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Firefox Succeeded In Its Goal -- But What's Next? 296

trawg writes: It's been more than 10 years since Mozilla released version 1.0 of Firefox, one of their first steps in their mission to 'preserve choice and innovation on the Internet'. Firefox was instrumental in shattering the web monoculture, but the last few years of development have left users uninspired. "Their goal was never to create the most popular browser in the world, or the one with the best UX, or the one with the most features, or the one with the best developer mode. ... It would be foolish to say a monoculture will never arise again (Google are making some scary moves with Chrome-only web applications). But at this point in time while Chrome is the ascendant browser (largely at the expense of Firefox), Mozilla’s ability to impact the web in general is greatly reduced." Perhaps it is time to move on to the next challenge — ensuring there is a strong Thunderbird to help preserve a free and open email ecosystem.
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Firefox Succeeded In Its Goal -- But What's Next?

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  • Back to FF (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Galactic Dominator ( 944134 ) on Friday February 06, 2015 @04:07PM (#49001291)

    I've used Chrome on BSD for years but recently moved back to FF. The main reason I moved in the first place is sync of personal data across instances. FF now has this.

    Also Chromium isn't as open source friendly as one would think so it's feature set is largely reduced on BSD's. Now that they've removed the ability to run 32-bit NPAPI plugins, I can't use java/flash anymore either. Plus all the Chrome UI Nazi stuff was getting annoying like the malfunctioning middle click to paste. Chrome devs calling it a feature not a bug didn't help either. Regardless, things are good again in BSD w/ FF.

    • I would agree, and add that we haven't seen the end of this, as HTML5 is changing everything. Chrome development seems to not only be heavy-handed, but sometimes smacks of the old days of Microsoft in terms of compatibility/heterogeneity. Plodding as it might be, I'll take FF, just like I'll wait for Debian to do something. I seem to be rewarded by being a little patient.

      • I would agree, and add that we haven't seen the end of this, as HTML5 is changing everything. Chrome development seems to not only be heavy-handed, but sometimes smacks of the old days of Microsoft in terms of compatibility/heterogeneity. Plodding as it might be, I'll take FF, just like I'll wait for Debian to do something. I seem to be rewarded by being a little patient.

        It seems to me sometimes that Google doesn't know how to do anything that ISN'T heavy-handed anymore. And they are certainly not protective of your privacy... which is one of Firefox's specialties.

        And as long as it remains so, I think Firefox will continue to gain in popularity. The only reason I use Chrome anymore at all is to check compatibility with web apps. Other than that it stays locked in its cage.

      • I almost forgot: the new video chat feature in Firefox is nice, too. I was surprised to see it first from them. And again, they took steps to respect your privacy at the same time. So: when practical I will use that over Skype from now on.
    • The source is open, but i read about how chromium's way of packaging dependencies with itself has had it rejected from official software repositories on various linux distros. Perhaps this also reduces it's portability.

      On an unrelated note, you shouldn't judge a browser on it's ability to support java and flash, that's really not how the web should work or will work in the future. (for the record i'm fairly browser agnostic, except when talking about IE of course :P).

      • by pr0fessor ( 1940368 ) on Friday February 06, 2015 @04:45PM (#49001675)

        you shouldn't judge a browser on it's ability to support java and flash

        If it limits your ability to browse today, especially to site you want to visit then it is relevant when choosing a browser to use.

      • you shouldn't judge a browser on it's ability to support java and flash, that's really not how the web should work or will work in the future.

        How the web should work or will work in the future is less important to me than how it works right now -- and right now, flash is still (unfortunately) important.

        • by tomxor ( 2379126 )
          Out of interest (I'm primarily a web dev) what sites / content do you use that demands flash? I browse with plugins enabled on a click to play basis but i'm finding very few places these days where i ever need or want to enable flash content, especially with video content being fairly quickly replaced by h.264 and so forth.
          • Aside from the billion or so sites which still use flash, black boxes like vsphere *require* flash to efficiently admin them.

            The death of flash and java is about as relevant as the death of IPv4 or perl 5 or the life of Duke Nukem Forever and the Linux Desktop.

            Tired of hearing about the death of flash and java since 2006. Can we wait till it actually arrives before we start the utopian admonishments?

