Reasons not to worry

The higher-ups at Mozilla like to say that we should focus on building the best browser we can, and not to pay too much attention to our competitors.  This is probably wise when you consider that we are competing against Microsoft, Apple and Google.

But I can’t help reading comment threads relating to browsers on sites like Slashdot, Reddit and Metafilter.  Judging from these threads, few people love Firefox;  a few say things like “I can’t switch because I couldn’t live without Adblock Plus/NoScript/etc.”  Lots of people complain about Firefox being slow/bloated/a memory hog.  Lots of people praise Google Chrome, mostly for its speed.

I realize these communities aren’t reflective of web users overall, but they do represent something of a leading edge.  As do Linux users, which is why I am troubled by Ubuntu’s plan to use Chromium as their default browser.  Also, IE9 looks like it will be a high-quality modern browser;  the sleeping Microsoft giant has finally awoken.

It’s all rather depressing.  So, gentle reader, please tell me why my perception is wrong.  What am I overlooking?

60 replies on “Reasons not to worry”

I think everyone should worry about IE9, they have their foot on a millions of installations and their hardware acceleration of the web really will make all others look slow as hell.

This is not the first time that Mozilla has needed to reinvent itself. The cycle is forever – build, improve, bloat, refresh.

Netscape 6.0 to Mozilla 1.0. Mozilla 1.8 to Firefox 1.0

It’s been a long time since Firefox 1.0 now

Because Firefox 4 is going to rock! Really.
Jaegermonkey, Tracemonkey, GC Compartments, Hardware Accelerated Layers, Retained Layers, Electrolysis, Direct2D, Resource Packages, WebGL, HTML parser, (i could go on). Seems like Mozilla has a project for every weakness Firefox has and every strength a competing browser has.

The only area that concerns me is startup speed. That project just isn’t moving fast enough. This *needs* to be addressed by 4.1

Mozilla also needs release more and not take on too many feature for any given release.

Firefox was an innovative browser in the early days – add-ons and tabs were a revelation to users, standards support was a boon to developers. But now all of those things are supported by every browser, so where’s the differentiation? It seems to have come down to a pissing contest regarding ACID3, JS bench tests, etc. I know those are not the most important things, but Firefox is not winning them, and neither is it innovating.

(Also, FF has got a reputation – perhaps not entirely unfairly – as a resource hog. I have to say I don’t think that’s the case any longer, but mud sticks).

I don’t think FF is likely to suddenly suffer too badly, as many people still love it, but it needs to show innovation – look how many people are flipping out over Tab Candy. WebGL will be a good showcase too (although I do think someone needs to be developing tools to use it).

Firefox 4 looks good, but a lot of what its doing is covered by other browsers already. It interests me, but it doesn’t wow me.

I love Firefox.

So that may make a biased opinion maker, but whatever.

First of all, I don’t think it would be a problem if Firefox suddenly dropped its market share to bellow, say, 15% or 10% even. If anything, it makes development easier. Am I right or am I wrong?

And then, you have to consider what kind of users you want using Firefox. Do you want users who go “oh, Chrome is much lighter than Firefox” or go “oh, 100ms of page load time difference is SO noticeable”, users who don’t develop extensions, don’t report bugs, don’t fix bugs and don’t provide valid criticism in the appropriate places?

I know the ecosystem of Firefox is a bit more complex that those of other browsers, but I believe users who make extensions, beta test and so on, those do love Firefox, those really are vital to Firefox, and it’s very important to nurture them. And to do that, basically, you just need to focus on yourself and do the best job possible. And at the end, when the end product is out, we’ll how see how we did. So we must have confidence in ourselves, confidence in our vision, and confidence in the people who love our work. That’s how I see things. There’s absolutely no point worrying about “oh, will we loose market share with Firefox 4?” when we should be worrying about “what kind of users will like Firefox 4, and are they important to us?”.

But that’s not to say that it’s all a sea of bright roses. Because it’s not. Firefox 4 is looking mighty awesome, but I do get the notion that the user experience (which is, arguably, the most important thing in terms of market share and consumer satisfaction levels) is being honed to please a relatively small and, most importantly, largely unnecessary group of users. There are some brilliant ideas for Firefox 4, like the identity button for sites, like the Firefox button, like the in-content UI, like the App Tabs, and a few others. I honestly believe that the overwhelming majority of users will receive those with open arms (maybe not in the short term for those more stubborn, but certainly in the medium and long term), as well as the competition, but there is one point in particular that I’m not seeing any hope for: tabs on the title bar when the browser is maximized.

If you ask Firefox users who don’t like Chrome, they’ll usually talk about how it looks, and usually talk about how the tabs shouldn’t be in the title bar. I think that point, that point in particular, will cause a lot of users to not like Firefox 4. But that’s just my personal opinion, of course. I personally like tabs on top, but don’t like them on the title bar (because I want to have icons for add-ons up there, and I want as much horizontal room for tabs as possible), and I know that’s not going to be the same for everyone, but if you was me for a reason TO worry, that’d be it: tabs on the title bar when maximized, by default. Make it an optional.

These are the bugs that I think are most important for that, at the moment: (the operating word here should be Option)

Other than that, Firefox 4 is going to rock. If there are no problems in terms of users not liking the new UI, then it’s going to absolutely murder the competition:
– it’s going to be as fast, if not faster in terms of JavaScript
– it’s going to be as customizable as usual, if not more
– it’s going to have an awesome interface (what with in-content UI, doorhangers and all that awesome stuff)
– it’s going to be much easier to use
– it’s going to have some awesome innovations (tabcandy, home tab, app tabs, identity button – kill the phishers!)
– and it’s not going to bother people about minor updates (if they so wish)

Just to name a few points. Reasons not to worry? No need for them. You should look for reasons to worry instead, so you don’t have to worry later, when the final version is out.

