Lightspeed – a browser experiment

Planet Mozilla viewers – you can watch this video on YouTube.

This is a presentation that Philipp Sackl and I put together for the Firefox UX team. It’s a browser experiment called Lightspeed. If you want the short version you can download this pdf version of the presentation. Let me know what you think!

Notes:

  • I mention the “Busy Bee” and “Evergreen” user types. These are from the North American user type study we did in 2012 and 2013.
  • This is a proposal for an experiment that I would love to see us build. At the very least I think there are some good ideas in here that might work as experiments on their own. But to be clear, we’re not removing add-ons, customization or anything else from Firefox.

60 thoughts on “Lightspeed – a browser experiment

  1. Some additional suggestions

    Search: Awesome bar matches the keywords in the title and the URI. Enlarge the scope by indexing the content of the full page instead. Rationale: We often remember things we have read more than their title which is invisible.

    Heart: There are things I want to remember (the current heart), there are things I want to put on my ignore list or that I think are useless, disgusting, etc. Putting things on a list for ignoring will help to make it better. Hearts need to be page related and not domain related.

    Bayesian: Now that you have indexed the full page, that you have chosen good and bad (heart/yirk), you can do bayesian filtering in the search results when you start styping, showing things which matters the most. Bayesian filtering is often used for removing spam, you can do the same by promoting content that is indexed.

    BrowserTimeMachine: ok we indexed the full content of a page… hmm what about keeping a local copy of this page, be automatically or dynamically. Something that would work ala Time Machine, a kind of backup of my browsing. Something that would be a dated organization of my browsing or if you prefer an enhanced history. When you start searching you might have different versions in time of a Web page. I went there in October 2013, in February 2012. etc. When you are on a Webpage you could have a time slider timemachine and or ala Google streetview with the views from the past. (Additional benefit it can help you understand your self consumption of information). It could be everything you browse, or just the thing you put an heart. Which means you can put an heart multiple times on the same page.

    In the end you get something which is becoming a very convenient tool for browsing (through local search) AND remembering (many tabs without managing them).

  2. Hi,

    I like your idea. But will you make it open source? Do you need help external help (outside of Firefox)?

  3. This seems like a horrible idea, in the worst possible way. Basically you’re talking about dumbing down Firefox. Which ultimately helps no one. I am all for a simplified experience, and removing every bit of useless chrome (no pun intended, ok, maybe a little bit intended). From having a simplified user interface to having no settings is a long stretch, since many of the so called “good defaults” you talked about are some of the first settings I change when I first install a browser.

    Removing settings is not some great innovation, it’s just stupid. Ultimately a browser is a complex tool, and while I appreciate being shielded from that complexity most of the time, not having a way to reign it in, is just a recipe for frustration.

    That being said, if people are moving away from Firefox to Chrome it’s not because of the UI design, or having too many settings to deal with, or having a favorites bar instead of a “heart” button, it’s because Firefox is a slow buggy mess.

    I currently have over 500 tabs open in Chrome and it’s capable of running them all quite fast and without issue, when Firefox, can’t handle 6 without crashing. Crashing. And more crashing.While handling 500 tabs is not a common scenario, handling more than 6 tabs reliably, should be. I remember a point when Firefox was capable of dong that well, but these days when Firefox is not crashing, consuming 100% of my i7 and Xeon CPUs for no reason, or experiencing rendering glitches, with the screen flickering for no apparent reason, it’s still actually pretty slow.

    So don’t waste your time building a browser which doesn’t give me choices, build a browser that gives me reliable speed and you’re golden.

    • I don’t know what caused your Firefox to crash. But here I managed to open 400+ but less than 500 tabs in Firefox. Still, no crashing occurred.