    • The *only* reason I run FF anymore is because of YouTube downloader.

      Chrome is just faster, less of a memory pig, and PDF + Flash + mpeg4 just work out of the box.

      With the excellent extension Tab Outliner [google.com] I'm all set.

    • I tried using Chromium/PCBSD for a recent GoToMeeting session, and was unable to do it. Have no idea whether WebEx would work any better. But while browsers - both Chromium and FireFox - are fine, looks like there are some critical apps that again force you to Windows.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    "...Chrome-only web applications..."

    It isn't a web application if it requires non-web-standard features or a very specific software platform.

  • From: https://wiki.mozilla.org/Firef... [mozilla.org]
    "50% of Fx users on Windows run 64 bit OS. We've reached a threshold where the effort makes sense."
    Work on the webcam side now that HTML5 video is supported.
  • by B5_geek ( 638928 ) on Friday February 06, 2015 @04:10PM (#49001325)

    The original goal of Phoenix(?) or whatever name they chose for the code-split from Navigator; was to build a fast, responsive and resource-minimal web-browser. When it was first released it was a HUGE success because not everybody wanted an all-in-one email/browser/calendar/contact/NNTP client.

    Then they added the ability to run 3rd-party scripts, they called those 'extensions' (omg what is this new thing!) and that was super popular.

    I like many of the /. readership was there at the birth of what we now call Firefox. We have loved it for what it was, and have tolerated it for what it became.

    It is still my primary browser, but if I ever find a minimal-resource browser that offers functionality equal to 'NoScript' and 'Adblock-Edge' I'll switch.

    • by halivar ( 535827 )

      Mozilla was the original code-split from Navigator, and it's purpose was to preserve Navigator as a browser for the half of the web that was optimized for it (remember the old "best viewed with..." buttons? Good days). Firefox née Phoenix was a fork from Mozilla to strip out Netscape-sponsored features of the Mozilla engine (giving us the Gecko engine). It succeeded in this goal, as well, for a time.

      • by R.Mo_Robert ( 737913 ) on Friday February 06, 2015 @04:44PM (#49001657)

        Mozilla was the original code-split from Navigator, and it's purpose was to preserve Navigator as a browser for the half of the web that was optimized for it (remember the old "best viewed with..." buttons? Good days). Firefox née Phoenix was a fork from Mozilla to strip out Netscape-sponsored features of the Mozilla engine (giving us the Gecko engine). It succeeded in this goal, as well, for a time.

        Your history is a bit off. Gecko was Mozilla's focus since Mozilla itself was created to continue Netscape's work on the next version of their browser after failing on their goal of improving the (horrible) Netscape 4.x layout engine, which was their original goal for version 5 (although I think they might have been experimenting with both possibilities at the same time before giving up the former). Firefox (originally Phoenix then Firebird) was created with the goal of taking that same layout engine, Gecko, but wrapping only a simple browser around it rather than the entire Mozilla/Netscape Communicator-style suite. Netscape never had many Netscape/AOL features in the Mozilla suite itself; those (e.g., AIM integration, branding, and a different default theme--Modern instead of Classic, etc.) were mostly confined to the Netscape-branded releases that AOL/Netscape released using the Mozilla suite as a base (starting with Netscape 6--skipping the scrapped version 5 attempt, though version 6 was horribly delayed and based on a somewhat unstable pre-1.0 release of the Mozilla suite). In any case, Gecko has not only been there since before Firefox, but it's one of few things that Firefox and the Mozilla Suite (which effectively lives on as Seamonkey) share, albeit a very large and important thing since it's used for so much (not just HTML rendering but also creating the UI itself via XUL and a theme).

        Thunderbird was created with a pretty similar goal: take the same layout engine but include only the e-mail features from the suite.

