Converting a Chrome user to Firefox

[Update: before commenting, you should probably read this follow-up post that clarifies certain things about this post.]

On my recent vacation I was staying with a family member, let’s call her Karen (not her real name).  She was a Google Chrome user, and I managed to convert her to a satisfied Firefox user.  Here’s what I learnt along the way.

tl;dr:

Bad things about the experience:

  • The third-party add-ons situation on Windows is awful.
  • We need a “import history from Chrome” feature.

Good things about the experience:

  • Mozilla’s non-profit nature is compelling, if you know about it.
  • AdBlock Plus is great.

The Initial Situation

Karen is a moderately sophisticated computer user. She knows what a browser is, but didn’t know how many there were, who made them, or any notable differences between them.

Her machine that is probably 2 or 3 years old, and runs Windows Vista.  She had used IE in the past (not sure which version) but didn’t like it, switched to Chrome at some point — she didn’t remember how or why — and found it to be much better.  She was running Chrome 14.0.835.202 (no, that’s not an IP address!) which was the latest stable version.

She also had Firefox 3.6.17 installed, but judging from the profile she hadn’t used it much — there was very little history.  She had the following Firefox add-ons installed:

  • Java Console 6.0.20 and 6.0.27.
  • The .NET Framework Assistant.
  • Some media player thing.
  • Some Norton “safe search” toolbar, and Symantec IPS, whatever that is.

(What is the Java Console?  What is the .NET Framework Assistant?  As far as I can tell they are (a) very common and (b) useless.)

I told her that I worked on Firefox and suggested that she try it and she was open to the idea.  I talked about the differences between Firefox and Chrome and some of my work on Firefox.  The thing that caught her attention most was that Mozilla is a non-profit organization.  She hadn’t known this and it appealed to her greatly — she said that browser speed and the non-profit nature were the two most important things to her.  She was also somewhat interested when I said that Firefox had an ad-blocking add-on.  At the end of the conversation, she agreed to let me install Firefox and make it the default browser.

Installing Firefox

I removed the existing Firefox profile manually — I wasn’t sure if this was necessary, but I definitely wanted a fresh profile — and then uninstalled Firefox through the Control Panel.  I then installed Firefox 7.0.1.  (BTW, I stayed with Karen for two weeks at this point, and I had deliberately waited until Firefox 7 was out before doing this because I knew it had much lower memory usage than Firefox 6.)

An unexpected thing was that the Firefox installer asked me to close all the other running programs;  it explained that this would mean that I wouldn’t have to reboot.  I’m used to running Firefox on Mac and Linux so I’m not used to this, but I’m familiar enough with Windows that I wasn’t totally surprised.  Still, it was annoying;  Karen had MS Word and some other programs open and I had to go ask her if I needed to save anything before closing them.  I realize this is Windows’ fault, not Firefox’s, but it was an obstacle.

Starting Firefox

When I started Firefox it asked me if I wanted to make it the default browser and I said yes.  (I explained to Karen how to switch the default browser back to Chrome if she was unhappy with Firefox.)

It also asked me if I wanted to import history/bookmarks/etc from IE.  But there was no equivalent for Chrome!  Karen had a ton of bookmarks in Chrome, but fortunately she said she only used a handful of them so I was able to copy them manually into Firefox’s bookmarks toolbar (which I had to make visible).  I’ve heard that someone is working on an “import from Chrome”  feature to Firefox but I don’t know what the status is.  We need it badly.

Once Firefox started, another unexpected thing was the state of the add-ons in the new profile.  The Symantec add-ons (including the ugly Norton toolbar) were present and enabled.  I had to disable them in about:addons;  I wanted to completely uninstall them but I couldn’t, the “uninstall” button just wasn’t present.  The Java Consoles and the media player were disabled because they were incompatible with 7.0.1, but I was also not able to  uninstall them.  This horrified me.  Is it a Windows-only behaviour?  Whatever the explanation, the default situation in a fresh install was that Firefox had several unnecessary, ugly additions, and it took some effort to remove them.  I’m really hoping that the add-on confirmation screen that has been added to Firefox 8 will help improve this situation, because this was the single worst part of the process.