      My system configuration:

      Intel Pentium Dual Core E-2180

      3 GB DDR2 RAM

      No graphics card

      Windows 7 SP1 x64

    • Maybe you should take your Firefox to about:support and click the “Reset Firefox…” button. This could help with some settings that induce crashes. (Note: this creates a new profile with your history/bookmarks/cookies but without add-ons. You will need to add those again afterward. However, add them one by one, as one of them may actually be causing the crashes for you.)

      Another thing that is always helpful is going to about:addons, then click Plug-ins and completely deactivate as many as you don’t need daily. The only one that is typically left then is Adobe Flash which you can set to Click-to-Play. This way you can at least avoid any instability because of plugins in background tabs. (Although of course, these days Flash crashes should not be causing Firefox crashes anymore. But still, can’t hurt.)

      Also consider getting Adblock Plus, it may shield you against some overly-fancy-but-crashy stuff, too. And it makes page load times quicker [usually, though that depends on a processor speed to network speed ratio].

    • no, this is just the firefox project all over again. firefox used to be an experiment. the light version of sea monkey. with time, it got bloated. hope they will lean it again. but this time, end the current versioning scheme too. it sucks and makes no sense.

  4. Firstly, I think the concept is pretty cool.

    You could make it either a different version of Firefox, with all the Lightspeed components, or have a “Lightspeed Mode” in the current Firefox. This would give people the option of using the full Lightspeed package or choosing components from Lightspeed and adding them to “regular” Firefox. I don’t know how possible that is, I would consider myself an intermediate beginner when it comes to programming. If it is possible or, rather, feasible to do this, it would grant users full control of their browsing experience. They could use Firefox any sort of wizardry they would like to exercise and then switch to Lightspeed whenever they please.

  5. Pingback: Lightspeed vs. Chrome

  6. I’d keep bookmarks. For the rest, I think it’s a GREAT idea.

    It almost looks like a cross-over of Firefox and DDG to me.

  7. Pingback: Mozilla's Lightspeed could make the web a lot simpler - gHacks Tech News

  8. Awesome Concept! This would be awesome if it came out on Fennec, because it looks more mobile-oriented. And when Firefox has plans to coverge the desktop Firefox and Fennec together, this could be integrated into Firefox like a cool-mode.
    But you can’t just do away with Add-ons and settings because that would mean a lot of productivity users just drifting away from Firefox. You could use the current version as a fallback mode for those who would still need the full version to do their day-to-day jobs.
    This could be an awesome thing to see around by the time Firefox reaches v40. Firefox just had a complete revamp (Australis), why not Fennec get one too? codename it “Lightspeed”.

  9. “no settings” no please. Stop removing features and stuff from the browser already. Stop dumbing down stuff. Stop the tablet fad. Stop the “flat” UI fad. Stop treating people like they don’t know what they want. Only destruction lies down that road. When you dumb down everyone and then something break.s, there’s no one left to fix it. One day there’s no one left to build anything new anymore, because no one knows anymore how things work. All because some people wanted to “simplify” things. Firefox, “out of the box”, is no longer even usable; you need to install numerous add-ons to restore essential functionality that only five years ago was unthinkable that someone would consider them to be “outdated” and needing to be removed. Chrome and Opera go even further, and look what they’re now: toys.

    • “One day there’s no one left to build anything new anymore, because no one knows anymore how things work. All because some people wanted to “simplify” things.”

      ^ Good one.
      Arent we here at Mozilla *trying* to encourage people to make things more? The whole essence of Maker Parties?

  10. I tend to agree with karl. Not sure about two things: the added complexity of some of what he suggests, which would require surfacing features in the UI and asking users to make choices; specifically, remembering several versions of a page, which sounds like an expert feature and fringe use case that doesn’t fit the two user types described in the video.

    Remembering a static version of a “hearted” (saved, remembered…) page would be a cool feature, the browser could transparently offer the saved page as a fallback when offline, when connectivity is really poor, or when the page doesn’t exist anymore. I know that I’m missing that in my current browsers, bookmarks keep going dead after a while, I wish I could have a local version and export it as a packaged web page or PDF to send to people… or just to be able to read it myself.