You’re not exactly doing anything wrong. It’s all marketing.

Chromium has dumped a lot of old standards and constantly does everything they can to squeeze every single millisecond out of their speed.

Firefox on the other hand, is supporting almost every standard that every existed, many of which aren’t even used, but are added “just in case”.

People don’t care about features, they care about what the mass media tells them to care about. And the mass media has spoken: speed is more important.

I’ve had people in college here almost getting in to fist fights because of an argument where a Chrome user was being an annoying asshole, pushing everyone to leave Firefox because a Chrome cold start was 2 seconds faster than a Firefox cold start.

No seriously, that was the only argument.

(this is my second comment, the first one is awaiting moderation)

Oh, and I should say… Yeah, few people love Firefox, sure, but that’s because few people love their browser, whatever it is. Remember that many people still don’t know what a browser is? Yeah, I can’t imagine many people loving Chrome either. It’s just so uncostumizable, so aggressive on the user (no support for many tabs, big blue arrows when downloading, hell, in general, an incredibly poor user experience), so heavy, crash prone… Maybe the same doesn’t go for Opera and Safari, since they are smaller browsers overall, but the same goes for IE. I can’t imagine many people loving IE. With browsers, it’s basically like this: as long as it works, people are fine with it. If they find something they like better, they go with it. But they’ll always be ready to jump onto a better wagon. Firefox has the upper hand on that one, because of the platform, and because it doesn’t restrict extensions, so it’s all a matter of taking advantage of that. It doesn’t matter if people love Firefox or not, as long as they don’t have a problem with it. Because, after all, people who go “I’d use Chrome if it had NoScript”, yeah, those people will never use Chrome because it will never have NoScript (scientific fact!). And they only wish it had because Chrome is prettier (it’s not, but in their eyes it is) or because it’s faster. So we should look for a way to make people KNOW they can make Firefox look like they want it to look, and a way to make people detect when their add-ons are screwing with their browser. Task manager for Firefox 4 will hopefully do that. It hasn’t landed on the nightlies, but it’s a big thing, I believe.

You should try working on Thunderbird! (rimshot)

If Firefox was already the perfect browser (everybody loves it, fastest thing out there, uses no memory whatsoever, etc.), it wouldn’t be a very interesting thing to work on. There are lots of opportunities to make things better right now, and as far as I can see, there are an increasing number of great people working to do just that and making excellent progress to boot. For example, I was pretty psyched to see Valgrind hackers hired…

Maybe you are overlooking just this wealth of add-ons which make Firefox (and, to a lesser degree, SeaMonkey) the browser most capable of being tailored to each user’s different needs and wishes? Those people say they don’t love Firefox, but the fact is that they couldn’t live without it — because it has Adblock Plus, or NoScript, or Tab Mix Plus, or MR-Tech Toolkit, or BBCodeXtra, or Forecastbar Enhanced, or Tabs Menu, or StumbleUpon, or…

I really wouldn’t worry too much about this whole speed thing and if one browser is currently faster than another.

Why? As there is a fundamental limit to how fast a piece of JavaScript code can be executed. Roughly speaking that is the speed at which the equivalent piece of C/C++ code (compiled with optimisations) would execute at. All browsers are converging towards that limit — some faster than others. However once a browser has reached the limit there is nothing more than it can do. Chrome is almost there; Opera and Safari are not far behind; Firefox and IE are trailing.

I use Firefox because I like the interface and I like the plug-ins. Speed I could care less about — by the time Facebook/Youtube is raytracing its interface using some crazy JavaScript library I’ll almost certainly have upgraded my system — negating the issue entirely.

The media likes ‘speed’ as a metric as it is something that can be graphed and charted. It is also surprisingly irrelevant.

From my perspective, Mozilla has done a great amount of performance-related work that indeed did result in improvements (jemalloc, cold cache startup). And then, FF has some functionality that is clearly superior to its competitors, but that also has its price at runtime (e.g, awesome bar, XUL infrastructure, …)

But, one of the biggest advantages of FF, its add-on system, is also one of of its major drawbacks. Many of the add-ons (of which people tend to have installed a lot of) are of much inferior quality than the FF core codebase. This is no suprise, given the fact that a) there’s usually much less engineering power behind such an add-on, and b) add-on developer documentation and tooling is deeply nested in Wikis, traditionally weak, sometimes redundant, sometimes out-of-date.

Mozilla would certainly profit from improving that situation, for example by a) advising end users to have only these add-ons installed that are really required, and b) doing in a pro-active manner QA for some of more widely used add-ons (code reviews, giving development assistance, pointing to bugs and how to resolve them).

I keep Firefox for extensions, but besides extensions in what area is Firefox the best? It’s not the fastest, it’s not necessarily the most standards-compliant, it doesn’t have the best user interface, etc.

My advice would be to play to strengths and emphasize the importance of extensions. Work with popular extension authors on making their extensions faster, introduce new features via extension (and then integrate the ones that are well-received), etc.

What I think it’s a good sign of the times is not the media attention on Chrome or it’s speed. It’s the simple fact that Firefox now lags behind Chrome and is copying a lot of stuff Chrome has, like the tabs on top, auto-update and so on. Mozilla people seem to be copying Chrome way of doing things, and the users get that.

Few people *love* their system administrator. When a sysadmin is doing their job, they are not noticeable. The complaints about Firefox are not valid, because whenever I ask for specifics about how Firefox is slow or bloated or hogging memory, there is no actual problem that I can see.

