Qutebrowser: My new favourite web browser?

Last edited: 1st April 2023

In my previous blogpost, which is already a while ago, I was ranting about Firefox adding yet another terrible user interface choice on top of all the crap that this piece of software has. With that in mind, I have went ahead and searched for a web browser that gets less in my way.

There is no other software application that breaks my soul more than a web browser. It is the most common application on every computer, phone, and even on video game consoles. Nevertheless, the current state of web browsers and especially the world wide web is absolutely atrocious.

No, this is not an over exaggeration, and no, this is not an opinion that is only coming from elitist tech wizards because the web is used by more people, who have mentioned such issues as well, than this tech group. The web is slow with bloated JavaScript Frameworks, multitude of trackers and spyware, cookie popups telling me that I should leave their website basically, and annoying advertisements, which makes websites super slow, painful, and ugly (remember, """clean""" is always better right?).

The issue appears on web browsers as well. No web browser is perfect, in fact, it seems like almost no web browser tries to be perfect, which may sound vague, however, considering that most people use their web browser 10 times more than any application on their system, I am really shocked that all web browsers have major flaws. Google Chrome, Chromium, Microsoft Edge (press F for Windows 11 users trying to install another web browser), Opera (GX), and Vivaldi are spyware, lackluster, and support Google with making anti-user decisions (Mainifest V3), Mozilla Firefox makes criminal lies about """caring about a healthier web and internet privacy""" and is controlled by Google anyway, Waterfox has been bought by an advertising company (yawn), Librewolf and Tor Browser care too much about fingerprinting, GNU Icecat by default is unusable and newer versions are not widespread available, and Pale Moon, just like Firefox, is a sinking ship.

I am not asking for much on a web browser, but no matter what web browser I have used, I always found issues on them. I can live with these smaller flaws, but they are annoying nonetheless. While this may sound like whining, nitpicking all pessimistic things, having an issue that bothers you daily because you are using it every single day can become very annoying, and so dealing with it is not as easy as saying "just get on with it", or would you say such a sentence to a depressed person that is trying to deal with their problems? I know this is out of context, but the more you swallow a problem into your soul, the worse it will get. I had this unfortunate experience a couple of times, and I don't want to experience that in a WEB BROWSER.

Another issue, at least for me, is that while the forks that are pretty okay for me, they are not available on the operating system that I currently use without compiling it from source, which would take too much time, especially with my current desktop computer, which falls apart so badly that it might die very soon, which is why I, like many other people who care about such things a lot, had to take a compromise, and so I went out of my comfort zone of either using GNU Icecat or Librewolf, and started using Qutebrowser instead. As of writing this, it is my default web browser on both my desktop and laptop, and I think that I configured it enough to state my viewpoint of Qutebrowser.

Now Qutebrowser is an odd choice, isn't it? It uses QtWebEngine by default, which is pretty much Chromium, a web browser engine that makes the web more centralised and BAD, with implementation of the Qt toolkit, a software toolkit that I had a janky experience with in the past, it is written in Python, a rather slow programming language, it is behind features of Chromium and Firefox, the adblocker is pretty much useless, and, the worst of them all, it doesn't support extensions that make the web usable. At least that was my first thought about Qutebrowser, and, nevertheless, this is valid criticism, but after really using Qutebrowser for some time, my view has been more optimistic.

First of, I can use it EVERYWHERE! Unlike Librewolf or GNU Icecat, Qutebrowser can be used on pretty much any operating system that is good or bad and relevant. No compiling, no adding a new repository, and no need for Flatpak or AppImage, always a huge pro in my opinion, and something respectable for sure because not all projects are willing to do such a difficult task. With that out of my way, I can go over the real points now.

When browsing the web, casually zooming the internet, the performance was never a flaw for me, which, for a really small web browser like Qutebrowser, is really impressive. Of course, you gonna lose on RAM because of that, but not too much surprisingly. Running at 300 megabytes on idle, which is still a lot, but fair. Though that number does drastically increase when going on bloated websites. Also, the more you use this web browser, the more you'll notice that even if it is written with Python, this web browser isn't sluggish or slow to use from my experience, so Python is also not an issue at all. That's thanks to the fact that the base is Chromium, which does indirectly support Google's decisions, but it would be a contradiction for me to say that because I do use Google's services, so that points falls apart as well, and even then, Qutebrowser has an option to use WebKit just in case.

Now what about features? The so called "features" in Firefox and Chromium are more of a distraction rather than something useful. For Qutebrowser, the features are actually useful (or they are opt-in), especially the main selling point, which is having a keyboard-driven web browser, and that's amazing because most web browsers have either stupid keybindings, or they are hidden. Besides that, you can still use the mouse with no issue.

Now for the elephant in the room: Adblocking and extensions. This is the biggest flaw of Qutebrowser, and for many a good reason to not use such a web browser, and I was one of them to say that. I do be missing my extensions that just runs in the background and blocks all useless crap from the website, however, I was also used to broken websites too since I used uMatrix to block everything that is possible, so I got used to the annoying web. The only questions comes if I want broken websites or annoying websites, and annoying websites seem to be bearable enough for now. The biggest annoyance is YouTube ads, which I have a little script for that just speeds up the ad, which is actually really good because I support the creator without getting annoyed by the ad.

Of course, this is not a blogpost about only shilling Qutebrowser too much. I do understand why people do not like this web browser, and it makes sense. There is valid criticism for this web browser, and it has been talked about for a while, however, with the current state of the world wide web, you will never be complacent with any web browser (maybe if you are stupid am I right Opera GX users?). Especially in such scenarios, you have to learn how to love your software that you use. The thing is, most popular web browsers aren't made for that, and rather go towards the opposite philosophy, and that just sucks. If you never get this attitude, then you will be most likely unhappy and dissatisfied with technology. Qutebrowser is the one web browser, that ticks this box. ThePrimagen has a really good video about "learning how to love your programs".

Whenever I use an application, whose fame to claim is to not get in your way, then, in many cases, this program sucks in my opinion. I use my computer in a pragmatic way to enjoy using a computer, and in the past year, the way of enjoying my computer more is learning to love my applications, my operating system, and my utilities. My favourite applications are not the ones that "just work out of the box", but the ones where you can tinker things so efficiently, where you have to get dirty, and then feel so satisfied that you can do things faster, better, and just more efficient because you took the route of studying the program, you took the """hard way""", and you made it, hence why I choose this way of using my computer (more on that in the future). My most used applications are based on that: Doing things the pragmatic and enjoyable way (for me at least), but there was only one application that I use so often, but also the one I just do not enjoy, and it had let me to take this compromise, and it was so worth it for me, even if for whatever reason I may have to go back to another web browser.

I am going way off topic now, but the bottom line is that yes, Qutebrowser has some major flaws, and I am never gonna deny them. It just depends on how impactful these flaws are, and for me, I had to wrap my head around and ramble about it to really realise that this is the web browser that I want. The only thing that I am struggling to get used to is switching between insert mode and normal mode, but that's just me, and the websites fault for bloating their website.

So is Qutebrowser my new favourite web browser? Yes! Is it the best web browser then? NO! It took me some time to get used to everything, but as a tech wizard, I am used to such applications, and so after some time, I really started to appreciate the magic in Qutebrowser, and even if I may switch to another web browser, I am glad to have taken a look at it, configured it, used it, learned to love it, and said: "Kudos to them!"