I then tweaked the location of the home and reload buttons so they were in exactly the same position as in Chrome.  I probably didn’t need to do that, but  with those changes made Firefox’s UI looked very similar to Chrome’s, and I wanted things to be as comfortable for her as possible.

The best part of the process was when I installed AdBlock Plus.  With Karen watching, I visited nytimes.com in Chrome, and I had to skip past a video advertisement before even getting to the front page, and then the front page had heaps of ads.  Then I visited in Firefox — no video, no ads.  It was great!

Follow-up

A week or two later I sent Karen a follow-up email to check that everything was ok.  She said “All is well! The ad blocking is a great feature.”

So, Firefox has a new and happy user, but there were some obstacles along the way, and the outcome probably wouldn’t have been so good if Karen hadn’t had a Firefox expert to help her.

59 Responses to Converting a Chrome user to Firefox

  1. Yep, importing from Chrome is indeed something being worked on. See bug 454008 and dependencies, and https://wiki.mozilla.org/Firefox/Features/Chrome_migration

  2. Great post! In 8, we will apparently be banning Java Console, and disabling by default any add-ons installed by 3rd party software. Should make the casual evangelism process go more smoothly.

    “We need a “import history from Chrome” feature.”

    That’s this bug:
    https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=505192

  3. Exactly those add-ons are the reason for the new confirmation screen in 8, they are installed via the Windows registry by third-party applications without asking the user for it. Some third-party applications even install add-ons directly into Firefox installations or profiles, sadly. And some of those third-party ones, like a Skype add-on and e.g. those Symantec/Norton ones (same for other AV/Security suites), are known to easily cause crashes when we change some code – we in the CrashKill team are almost always tracking some high-profile crashes caused by third-party libraries loaded into Firefox processes on Windows. For some of those, the new dialog will help (if people don’t turn them on again there), for others, it won’t as they just inject DLLs into our process, which is even more fun.

  4. In reference to the “Java Console” problems. When you install Java, Java installs this “Console” directly into your Firefox install directory in Windows.

    Example on where it hides itself in Windows (depending on where Firefox is installed): C:\Program Files (x86)\Mozilla Firefox\extensions\

    You have to go in there manually to delete it, otherwise, you might have several older versions show up in your extensions.

    For example, the most current version of Java (6.0.29), installs it into a folder called “{CAFEEFAC-0016-0000-0029-ABCDEFFEDCBA}”. Delete that folder manually, and it’s gone from Firefox and will not show back up (unless you restore it or re-install Java).

  5. Yep. I’m surprised people still are, well, surprised by that:

    – Firefox needs to import stuff from Chrome. Well duh. Chrome imports from Firefox! If you wanna switch back, you want it painless. Means history, passwords, bookmarks are imported. Why is it not in Firefox?!

    – Firefox 3rd party addon sucks bad. Not really Firefox’s fault, but a complete fix would be awesome.

    – Firefox shouldnt spawn stupid welcome/upgrade pages except for the first install (i heard its being fixed?)

    • > – Firefox shouldnt spawn stupid welcome/upgrade pages except for the first install (i heard its being fixed?)

      You are correct. As of Firefox 8, the only time you will see a page after update is when there is something important that needs to be communicated. In general, this page will no longer be displayed.

  6. Hello.

    Java add-ons/plugins are clearly bloatware: Java Console (added at each new Java update), Java Quick Starter and Java Deployment Toolkit are completely useless for the average user (Java dev tools), the only useful Java plugin is Java Plateform. But Java installation persists to inject them into Firefox without the agreement of the user (but I read Mozilla has a patch to block automatic install of third-party add-ons.
    Java useless add-ons can be removed manually directly from the Firefox profile or by using the Java manager or Windows program manager.

    Same remark about the .NET Framework Assistant add-on. MS installs it during a Windows update about .NET Framework. Firefox patch about third-party addons should block it.