People use Firefox because it works. You can’t expect them to crow about Firefox any more than you can expect users to crow about their sysadmins. Detractors are merely making up vague complaints as an excuse not to like Firefox.

First, a lot of people really do love Firefox. Software enthusiasts are quick to jump on the hot new thing, but among my friends and relatives who are not in the tech industry, Firefox is a trusted and beloved brand with a solid reputation going back many years.

Second, increased competition might make it harder to build Firefox market share, but it’s good for Mozilla’s real mission of building and protecting the open web. It was *easy* for us when Firefox was mainly competing against IE6 and IE7 but it’s *better* for the us and the web to compete against excellent browsers like Safari 5, Chrome 6, IE9, and Opera 10. We never wanted to be the only good browser.

Third, Firefox 4 is going to be super awesome. It closes the gap in many areas where Chrome and Safari are currently ahead, and brings new features like Firefox Sync and Tab Candy that are competitive advantages for Firefox. I think it makes Firefox lovable again.

I love Firefox, and Mozilla, and how they are working to keep the web open and free. Chrome is a good browser, as is Safari, and Webkit is a good rendering engine, but sadly, even among my techie friends, many are moving towards Chrome. I asked why and a lot of people seemed to say that Chrome was “faster” and, I don’t know… I feel like they don’t have any loyalty to Mozilla or Firefox, and are more than happy to hand over their entire browsing experience (as well as their data, privacy, etc. to a for-profit company like Google.) I am excited about FF4, but I still see room for improvement. Here’s my post on people’s reasons for leaving FF:

The Slashdot demographic is an interesting one. These are people who are willing to use a product with missing or broken features (e.g. no print preview) if it’s perceived as the cool new thing. It’s hard for Firefox to be the “cool new thing”; it’s been around too long for that. The only way to regenerate that perception would be to radically change something to cause these users to come back to try it…

But really, a lot of what you see is “grass is greener” syndrome. People using product X know all about the issues they have with product X, but all they tend to know about competing products is the marketing buzz. So there’s a feeling of “I wish I could switch” no matter what.

Of course Chrome _does_ have speed advantages in some cases, but we blow them out of the water in others. Our problem there is really marketing; we suck at it.

Startup speed, particularly with dirty, multi year old profiles is a valid and wide problem. In 2010, starting a browser when you boot your machine every morning is one of the steps you have to take before being productive (most people don’t just sleep their machines for weeks on end, and for people loading a profile from a network drive, the mere size of an old profile can cause poor load times).

I saw a huge startup improvement a couple of months ago when I threw away a many year old profile, but persuading a colleague to try that recently was tough…simpler for him to install Chrome…

I know there’s some work started on this, so hopefully things will improve soon.

For a long time I was under the impression that Mozilla (esp. Firefox) had already lost the battle. But, Fx4 has the potential to be another excellent release and come close to Chrome etc again.

And Fx still has some “killer” features of it’s own. I would not really count the extension system such a “killer” but for me, Firefox Sync is because it means I can control my data. I really hope more mobile devices (not just the iPaid) will support it soon!

In the end I really hope Mozilla will give more attention and focus on services like Fx Sync (and making those services rock with Fx for example). The “open web” as in open standards is nice and important but Mozilla should also support people to control their own data and identities by providing or supporting alternatives to Twitter (hello!), Facebook (hello diaspora!), Flickr, GMail, …

I think I fall in that group you’re talking about. “Lots of people complain about Firefox being slow/bloated/a memory hog.” That said, I’ve been using Firefox since the beginning. I don’t find any of the other options any better, so I guess I’m staying with Firefox out of a sense of familiarity with a dash of apathy.

For me the browser is a tool – it’s not something you love or hate [well, except IE6]. It’s one of the most important tools I use, however I’ve seen them bloat over the years which is kind of depressing. As hardware gets faster and faster, software… doesn’t. I’m not advocating we go back to NCSA Mosaic – I understand things change and we need to add new functionality and so on – but there’s no reason ALL of the browsers on my MacBook Pro should feel this sluggish.

“…focus on building the best browser we can…” Define ‘best’. Speed? Fancy UI? Form vs. Function.

I could care less about changing the theme of my browser – to me that’s bloat. To me speed of general use – not just Javascript – is a primary concern because I spend a significant amount of time using a browser. I just haven’t found the differences in browser speed large enough to make a switch.

If anything I believe this means that the browser wars are finally moving from who can do this or that in the web (each supporting a specific standards subset) to the usability, performance, and security areas. So browsers will be about *how* you experience the web and not *what* you experience from it.

While Microsoft and Google are paying attention to making their browsers strong competitors, we have to keep in mind that they are not a goal but a means for their money making activities, part of strategies that will definitely change in coming years, the web will most likely be neglected again, and Mozilla will play again the role it played 6 years ago: make the case for the open ever-developing web and user-owned experience.

For Mozilla, it is not a strategy but its mission and it’s never going away. With TabCandy, Ubiquity, Jetpacks, Accounts, JaegerMonkey in the pipeline and I’m sure hundreds of ideas floating around, the future looks very promising.

Due to its own success, Mozilla may not be the poster boy, the beloved underdog it was years ago, but I would bet it is meant to play the role several times again in the future.

From my point of view as an independent developer in the linux ecosystem, I can tell you for sure that neither Firefox nor Chromium are good fits in a linux distro, at all. Neither ‘gets’ the linux distros way of shipping software, the linux distros way of shared libraries. Neither gets the concept of desktop environment integration (very little for GNOME, almost nothing for KDE). Wherever the linux way of doing thing differs from the common practive on Windows and Mac, both Firefox and Chromium are essentially ignoring the linux side.

