I think this was around about the same time that IE would always, when started, suggest that you change it back as the default browser (if you had something else set up) ... then competition from firefox and IE starting to pick up again.. more trying to get competitive edge via incompatible implementations, etc.

Now I have chrome, and it works.. it keeps being developed, there isn't really any websites that suddenly require a different browser (google keeps it up to date and running smoothly).. It works across all my devices... but the main reason why I am not changing away from chrome anytime soon is just this: it doesn't give me frustration. It works.

And as long as it doesn't frustrate me, stand in the way of what I want to do, mess with my system, bloat up and slow down my computer, etc, I will keep to chrome - life is too short to switch browsers every 6 months, especially if your current one is giving you no grief.

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Re: I use Chrome

Um, I'm just as old as you if we're going by using Mosaic and I have to say things have changed. These days Chrome is responsible for more standards violation and strong-arming of how the Internet works and IE11 / Edge is the one that plays nice. You know why? Because it isn't determined by which company is a Good Guy and which is the Bad Guy, it's determined by which one has the power. And these days Google do.

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Anonymous Coward

"Chrome’s not completely free of bugs:"

Its also not free of slurping your local history, forms data / passwords and everything else it can slurp to the cloud without permission. It happens even if Activity / Dashboard 'sync' is off! F@ck off Google! Sticking with Firefox!

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Re: "Chrome’s not completely free of bugs:"

Then run Chromium, or anything else that uses the Blink engine.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Chrome’s not completely free of bugs:"

On iOS/iPads, I've never explicitly signed into Youtube, yet it turns out, I'm signed into Youtube, tied to an email account, because I have a subscription to Google Play music.

Fcuk you Google.

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Re: "Chrome’s not completely free of bugs:"

I don't know about Chromium. This thing is dog slow. Maybe because I'm spoiled by Firefox/Palemoon with NoScript and such.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Chrome’s not completely free of bugs:"

iOS is leaking details across sandboxes . Your own fault for buying a crappy OS that is creaking at the seams desperately trying to keep up....

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My work Windows 7

Refuses to install IE 10, meh.

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Re: My work Windows 7

"Refuses to install IE 10, meh."

Why are you not installing IE11?

If you really need IE 10 and they are not sure what to do, point someone competent at https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj822354.aspx

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Re: My work Windows 7

If they have sites that only work on older browsers go to IE11 and use Browsium.

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Re: My work Windows 7

"If they have sites that only work on older browsers go to IE11 and use Browsium."

Just use Enterprise mode on IE11. Pressing F12 will give you a dev menu where you can select and test different IE levels...

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Anonymous Coward

"The whole concept of a browser has already slid into irrelevance, then: it’s just that Microsoft seems to be the first to realise it."

That didn't happen. Web apps largely obsoleted the desktop. Windows is for legacy win32 applications, and their "metro universal platform app store, or whatever" is a technological dead-end.

For better and worse Google is driving the web's evolution now. Microsoft doesn't even have the power to passive-aggressively sabotage the web any more.

Also Chrome uses BLINK not webkit, which they ditched to allow progress. Blink is now many years ahead of stagnant webkit, and is also switching to a GPU based renderer skia.

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Chrome uses Blink, which is not an acronym, which is zero years "ahead" of WebKit as both are actively developed. Both are GPU accelerated.

A six-year old presentation on the GPU rendering deployed by WebKit: https://www.slideshare.net/joone/hardware-acceleration-in-webkit

At random, one of the many WebKit bug tickets that has been resolved within the last week: https://bugs.webkit.org/show_bug.cgi?id=171129

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LDS
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The desktop is where the magic still happens...

While web apps may have obsoleted desktop apps for some simpler task - like reading a single inbox, or typing simple documents, the desktop is where the true power of a PC is shown. Also, smartphones shown that local, native application can be far better to use than web pages.

And, frankly, I really don't see any need to send my data back and forth to/from servers I have no control upon, when I can run everything locally with a far better UI and less lag.

Of course data slurping companies like Google and now MS want you to believe it's better to send them everything...