    By the way, why delete the third-party cookies at the end of the session, instead of just blocking them altogether? Isn’t Safari disallowing third-party cookies already? Is that browser broken as a result?

    Finally, I’ll add that the mockup with mixed search results is quite confusing. Too many content types, headings, areas. (Not saying it’s a bad idea.)

  11. I do like the idea about dumping history as a “by default” privacy mechanism, but almost every day I wish history better informed search.

    Once upon a time some GNOME hackers worked on an indexing and search tool called Beagle. They made extensions for web browsers so that Beagle knew the history of stuff you’d browsed. But not just URLs… Beagle actually indexed every single page you viewed!

    Sounds vaguely Orwellian 10 years down the track, but it was extraordinarily useful. “What was that thing I read about the cute baby animal whose name I forget? I know it was a ‘pup’ born at a zoo…” (Searches for ‘pup zoo’, finds page about Pangolin viewed in the last few days. Boom.)

  12. Putting critical functionality in the window’s title bar is stupid, stupid, STUPID! Chrome has already proven this.

    Let’s say I’m using a browser with this proposed design on a Windows computer, but I access this computer using a Remote Desktop client. Now, most of these Remote Desktop clients have a hidden titlebar or menubar of some sort that will slide down whenever the user puts the mouse near the top of the screen.

    Do you see where this is all going?

    Exactly, the Remote Desktop client’s hidden titlebar/menubar will appear and cover the core functionality of the browser with this proposed design if the browser is running in a maximized window and the user goes to use this core functionality.

    This is already a huge problem with Chrome. When using it in a common scenario like that, it becomes damn near impossible to select the tabs that are within with middle of the screen, where most Remote Desktop clients place their titlebar/menubar.

    It isn’t limited just to Remote Desktop clients, of course. The same thing can happen when using virtual machine software like VirtualBox, which also has a similar titlebar/menubar that slides down from the top of the screen.

    The only sensible solution is to put important functionality like the URL bar and browser tabs within the window, where they belong. There is never any excuse for core functionality to end up within the browser window’s title bar. It’s just a stupid thing to do.

    • What is the % of users, that use Virtual Machines or Remote Desktop, or vnc ?
      If they use these technologies then they will be able to learn a few Keyboard ShortCuts – to switch between tabs (CTRL+TAB)….

  13. Looks like totally dumbing-down Firefox and also its users: Design a dumb product and you’ll only get dumb users. I definitely prefer to have a sophisticated product and sophisticated users.

    Also: Total commercialization through preferred partnerships, no AdBlock plugins etc. –> IOW: Total BS!

    Verdi obviously loves to see and hear himself talking, but he has no clue about computer science at all. He should go design a one-button mobile phone for elderly people, not a browser.

  14. First of all so many people are criticizing the removal of settings and customization. That’s because they are Firefox users and the touted advantage it has over other browser it customization. Honestly, though having great defaults is waaaaay more important than the ability to change things. That said it really has to be great defaults and that can be subjective and depend on past experience with browsers.

    Second of all the biggiest mistake I see with this concept is once again someone thinks Bookmarks is something that can be removed from browsers (Opera says hi). It’s not gonna happen. To further the mistake you delete History after each session. So now the user has to rely on ticking the Heart box every time they want the browser to remember a page. That’s a step backwards from not doing anything. I myself never delete my history just in case I want to go back to something that I might not have though much about at first. History as proven by Archive.org is very important.

    The fundamental mistake here is rethinking the *Desktop* browser rather than the mobile browser, which can really use a new design, and frankly Mozilla should be focusing more on getting users on Android and iOS. A Skunkworks mobile browser may be a better use of Mozilla’s resources.

  15. Hi, very nice initiative. I normally consider an application better, when the simplicity is one of the highest priority, and this principle are along those lines.