For now distros are grudgingly sticking to Firefox because it is the most feature-ful (hence, switching to anything else would annoy part of their user base). Chrome’s speed is not a sufficient reason for them to switch en masse (as others point out, speed is getting overrated these days). Also, as mentioned in this Ubuntu e-mail, Chromium takes 2x more space than Firefox, which would be a very big issue in the eye of most linux distros.

On the other hand, the day a feature-rich browser will address the above points, it will become the default browser in most distros. Kubuntu is already switching to Rekonq because it fits well in KDE.

As a former Mozilla Suite user, I was a fairly early adopter of Phoenix, and stuck with it through Firebird and well into the Firefox era. However, a couple of months ago, I switched to Chrome for the very reasons you list.

I don’t know if it’s Mozilla who have dropped the ball or (Apple and) Google who are just doing stuff much better, but now, even without extensions, Firefox 4 frankly seems like a poor imitation of Chrome, at best. I’m sure this is an impression that grows with a lot of Chrome first-timers.

Is it all marketing and perception? I honestly doubt it. I use my browser pretty much all day long, and I’m sure I would’ve noticed if the user experience had gotten worse instead of better.

I’m not trying to advocate using Chrome here. If anything, I wholeheartedly support Mozilla. I still use Thunderbird intensively, I’ve reported bugs in most Mozilla products, I hang out on and I wrote its QDB webapp. But Firefox isn’t for me anymore, as much as I wish it were.

On a sidenote, I kinda hope this post doesn’t get picked up by any news sites. It *is* on the domain, and it’s not exactly hard to spin.

Firefox is more powerful than the other browsers you mentioned. Firefox is written in JavaScript; extensions are the browser, and can do anything another browser could. Firefox (plus extensions) will win (almost) any feature comparison.

The reason you hear people complaining so much about performance is that there’s nothing else to complain about.

Outside of Firefox being the new Emacs, Firefox 4 is getting faster; maybe it will win.

Firefox originally took off because it was the first browser to let users take back control of their web experience from IE pop-ups, pop-unders, and ActiveX malware.

There’s nothing so broken about the web right now, and the pace of innovation is much faster.

The one area I see with real innovation potential right now is web privacy, which is especially important to leading-edge users.

I want to be able to log in to Facebook with 0 or 1 clicks, but I don’t ever want to see Facebook tracking widgets popping up on a news site. How can Firefox solve this problem?

Why can’t Firefox (or a Mozilla-driven add-on) have cookie controls that Just Work for a large number of sites? Most sites don’t need to be able to keep cookie information unless I explicitly trigger it with some “Remember me” preference. But existing coarse-grained cookie blocking preferences break all kinds of sites.

Can Firefox do something to kill the persistent Flash cookie?

If you want to get Ubuntu not to switch, this is Mozilla’s strongest competitive advantage. I doubt Google is able to innovate here because they’re compromised by their own user-tracking efforts. (I’d like to be proven wrong.)

p.s. I’m glad Mozilla is working to improve JS speed, but the only topic more annoying than Javascript benchmarks is ACID 3 results. At this point none of that really matters on the web, and people who go on about them are deep into the fallacy that something is important just because it can be measured.

Well, first off don’t panic 🙂

Firefox has a lot of goodwill built up over many years and its a great product.

We trust Mozilla a LOT, Google quite a lot… but they have their own agenda, and privacy is not their top concern.

I would be(was)concerned if Firefox was standing still, not taking notice of best practice, but that is not the case.

Firefox 4.0 is a gusty, bold response to chrome and the speed issue.

Also remember that its easy for Google to move fast… they start from a low installed user base.

Mozilla have identified the issues that needed work and look to be delivering.

TBH the competition has been good for Firefox and in the not to distant future we will see a blazing fast firefox with a new extension framework!

We do have to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water, but if managed correctly incompatible extensions will become a thing of the past.

The new look (Tabs On Top)will take a little getting used to, and I hope they are bold and introduce an option similar to “Tree Style Tabs” (Tabs on the left stacked and grouped) for wide-screen users. But a more modern look was needed.

Firefox Sync is great, Persona’s is ease to use and a lot of users love it.

The “bloated and memory hungry” thing is just FUD, ignorance or astroturfing.

0. My PC is running Firefox-3.6 in 336MB Chromium in 1.1GB.

1. FUD/astroturfer’s – The opposition and/or trolls know that we are sensitive to this criticism, but has been fix for a while now.

2. Ignorance – Its not Firefox its your 38 extensions!
Create a new profile and add extensions back one at a time… find out which is causing the trouble.

So all in all the next 6 months will be an interesting time for all web users 🙂

Mozilla and Firefox can bounce back bigger and better and I hope they do.

They are after all the only group with my interests at heart, rather than a company with an agenda.

Peace 🙂

I think that there two things:

* First, Alpha geeks tend to jump to the latest fad all the time. I have experienced in Linux distributions Gentoo fad, Ubuntu fad, Arch fad, and some others. The key point for the established major players is IMHO not to loos head and continue to learn from others what’s good. Quality of both software and community will bring back fad-hunters. Hell, I can now see even returning wave to our Fedora where Red Hat Linux was for the years the least popular and most boring distro around.

* Second, I don’t think there will be ever so dominant browser as once Internet Explorer was. I think there will be a world of multiple browsers used for different purposes: some people will just not bother and use their Internet Explorer or Safari (which will be then Good Enough™), some people will go after superfast and super-Google-friendly Chrome, and I believe many many will go for Firefox mainly as an application platform for the extension they need.