    The other issue is the injection of toolbars from various programs installed on the computer. The new fashion is security toolbars from AVG, McAfee, Norton, Kaspersky, Trend Micro etc.. These toolbars are often bad coded, not updated at each Firefox version and imply a ton of crashes (see the crash stats). Plus the fact that they offer a false feeling of security for the user (security suites play with this marketing argument…).

    The best example is Adobe Flash plugin offering to install McAfee toolbar.

    Honestly, I think the upcoming patch about third-party plugins should block many of these unwanted crapwares.

  7. Chrome import is on the way (although it looks like it’s just about to miss the Firefox 10 train…) – bug 454008 (stuff is happening in the bugs blocking that).

    The Java console already gets removed by newer versions of Firefox. The other third party add-ons will get disabled by default soon. bug 476430 and follow-up 693698 and others…

  8. Unlike the Java Console which is actually completely useless, I believe the .NET Framework Assistant does enable the ability to use ClickOnce installers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ClickOnce

  9. Nicholas Nethercote

    Thanks for the replies, everyone. (Gotta love how the delay on comments appearing due to content caching causes people to write the same thing multiple times.) Great to have confirmation that the two worst parts of the process are well on the way to being fixed!

  10. One comment on the Java Console – it’s extremely useful when dealing with enterprise apps that use applets in a web UI. When something goes wrong, stack traces and debugging gets written to stdout, allowing the user to obtain information for the developers. And speaking as one of those developers, that’s a *very* important tool both for us and our users… the idea that you might be banning it in future Firefox versions is somewhat alarming…

    (That’s separate from the multiple-plugin issue, of course. That part should be regarded as a bug in Java, that JRE upgrades don’t cleanly update the console).

  11. Actually, thinking on my previous post, I’ve overlooked one key point about the Java Console add-on All it seems to do is provide Firefox menu items – the actual console is part of the the Java plugin, and is easily accessible from the Windows system tray. So yeah, fair enough… blacklisting the console add-on isn’t a problem…

  12. Since there is a lot of talk about plugins/addons which should be blocked, I vote for Google Update plugin. Every time some Google product updates it will re-enable or add its updater to Firefox (and a number of other places that I am constantly digging out of corners).

    What is the bug number for the third-party plugin blocking?

  13. Chrome has Adblock Plus. Not sure why you indicate that as a Firefox only feature.

    • Nicholas Nethercote

      I never said it was a Firefox-only feature. Nonetheless, http://adblockplus.org/en/chrome says: “We are currently working on providing the same experience for Google Chrome as what you are used to from Firefox. Please keep in mind that we are not there yet and much work still needs to be done. There are also known Google Chrome bugs and limitations that need to be resolved.”

  14. @ Michael Kaply: You can’t really compare Chrome’s to Firefox’s version of AdBlock plus, see http://adblockplus.org/en/known-issues-chrome

  15. Chrome will never be my browser of choice, for these reasons:

    1) It does a lot of stupid, annoying stuff I can’t modify because Chrome has a one-size-fits-all approach. Among them are its automatic updates, which screw up system restarts; I only recently discovered how to disable that completely, by not only removing the task from msconfig but also removing two items from scheduled tasks that apparently kept putting it back. Hiding the http:// in the location bar is unnecessary and irritates me as a power user; on Firefox I could disable this setting.

    2) Its add-on capabilities are extremely poor, and seem to be a result of bad design choices by Google. It puts a virtual firewall between the add-ons and Flash, which means object subrequests can’t be intercepted; this is a problem for ad-blocking and makes an extension like Video DownloadHelper completely impossible. I don’t know if that separation was intentional or something they intend to change later, but my gut says the former.

    The bottom line is I refuse to bow to Google’s stupid/arrogant decisions about what it thinks I want or need in a browser. What I want and need is absolute control.

  16. Your post illustrate a great point. Your experience with a product starts with the installation.

    You mention that you manually deleted the profile, why is that needed? Why not put a check in the installation process? If you are a Firefox user, and you download a full install, you don’t get the install option, only the upgrade function. So if you want a clean install, you have to do manual things first. Why?