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Def
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Windows is for legacy win32 applications, and their "metro universal platform app store, or whatever" is a technological dead-end.

So by that rather poorly thought out argument, the Apple App Store and Google Play stores are also technological dead ends. That must be why nobody cares about apps any more...

Actually, I think you'll find single-function apps are slowly going the way of the dodo to be replaced by the super-app that does everything in a horrendous AOL/Compuserve mashup stylie.

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Happy

> including ancillary stuff like Active Directory

Browser, AD, browser, AD, hm, what do you mean ? SSO/WIA ? Very easy to set up in Chrome and Firefox, good that it is disabled by default, though ... imho. For Chrome, you can even control it through GPO, yes, yes ... templates ?

https://jorgequestforknowledge.wordpress.com/category/active-directory-federation-services-adfs/windows-integrated-authn/

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Cross Platform

>Whilst writing this I looked around to see why people think it’s still a good thing to use, say, Chrome or Firefox instead of IE or Edge, and a lot of the reasons can best be termed “tenuous.”

As you note, IE is only cross-platform in the Microsoft meaning of the term: it runs on more than one version of Windows. We use more things that don't and can't run Windows at all now, and if you want a consistent Web experience then you want a browser that runs on almost all the things.

And then there are those web Office apps you mention. Microsoft history has their browser deliberately incompatible with other vendors' services, and their services deliberately incompatible with other vendors' browsers. They can't do the latter when their browser is a minority share without harming the prospects of their services offering. So even if you use Office 363 on Windows it's best to do so from Chrome to preserve your option to do so.

These reasons aren't "tenuous".

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control

Speed is not everything to me.

I like some degree of control with my browser, be it fine grained cookie control, stopping videos autoplaying, script disable / whitelist , tracking disable, inspecting traffic / scripts (when debugging web apps) etc.

Which, typically means a browser with a good ecosystem of add ons.

So, depending what platform I am using / where I am , I use a variety of browsers, depending what's appropriate (e.g. if using dubious hotel WiFi I may well use Opera to make use of inbuilt VPN)

If some sites misbehave with a particular browser I will drop that site a line (if they actually provide contact details).

Don't like the idea of being resolutely wedded to a particular browser (though usage based probably use a couple of Mozilla forks most frequently just because of add ons). Use chrome sparingly as I find it quite a resource hog & annoyingly busy at writing to disk when it should be doing nothing

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Re: control: Speed is not everything to me.

This.

I'm not giving anyone free access to my personal life. My diary and phone is full of cryptic and re-used appointment and alarm text. Internet browsing uses FF because of noscript and some trust. Corporate intranet often gets chrome because of rubbish apps, process isolation and zero personal care factor on slurping corporate data. IE and Edge I find just... ugly whitespace hogs and are a last resort on the corporate webapp side of things. I don't care if the browser rendering is a little unexpected, I don't care much about the speed. The main care factors are privacy, compatibility and efficient screen usage.

And did the article author really resurrect the 90's idea that its a good to give your web browser r/w URL access to the file system? Does he remember what data MS' browsers send to the cloud on Windows 10? Does he want to include all local file access in that list? Not that I care. I've got nothing personal under Windows, All my stuff is under Suse.

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Hacking.

Microsoft products, including the browser, are still the primary target for hackers, because they're used by default by people without technical knowledge.

I have technical knowledge, but I don't want to spend my day deciding whether each interaction with the internet is an attempt to hack or social-engineer me.

Although, yes, professional hackers are quite likely to include support for hacking Chrome or Firefox or whatever in their toolkit. But the volume is less.

Microsoft products also have (semi-)secret access to Windows internal functions, which means that more damage can be done by hacking than with a third-party browser or e-mail product.

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Trollface

Re: Hacking.

"Microsoft products, including the browser, are still the primary target for hackers, because they're used by default by people without technical knowledge."

And, for some damn reason, they seem to be chock full o' security craters, waiting for some 0-day to exploit!

An advantage of open source browsers is the potential for peer review and contributed patches.