For me, speed is not a main priority and the Acid3 test data is an interesting thing, but not a crucial reason to choose one browser instead of another. I use Firefox since pre-1.0 versions and wouldn’t like to change it soon or in future. Browser is actively developed, has lot of extensions (I really cannot live without Adblock Plus) and flexible interface (I remember how was I shocked with the rigid UI of IE 7.0 in compare to previous 6.0, I think many other people too). Also, FF has good chances to take a noticeable place in mobile environment, I mean Fennec project which is in active development now.

Well, I definitely need to say about problems. The most important thing for every modern browser is not a speed (like some people believe) but a reliability. More exactly, an ability to prevent crashes, which is not easy because of extensive use of complex HTML, JS and multimedia in contemporary web pages. Another principal thing is a survivability of the browser itself in the case of crash on one of opened pages. Sadly, I need to say that FF is losing the competitions now. I really cannot understand why developers have decided that the nice improvements of interface like Tab Candy are more important than the assigning a separate process/task to every new tab. I haven’t seen this in plans for near future and it hasn’t been implemented yet even in experimental builds. To understand, how serious the problem of crashes is, look the statistics on
This is the only reason, which would force me to switch to Chrome in near future, but I hope that developers will take this problem into account.

Communities are more reflective of Firefox then you may think. Community members have families & friends who ask for software recommendations and when I tell someone to use Firefox or not they listen so it stands to reason others do the same.

Mozilla Foundation has lost its way and has become the old Microsoft where the customers requests and complaints are ignored by the developers who would rather add features nobody but them want.

Firefox is by far the grand winner. Other browsers might seem faster at first, and they do win at certain tests, but after prolonged use, they are much buggier than FF in the hundreds of edge cases, and those edge cases all start popping up like clockwork the second you start doing web development.

I use FF as a secondary browser (primary is, as always, Mozilla (aka SeaMonkey)), but lately, in fear of Chrome and the others, FF has been making itself worse and worse. Tabs on top and, status bar removal, the new UI designs in general, the forthcoming process-per-tab system (OOPP is good, but I don’t want 100+ processes open just from my browser). Someday soon I may demote FF from “secondary browser” to the same category as everything else.

Does Firefox still have the mantra “just the web”? It really needs to return to that. Chromium is competitive because it is a minimal and performant browser, it’s “chrome” stays out of the way, and it feels very fast.

I’d like to offer my views on this topic as a user. I am a provider of assistive technology training to blind and visually impaired computer users. I myself am also a blind user who uses screen reading technology which allows me to use speech output to access what’s happening on my PC. For a long time Internet Explorer was just about the only browser that a blind person could use if you wanted to use Windows. I had heard of Firefox and I would have tried it but it just wasn’t accessible to screen readers back in the early days. However, most screen readers, probably all of them, now work with Mozilla products. However, I stuck with IE due to familiarity. Last year I started using NVDA from, which is an open-source screen reader. Most screen readers aren’t even free and most are pretty pricy, more than what you’d pay for a computer today, at least for Windows. Mac comes with built-in accessibility, and with Linux you do have some accessibility options which, of course, are free. Anyway, I digress. For a while NVDA was telling users that NVDA would work better with Firefox than with IE; now, however, it works well with both just about equally and early support for Chrome is beginning. Anyway, I thought, why not, I’ll try it. My experience was that Firefox seemed faster to me than IE. Also, IE8’s crashes were becoming a regular feature which I found unacceptable. So, as a blind user I now have two choices. Choice 1: Use IE8, which crashes a lot and could compromise computer security. Choice 2: Use Firefox which, for me, hardly ever, ever crashes, is more secure and Mozilla’s various sites and blogs constantly keep users informed of changes and additions. For me, it’s not much of a contest. I regularly use Firefox and eventually tried thunderbird when I heard that version 3 was accessible with NVDA. Then I started using seamonkey and, while I find Firefox a bit more stable, really liked Seamonkey’s interface and it is very accessible with NVDA. For me, you’d have to make a very strong case for why I should now stop using Firefox and other Mozilla software. I’d like to thank Mozilla for doing so much to make thieir software free, open and accessible.

I don’t think you should be depressed, look at the ubuntu message that you linked. Ubuntu seems be encountering lots of ways Firefox is better than Chromium.

1: Chromium is twice as big as Firefox–it is bloated compared to Firefox
2: Chromium’s plugin installer is much worse than Firefox.
3: Want to print from Chromium? don’t user the fox instead.
4: The Chrome team is harder to work with than the Mozilla team. etc.

Google and Microsoft are big, powerful competitors, but you are beating them. I think that winning against teams like this should invigorate you, not depress you.

What’s depressing about having 3 major, high-quality browsers to chose from? I say huzzah! Huzzah!

You mention being concerned about the lack-of-<3 for Firefox (which I'm not sure I agree with), but is that much different than other browsers? I can't remember the last time I saw someone expressing their love for IE, and Chrome's primary attractant is that it's fast — I don't really see people exposing their undying love for other aspects of Chrome.

That's not to say we, as Firefox developers, should don our Peril Sensitive Sunglasses and relax with a nice umbrella drink. We've been pushing for a competitive environment for years, here it is, welcome to the world where having real N-way competition makes everyone feel a bit uneasy!

Pretty sure that Ubuntu link is talking about using Chromium on Ubuntu Netbook Edition, not the desktop version of Ubuntu – and even so, they’ve decided to stick with Firefox for now.

The impression I get is that the Chrome team is heavily optimised for shipping bits directly to end-users, and not co-operating with third-party distributions. Granted, Firefox has a bit of a chequered history in that area too (Hello, Debian Iceweasel!) but it’s still more friendly than Chrome/Chromium.

