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Firefox: In With the New, Out With the Compatibility 366

Posted by timothy
from the beloved-friend-please-take-this-advice dept.
snydeq writes "Mozilla's 'endless parade' of Firefox updates adds no visible benefit to users but breaks common functions, as numerous add-ons, including the popular open source TinyMCE editor, continually suffer compatibility issues, thanks to Firefox's newly adopted auto-update cycle, writes InfoWorld's Galen Gruman. 'Firefox is a Web browser, and by its very nature the Web is a heterogeneous, uncontrolled collection of resources. Expecting every website that uses TinyMCE to update it whenever an incremental rev comes out is silly and unrealistic, and certainly not just because Mozilla decided compatibility in its parade of new Firefox releases was everyone else's problem. The Web must handle such variablility — especially the browsers used to access it.'"
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Firefox: In With the New, Out With the Compatibility

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  • by Harshmage (1925730) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @03:47PM (#39514361)
    Use the ESR version and don't stress about major version changes until November-ish.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 29, 2012 @03:49PM (#39514387)

      Use another browser and don't stress about major changes ever.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I think just about every Chrome user is a former Firefox user.

        How long before Safari passes Firefox as well?

        • I don't think that computes from the market share development.

        • I've had no problems with Firefox to be honest. I tried chrome once and it just didn't run a lot of scripts successfully. I mean literally sites that used to work didn't. Also I don't get the fuss about a faster browser, most modern computers are capable of running some seriously high end games and programs without blinking, even a crufty old browser like IE isn't going to slow up the show for more than a half second. Connection speeds are far, far more of an issue.

          The moral of the story kids is that if you

          • by gnick (1211984) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @05:25PM (#39515683) Homepage

            It's not so much about processing speed - It's about memory hogging. I don't have much of a problem with that concerning Chrome or FF, but depending on what you have open using just a few tabs under IE can quickly eat a half-gig of RAM. With a couple of GB in the computer that may or may not be an issue, but it seems rude and makes me feel a little violated and dirty...

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by ae1294 (1547521)

              What are you people running Pent 2s? RAM is dirt dirt cheap. If you have less that 2gb you are doing it wrong.

              • by EdIII (1114411) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @11:41PM (#39519053)

                Just because you have abundance does not mean you can become lazy with efficiency. If we learned anything with the economic collapse that we have had to deal with in the last few years, it is that people and corporations (not people) that operated fairly well in the good times started to get eaten alive by their own inefficiencies.

                I may have 8GB in my laptop, and looking for more, but I also run a *lot* of programs at the same time while I am working. Having 10-20 tabs open at any one moment is not unusual, and even more when I am developing/debugging APIs, websites, etc. That does not include a separate browser on another screen with references open, etc.

                If IE and Firefox want to be lazy buttheads and use twice the memory just because it is cheap, I can also use Chrome when I could use that gig or two of memory back for other processes.

                That's just for single users. That kind of inefficiency is more evident on remote desktop environments where you have 50-100 sessions running at any one time with employees using 5-10 tabs for web portals to 20-30 SaaS vendors. When you get to that level, you will see the difference between using Chrome and IE very quickly.

              • by Trahloc (842734) on Friday March 30, 2012 @01:47AM (#39519531) Homepage
                As I responded to people above. I have 32gb of ram on my workstation, that enough? When 64bit FF uses 6gb of ram performance nose dives into the ground at that point ... but that's about double the ram of 32bit before its useless. So no, ram isn't the issue, the memory bloat is a side affect of whatever the hell kills performance, it isn't the direct cause. I've still got 20 gigs of memory free.
        • by _xeno_ (155264)

          How long before Safari passes Firefox as well?

          Depends on your needs. For Mac OS X, vanilla Safari is just as good as vanilla Chrome.

          If you want AdBlock and NoScript, then it's still a bit behind. Although I just discovered that there is an AdBlock for Safari (no idea how well it works) and there are extensions that provide rudimentary script blocking as well.