    A clean profile is also a pain in sense that you have to switch a bunch of things back. Some can be find a mouse click away in Options, other things like the awesome feature from old where Firefox asked you to save your session on exit, is buried in the about: section. Where I have to hunt for a forum post each time to get to correct parameters to switch.

    You seriously want to make Firefox great, then please overall the options so that it is friendlier and make some of the cool things that are buried easier to access.

    I just hope one day the open source advocates can realised it is not about all the options, or the technology or the features. It is about the experience a user gets while using this. Firefox really lack in that area…

  17. That “please close all other programs” is really CYA boilerplate that has been copy and pasted from one installer to another for eons. You only really need to close Firefox.

    The installer doesn’t really use any of the platform features for installation so it’s not smart enough to know that. Hence “Close everything or the word will end”. (AFACT firefox doesn’t use, install or update any system wide libraries.)

  18. Did you know that Chrome is almost unusable on a single-core machine (on Windows) when you’re doing other stuff too? Because of how the process priorities are set for all the Chrome processes, if some other program maxes out the CPU, Chrome simply won’t load any new pages. And maxing out the CPU is a lot more common than you’d expect for any kind of computer use apart from basic browsing and office programs (what about e.g. transcoding audio or a flash applet gone crazy?)

    • Windows Vista is a fairly miserable experience on a single core box for any sort of multi tasking (haven’t tested w7 on one), so I don’t think that’s entirely Chrome’s fault. This has been a major issue for keeping the low end boxes my Uncle bought for his kids a few years ago because the system would be nearly unusable for 20 or 30 minutes while windows update was running and they kept forgetting that mashing the power button was the wrong way to power down.

  19. Isn’t Mozilla Corporation a for profits organisations?

    I think on Fresh, newly installed profile, everything that is imported from other browsers should be listed right inside the Bookmark folder instead of having a separate folder imported from XXXXX….

    She didn’t notice Chrome was faster? ( I was expecting how you could sell her on that )

    I hope you could leave the Refresh button where it was by default and see her reaction. Just to hopefully prove it was a stupid idea.

    • Nicholas Nethercote

      MoCo is a for-profit company, but it is wholly owned by the non-profit Mozilla Foundation. My understanding is that the IRS said to the Mozilla Foundation “you’re a non-profit but you don’t earn revenue like a normal non-profit, we don’t like this”, so MoCo was formed purely to satisfy the IRS. In practice the two organisations in tandem operate like a non-profit, and it’s annoying that the artificial division imposed by the IRS muddies the waters.

      See http://web.archive.org/web/20060907025204/http://www.mozillazine.org/talkback.html?article=7085 for the original announcement of the creation of MoCo.

      • Well then Mozilla PR will have to seriously work on that. Because i bet 4 out of 5 peoples who follows technology on the internet will have read how much Mozilla are earning etc. And no where in the news will have Mozilla is an non profits organization.

        Or they should go the hard way and convince IRS to stop being stupid.

        I think Non-Profits Organization is a Great Selling Point. The problem is you have to make me think and believe Mozilla are Non Profits.

  20. Dustin Marvin

    I find it also annoying that the bookmark bar is hidden by default. It’s the most important area in firefox, which a use continuously in order to load my bookmarked pages.

  21. Did Karen install Skype or a Flash update at any point? If so, it’s likely she got Chrome installed and set as browser via the installers of either of these programs.

  22. The issue with non-uninstallable plugins (that’s probably not an English word, but bear with me, please) can happen on Mac/Linux as well. We have some addons packaged in Fedora (Adblock+, for example) and they ended up in the system read-only for users directories (/usr/lib64/mozilla/*). I know that on Windows most users (with clicking through UAC) can access almost anything, but isn’t there something similar in play here as well?

  23. There are two kinds of extensions.
    The “real” extensions that install following the usual procedure and those you can remove from inside Firefox. And they are stored in Firefox profile.

    The “pseudo” extensions like the .Net assistant that are installed through the Windows registry. You can’t remove them and they come up even if you erase Firefox profile because they are programs stored somewhere on the hard disk and loaded in Firefox via the registry key. To remove them you must manually edit the registry key, like:
    “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Mozilla\Firefox\extensions”
    This way nothing gets actually removed from the system but the extension is not loaded by Firefox either visible.