I agree with Andy – the important thing to remember is that browsers are tools, that people start Firefox because they want to access the web, not because they want to run Firefox for itself.

A good browser then, is one that lets me get on with that – it’s stable, the UI doesn’t intrude, the pages render correctly and responsively.

Anything more is a bonus – things like extensions are useful, but only to the extent that they help the user in some way. Indeed, in some cases they’re a sign that the core browser is deficient in some way – e.g I use Flash Block, because the browser doesn’t allow me to suppress or allow plugins on a case-by-case basis, and I use DownThemAll because it’s a vast improvement over the built-in download manager.

You’ve gotta remember, if it weren’t for Firefox, there probably wouldn’t be three (or five) strong browsers competing for market share today.

That said, it is imperative that Firefox devs work *hard* on improving start-up performance with old, messy profiles. This is what people will be comparing to a clean Chrome install. Unfair yes, but that’s the comparison that is being made.

Nick, you should worry — a bit. We’re up against Google, Microsoft and Apple, and we’re behind in some obvious areas. Anyone in this business who isn’t worried about the competition is a fool. I’ve been worried for ten years!

However, you shouldn’t worry too much. It’s simply not productive. Talented people are working on every significant issue. All we can do is execute as well as we can and hope that results — and love — follow. Over-worry, which at worst becomes panic, is a path to failure.

Just being fastest on Sunspider again would be a colossal PR boost. I know you guys are working hard on that, so stay focused and press on!

Thanks for all the thoughtful comments. It’s interesting to see the wide range of responses. There’s no single take-away message from all this.

I wonder if Mozilla’s benevolence is underappreciated. I really believe we are the good guys — that was very clear back when Firefox was IE’s only competitor, but it’s less clear now. I’m not really sure what Firefox’s main message is at the moment. In comparison, Chrome’s is very clear: speed speed speed.

I wonder if “improve the web” would be a good message for Firefox. It has two meanings: first, if you use Firefox you’ll improve your own experience of the web, because it’s a good browser. Second, you’ll improve the web because using Firefox helps Mozilla’s mission, which is all about improving the web. Maybe that would come across as arrogant, I don’t know.

First, Firefox’s market share is slipping, but it’s not skydiving without a parachute.

I think Mozilla (and Opera) are good at personalizing the web. Many of Mozilla’s experiments (Jetpack, Weave/Sync, Personas, Extensions, Contacts, Seamonkey Data Manager, Identities) enable users and programmers to use/modify/build clever tools to do things far, far beyond “browsing”. Moreover, they allow users to know and CONTROL what is happening to their data. Keep going in that direction!

I’m hoping you all expand Weave/Sync into other datastores and addons, push AMO as the “original app store”, somehow allow profiles to be fully portable and optionally encrypted, and keep building and adding to the mozilla platform beyond just the Firefox browser (I have a soft spot for Seamonkey 🙁 )

My future Firefox 5/Seamonkey 3 would take all (or part) of my customized internet experience anywhere i wanted, securely and safely. And even wipe it all clean if need be. You guys are nearly there. Chrome is trying.

Maybe Firefox’s mantra should be “Just YOUR web. Anywhere YOU want it. Any way YOU want it.” Or maybe “Firefox: the foundation of your home on the internet”

The add-ons are nice, sure. But to me, Mozilla is about hard working, smart web-wonks undeterred by hairballs of code from netscape, miniscule market share vs. Microsoft or really, reality in general. That’s awesome – and worth celebrating.

I have been using Firefox since version 1. My problem with Firefox is that you keep on adding things, but never stop to refine and fix things.

We see a lot of bug fixes, but it is mostly security related. I would like to see smaller updates, but updates adding refinement instead of more features. We read about stuff being back ported to 3.6, but we never see them. Hardware acceleration was part of the 3.7 project but it never arrived. That is the problem chasing more and more features, nothing gets done.

I must also say that I am not to keen on Firefox 4. I don’t like the tabs on top and I don’t like the new layout nor the “chrome like” bookmarks button. One of the reasons I don’t use Chrome to begin with.

To me, IE9 looks to be the browser to beat. They have finally done the right thing for the web, building a browser that is more than just about speed.

As a Chromium developer who still likes Firefox, I think the takeaway is that the user has won, and we all ought to be glad about that more than squabbling over which product has the usage share bragging rights.

In the Bad Old Days, IE was what everyone used, and Microsoft flat-out didn’t care about improving the product or pushing the web forward. Years of hard work on Mozilla’s part broke that stranglehold.

Now every browser is getting faster, more featureful, and more user-friendly. Even IE9 is going to be a far better product in every metric than all IEs before that.

At that point, isn’t it all gravy? If Mozilla makes a great product, their users benefit. If Google makes a great product, their users benefit. Microsoft is making a much better product and their users are going to benefit, and I think both of us can take some amount of credit for that.

As a longtime Firefox user I find myself in complete agreement with Peter Gasston. It’s hard to develop enthusiasm for a version which is mostly a catch-up effort while at the same time innovative features like TabCandy and Account Manager make the impression of being on the verge of being postponed. The amount of work invested into different areas of the browser is certainly astounding but at the end of the day 4.0 does still not excel in any area.

The paper-cut issues actually provided me with another hint why so many people feel drawn to Chrome. I checked many of them one by one and only then realized that Chrome does not suffer from these issues in many cases (while having some original nuisances of its own). I believe that besides the raw speed it is this attention to detail which makes interacting with Chrome pleasing on a more subconscious level.