          So, under Mac OS X at least, Safari is already nearly to Chrome levels. Under Windows, I'd have to recommend just sticking with Chrome.

          • I use AdBlock for Safari and it works just as well as the Chrome version I use at work. It's virtually the same.

            I don't bother with NoScript at home, so I can't comment on that.

          • by Cinder6 (894572)

            Ghostery is where it's at for Safari. For some annoying reason, though, Safari does very poorly on Youtube videos on my systems. I'm not sure if it's some extension problem or if it's inherent in the browser, but I generally use Chrome for Youtube.

        • I will be a chrome user as soon as I can find an add-on that supports Opera-style tabs.

          The only reason I turned away from Opera was becaues it's so standards-compliant it breaks a lot of the webpages I need to use. And that isn't a dis on Opera...

      • by mspohr (589790) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @05:00PM (#39515333)

        IE 6 forever!

    • by Kobyov (1020024) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @03:52PM (#39514425)
      http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/organizations/ [mozilla.org] It's great really, makes the updates much more like the 3.6 era, when they did things sensibly
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Moses48 (1849872)

      Good solution as their rolling releases will have bugs pop up from time to time. The tinyMCE issue was a BUG in FF and has been resolved in the nightly build. See the source: https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=737784 [mozilla.org]

    • by MightyMartian (840721) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @04:20PM (#39514831) Journal

      I stopped using Firefox and don't stress at all. I want my fucking browser to just work, and since i have no particular emotional investment in it, it got uninstalled, and it is unlikely, unless I start doing a lot of web work again, to ever reappear on my machine.

      • by spire3661 (1038968) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @04:23PM (#39514855) Journal
        This is /thread right here. I just want my browser to be fast, efficient and mostly stay out of my way. IE8 infuriates me with all the bullshit they want you to setup before you can actually use the damn thing.
        • by cpu6502 (1960974)

          Microsoft's Exploder 8 infuriates me with how it FREEZES for like 30 seconds, until it finishes downloading all the ads and Flashcrap. What on earth is it doing??? I prefer Opera's instant draw feature better (it draws whatever it has, even incomplete pages).

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 29, 2012 @04:43PM (#39515111)

      The ESR version sometimes rants about libertarian issues when I'm trying to browse the web. Is there a Bruce Perens version?

    • by Zadaz (950521) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @05:05PM (#39515391)

      Good luck getting the visitors to your site to use the browser/version you want them to.

      This comment looks best in IE6.

    • by hawk (1151) <hawk@eyry.org> on Thursday March 29, 2012 @10:49PM (#39518769) Journal

      But if you use the RMS version instead of the ESR, you show yourself as Truly Committed to the cause . . .

      hawk

  • I edit the add-on package (they are easy to download and are just renamed zip files) and change the version number manually and hope that there wasn't some fundamental code change in Firefox that breaks it. Maybe Add-on writers should push it up a few versions and hope it works? I dunno.
  • Crazy Idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 29, 2012 @03:49PM (#39514389)

    Maybe TinyMCE isn't actually as "platform independent" and "cross-platform" as it claims?

    Code to standards (with appropriate polyfills) and ye shall prosper.

    • by webheaded (997188)
      No kidding. If they can do it fine with Chrome then what is the hold up for Firefox exactly?
    • by Xugumad (39311)

      The relevant spec ( http://www.whatwg.org/specs/web-apps/current-work/#refsEDITING [whatwg.org] ) was last edited yesterday (28th March 2012). Damn hard to hit a moving target and all that.

    • Re:Crazy Idea (Score:4, Informative)

      by b4dc0d3r (1268512) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @04:41PM (#39515075)

      TinyMCE is not a plugin, it's a script library. Like jQuery. The bug is in FireFox, and probably would have been there regardless of the release schedule. IF they don't test releases with TinyMCE, they would not have noticed a regression.

