Why Google’s Chrome is currently the skeptic browser of choice

Google Chrome logoI try to avoid advocating one technology or vendor over another on this blog whenever possible.  Perpetual battlegrounds such as Mac vs. PC and Google vs. Bing are unproductive distractions from the general techniques we can use in our work.  But there are exceptions, cases where one technology has a clear advantage.

Web browsers are designed as a generic platform for displaying content.  They follow established standards such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript.  But there’s aways some cutting edge capability that can’t quite be handled using the standard technologies.  And so most browsers have a way to add functionality beyond the standards.  Some call this a plug-in, some call it an addon, some call it an extension.  Microsoft sometimes uses the term “browser helper object”.  Each browser does it their own way, so these tools usually have to be rewritten for each browser.

These things manifest themselves as toolbars, right-click menu options and so on, to enhance your use of the browser.  Recently they’ve become incredibly common as adjuncts to online services of various kinds.  That includes, of course, services that I’ve been recommending here as tools for skeptics to use in their work.

I decided to compile a list of which browsers are currently supported by the various online services that I’ve recommended here, in my talks and on Virtual Skeptics.  Once you see the list, you’ll see why I recommend Google Chrome for skeptics.

Charting the Options

Not much more to say, here’s the chart I compiled:

Tool What’s it for? Internet Explorer Firefox Chrome Safari Opera
Churnalism US Discover poor journalism practice and plagiarism in news articles online  X X
EasyBib Create standard citations for sources, learn how to evaluate websites for credibility  X X
Feedback Loop Give Google feedback on the value/quality of the current website X
Fishbarrel Assist the process of filing government complaints against quacks X
Google Image search Reverse image search – discover repurposed hoax photos and more X X
Image Search Options Reverse image search – discover repurposed hoax photos on multiple search engines with a single plugin X X
Lazy Truth Automatically find debunkings of urban legends and such that are passed around in email (for Gmail only) X
RBUTR Find and submit rebuttals to the current web page Future X X X
TinEye Reverse image search – discover repurposed hoax photos and more X X X X X
Unsourced Find the sources used to write a news article, flag churnalism and other poor journalism techniques X X
Web of Trust Rate websites for trustworthiness or child safety & leave comments X X X X X
Wikitrust Graphically analyze the editing history of Wikipedia articles X

As you can see, Google Chrome currently gives you the widest set of options in terms of skeptic-friendly web tools. Firefox is a good second choice. But there is only one tool (WikiTrust) that is not currently available for Chrome as I write this, and several are only available for Chrome.

So I recommend that all skeptics install Chrome so they have the option of using these tools. There’s no reason why you can’t have other browsers intalled too – you don’t have to make Chrome your default browser. But whenever you are doing skeptical work online, you can do better things if you use it.

Update: Added Firefox plugin for Churnalism US to table, per comments below.

Update March 2014: Added Firefox and Opera support for RBUTR to table, both recently released.

About Tim Farley
Focused on online misinformation, Tim Farley is a software engineer, computer security expert and scientific skeptic who created the site What's The Harm. He is a Past Fellow of the James Randi Educational Foundation.

9 Responses to Why Google’s Chrome is currently the skeptic browser of choice

  1. eselje says:

    Yes, but Chrome is also the browser that doesn’t have a proper “Do Not Track” feature. Plus, it’s Google and I’m, er, skeptical of what they’re doing with all of my data.

  2. tibfulv says:

    Firefox seems to have a plugin for the Churnalism database.

  3. tibfulv says:

    Oops, My eyes must be playing tricks on me.

  4. Pingback: Content Roundup for August 2013 | Skeptical Software Tools

  5. Pingback: Virtual Skeptics #55 – 9/4/2013 | The Virtual Skeptics

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