As I have traveled through the Internet, I always come to review sites and the comment section is quite thick with whats wrong with Firefox. There are five areas that you guys should be concerned with:

1. Cold start up times. These suck on versions older than the current 4.0 betas. I’ve been using Firefox since 0.7 and up until I installed 4.0 and cleaned up my profile (some of my extensions from 3.6 killed 4.0 Beta 1 on start up), you hadn’t done any work on them. Waiting a minute or two for “the Internet” to start is not “half the fun”.

2. Memory hog. No, I’m not talking about Firefox 1.0.7 or older nor am I talking about Firefox 3.0 or newer. I’m talking about that dark age during when the Gecko 1.8 engine was used, Firefox 1.5 and Firefox 2.0. Those two major releases had what I liked to call an ‘infinity memory devouring capacity’. I could open Windows Explorer and watch the memory tack up second-by-second until 3 hours or so in and then the browser would freeze, I would kill the process, restart the browser, and start the process all over again. I know you spent a lot of time fixing this for Firefox 3, but it was already too late. You were labeled a memory hog. There will always be those who make a review stating “Firefox is a memory hog because with 10 tabs open it consumes *MB while [Opera,Chrome,Safari] consume less”. That being said, you need to get out the word that you fixed the catastrophically bad memory problems when Firefox 3 was released.

3. Standards compliance. You may have decided that ACID Test 3 isn’t that important to complete, BUT IT IS!!! Period! You either have to support SVG Font or, if there is any truth to rumor, the SVG Font spec has to be dropped and the ACID Test 3 rewritten to reflect it. Being at 97% when your competitors are at 100% is NOT a selling point.

3a.This also includes all the components listed at Also, there is the whole video and audio tag codec debacle and the fact that most people think you should support H.264 even though it is not patent free and not cost free.

4. JavaScript speed. This is another benchmark. You got the ball rolling in Firefox 3.5. You dropped it. You are working on it for Firefox 4.0 Beta 5 (as I understand it). If you get yourself faster than IE9 and as fast or faster than Chrome and Opera, you should be fine.

5. Feature bloat. This is a not so much your problem as it is other people’s problem, but you still loose users over it. Apparently, some people think that the best browser on the Internet is the one that is the most bare bones. Feature bloat is what happened in Netscape when so-called features would get in the way of usability and functionality. Some people get that, others don’t, and some just want the Internet in window like the IE9 Platform Previews with a navigation bar replacing the menu toolbar.

2. Memory hog:
I saw this much more under Fx1 than 1.5 and later. In fact, one of my first bug reports (about Fx 0.10 aka 1.0PR) was that Firefox would be hugging an abnormally huge lot of memory, and increasing over time. That bug got duped to a Suite bug, and then when I later commented on the bug it had been duped to I got reproaches going “This is a Suite bug, not a Firefox one — go away” or something to that effect. Finally it got WONTFIXED because “Memory fragmentation is unavoidable”. When Fx 1.5 then 2.0 came, they in fact gave me the impression of gobbling less memory less quickly. Nowadays I’m on SeaMonkey 2.1a3pre (Firefox 4.0b2pre equivalent), and it does eat up a lot of memory, but actually at the moment (and with 76 browser tabs and 6 mailer tabs open, and the browser up continuously for a couple of days) about 1/3 of my memory is used up by “programs” — all programs together, not only SeaMonkey —, the rest being divided into “cache” “buffers” (both for the kernel I think, and potentially “reusable”) and 251 MB “unused” — problem solved, I’d say; maybe because I have more RAM now than I used to have when running Fx pre-1.

5. Feature bloat:
If (some) people really prefer the most “bare bones” browser, tell them to use Lynx: _that_ one is a bare-bones browser. Quite usable too, except if you like pictures, iframes, or complex tables. Sometimes I use it, like I sometimes use Konqueror, but neither is my favourite. I prefer Firefox and SeaMonkey because of their wealth of extensions, thanks to which I can get a browser which is not “bare bones” by far, but which has the features _I_ want, not those that Bill Gates or Steve Jobs or Mike Connor or anyone else decided would be best for me.

I’m a full time xulrunner developer for the past 4 years and really want to use FF. But am currently using google chrome on both my ubuntu laptop and my ubuntu desktop.

Reasons for using google chrome:

1. No titlebar when in maximized mode
2. Status bar pops up only when needed
3. Tabs can be dragged from tabbar and open in a new window
4. Urlbar allows for searching google
5. Default there is no 1cm high menubar (with stuff I almost never use)
6. Tabs on top (but this was solved in FF 4)

Reasons 2,3,4 and 5 can be solved through extensions. But as long as FF doesn’t have google chrome’s (hidden) titlebar i’m probably sticking with Google chrome.

If you would ask me what’s missing? A pref that says “browser.look_like_google_chrome” (this might not be the best name).

My perspective is that it doesn’t matter that e.g. Chromium is a little faster than Firefox at rendering a page. We’re talking about milliseconds here, and you have to be one sharp-eyed eagle to notice the difference.

But there are other performance-related issues that *do* bother me. For example, when the UI blocks when there is a lot of hard drive activity. Or the UI blocks when Firefox is loading a website in a different tab. In my opinion, the basic rule is that Firefox should almost never block the user interface.

The positive side is that there are people working on solving these problems. Provided that they receive the appropriate attention prior to the new release, I will remain a much happier camper than I would be when using Chrome.

Mozilla is unlikely to have more money to hire developers and designers than Google, Apple, and Microsoft. Consequently, Mozilla could decide that it wants its competitive edge to result from engaging developers in collaborative development. Unfortunately the Mozilla team confuses ‘open’ with ‘collaborative’; it would take a major shift in thinking to succeed. Of course they will label this kind of comment as not representing the true community, because they are already ‘open’, which is the highest possible state of being.