    I would just suggest you to consider the shortcut more than the clicks, maybe to have them written somewhere (in a panel or on the background) when you open the browser.

    In general the idea of having a search a-la spotlight is for sure a step forward in the development and evolution of browsers and internet accessibility.

    Ciao!
    Luca

  16. Great post.

    IMHO a product such as this might just be received extremely well here in the African regions. Most people would fit into the “Busy Bees”. No time to tinker and tweak but head straight to the matter at hand…

    It strikes me as a minimal version of Firefox. Of course without most of the power we’ve all come to love but still maintaining the focus of a safe and open web. And that’s good.
    Like you said it would be a great browser for children getting introduced to the web.

    I fully support your comment on this being an entirely different product on its own someday (Yay! New Mozilla baby!). Maybe soon ? :)

  17. Cool project! Amazing ideas there. I think everyone who is not an enthusiast would love it.

    I just don’t see the point for similar site suggestions when you’re talking about making it simple. Most of the time these suggestions don’t get what a user wants, and even if it gets, i look to them and think that the browser is assuming i want more of that type of content. Maybe cutting it off gives more space for better stuff (white-space is a good stuff when something has to feel simple and clean).

    And the e-mail search goes against the privacy concern the browser seem to have. I would live that to the e-mail service too.

  18. Don’t replicate the “mobile experience” on the desktop when it doesn’t benefit the user. For example: Why would you get rid of tabs? Or remove all settings? Maybe you could vastly simplify settings instead of removing them altogether. What if I want to keep my history? I don’t need incognito mode on all the time as I hardly ever use it. You did think of enhancing the browser search bar and I really like those ideas.

    Like some other commenters said focus on speed and stability and I will make Firefox my goto browser again.

  19. I noticed that you mentioned how this would not be optimal for work because you have hundreds of tabs open. I know almost everyone does this same exact thing, but I found it weird that such a thing wasn’t even considered a topic for optimizing that user interaction with the browser. Why do people want to navigate a long string of browser tabs instead of some simpler way? I doubt everyone has all of these tabs open because of unsaved data. If it is only because it is so quick to switch tabs instead of load a page then maybe there is some way to save a pages state and jump back to it from the amazbar like the rest of the navigation experience.

    Just a thought.

  20. It’s kind of ironic, that all those self-declared experts who criticize this concept for “dumbing down” Firefox or its users, aren’t capable of reading the article or watching the video: “[…] we’re not removing add-ons, customization or anything else from Firefox”
    Besides, if you are reading this blog, you are probably not in Lightspeed’s intended target audience. And no, using Remote Desktop or virtual machines is not a common scenario for the “Busy Bee” and “Evergreen” user types.

  21. I love that Karl is really thinking outside the box here, and I think this could be a really powerful application for children and older users like my mother and father-in-law (they still don’t know what a “Desktop” is).

    Many commenters above have noted that Firefox’s chief advantage is it’s superior customizability and it’s add-ons. I feel that way too, which is why I’m a committed a Firefox user. I also don’t trust Google as much as Mozilla.

    But, I think the simplicity of a browser like this that provides more security for less technically savvy users could really help these users 1) use the internet with less confusion and learning time, 2) protect themselves and their data online.

    It’s not a browser for power users, but it could be great for my relatives.

  22. It looks sux, work sux, and intended for barain-dead idiots…
    You know what – no need for search bar. Make it only one page – Mozilla…

  23. Pingback: Two Mozilla developers re-imagine Firefox, call it Lightspeed | Apps and Software | Geek.com | What Happen Today?!?

  24. I can not watch the video. Firefox, no Flash plugin because it caused trouble, Mac OS.

  25. Thanks for all of the feedback. There’s a lot here to think about. To reiterate, this is just an idea and, as some have pointed out, some of the things might not even make sense in Firefox.