    • exactly, communicator was a resource hog and simply the only (usable) browser for linux/bsd. Opera had some issues (not showing everything correct) with the HTML world of IE and was shareware.
      Firefox was not super in its pre 0.9 versions, but IMO became worse after version 3. (Coincidentally, this was also the case with Netscape Navigator 3 growing into Communiicator 4).
      That said, Firefox has proved to be an indispensible tool for web development (firebug).
    • by vinn ( 4370 ) on Friday February 06, 2015 @04:19PM (#49001427) Homepage Journal
      Well, presumably that's what we were told at the time, but truly what was going on was Netscape throwing as much open source code out there before being gobbled up by AOL. There was zero promise AOL would continue browser development, they had a deal with IE. Netscape was very much aware that IE might be the only game in town. Much of the email code couldn't be open sourced because I don't think Netscape had full rights to the code.
    • by reikae ( 80981 )
      I think I learned about uBlock [github.com] from someone's sig here. It accomplishes the same goal as Adblock Plus/Edge, but uses significantly less memory. A freshly launched Firefox instance with Adblock Plus (only one empty tab open) used slightly over 230MB of RAM; with uBlock that figure is down to around 100MB.

      I too first started using Firefox when it was called Phoenix, but I disagree that Mozilla has failed. In my experience Firefox is fast and responsive. Resource-minimalness (is that even a word?) isn't an is
  • and why? conservative, i say.
  • ensuring there is a strong Thunderbird to help preserve a free and open email ecosystem.

    Why would having an open email client help preserve free and open email? Is something threatening email rfc's recently?

  • Firefox has become the new Netscape. Every release was slower and once they switched to Australis I dumped them entirely for Chrome. Most of the addons I used are also available for Chrome now. I got a good laugh reading about their video chat client. Nobody ever asked for that. How about making existing features better instead of adding shit for no good reason? No wonder Google stopped funding them. Google saw the direction it was going for and pulled out.

    • by BarbaraHudson ( 3785311 ) <barbarahudson@@@gmail...com> on Friday February 06, 2015 @04:48PM (#49001709) Journal
      I switched to Chrome a month ago when Firefox began logging me out on certain subdomains. Then Chrome crapped itself on a silent update as I put my machine to sleep. The error log makes it clear what happened, but after 2 install attempts (one of which worked until I closed the browser), time to try something completely different. So guess who's surprised that the latest IE actually works okay? Never thought I'd see the day.

      So now I use a combination of IE and Firefox. And I have Firefox loaded on my phone as well as Chrome.

      Why didn't I try Opera instead? I would have, but it failed to install. C'est la vie.

    • The video API is cross-browser, viz webrtc which appears in Chrome too.

  • by captjc ( 453680 ) on Friday February 06, 2015 @04:14PM (#49001373)

    I thought the goal was to take Netscape communicator, strip out all the crap, leaving just the lean, fast web browser. Funny they seem to have forgotten that as every release adds more and more bloat and unwanted "features". It might as well be Netscape all over again.

  • by solios ( 53048 ) on Friday February 06, 2015 @04:18PM (#49001413) Homepage

    Oh jeeze the last thing Thunderbird needs is to be raked over the trendy UX coals the way Firefox has. If Chrome's market share has come at the expense of Firefox it may be in part because many people who jumped ship - myself included - found that each Firefox release was becoming successively more and more "chrome-like" without offering any of the benefits that make Chrome a compelling offering. In my case it was speed and performance on a 2006 Mac Mini running 10.6 - firefox was bloated slug that constantly screamed at me to upgrade my OS; Chrome ran as fast as it does on modern hardware and never complained about anything. Chrome's UI and core functionality haven't changed much since I started using it, either - I grew to dread Firefox updates as you never knew if it was going to pull an iTunes and reboot with some new horrible "feature" that didn't have extensions to revert the behavior back to prior functionality - Firefox deciding it was going to handle PDFs inline, and that functionality being far beyond slow and a real pain in the ass to disable - was the last straw for me. When I left the browser half of my extensions and customizations were to undo things the devs had "improved" over the years - the other half were ad and flash blocking extensions, which Chrome does almost as well.

    TLDR; Firefox was awesome when it was Mozilla Without The Cruft. Then it started to cruft up and bloat up and horrible terrible very bad things started to happen to the UI and now it's Just Another Browser. Which is fine, really. Thunderbird does not need to be "innovated" in the same way - Firefox needs to be replaced by Firefox Without The Cruft the way Firefox replaced Mozilla. Maybe stick to the UNIX idea of "do one thing well" this time around, instead of "do one thing reasonably well and an increasingly lengthy list of perpedicular things in a totally half-assed fashion."