MS, meanwhile, re-re-re-invents the browser (complete with all new millennial generation security craters, no doubt, since they haven't learned their lesson yet), with a 2D FLATSO interface, calling it "Edge", and expects us NOT to associate that name with an activity that involves pleasuring oneself...

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Re: Hacking.

And, for some damn reason, they seem to be chock full o' security craters, waiting for some 0-day to exploit!

The "some damn reason" is the one given in the quote: the products are a primary target for hackers. The most successful way to find something is to look for it, which brings me to...

An advantage of open source browsers is the potential for peer review and contributed patches.

I'll give you "contributed patches", but peer-review is only potential. The "million eyeballs" is a fallacy that has given project maintainers an unjustified sense of security in the past. Really there's only about a thousand or so eyeballs on anything, but more seriously, code is mostly screened only at entry to the codebase, rather than by systematic review of the whole source (a daunting task, that very few commercial vendors do; but unlike OSS, they can at least hire a hundred devs and force them to pick through the code).

Security vulnerabilities aren't like ordinary bugs - they don't disrupt the normal operation of a tool, so users are unlikely to spot them. You have to look for them to find them.

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Re: Hacking.

Most vulnerabilities today aren't found by perusing source code and checking its correctness by eye. In large projects, it is quite impossible, and the people with the required skill level are probably busy doing something more productive, unless explicitly paid to perform a review of part of the code.

Applications are stressed using automated tools to find places where they break. And given most attacks imply very low-level techniques, it matters little if you have source code or not.

And avoiding vulnerabilities is now more a matter of writing safe code from scratch, and test it thoroughly, than hoping someone with a lot of time to waste will read it looking for mistakes. Sure, some other developer working on the same code could stumble upon them and report/fix them, but that happens in both open and closed source projects - and the number of eyes depends only on the size of the teams.

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Terminator

Re: Hacking.

"code is mostly screened only at entry to the codebase, rather than by systematic review of the whole source (a daunting task, that very few commercial vendors do"

That would be news to me, that commercial vendors do systematic review of the whole source. Usually it's, if it compiles sucessfullly then ship it and fix any bugs in the next version

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Re: Hacking.

> ... if it compiles successfully then ship it and fix any bugs in the next version

if it compiles successfully then ship it and fix one or two bugs in the next version, ad infinitum

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Microsoft's continued slide into irrelevance

This article seems to gloss over Microsoft's irrelevance in the only growing market: mobile devices. It acknowledges that browser development is expensive but fails to take this into account regarding Microsoft's attempts.

It has been force-feeding "Edge" on Windows 10 users for years now and it's still only getting 2-3 % of desktop users, itself a shrinking slice of the pie. Enterprise users were badly burnt by the "seamless" integration via ActiveX of IE and, because, Microsoft was so slow to devote resources to web compatibility, they specifically targeted web compatibility for the next generation of network-based apps, not leased because corporates are mainly still on Windows 7, so all the Edge "goodness" isn't available. Enterprise apps have lifecycles of at least 5 years.

Microsoft has had to recognise its failure by releasing Office for Android and IOS, once it realised that people would happily pay for it.

Back to Microsoft's browsers: IE 9 did include a significant rewrite of the renderer but IE 9 - 11 were hamstrung by all that ActiveX compatibility. Edge has dropped this, but as the CERT reports show, still share enough code with the older versions to be vulnerable to many attacks. It's now playing catch up for features but, as so often with Microsoft, you can never be sure it will continue to devote sufficient resources to the project. Fortunately for them, it looks like most of the stuff that was missing from HTML has now been added and a more gradual development path is possible.

The debt we owe to those at Mozilla and Opera and later Google who fought for open standards cannot be understated. Without it we'd still be developing browser-specific sites and be dependent upon shit like ActiveX and Flash for advanced interactivity. Anything that smells like that kind of lock-in is not going to get a look-in for the next few years.

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Re: Microsoft's continued slide into irrelevance

Microsoft, as it turns put, is actually trying to make Edge more relevant and now will give it its own updates separately from Win 10.

https://software.informer.com/Stories/microsoft-to-separate-edge-from-windows-10-updates.html

I get what they are trying to do: being dependant on system updates makes the browser really old, really fast. Considering the way the 10 is updated, it gets even worse. But the question is: what good will it do? Edge is a piece of sh~t, Windows updates or not.