  26. It is a great idea.

    Most of audience reading this blog is indeed not targeted. Mobile experience and central search is the convenience I am expecting from tomorrows browsers. I don’t even want to think of a much different browsing experience between mobile and desktop any more. Technology these days is still way to complicated for the majority of humans. This is the right direction ; )

  27. At first glance I like the idea. You mentioned an amalgam of some interesting ideas, and the core features you brought about lightspeed, besides being simple, secure, private, also that everything is a search, because that’s just how we are wired in some sense, to search, explore the world around us, are essential. It was mentioned in previous comments, about a “mode” which you can switch to. For me, being a technology enthusiast, studying Computer Science, and coding in spare time I find that it would be useful to have a button which takes me from developer mode to a explore mode or others. All in all, this browser experiment can and should be taken into consideration.

  28. If this is a browser that is offered alongside Firefox (as opposed to replacing it) then I am all for it. I’d give it a chance.

  29. Something like this could easily be baked in to Breach. (a highly modular browser that’s in alpha now)

    breach.cc

  30. Why not aggregate all search engines with the query?
    you can have small sections
    1) top result aggregated from all
    2) second result from all
    3) third result from all engines
    4) Click each engine below to see only those.
    a) google: results
    b) bing: results
    c) duckduckgo: results

    Imagine getting multiple search engines all doing the search for your simultaneously? That would be a stand out feature.

  31. I really enjoy the new UI when you type in URL’s, especially the fact it shows other open tabs more clearly, some people who aren’t very tech savvy always end up reopening the same URL even though it’s a tab away (they really don’t read) and what they’re trying to access is already there.

    I think this would be great as either a “profile” for Firefox for certain users in your home, or as a separate minimalistic browser. I wish it would at least keep a history of links visited though, it helps when you reopen your browser to easily find an old URL or such, especially for busy bee’s who don’t want to spend all day on Google finding that one link again, but I guess by “Loving” the URL that could be countered.

    Thanks for sharing your ideas, love the “secure button” by the way, that should definitely be in Firefox, we don’t always notice if a page is secure or not, and we take that far too often for granted.

  32. Pingback: Lightspeed : expérimentation d’un navigateur autrement » MozillaZine-fr

  33. Really, really nice outline and a great idea. Seems like the new default browser for every OS.

  34. please, do not tell me that it is future of Firefox. Opera already die for me similar way. customization is my all in this regard, a gist of the browser as tool.

  35. Was this based on any specific in-depth research or just extrapolated out from the user type study?

  36. Absolutely useless for me.
    I hate when no choice is given to change default behavior….it is like set me in prison.
    Hope that you can find followers on the project, as most of the user become more and more moron-like zombies.

  37. I love the idea of a simplified alternative of Firefox, even if I am not found within its target audience.
    Working in the support of online education, I find that the majority of users only care that it works, not how it works. Lightspeed would be the perfect tool for many of our end users: students, teachers and administrative staff alike. For the base user, setting changes are not generally a point of concern, though speaking from the comfort of an institution, the ability to modify the homepage would be of necessity for on-campus distribution.
    For myself, I would like the question of add-on and setting modification to remain open, even if such things had to be turned on in an ‘about:config’ panel. For instance, I use third party add-ons for password, bookmark and research management. Without these I would be unlikely to touch Lightspeed, even if impressed by speed or general function. Similarly, the media white-list would have to be under my control, as such things oft annoy.
    I see the optimal situation as a dual use of Firefox and Lightspeed (much like I clunkily use Firefox and Chrome at the moment). Base use would be in Lightspeed, with the option to open in Firefox readily available, and vise versa, should I wish to move in the opposite direction.
    I hope you proceed with this build.

