I keep a list of things I want to blog about. I realise how ridiculous that sounds given the frequency of posts here, but it’s true. Anyway, I’ve been meaning to write something about Firefox for a while, and why I believe the world desperately needs Firefox to claw back some browser market share.
I want to love Firefox. I certainly used to love it, but then Google Chrome was released and it was immediately obvious that it was a superior browser, with it’s per-tab processes, sand-boxed extensions, and fancy Omnibox.
Mozilla are working hard on the underlying architecture of Firefox, and are right on the brink of releasing a multi-process version which will allow the implementation of a whole raft of things, including a new add-on framework.
Now what I’m about to say goes completely against general wisdom, but I can’t wait for Firefox’s XPCOM and XUL based add-ons to be completely killed off. They are, in my experience, the source of almost all issues I have with Firefox, and have been holding Firefox back for too long. Stability, security, transparency, and predictability go out the window once you start adding extensions to Firefox. Peeking into the code of an extension is certainly possible, but who wants to have to do that just to confirm that some hidden preference won’t be changed by the add-on, or that it won’t sell your soul to the add-on’s maker? And isn’t restarting your browser to install an extension a little old-fashioned?
Over the years Google have added various bits-and-pieces to Chrome which encourages users to try out other Google products. Of course they have - Google are an advertising company. Why wouldn’t they do that? It makes me uncomfortable though. I don’t want to sign-in, so no need to bug me every time I open a new tab. I don’t want to sync my bookmarks with Google, and I don’t want to be reminded that I should do that every time I add a new bookmark. I don’t use Gmail or Google Docs or any of the other apps or extensions that come with a default Chrome install. And because Chrome is closed source and Google know exactly what they’re doing, I can never be entirely sure what’s being done with my browsing activity.
Google do a good job of laying out the what and the when, and weirdly I do trust Google with my data, but that doesn’t mean I want them to have it.
Extensions, add-ons, whatever you want to call them were what made Firefox great, but the overhaul of their implementation is way overdue. I regularly make a serious effort to switch from Chrome to Firefox, and my fingers are crossed that the promotion of Electrolysis to the stable channel will finally give me the confidence to remove Chrome from my dock.
In the meantime I’ll continue to help out on the Firefox support forums, attempt to resolve bugs, and continue convincing friends and colleagues that the things Mozilla stand for are for the good of the open web.