For the past year I have used Qutebrowser almost exclusively as my main web browser. I even made a video on how extensible and great it is here. However there have been a few glaring issues with it over other browsers like Firefox that I have noticed over the past year. Although Qutebrowser is a great web browser, I think that these issues are too important for me to ignore.
Now before I start bashing Qutebrowser on where it falls short of my expectations, I should rightfully praise it for what it does right compared to other web browsers. Qutebrowser does have a lot of cool and innovative features that most web browsers wouldn’t even think about implementing.
Unlike most browsers, Qutebrowser has Vim keybindings by default. This means that every single action is bound to a specific key or combination of keys. This makes using and navigating in Qutebrower leagues faster than in other browsers like Firefox. There are extensions for Firefox that do allow you to use Vim keybindings, however they are not as tightly integrated into the browser as Qutebrowser. For Qutebrowser, every single action has a keybinding.
The user interface for Qutebrowser (or possibly lake thereof), in my opinion, is very clean and nice to look at. Not only does it look nice, but it is also highly customizable so you can change it to suit your personal preference.
By default, Qutebrowser has simple hosts adblocking enabled. Even though there are far better adblocking solutions (uBlock Origin is the gold standard), Qutebrowser still earns some points for having some sort of adblocking enabled by default. Qutebrowser also has an adblocking mode simular to Brave Browser’s adblocking mode if hosts adblocking isn’t enough for you.
Now I know that using Python as a language for writing a big application has some serious drawbacks, however in the case of Qutebrowser, writing it in Python gives it some unique traits. For starters, writing Qutebrowser in Python makes it easier to customize and extend in numerous ways. Being able to program in my own keybindings, extra features, and more is (for a lack of a better word) awesome. Although there are better language choices than Python (for example Lua is a solid choice1) for what it is, having Qutebrowser written in Python comes with some great benefits
This point somewhat ties into the fact that Qutebrowser is written in Python, but Qutebrowser is anything but small or fast. Qutebrowser uses just about the same amount of resources on my computer as Firefox (which is considered a bloated browser) and still runs slower. It also takes up a lot more space on my system than Firefox as well. The executable for Qutebrowser isn’t actually that big, however the dependices needed to run it take up more space than Firefox itself.
Like I stated earlier, Qutebrowser has adblocking enabled by default, which is really nice, however I don’t think that its builtin adblocker does enough. My standard for adblocking (as mentoned before) is uBlock Origin, and the adblocking options that Qutebrowser provides are not really too impressive. Compared to uBlock Origin, Qutebrowser’s adblockers don’t nearly do as much.
Didn’t I just say that writing Qutebrowser in Python was a good thing? Well…yes, but actually no. Python does provide Qutebrowser with an easy language to write the program in as well as configure and extend the program in, but the biggest downside of writing a browser in Python is speed. Qutebrowser, being written in Python, is just a little less resource intensive than Firefox on my system, however it is about half as fast. This compromise in performance is expected for a program written in Python and for a browser, performance is pretty important.
Firefox is the only web browser that is free software and also mitigates all of the problems I have discussed. Even though Firefox is still a bit bloated, it does fix adblocking (with uBlock Origin) and it is written in a more sane programming language. Firefox does not come with adblocking or keybindings by default like Qutebrowser, but they can be added in with extensions like the aforementioned uBlock Origin or Tridactyl. It is sometimes a pain to change the default settings for Firefox since a lot of useless and harmful things are enabled by default like telemetry, Pocket, Firefox Accounts, and more. After all of that is said and done, Firefox is actually a pretty good web browser.
Although Firefox is bloated, sometimes you need a bloated browser for the bloated internet.