  38. No, no, no, no, no. Please no.
    I like the direction of the thought but a full implementation of it will be really scary.
    We can make Firefox simpler and much more inviting to non-techy users… but this is not the way.
    And a standalone product by itself? Like people who tinker should use our current Firefox and people who just want the browser to work(i.e Busy Bees and Evergreen) should use Lightspeed? This will create a dividing line between the techy and the non techy further more. And the non techy people are already shy of even making the browser do what a normal user should make a browser do.
    And not even having add-ons on Lightspeed… there are lots of people who hear the word “Add-on” like something new everytime they hear of it, and are hesitant on using it. So suppose the techy guys use add-ons and the non-techy guys dont, that makes the techy guys seem like they are looking down upon the non-techy people. That creates a further gap between people, and knowledge sharing is much harder.

    And I dont want this part to sound so heavy…. But lets not increase discriminations.

    • Wouldn’t it be better to just cut the crap and make a browser everyone can use just by listening to the techies? Those techies know what they are talking about, after all. But Mozilla will never listen to them because they’re arrogant.

      • And the way things are going these days…
        We are having to be more concerned of our security and privacy. And the way to implement them is rather different in different areas. So not being able to change settings is a horror situation.
        I understand that Lightspeed, if it comes, will try to have all the ways to get security and privacy covered out of the box, but what if you *do* need to change settings?
        Should the users then wait for an update of Lightspeed to come with that setting covered?

        This one goes off to developers: do provide us choices. Have at least a toggle mode for excess simplicity and human mode.

        And I dont want to be feeling like in a walled garden if I think further.

  39. On balance, I like this idea; many users are too far already from a position where they would consider changing default settings on a commonly used program that having things preset in as solidly safe and private – and untouchable by the nefarious influences out there – would be an advantage to everyone. The “techy/non-techy divide” is with us and we should move to protect those who can not help themselves.
    I would like to see FireFox and LightSpeed install together, though, so that a non-techy user can benefit from the protection and convenience of Lightspeed but offer the possibility of being nudged into trying the full fat Firefox (initially set up with the same Lightspeed presets) if and when they ask about cookies or security or etc. in the searchbar. Some pre-arranged links under the “heart” button to tutorials and such might help bridge the divide for a few.

    The “heart” button (leaving aside the repellantly precocious language and symbology) is the key to making this more than just a locked-down web-viewer. If you wish to remove bookmarks and history from the users’ control and allow the browser to serve up only what it thinks the user might like or want, it had better be damned good at it.
    Firstly, I think that it would tiresomely throw up the same few pages, overly focus on the mainstream and big, aggressive (sponsored?) corporates and suppress many gems in the rough. It would positively feedback information and opinions like an echo chamber.
    Second, I use bookmarks as reminders, shopping list items, for a single quote from a page of rubbish or just as an actual bookmark to finish reading later to see if its any good (I actually use the Zotero plugin to save things I really want to keep.)
    A single +1 button will not do unless the computer is building up a multifaceted profile of the user, parsing content and noting dwell time, what links were not clicked as well as which ones were, including contact lists, calenders, location etc. – like Google Now and just as creepy. The browser might offer a selection of buttons for “don’t like”,”important”, “interesting”, “re-read”,”reminder”,”for comparison”, “for reposting” and perhaps some context sensitive tags beside each portion of a webpage after the page is paused at. Otherwise the page gets a +1 if it is estimated that there was enough of a pause to read the text, an image gets +1 if it was centred etc. This would eventually give the browser a better chance of guessing the right items for the next front page from the emotional context of the search or sequence of searches. Actually, a search engine that took into account the immediately preceding searches and reading when deciding the order of results could be potentially very useful – better than constructing a multiple line boolean search term to zoom in on a particular nugget of information. For example, if I am researching ancient greek literature it would, after a few searches learn to stop displaying movie trailers at least until I move on to another topic.

  40. I understand that many people believe it “sucks” but it depends on the “use scenario” please allow me to elaborate on that a bit:
    If you know what you are doing of course you’d feel that some of the “lightspeed” features suck. You wouldn’t have the “absolute” power given to you by about:config and 1000s of add-on that can really “pimp” out your browser. And that’s cool. To be honest I wouldn’t either. My “daily use scenario” is actually pretty individualized to my personal needs. I wouldn’t change that for the world.