    BTW, removing some installed components from Internet Explorer may be much more difficult and it involves de-registering OCX files from the System.

  24. “Unlike the Java Console which is actually completely useless, I believe the .NET Framework Assistant does enable the ability to use ClickOnce installers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ClickOnce

    Hi Wes,

    [plug shame="less"]If that’s all you want,this addon will do the trick: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/fxclickonce/

    Lightweight and non-intrusive alternative that doesn’t break things horribly and pose an unknown security risk.[/plug]

  25. How many in mozilla use windows? And how many use macs? Because many of these problem were obvious and bugs are filled from some of them but from a long time. And many other things windows-exclusive are overlooked. I’m not ranting, I happily use firefox on my pc most of the time but when I see a video like the one used here: http://mbebenita.github.com/Broadway/broadway.html where all in mozilla are using macs… Maybe they all use bootcamp to win or linux…

    • Nicholas Nethercote

      Not enough. We’ve just been having an internal discussion about trying to get more devs using Windows. The short version is that development on Windows is generally much less pleasant than Mac or Linux, unfortunately.

      • Really? The only thing I can thing about is the lack of a proper shell (apart maybe from powershell).
        However thanks for the reply.
        I like your blog, interesting and frequently updated. I often check other mozilla blog but everything I found is seldom updated.

      • So what you’re saying is that most developers do not use the software on, by far, the largest installed platform of their user base? Do I really need to point out the obvious gap here?
        I’m not being a smart### (really, I’m not), but I find it incredibly troubling that the platform being used by most of Firefox’s users is the one which developers spend the least amount of time actually using. Know your Customer. That holds true in pretty much every aspect of professional life.

  26. I agree that Firefox offers 2 strong features: 1.) non-profit status, and 2.) full-support for NoScript/AdBlock Plus. But Chrome is getting full-support for NoScript/AdBlock Plus in 2012. So Firefox will only have 1 feature, non-profit. For Firefox to compete, it has to implement electrolysis, fix its memory-leak problem, and improve its UI.

    The only thing keeping long-time Firefox users from switching to Chrome at this point is that it has full-support for AdBlock Plus and NoScript. Chrome will have full-support for these extensions in 2012 as the API work is under way right now. Firefox is going to lose a lot more users to Chrome when this happens.

    The fundamental problem with Firefox is that Chrome offers a better UI experience for users. The FIND (Ctrl+F) function is a perfect example for comparison:
    The Find-In-Page feature in Firefox is painful to use: It doesn’t tell users how many instances of the searched-for-word appear on the page. It doesn’t scroll the page to display the searched word in the middle, it doesn’t automatically (by default) highlight all instances of the searched word, it doesn’t auto-hide the FIND-bar when users navigate away from the page, it doesn’t display any markers in the scroll-bar about where searched words appear, and Firefox’s FIND-bar takes up a whole row of viewable screen space whereas Chrome drops down a small box in the corner of the screen hardly taking away any viewable screen space at all. Did I mention that Chrome’s FIND-box auto-hides so the user doesn’t have to constantly close the FIND-bar when they find the searched-for-word? The FIND-in-page function that Chrome has makes it easier to browse the web.

    It is DESIGN implementation and UI that is winning people over. I couldn’t care less if Firefox can’t import my bookmarks. I will recreate them if it means I can use an intuitively designed web-browser that makes it easy to browse the web and doesn’t suffer from massive memory leaks.