    I used Netscape Navigator until IE5 (Mac) came along, then I used Mozilla until Safari popped up, then Firefox until it drove me to Chrome. Chrome Just Works on everything I run it on and has never nagged at me to update or screamed at me to upgrade my operating system Because Reasons. It has yet to roll out a game-changing UI element that I hate, and it isn't slowly modeling its overall UX to resemble the competition. I hope the Mozilla foundation keeps going because we need choice, now more than ever - and maybe one day they'll be my choice again.

    • by MeNeXT ( 200840 )

      I completely agree with your comments and also like to point out that FF is no longer the users browser. I have no idea where they are going. Forcing Yahoo onto users. If I wanted Yahoo as a search engine I would have selected Yahoo. Unable to save exceptions to self signed certificates. I only noticed when I had to reinstall due to a faulty disk. Please do not try to argue security on this.

      • by solios ( 53048 )

        I thought the Yahoo move was pretty hilarious, if only in the fact that Yahoo reported an uptick in people actually using Yahoo for search at some point shortly after.

        I also find it hilarious that Bing loads faster and returns results a lot faster than Google does on Chrome, though that's not strictly relevant to the conversation.* One thing I can say for Firefox - whatever they try to default the search box to the danged thing has never sat there spluttering and not bothering to send/load content the way

    • I don't care about Thunderbird's chrome so much but both Firefox and Thunderbird are losing users because it's *still* not able to use multi-core effectively due to xulrunner trying to be an OS on top of its other tasks.

      Chrome is 'snappy' because it tries to do less. Users don't care why, but they know what it feels like. Just today I was typing a message in Thunderbird and it stopped accepting my keyboard input for about 8 seconds while it was busy running an index or whatever it felt like hijacking the

      • Just today I was typing a message in Thunderbird and it stopped accepting my keyboard input for about 8 seconds while it was busy running an index or whatever it felt like hijacking the UI thread for.

        It still does that? Geebus, I was hoping they'd have fixed that by now. I dumped Thunderbird for sylpheed back in 2006 and then found out about sylpheed-claws which is now Claws-mail very soon after.

      • Just today I was typing a message in Thunderbird and it stopped accepting my keyboard input for about 8 seconds while it was busy running an index or whatever it felt like hijacking the UI thread for.

        Sounds like Outlook, except for the 8 seconds part. More like 20-30.

    • Everything works in Chrome? It works too good in Chrome. HTML5 video is unblockable in Chrome. It wont be long before all sorts of crummy websites add HTML5 video with autoplay in every tab. There is no noscript equivalent in Chrome. It wont be long before you come running back to Firefox without your tail tucked between the legs.
      • by solios ( 53048 )

        Re-read what I wrote. I didn't say Everything works in Chrome, I said Chrome Just Works on everything I run it on.

        I don't care what features a browser has; if it's using large bold fonts and fear-mongering fraidy-text to try to goad me into upgrading my operating system so I can upgrade my browser, I'm going to switch to a browser that runs on the OS that I'm using and doesn't cry about it.

        It turns out I don't miss greasemonkey all that much - I just shut off javascript on any website that feels like it's

    • by trawg ( 308495 )

      Oh jeeze the last thing Thunderbird needs is to be raked over the trendy UX coals the way Firefox has

      [author of the article]

      Completely agree, and it's what I dislike most about Firefox today (you can look at my history for several +5 comments about FF UI/UX).

      I think Thunderbird is in that pre-awesome Firefox stage. It's feature complete but not polished or awesome enough to drive adoption and force other players to respond.

      I also do not like random UI/UX spasms that lead to Australis-esque results. I just want a solid client that people can /rely/ on, like Firefox was.

      I've used Thunderbird as my sole emai

  • by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Friday February 06, 2015 @04:18PM (#49001415)
    The goal may not have been to take over the world. But the goal was also not to become a bloated browser with an unusable UI that is driving users away.
  • Right now, I use three different web browsers (on Windows that would be IE, FIreFox, and Chrome, and on Linux, that would be Opera, Firefox, and Chrome) because there are too many websites that only work under one or the other of them. A few years ago, this wasn't necessary, so we have backslid a fair ways. The "success" is far from complete, and getting farther as each day goes by. I expect HTML 5 to make the situation even worse.