      It was confirmed as a bug in FireFox, and the newer versions of TinyMCE work around it. The relevant comment is:

      // Wait for iframe onload event on Gecko

      I'm pretty sure TinyMCE is cross-platform, as much as it can be when each browser can add bugs (or at least unexpected changes in behavior).

      What I haven't searched for is whether the onload event order for iframes is documented in a standard, or by convention. Either way, if you write to the standard and the browser doesn't, your plugin looks broken.

    • by ndykman (659315)

      Code to standards (with appropriate polyfills) and ye shall prosper.

      Yea, that'd be fine if there wasn't a ton of unspecified or "up-to-vendor" behavior in the HTML, CSS and DOM standards as they stand now. The reality is that any moderately complex JavaScript page has to be tested against all the browsers. The advantage of things like jQuery, etc. is they do a lot of that and hide the inconsistencies from you.

      In this case, it seems tinyMCE tickled odd behavior in Gecko's window.onload event. But, as with a lot of DOM events, figuring out what should fire and in what order i

  • Too Late (Score:2, Interesting)

    I stuck with Mozilla starting with V1.0 in July 2002 but about a month ago the bloat and crashes from Firefox 11.0 got too much for me and I gave Chrome a try.

    Chrome is faster with no crashes.

    I don't know where Firefox went wrong but I'm not going back.

    • by green1 (322787)

      Unfortunately I've found chrome to really drag once you get a whole bunch of tabs open, and all too often I have a LOT of tabs open. Other than that I was pretty impressed with how far it's come, if I could get it to a useable speed with lots of tabs open, I'd use it as my primary browser. Unfortunately until then I'm sticking with firefox.

  • Boo Hoo (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Haedrian (1676506) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @03:52PM (#39514449)

    Tons of websites, including those with advanced features work perfectly with updated versions of firefox.

    So what's wrong with this particular feature? And why is it that FF is getting the blame?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by JohnFen (1641097)

      Because FF is the only one that has developed the compatibility problem.

      From my point of view, it's not a question of "blame". It's a question of "does this tool meet my needs"? And for FF, the answer is increasingly "no" due in no small part to these kinds of issues. Is that the fault of FF? It doesn't matter. If FF doesn't work, it doesn't work, regardless of the reasons.

      • Re:Boo Hoo (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Haedrian (1676506) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @04:07PM (#39514641)

        And the new features being added to Firefox of course are no reason to keep updating it.

        Technology always moves forward. Should we pause all advancements to ensure that everything stays compatible? And why is it that this library (not sure what to call it) is the one with the problems? If firefox updates are breaking it, then something must be broken with the library itself. I use tons of different websites every day, so far I haven't seen any which have been broken by firefox (I'm using Aurora). So this seems to be a very rare occurance - I'm pretty sure where we can place the blame.

        • by JohnFen (1641097)

          And the new features being added to Firefox of course are no reason to keep updating it.

          For me, no, the new features are not compelling (and I wish many of them would cease to exist).

          This is one of my main issues with the rapid-release stuff, that it's impossible to get bug fixes without getting unwanted new features.

          Technology always moves forward. Should we pause all advancements to ensure that everything stays compatible?

          No, but on the other hand, advancements come with a cost. Depending on the user's needs, it can be that the cost isn't worth it to them. In the case of FF, the cost is nowhere near worth it for me. I cannot even imagine a new browser feature that would be so compelling that I'm wi

          • Re:Boo Hoo (Score:4, Informative)

            by _xeno_ (155264) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @05:04PM (#39515381) Homepage Journal

            This is one of my main issues with the rapid-release stuff, that it's impossible to get bug fixes without getting unwanted new features.

            Or the best type of Firefox feature, the new bug!

            There's a new bug in Firefox 11 that prevents tabs from reloading on startup correctly. Unfortunately it's caused by a new "feature" that's designed to restore tabs from startup more correctly.