    Here’s another example of where Chrome is easier to use than Firefox, the Bookmarks Library:
    In Chrome, this can be opened with the shortcut Ctrl+Shift+O. In Firefox this can be opened with Ctrl+Shift+B (on Windows) and Ctrl+Shift+O (on Linux). In Chrome, everything opens in a Tab. If I want to open Recent Bookmarks and quickly populate tabs with pages that I’ve previously bookmarked I can do this by opening the Bookmarks Library and then middle-clicking on each entry that appears in my Recent bookmarks list. Each middle-click will result in a bookmarked page opening in its own tab to the right of the “Bookmarks Library tab.” Now consider the Firefox equivalent: Opening Firefox’s Bookmarks Library results in a whole new window opening up. And my Recent bookmarks are limited to the last 15 or 20 entries or something. There isn’t a long scrollable list of my bookmarks going back in time. Middle-clicking one of these bookmark entries results in the focus changing from the Bookmark Library window to the Browsing Window. This makes it literally IMPOSSIBLE to quickly populate my browsing window with the select bookmarks I want by middle-clicking each respective one.

    Consider how PRINT works in Chrome vs. Firefox: Chrome integrated Print Preview and Print in the same tab. And when you click PRINT the tab deletes and takes you back to the webpage’s tab. This is smart design and results in less things popping up on your screen and less clicks. Firefox opens a whole new window. And when you click print, you then have to wait for the print-dialog-notice to finish before you can manually close the window and see your webpage again.

    It is more work (more clicking) to use Firefox. Firefox already has plenty to offer users. But without a UI that invites users and makes browsing more enjoyable and less work, Firefox won’t be able to compete with Chrome.

    Finally, I will speak about Firefox’s horrendous problem with Memory Leaks. Too many people have come to me and complained about this and ultimately switched to Chrome solely because of this. Firefox will NOT give memory back to the computer as willingly and easily as Chrome. On Ubuntu, users routinely are having to kill the Firefox process (after they’ve closed the application!) just to get it to release memory back to the OS. That is, after Firefox is closed, users can’t reopen Firefox again until they kill the process. Steve Gibson recently declared on his show Security Now! that he has abandoned Firefox 7. After trying versions 6, 5, and 4, he has returned to version 3.6 because it is the version least affected by the memory leak problem. He said he would have switched to Chrome if it supported NoScript.

    I wish Firefox the best, hence why I’m spending the time to write this. You guys want to compete? Take a good solid look at Chrome’s UI. Copy it, and fix the memory-leaks. And you’re back in the game. It’s going to take a major overhaul. But IMHO, it’s the only way.

    Good Luck!

    • Nicholas Nethercote

      “fix the memory-leaks”

      You’re not a regular reader of my blog, are you? Take a look at https://wiki.mozilla.org/Performance/MemShrink. Take a look at all the posts under http://blog.mozilla.org/nnethercote/category/memshrink/. I’ve been writing for months about the memory use improvements we’ve been making. The first of these made it into FF7, FF8 will be better, FF9 better again, and so on. Have you tried any of these newer versions?

    • I don’t buy that Chrome offers an inherently better UI experience; it offers a different experience, and that fairly minimalist approach mirrors the stuff people have been getting used to with smartphones. (You make some valid points about Find and whatnot; I think your other concerns are better addressed with an add-on.) Where Chrome is also minimalist, though, is in customizability. If I want to stop it from hiding http:// in the address bar, I can’t. In fact many things I want to do can’t be done there. Heck, I can’t even tell it to disable its auto-update.

      It’s nice to hear Chrome will be allowing full ABP support in 2012, though that it wasn’t supported from the outset is mind-boggling. Up till now I simply assumped that this was an intentional way to try to preserve many of their ad delivery systems. It’s one of my major beefs with Chrome, but fixing that will never draw me over to them, especially because of the single-core issue mentioned above.

      But Chrome simply will never have me as a regular user for these and a bevy of other reasons. There are little issues like the fact that webkit browsers screw up image load events, or the fact that Chrome at one point began mangling URLs that get passed to helper applications. (The software I work on uses a custom protocol, and any time ## was in the URL, Chrome was wrongly converting it to %23%23 when sending the URL to the application. It required an annoying workaround.) And in spite of the fact that webkit enthusiasts are fanatical about claiming how wonderful Chrome’s CSS compliance is, I still firmly believe Gecko to be the better engine.

      • “Where Chrome is also minimalist, though, is in customizability.”