    Firefox has lost favor with me because it has pretty much abandoned the thing

  • by Kozar_The_Malignant ( 738483 ) on Friday February 06, 2015 @04:27PM (#49001509)
    For a long time, I was pretty sure that Firefox's goal was to suck up all of the free memory space in the universe. It's better now, but they damn near succeeded there for a while.
  • by twasserman ( 878174 ) on Friday February 06, 2015 @04:46PM (#49001687)
    I use Thunderbird, but there's not much to be done there, and Mozilla has already put it on the "back burner". But I think that the challenge of FirefoxOS is much more interesting. I have a Flame phone running a prerelease of FirefoxOS 2.0, and it's pretty nice and very inexpensive compared to some other devices out there. I use it regularly when I travel internationally and need a local SIM chip. The FirefoxOS team is working with carriers around the world, almost entirely in developing countries, where the price of an iPhone or Galaxy S 5 is too high for the mass market. But even in relatively rich countries like the US, there is a sizeable population for whom those phones are too expensive. I think that the FirefoxOS phone is a great starter phone for kids, since it's cheap enough to replace when it gets damaged.

    Unlike some other mobile operating systems, FirefoxOS is completely open and uses HTML5 to deliver content. BlackBerry and Windows Phone each have small market shares, and I don't think that's going to change anytime soon. So we mostly have only two choices of mobile OS. Don't get me wrong: I very much like my Android phone (Sony Xperia Z3 Compact) and my iPad, but I think that it's a worthwhile challenge to contribute to the FirefoxOS platform and/or to build apps for it.

    • by caspy7 ( 117545 )

      It will also be interesting to see how it affects the other hardware arenas.
      We'll be seeing Firefox OS coming out on TVs, HDMI streaming dongles, raspberry Pi, and likely watches this year.
      Upfront they focused on tuning it to run well on very low end hardware which may really pay off for them.

  • by markdavis ( 642305 ) on Friday February 06, 2015 @05:11PM (#49001895)

    >"Firefox Succeeded In Its Goal -- But What's Next?"

    Here is what I *HOPE* is next:

    1) Stop trying to be and look like Chrome. Just stop.

    2) Stop trying to force users to not have tabs on bottom, having a menu bar, having separate buttons, etc. Let users control their user interface how they want.

    3) Remove all that developer stuff that 99.99% of users don't use or care about and put it in an addon.

    4) Remove all that chat and conferencing stuff that 99% of users don't care about and put that also in an addon.

    5) Focus on speed, security, stability, bug-fixing, and documentation. You don't have to be a feature-of-the-month club.

    6) Continue to support as many platforms and systems as possible, including old ones.

    Oh- and thank you for all the hard work that went into Firefox- the browser of my choice (and that for my users, family, and friends) for the last decade.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by sexconker ( 1179573 )

      >"Firefox Succeeded In Its Goal -- But What's Next?"

      Here is what I *HOPE* is next:

      1) Stop trying to be and look like Chrome. Just stop.

      2) Stop trying to force users to not have tabs on bottom, having a menu bar, having separate buttons, etc. Let users control their user interface how they want.

      3) Remove all that developer stuff that 99.99% of users don't use or care about and put it in an addon.

      4) Remove all that chat and conferencing stuff that 99% of users don't care about and put that also in an addon.

      5) Focus on speed, security, stability, bug-fixing, and documentation. You don't have to be a feature-of-the-month club.

      6) Continue to support as many platforms and systems as possible, including old ones.

      Oh- and thank you for all the hard work that went into Firefox- the browser of my choice (and that for my users, family, and friends) for the last decade.

      You forgot the most important part - bring back the fucking status bar you fucking shits.

    • 3) Remove all that developer stuff that 99.99% of users don't use or care about and put it in an addon.
      4) Remove all that chat and conferencing stuff that 99% of users don't care about and put that also in an addon.

      And the new baked-in "Apps" stuff that 99% of all users won't use and the associated "Tools->Apps" menu item - which could only figure out how to hide using the userChrome.css snippet below - sigh:

      /* Hide "Tools->Apps" menu item. */
      menuitem[label="Apps"] {
      display: none !important;
      }

      [ Please let me know if there's a better way... ]

    • Bingo. What's next? Maintenance, security.