            Essentially, when Firefox 11 starts and reloads tabs from a previous session, Firefox 11 will now fire some JavaScript events that are only supposed to be fired due to user interaction. Except it A) sometimes fires these events when it shouldn't at all due to a race condition and B) is now automatically firing an event that should only ever fire due to user interaction with the webpage. Thereby completely breaking webpages that assume that events fired by a user interacting with the webpage only ever fire when the user intends to interact with the page. And not because some developer at Mozilla decided to randomly fire JavaScript events for no readily apparent reason.

            Unfortunately this is a "feature" and therefore will not be fixed. Because Firefox is supposed to do that, as of Firefox 11. Despite the fact that, as far as I know, no other browser ever fires events in that fashion.

        • by ultranova (717540)

          And the new features being added to Firefox of course are no reason to keep updating it.

          What new features? As it happens, another side effect of version spam is that people stop paying attention to changelogs, since most of the time they have nothing important. That's another reason most programs do multi-part version numbering: bugfix releases are just that, minor releases might have some tweaks or enhancements to existing features, and major versions contain major new features you should take time to exp

    • Dealing with new updates every week is very annoying. I went the Chrome route on Windows too. On linux its not so bad so I still use ff there.
    • by dgatwood (11270)

      With most browser extension APIs (Chrome, Safari, etc.), the browser vendors promise API backwards compatibility and their development teams go to great lengths to avoid making changes that would break that compatibility. By contrast, the Firefox extension API makes no such promises, and as far as I can tell, requires each extension to provide a minimum and maximum compatible version that is hard-coded into the extension itself. When the browser changes versions, if the maximum version in the extension is

  • by Dr_Barnowl (709838) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @03:53PM (#39514459)

    The real annoyance for me is the version numbering / compatibility scheme. There are add-ins that are still relevant, and still work perfectly, but you have to go through a song and dance to install them every time the version numbers change, the song and dance being unpacking them, editing the version numbers in their metadata, and repacking them, or finding the add-in in your profile from an older version and editing it there.

    If they could fix this, that would be much better. Instead of add-ins declaring which versions they are compatible with, it should be possible to compute which APIs they access, and whether their behaviour has changed.

    In the case of TinyMCE, I'm not sure what the issue is, unless people are packaging it as an add-in - my only encounters with it are as something embedded in a web page, so it would naturally have to cope with a wide variety of browsers by default.

  • works for me (Score:5, Informative)

    by Pretzalzz (577309) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @03:57PM (#39514515)

    None of the extensions I use break with 'every' revision. Most I don't even think have needed to be upgraded from 8.0 to the current 13.0a2[Aurora], and it updates Firefox essentially every time I restart Firefox. It makes me think TinyMCE are the one's doing something wrong.

  • by asquithea (630068) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @03:58PM (#39514525)

    TinyMCE is not an addon - the article seems to be talking about a Firefox bug, but doesn't provide a bug ID.

    Addons are now up-issued automatically where possible; I have found fewer addons breaking compared with the sweeping changes made using the old model of major releases.

    The article also misses the benefits from regular releases: features and improvements get in front of users more quickly, and changes are incremental, rather than jarringly abrupt. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Firefox_(Rapid_release_development_cycle) [wikipedia.org] for a list of changes since Firefox 4.

  • by ElmoGonzo (627753) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @04:02PM (#39514563)
    On a few occasions, I have been presented with an updated version of the Add-On a few days after the new Firefox disabled it. But it is increasingly annoying to have functionality I have come to rely upon disabled. It's very difficult to work with tools that keep mutating and supporting the concept of Add-On functionality becomes pointless when everyone has to run like the Red Queen just to stay even.
  • by MetalliQaZ (539913) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @04:02PM (#39514565)

    This is so obvious, I feel like I'm taking crazy pills.

    Users see the Firefox version. Plugin developers see the plugin API version. So if FF 10, 11, 12 ,13 all have the same API, then they are automatically compatible. New features added to the browser can be tested for. Removing features causes a API rev.

    ffs, just do it and stop with all the noise!
    -d

  • You have to find a balance somewhere.