    On the other part. there millions if not billions of people that want a browser “that just works”. They don’t care if it’s customizable or what… they just care they will install it and they will be able to browse to whatever social network people use these days, read the news and forget about the thing.

    First and foremost I believe that currently Firefox using several add-ons covers my daily use scenarios better that any other browser. Having said that I wouldn’t mind if Firefox provided a nice big screen to new installs with just two options “I want to be able have total control to the awesomeness of Firefox” and “I leave it up to Firefox to figure out how to be awesome”.

    My only major concern is not having any settings. I would prefer that a lightspeed Firefox could with the flip of a switch (I am not a UI/UX person but I would recommend a “unleash Firefox” button) could turn into the beast we all love to play with.

    I am not in Verdi’s head to say the least, but I see it more like a customised version of the Firefox we all learned to love.

    Personally I would use it for my own needs and maybe I wouldn’t recommend it to most of my friends but there are people out there that I would like to recommend something like that and to be honest… I trust the Mozilla community more than I trust any corporate entity building a major browser nowadays.

  41. Pingback: Mozilla Lightspeed, un diseño conceptual que puede revolucionar la experiencia de navegación | Francisco Unica

  42. Why not just have an options panel at the first launch of firefox, asking you to select features and or/different security adjustments?

  43. While I like this concept, one thing kinda contradicts the privacy claim: the “Amazebar” which unifies the URL bar and the search bar with suggestions. I should remind you of Chrome, which is being criticized for the Omnibox because everything you type into the search bar is being sent to the search engine – that’s how autosuggestions work. Another case is Ubuntu and Unity’s ‘smart scopes,’ which is pretty similar concept like the Lightspeed’s overlay, but in a desktop environment – Canonical was also widely criticized for sending your local queries to their servers and to Amazon (for products suggestions).
    Also to my knowledge, the privacy concerns are major reason why Firefox still have a separate search bar with autosuggestions.

    It may be a nitpicking, but I believe this is a tough problem which shouldn’t be ignored, especially if Mozilla wishes to promote privacy and make users more informed about who tracks them and how.

  44. You had me at “no plugins, no settings”.

    I would not use this browser, BUT I would recommend it wholeheartedly to people like my Mom and Dad. I’d still use browsers that give me all my reddit enhancement suites and vim-like keybindings, but my parents only get themselves into trouble with customizable software. It’s not something they’re interested in learning about, and frankly I don’t think they should have to.

    Not sure about kids, especially pre-teen and up. I imagine there may be some value to having them exposed to the nuts and bolts, a bit. Or at least having those things be expose-able. Kids can’t tinker with the guts of their iPod the way I tinkered with the guts of my walkman – but maybe their generation should be able to tinker with the guts of a web page if they feel curious.

  45. I’ve been using Mozilla code since Mozilla was still the code name for an internal Netscape project to build the next generation browser suite.

    I *tried* to use Netscape 6, and rapidly came to the conclusion it was only released because it had been so long since the effort started, and there was a feeling the project had to get *something* out the door, just to show there *was* development. It should never have been released.

    I *did* happily use Netscape 7, and moved to the Mozilla Suite when AOL terminated the Mozilla project and it transitioned to an independent effort.

    I somewhat reluctantly moved to Firefox when the decision was made to concentrate on it and the Suite would no longer get development.

    For the most part, I’ve been pleased with Firefox, but my pleasure is beginning to fray. What I liked about Firefox was the architecture and configurability. It was built on Gecko. Gecko rendered HTML, CSS, JavaScript and XUL. What Gecko rendered didn’t have to be a browser, and you could theoretically implement a desktop in it. You could create themes to modify how Firefox looked, and extensions to modify and extend what Firefox *did*. Being *able* to do that is why I *use* Firefox instead of Chrome, Opera, or Safari.