      You've got some software that works.

      Now your job, Mozilla, is NOT TO BREAK IT ANY FURTHER..

  • Remember when FF was all about making it a lean, mean browsing machine compared to the silver-bullet one-for-everything Netscape behemoth? I think FF would really benefit from making these virtues of old their new priorities again, instead of the Mozilla Foundation and Corporation trying out-do Apple in feel-good, empty world-improvement campaigns and slogans and trying to out-do Apple and Google in UI design with yet another "UI improvement". Or doing things like completely crippling developers who are usi

  • by BrendaEM ( 871664 ) on Friday February 06, 2015 @05:32PM (#49002101) Homepage

    I can't see myself using webmail. Ultimately, I download all my email.

  • I haven't been paying close attention, but I believe IE's use has dropped pretty hard. I wouldn't say Chrome has just been sniping Firefox.

    Regardless, FF is still the most configurable browser I know of. I like Chrome, but FF has plug-ins that give it superpowers Chrome still can't match. And THAT is Firefox's raison d'etre.
  • when i started the pyjamas-desktop project i assumed that the "open-ness" that is written into the mozilla foundation charter would be an inviolate quantity that they would adhere to. taking this on faith i found the python-hulahop bindings of the OLPC project to be perfect to allow HTML5 DOM to be entirely (even exclusively) manipulated *python-side* instead of using javascript.

    for anyone not familiar with the difference between pyxpcomext and python-hulahop, pyxpcomext was a project funded in 2000 by the

    • by lkcl ( 517947 )

      note: the use of less-than and greater-than within what i have written above has been mangled by slashdot, resulting in it being unintelligable at a key strategic point. that point is when script language is mentioned. it's supposed to read less-than script language equals python greater-than and less-than script language equals javascript.

  • So we know the Mozilla code for the most part is finally reliable. I think it's performance time, it really is time for this to kick into high gear, ASAP.
    https://wiki.mozilla.org/Elect... [mozilla.org]

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Friday February 06, 2015 @06:06PM (#49002433) Journal
    Chrome does not have a no script equivalent. Just yesterday I was so pissed off by a slashdot story with an autoplaying video. It uses html5 tags, and it is played natively by chrome. It is not a plug in. It is not stopped by typical flash block. etc. Back to Firefox for slashdot now. Pretty soon all advertiser will realize the value of unblockable videos in Chrome. It is just a matter of time the Chrome user experience will be degraded so much, people will flock back to Firefox.

    Firefox is our weapon to tame misbehaving behemoths. Be it Microsoft. Be it Google. Be it Apple.

  • I can see why Firefox was created, and I used it quite happily for years. But when it kept memory-leaking worse and worse with every release, I had to let it go. (My job necessarily involves a LOT of web browsing and tabs... and no, I don't work for a porn site.) Chrome does what I need it to, never locks the HDD light on with swap activity, and I cannot remember the last time it crashed. It's fast, and has all the function I require.

    GMail. I have essentially infinite storage, access on every internet

    • I have complained for years about memory leaks, all to no avail. I have asked for a way to enumerate memory/cpu usage on a per-tab basis - all of this also goes on deaf ears. They just turn around and pass the buck and blame the addins. In the meantime I routinely have to kill firefox and then restart it. It apologizes about how embarrassing it is that Firefox has "crashed", but the real embarrassment are the memory leaks.

      I use Chrome some, but I can't say that I really like it that much. But I am incr

  • by aberglas ( 991072 ) on Saturday February 07, 2015 @07:34PM (#49008241)

    Email is not just the way of the future. My kids use imessage to communicate with their trendy friends with Apple gear. Indeed we needed to buy them an ipad touch just so they could keep up. My wife uses Facebook to communicate. Less fashionable people communicate with Kick, and a few neanderthals even use Skype.

    The idea that somebody on GMail or Outlook or even Thunderbird cam communicate with an iPhone is an accident of history. Why would anybody want to support technology that can help others steal the customers that they own? Blogs and RSS are already dead, long live Facebook! Email will follow.

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