Monday, June 23, 2008

Firefox 3.0

So, those of you who read this and know me will know I'm a fairly strong supporter of the Foxy web browser known as Firefox. This past week Mozilla released version 3.0 of Firefox, and I wanted to share some thoughts.

It wasn't a good start: upon installation 6/16 of my extensions (including 2 absolutely "cannot live without" ones) weren't compatible. The new address-bar is interesting, but I'm wondering where it pulls data from, as upon installation it knew I liked achievement sites, and yet I have my history disabled. As a privacy nut, I have concerns about what's being stored, and what isn't (if I say don't remember any history, it shouldn't remember anything about where I've been).

Haven't had any problems with speed/performance at all. Some have raved about how smooth the page scrolling is, but it looks the same to me as any other version. Memory usage seems to be slightly better, although it's WAY to early to say for sure (and to be honest, the mem usage problems of FF are somewhat exaggerated).

Haven't decided yet if I'll go back or not, but my initial impressions are not good. Admittedly though, I'm tough to please, most people will be completely tickled with this version. I just don't see any reason to stick with v3, but a lot of reasons not to. Perhaps if my "must-have" extensions become compatible then I might be more inclined to stick with v3, but given that there are extensions which aren't even v2 compatible that I really love and that have made me want to stay with v1.5.x on most of my machines I won't hold my breath.

Now for the rant:

I've been with FF since pre-version 1.0. It's amusing to me to look at its evolution as it started out as a lean no-frills browser that was supposed to be for the hardcore crowd. The idea being that if you didn't want a feature, you wouldn't have to have it, and if you did want a feature, that's where extensions came in. Now, it seems that feature-bloat has occurred with it, as with each version comes new advanced features that I don't really want, but are added from a marketing POV (so that when tech blogs & such can do those side-by-side comparisons of FF vs IE it doesn't look one-sided). I want the old FF back, where the goal is to create a minimal platform where extensions provide the functionality. If that were the case, then one of the big goals would be extension compatibility. One of the problems for me with FF is that I don't really care for the browser, but love the extensions, and as such I become very dependent upon them. The problem though is that every time a new version of FF comes out, half the extensions I use are no longer compatible (it's one of the reasons I still use v1.5.x on most of my machines). For me, that's a showstopping problem, and I'm not convinced the FF devs realize how much of an issue it is. I find myself now in a position on this machine where I either A) have to live without functionality I've become used to, or B) go through the pain-in-the-ass process of uninstalling v3 and reinstalling an older version along with all my extensions. That's not the kind of situation that is going to win support and/or adoption of the browser from the masses. One of the big criticisms of Microsoft is that they force features down your throat that you simply don't want. Now we see the same thing happening with the Mozilla team with Firefox, and the hacker in me can't help but feel his heart hurt a bit at that realization. I'm not going to go all hippie-ish and say that they "sold out", but there is a greater sense that there's less of a difference between FF and IE now (security issues aside) than there used to be.

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