    But I’m getting the impression the Firefox devs are suffering the “echo chamber” effect. They all work together, and only talk to each other. “Hey! We can do *this!* Wouldn’t that be *cool*?” “Yeah! That would be cool! Let’s do it!”

    NO. Cool is in the eye of the beholder. It doesn’t *matter* whether *you* think it’s cool. What *matters* is whether millions upon millions of Firefox *users* around the world think it’s cool, but you won’t know *that* unless you actually *talk* to some.

    The current Horrible Example is Australis. I was able to get it to a point where I could use it, but it took doing. The biggest issue was removing the Addon Bar. I run a lot of addons – enough that imitating Chrome and putting their icons on the Nav bar doesn’t work. There simply isn’t enough room. I looked at the Australis design, and said “If I wanted something that looked like Chrome, I’d *use* Chrome!” Fortunately, I found an addon or two that restored the Addon Bar and let me tweak Australis in desirable ways, but it says bad things that I had to use third-party code to do it. Whether to have an Addon Bar and ability to tweak the interface should be part of Firefox. (And it only worked for me because I’m an experienced long-time Firefox user who has spent time popping the hood and fiddling, and knows how to do stuff like that. Heaven help a newer user who hasn’t developed that expertise.)

    And Australis got shoved down *everybody’s* throat, like it or not. If anybody in Mozilla actually polled *users* to see what they thought of the changes, I never heard about it. Make all the changes under the hood that you like, but tread *very* carefully on UI changes, announce them well in advance, and where possible, make them *optional*. Unexpected UI changes are *unpleasant* surprises, and you want user surprises to be pleasant. “But it’s *better*!” Not to the user, it isn’t, and it’s the user’s opinion that matters.

    In UIs, one size *doesn’t* fit all. Windows 8 should have demonstrated that to the world.

    And Firefox has gotten steadily larger and slower. One of the machines I have it on is an ancient notebook with a <1ghz CPU,slow IDE4 HD, and a whopping 256MB of RAM. It runs Linux, but I don't even *try* to run Firefox. It takes 45 seconds simply to load and initialize, in a *very* minimal configuration with only a few addons, and is perceptibly slow once up, with noticeable delays trying to do things like type into a text box. A current version of Chrome will actually run sort of acceptably. Something is *very* wrong there. (Yes, it's an ancient very low end box, and the vast majority of users will have something more current, but why does Chrome perform so much better?)

    I was a bit bemused when the Firefox OS came out. Mozilla has only so many development resources, and the more it tries to do, the more it risks taking its eye off important balls. As a practical example, where does Mozilla funding come from? What happens to its revenues and ability to do the work it does if users leave Firefox in droves because they don't like the directions it's taking? Nothing good, but I think Mozilla is at risk of that.

    Firefox is Mozilla's crown jewel, and should be treated like it. Take a leaf from the Hippocratic Oath: "Primum non nocere." (First, do no harm.) Changes should be good ones. Surprises should be pleasant. Performance should *improve*. Any other way lies madness and failure.

    I'm all in favor of research, and using things like this to develop new approaches. I'm all *opposed* to foisting it on people just because someone at Mozilla thinks it's a good idea. Develop this as a separate product if you must. Don't make Firefox into it. I am far from the only one who would drop Mozilla code period if you do.

  46. Ok I liked were this started off with the “awesome” bar but I like my tabs were they are, I like having add-ons, I need settings… I have always used Firefox but if you go over the top with this I shall go to chorme (Jokes never… I would use an older version of firefox.)

  47. Thanks again for all the suggestions and feedback. Just a reminder, this is only an idea. This isn’t a plan for a new version of Firefox. In some ways (the lack of choice and customization) this is almost the anti-Firefox and as such we could never turn Firefox into this. There isn’t anything to download or try.

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