I’m a hypocrite.
I use the Chromium browser packaged by the Debian Linux distribution.
I also use Google’s sync service for my bookmarks.
By using the open-source (yet Google controlled) Chromium instead of the proprietary Chrome (which is based on Chromium), I fool myself into thinking I’m adhering to some kind of software freedom principles.
I don’t want Google “spying” on me, so I don’t use Google Chrome, which could be a black box doing all sorts of horrible things for Google’s benefit.
Yet how spy-free is Chromium? Am I auditing the Chromium source code? Is someone else doing it for me? (No and no).
I make it worse by using Google’s sync service to keep my bookmarks and passwords the same across the many instances of Chromium (and a few of … horrors … Chrome) I use across a number of computers.
The trouble continues. I use Gmail. My employer uses Google Apps. I’m up to my neck in Google.
Even though Chromium has always been a Google project, the browser is open source. Developers for Debian, Fedora, Ubuntu, Arch, etc., take the Chromium source code and compile it for use in their Linux distributions.
Even the BSDs offer ports and packages of Chromium.
What if Google really does pull its syncing services from users of Chromium? What can we do? How about:
- Sync our Chromium bookmarks using a third-party service via a Chrome extension.
- Run “real” Chrome, which Google offers from its own repository for Linux (but not BSD) users.
- Use another browser like Firefox, Vivaldi, Brave, Opera, Epiphany/Web, etc.
I’m already using as much Firefox as I can, even though almost all of Firefox parent Mozilla’s revenue comes from a single source: Google.
It seems like a dirty business, right?
Without Google’s multimillions, Mozilla folds like a cheap card table.
But now I use a lot of Firefox, a little Tutanota for email.
I could see Microsoft offering its Edge browser on Linux. I seem to remember this being a possible thing. Is Microsoft better or worse than Google? Lately it seems like the answer is “much better.” The browser they release won’t be open source, that’s for sure.
And Microsoft has already been taking over the free-software development ecosystem (Github, VS Code, NPM).
Does that mean Microsoft cares, or that it just wants to own all the things?
So we’ve established that one (or I) can have issues with Google, Mozilla and Microsoft.
At least with Mozilla’s Firefox and Google’s Chromium, we can see the source code before it is compiled to run on our Linux and BSD systems. I’m not sure how (or if) you can run Chromium on Windows and MacOS.
Vivaldi is part open source, part not. It’s complicated. But the company behind it is very much not a Google, Microsoft or Mozilla. Maybe this is a path forward.
Update on March 21, 2021: We have blown past the Chromium team’s alleged March 15 “deadline” for sync services to end, and they are still intact.
I am still using Chromium for my day job. I use Firefox for everything else.