I have to reiterate that I think the love for Chrome seen on the web is a little… biased at this point. I have friends and colleagues, some of whom even work at google, who don’t really like Chrome’s UI. I know a few others who do. Its choice. Users finally have it (at least on the desktop). Its an exciting time for the web because of it.

I’ve been a Firefox supporter from day 1 (my name was in the NY-times ad). I’m also a Linux users, as I’m sure a surprising percentage of people in that NY-times ad are. As the recent Mozilla survey showed, increasingly web-developers use Linux as their desktop OS (Ubuntu in particular). Linux users are also *very* likely to be running 64-bit.

Yet Mozilla brushes-off complaints about the *embarrassingly* slow 64-bit Firefox performance, and poor Firefox performance under Linux in general. The excuses seem to be:

* No one uses 64-bit
* No one uses Linux
* Linux distros are stupid for shipping 64-bit builds to their 64-bit users, should run mixed 64/32 bit environments instead

Those excuses are sad coming from the usually forward-thinking Mozilla we all know at love.

Firefox 3.5 was released well over a year ago with TraceMonkey, yet a huge percentage of your important early adopters and influential web-developers still don’t get to enjoy any JavaScript performance improvement. From what I gather, it seems the situation still wont be fixed in 4.0.

Mozilla is taking a big risk alienating Linux users this way, a mistake Google isn’t making.

Jason, I can’t guarantee anything, but from what I’ve heard Firefox 4.0 will support 64-bit.

Nicholas, I hope so. I’d love me some fast JaegerMonkey under 64-bit Linux!

And for the record, I do *hugely* appreciate all that Mozilla has done. I just don’t like feeling Desktop Linux isn’t taken seriously at Mozilla. It breaks my heart, really.

Just because Desktop Linux has a small marketshare now, doesn’t mean it will forever. Firefox too had a tiny marketshare not long ago, and now look.


I don’t know about other OSes, but I’ll never use FF on the Mac because the UI is so horribly non-native. Chrome manages to sit just on my side of the imaginary line in the sand.

FF seems slow, too. Perhaps it’s slow startup time (since it’s not my default browser, that matters), perhaps its unresponsive UI. Perhaps it’s all in my head. Doesn’t make much difference.

Should FF be worried? Probably. Standards only take you so far; if market-share drops to the point that people only test sites against IE and WebKit then FF will end up fighting the impossible battle to render more and more like one or the other.

The advice to build the best product you can is sound. On the other hand, the easiest way to confirm you’re fastest, leanest, stablest, etc. is to perform direct comparisons against the competition…

If FF does succeed in outstripping the competition, the same people who are switching to Chrome now will switch back quite happily, and are tuned-in enough to discover the reason exists when it does.

Regardless of what happens, FireFox has played a major role in bringing us to a significant point in web technology where standards actually matter. That will always have been worthwhile. The only question is, should you be investing your time now in JavaScriptCore rather than TraceMonkey?

My 2 cents:

Stop adding features for a moment or two and fix the multi-year-old bugs that still affect Seamonkey 2, Firefox 3.6 and 4. Seriously.

Add SVG fonts support, even just the bare minimum necessary to pass the ACID3 test. It’s not the best test, all right, but it is one of the reference tests. Just pass it and be done with it.

Add small useful features your competitors added long ago but that Mozilla developers refuse to add even when many, many people have been begging them for years. Some examples: Paste-And-Go/Search, ability to clear upload form fields, ability to dismiss infinite Javascript trap dialogs…

Also, you need to do something about profiles. Keep them clean or have an easy way to clean them. Many people complaining about crashy/slow/memory-hogging Firefox are using these dirty profiles. Having an easy way to clean them/import preferences into a new profile would greatly improve things.

Extensions are great, but some of them are not very well written and tend to crash Firefox or leak like crazy. Identify them, work with the developers, let the users know that some extensions may make their Firefox experience worse.

Lags/pauses. Firefox experiences lots of them. When a tab is loading, the whole UI freezes, for example.

Better information at Mozilla’s home page. Have easy-peasy tutorials on how to use Firefox and take advantage of its many built-in features.

To me, Mozilla’s biggest problem is that a lot of the best ideas are left on the table for too many years before somebody finally wakes up and says “Hey, maybe we should be working on this.”

#1 on that list is mobile. A little more attention back in the days of Minimo and Mozilla could been leading, instead of trying to play catchup like they are today.

Dirty profiles is another one. Even back in the days before Firefox 1.0 was released, Mozillazine was loaded with posts saying “Clean your profile or create a new one to fix a lot of slowness/crashes.” Why, WHY are you just now getting around to looking at this?

I’ve been thinking about why I switched from Firefox onto Chrome for a while.

I think it’s mostly due to (fairly) trivial UI things that just repeatedly annoyed me. Updating Firefox (on MacOS) is overly slow, and after the upgrade I have to click through updating plugins. Running Chrome, I just don’t have to know – everything updates itself in the background, and I can get on with browsing.

On Linux there was a bug (fixed in FF4) that caused the proxy authentication popup to appear multiple times on startup. If you had done an upgrade, this box appeared once-per-plugin as a result of the plugin compatibility dialog. Unfortunately Fedora ship a lot of plugins by default (language packs), so you end up with hundreds of windows appearing. A fairly simple bug, that languished in the bug tracker forever, so I ended up using other browsers.

.. so I guess I’d say I’ve switched over to Chrome because there aren’t these little frustrating annoyances.

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