        Sorry, but this reminds of of Linux users who refuse to use Windows because they can’t build their own custom kernel. Excellent defaults are king, customizability is the sugar on top, especially since a lot of features shouldn’t need to be customized in the first place (e.g. find-in-page for which nick wonderfully described where Chrome’s implementation is superior to Firefox’).

        “It’s nice to hear Chrome will be allowing full ABP support in 2012, though that it wasn’t supported from the outset is mind-boggling.”

        Firefox has this ability because it allows extensions to tamper with its internals in whatever way the extension developer wants and not because it had a dedicated API. I’m sure Chrome has internal APIs to control requests but doesn’t expose them (and any other internal interface) to extensions. Google took a different approach by offering tightly controlled extension APIs which are extended continuously (the webRequest API has been especially tricky judging by the many bugs it spawned). Given the never-ending goodness that comes from this approach (compatible extensions across a dozen versions, fine-grained resource monitoring, sand-boxing, etc.) I’d say that theirs is the better long-term approach even if it means that developers and users will have to do without certain features for some time, especially when considering which hoops Firefox has to jump through to somehow make their technical legacy compatible with their desire for short release cycles.

        • Windows has defaults, sure. They’re not good ones. I think that’s almost universally agreed upon, at least by people who are computer literate on any level. Microsoft has for a very long time targeted the lowest common denominator. (For the record I’m a Windows user.) But Windows also has customization options out the wazoo, some of which are exposed to the user and others less so. You’d have a point to say that browsing lends itself even more to the LCD approach, but locking down all but a few options is simply a bad idea.

          As for the add-on philosophies, I don’t know that the ever-extending API approach is really any better than the Firefox approach. Windows itself, after all, is API soup and contains a lot of legacy stuff from the 16-bit era. But I can say that given the high stakes of the browser race, not in terms of market share but in terms of what people need to do with their browsers, Google’s short-changing the request monitoring was a pretty bad idea. If one must take the API approach to the big leagues, one’s API mustn’t fail at the fundamentals.

  27. I’m aware of the “memory improvements,” at least I’ve read about them. Personally I have not seen them manifest yet in 7. I still have to regularly kill the Fx process in ubuntu when using Firefox. A major PITA that has led me to start using Chrome more and more to avoid the hassle. On Windows memory use is still running away, Steve Gibson apparently agrees cause he’s back on 3.6. I look forward to trying 8. I’ll wait for stable though because I need to take a break from computer testing for a while :)

  28. I’m not the only one with this problem on ubuntu. A look thru ubuntu bugs and I was able to count TEN duplicate bug reports of same issue, not counting users who ticked the option indicating that the bug affects them too.

  29. Nicholas, I share your strong dislike of 3rd party add-ons & extensions installing secretly and having no uninstall button. I only use 2 extensions. I don’t want anything else installed. I too am looking forward to 8’s new extension management. But I really want firefox to prevent installation in the first place, not just offer disablement.

    You asked if this “is a Windows-only behaviour?” I think it is because I have never experienced this on a a Linux distro.

    PS: I will send you directions for how to uninstall unwanted extensions on Windows if u want (ones that have no uninstall button). Shoot me an email and I’ll try to get to it soon as I can. Maybe next time you visit your family member, u can clean that extension crap off her box.

  30. I switched back to Firefox after being a longtime Chrome user. My main reason was that Chrome has an extremely annoying feature when viewing websites (especially black websites): it loads a blank white page before loading the actual webpage.

    This has the effect of being blinded once a minute or so by a bright white screen, that you cannot change.

    Firefox doesn’t have this problem. The Blank Your Monitor extension also helps greatly (Chrome has similar addons).

    • “it loads a blank white page before loading the actual webpage.”

      This could be another case of latency when the browser process communicates with the tab’s renderer process. There is a rather old video (> 2 years) where Peter Kasting (Chrome dev) explains that they had to do a lot of arm-twisting to minimize the white flashes including keeping screenshots (!) of the page in the browser process which are displayed until the renderer returns something to display. But that’s meant for the case of switching tabs, not sure what is happening when loading new pages which causes Chrome to discard the current page before the new one is ready. Maybe a Chrome dev is reading this thread. ;-)

  31. Donnie, that’s over here:
    http://code.google.com/p/chromium/issues/detail?id=1373. There’s another bug as well but I can’t find it right away.