  • by Anaerin (905998) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @04:10PM (#39514689)

    The only reason there would be a compatibility problem is if programs/scripts/modules/whatever are using user-agent identification to determine what features are available. This is (and always has been) a very bad practice - You check to see if the functions (or alternatives) are available, rather than checking against UA. That way you don't have to continually update scripts to maintain compatibility with the latest versions. When when browsers start supporting new functions coded in, those functions just work. When deprecated functionality is removed, the check for that particular function fails and the code moves on to another branch.

    For example, rather than the following:

    function getXMLHTTP() {
    if (navigator.appName == 'Microsoft Internet Explorer')
    {
    var ua = navigator.userAgent;
    var re = new RegExp("MSIE ([0-9]{1,}[\.0-9]{0,})");
    if (re.exec(ua) != null)
    rv = parseFloat( RegExp.$1 );
    if (rv try { return new ActiveXObject("Msxml2.XMLHTTP.6.0"); }
    catch (e) {}
    try { return new ActiveXObject("Msxml2.XMLHTTP.3.0"); }
    catch (e) {}
    try { return new ActiveXObject("Microsoft.XMLHTTP"); }
    catch (e) {}
    } else
    return XMLHTTPRequest;
    } else
    return XMLHTTPRequest;
    }

    Which uses nasty browser detection to try and cope with IE 8 and below, you should use:

    function getXMLHTTP() {
    if (XMLHTTPRequest) return XMLHTTPRequest;
    if (ActiveXObject) {
    try { return new ActiveXObject("Msxml2.XMLHTTP.6.0"); }
    catch (e) {}
    try { return new ActiveXObject("Msxml2.XMLHTTP.3.0"); }
    catch (e) {}
    try { return new ActiveXObject("Microsoft.XMLHTTP"); }
    catch (e) {}
    }
    throw new Error("This browser does not support XMLHttpRequest.");
    }

    Which nicely checks to see both if the newer/proper XMLHTTPRequest Javascript object exists, and if not, tries to use the latest ActiveX object (Necessary for IE 8 and below), while only using the "ActiveXObject" function if it is available. It also means that if MS put out a version of IE that falls back to the ActiveX Object route, this code will still work with it, whereas the first will not. It's a minor example, true, but it's an example nonetheless.

  • by Surt (22457) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @04:14PM (#39514757) Homepage Journal

    Is this something people actually use?

  • by nman64 (912054) * on Thursday March 29, 2012 @04:39PM (#39515057) Homepage

    How is it that this asshat's "stories" continue to reach the front page?

  • by residieu (577863) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @04:51PM (#39515217)
    That's why I prefer Opera. All the functionality I like that would require a plugin from Firefox is just built in. Since it's built in, the Opera development team are in charge of maintaining them so they don't break with every release.
  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @06:33PM (#39516439) Homepage

    From an add-on developer perspective, Firefox's frantic updates are a pain. I have the same add-on for Firefox and Google Chrome. [adlimiter.com] Most of the code is common. On the Firefox side, I have work-arounds for two bugs in Firefox, and they've been open bug reports in Bugzilla for many months. There's a new bug this week because the last update to the Mozilla add-on SDK broke something in message passing. That's supposedly fixed in the next version of the SDK being released today. Now I have to rebuild, update and test my add-on, then run it through the Mozilla approval bureaucracy again. (Yes, the AMO web site says this happens automatically. That's only true if you let them host the source code.)

    Over on Google Chrome, it just works. No workarounds needed. A stable API. No updates needed from my side.

    I get far more downloads of the Firefox version, though.

  • by Snaller (147050) on Friday March 30, 2012 @08:42AM (#39521363) Journal

    Rule number one. Never auto update, it just screws things up.

Never invest your money in anything that eats or needs repainting. -- Billy Rose

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