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All was going well until this

IE is Microsoft’s window onto their ever-growing cloud application suite.

Nope, not going there. No way, no how. I took early retirement just so that I can consign using anything made, sorry crippled by MS to the waste bin of history.

No more going to the carefully save URL on the sharepoint server only to get '404 page not found'.

Yep, i saved the link correctly as my screenshot showed. Report problem to IT Support. Ever heard one of those endless cheeful Indian 1st Level Support people groan? This used to happen so much that my department setup its own Git repo for everything. We stll put stuff into Sharepoint but we never ever went there to look for it.

Sorry, El Reg, I have better things to do with my life now than fight the MS Lunacy that gets released to the unsuspecting world.

Thank god they don't release IE/Edge for Linux or MacOS. There is a haven of safely there for us who are done with MS.

If anyone from MS is reading this,... don't you dare release your shite browsers on the above platforms. You will get so much stick that any bad news you may have read about W10 was a mere ripple when compared to the shitestorm that will come your way.

I'll carry on using Firefox (ESR stream) and Safari for the odd times that FF gets it knickers in a twist.

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I use Chrome because Google has accomplished for the consumer what Microsoft does for the corporate user.

They built a platform that allows you to roam.

When I sign in to Chrome, my bookmarks and history follow me. On Windows, Linux, Android - it doesn't matter. It all just follows me. Oh, and where applicable, so do my browser extensions. Log in to a machine I haven't used for a while? No worries, Chrome will soon be the familiar place it is everywhere else for me.

Microsoft does provide roaming profiles for companies. But they haven't really wholeheartedly grabbed the idea of having an account in the cloud that their software uses for this. They're partway there, but they seem to want to segment their products into "professional" ones that do roam, and "consumer" ones that don't. Internet Explorer (and Edge) seem to be stuck in the "don't" pile.

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"I use Chrome because Google has accomplished for the consumer what Microsoft does for the corporate user.

They built a platform that allows you to roam."

At the price of them being able to see what you're doing. Is this kind of ability worth having Big Brother looking over your shoulder most of the time?

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@Charles 9 - yes, it's a fair price.

They have pretty strong privacy policies. They're huge - so big that it would be very difficult to defend against an attack from them. But as a threat, they're negligible - they have plenty of good reasons to treat my data well. Reputation, legal requirements, etc... So I'm not that fussed by it.

And often, the very things that people think are bad about this are actually a benefit for me.

Way back when Opera first went ad-supported, in version 5, I was a registered user. I was also one of the people asking for the ability for registered users to toggle the adbanner bar in the UI. (They never did provide that.)

The ads that Opera served were of two types - generic casino/entertainment ads that were animated and flashy and somewhat annoying, and Google ads that were just text - hence unobtrusive. But the Google ads were also targeted, based on the page you were on (not on tracking you, as I understood it). So when you're shopping for something, you always had this set of alternative options in that banner, which was sometimes what I wanted.

A lot of people couldn't understand why I would even want to toggle the ads on or off - but they were sometimes useful. And making my computer more useful is the only good reason for any change to my computer.

Google's services do make many people unnerved. But when I look at what I get from them, I think it's a fair exchange.

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haven't really wholeheartedly grabbed the idea of having an account in the cloud

It's exactly what they did with Windows 8. And the idea of storing my data in the cloud in ways outside my control still worries me...

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Big Brother

"They have pretty strong privacy policies."

Joke of the year, and it's only April...

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"When I sign in to Chrome, my bookmarks and history follow me."

You know that's the bit that worries me. If it is able to follow you around that means that it must be stored somewhere. In this case with Google, and that is a company that I try to avoid at all costs. My bookmarks, history etc. are mine, not something for someone else to mine, package and sell.

Chrome may do all you say but for me the snooping is a price too high.

I use Palemoon. Firefox without all the cruft.

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