    From what I understand, Firefox isn’t entirely free of the issue. I use this code in Stylish (or in userChrome.css) to avoid the problem:
    tabbrowser tabpanels { background-color: #666 !important}

  32. Actually, the best part of the “new user experience” had nothing to do with the actual browser’s performance. The fact that Adblock was the best thing about the experience should be saying to the development teams “Hey, we still have a lot of work to do to make installation and use of our software enjoyable”. Now, before I get flamed, I am not saying that Firefox is a bad piece of software (I use the Nightly, and will never switch to another browser) but I think this experience should be taken very seriously as a use-case and the lessons taken to heart. In fact, most developers would do very well to sit with a user and go through the entire process with them – from installation through daily usage. Nothing teaches better than seeing someone actually try to use something you’ve built.

  33. Mozilla needs to spend more time looking at why I use Chrome instead of Firefox and have given up on Firefox on my two attempts so far to return to it:
    1) Firefox gives me 1/3 inch less browsing space at the top of the screen.
    2) The functionality for restoring Recently Closed Tabs is significantly worse–and nonexistant without me installing an add-on with incompatibility issues.
    3) Continued from #2–With no “New Tab Page”, I can’t easily launch my favorite bookmarks when I open a new tab. What gives?

    I love how Firefox doesn’t have the “Aw Snap” error all the time like Chrome. But pressing “F5″ is a small price to pay to be able to easily restore my tabs when I come into work tomorrow. Add a New Tab page and I’ll probably go back to Firefox–and I mean a good official one, not a half-broken add-on.

  34. No one talks about Chrome implementing UIPI on Windows from the early versions? Tabs on Chrome run on low integrity level taking full advantage of UAC. There’s no need of addons like noscript if you use it on a standard user account.

    • All the people I know running no-script do it as part of their ad/nuisance stomping setup. I don’t know any who use it primarily because they’re worried about malware scripts.

  35. I do not know why you do not “get” this. Firefox MUST play nice with at least the top 6 or 8 virus/malware checkers. Stop complaining about them – or get out of this venture. Most users will not browse the web without a fully functioning virus/malware checker. I also depend on Norton’s Identity Safe to keep track of multiple dozens of passwords. Either you have to work with them and create a stable interface that does not constantly change under your rapid development environment, or expect users to defect to browsers that do not constantly disable what we need for safe browsing. I’m using Firefox 7.0.1 on a Windows box, and will not upgrade to 8.0 until I have definite information that Norton 360 and Norton Identity Safe will work fully, regardless of how many times the annoying popups tell me that 8.0 is available for download. (Yes I know you want me to stop using Windows – I ran Linux boxes for probably 15 years beside some Windows boxes. I finally got tired of updating all of that hardware, and for peace in the family decided on Windows.)

  36. It sounds like the entire process was a mess. Is Adblock really the only reason to move someone to Firefox?

  37. I’m using Firefox 8. I am still having to frequently kill the firefox process in order to be able to shutdown my system or just start firefox again after I previously closed it.

    I use Ubuntu. Should I file a bug report for this with Ubuntu or Firefox?

    • Nicholas Nethercote

      File with with Mozilla (bugzilla.mozilla.org). But it might be worth trying an Aurora or Beta build (see aurora.mozilla.org or beta.mozilla.org) in case the problem has already been fixed.

    • Don’t bother with the bug report, Sam. This bug has been reported numerous times over the years. Mozilla has shown no interest in fixing it.

  38. I think support for some sort of way to clear and create a new profile automatically is needed. I have so many people complain about how slow Firefox is, but I just create a new profile for them and they’re all set. However, creating a new profile is too much for average users. I heard Windows 8 was going to have some sort of “Clean Windows” option that effectively re-formats the hard drive and re-installs Windows automatically. We need something like this for Firefox, too.