Today I went to download the beta version of Firefox 4 and had my heart broken by a few disconcerting issues. One of these issues surprises me and the other issue REALLY surprises me...and then there's another issue that doesn't really surprise me.
Let me preface this, before I dig my grave too deep. Although Google Chrome has been my default browser for a while now, I still like (and rely upon) Firefox. I have used Firefox for as long as it had a name other than Firefox. And prior to Firefox, I used Mozilla...so I've been in the family for quite some time. Here endeth the preface.
For the longest time I used Firefox (over Konqueror and Opera) simply because it was ahead of the curve in just about every aspect. But then this newcomer comes around and quietly blows the other browsers (including Firefox) out of the water. This new browser? Google Chrome. In every way Chrome is faster than Firefox. I can't say it is 100% better than Firefox because there are certain sites (like any site I use that has Xoops as a content management system) that don't like Chrome so well. For those sites I just head on back to Firefox and wait (and wait, and wait) until it opens (all the while thinking I'd be done with the article by now if I could use Chrome on this site!)
Here comes Firefox 4. I do have high hopes for this browser. After all, it is offering to feature such updates as:
- New tab location.
- New add ons manager.
- WebM and HD support.
- Better security.
- HTML5 support.
- CSS3 support.
- Crash protection.
and more. But what is really interesting is the first feature that Firefox is promoting — the "new look." This "new look" (with the tabs above the menus) looks suspiciously like Google Chrome. So much so that when I first saw this new look I thought it WAS Chrome.
That "sort of" surprised me. But I'm not quite sure I get why they are promoting this new look as one of the better features. Yet...that's their big PR push. NEW TAB LOCATION! Woohoo, we can be Chrome too!
Now, this brings me to the issue that really surprises me. Firefox has started to follow suit with other development teams and has started pushing features before reliability. I still can see memory issues when Firefox is left open for longer periods of time. I do realize they are still working on these types of issues with the Crash Protection, but why not resolve the serious memory leaking before you move on to bigger and bolder things? All of these new features only serve one purpose - bloat. This is not the Firefox the world needs. The world needs a secure, reliable Firefox to combat the insecure, unreliable Internet Explorer.
This brings me to the final issue which, sadly enough, doesn't really surprise me all that much. If you look at the new features of Firefox you quickly see that many of these new features are currently only working with the Windows release. Really? Linux has all of a sudden become second string on the Firefox user list? Correct me if I'm wrong, but would Firefox really be where they are if it were not for the Linux operating system and community? While Firefox was struggling to gain any foothold in the world of Windows, it was practically the only show in town for the Linux crowd. And the Linux community embraced Firefox. Happily we said, "We will be your chosen users and bring you into the spotlight again!" And now...this is how the Linux community is repaid? By getting features AFTER the Windows crowd.
Let me put it to you another way. Mozilla is looking for beta testers to kick the tires of these new features and report back bugs. Do you think Windows users are more apt to report bugs over Linux users? I think not. Linux users are practically born and bred to report bugs. It's part and parcel to the very heart of open source! So why not continue on with your faithful user base - the one you know will give back what you need? No? You want to give Windows the new features first because there are more users? And more users = more bug reports? Sorry, I call fallacy here.
Well...there you have it. I see the landscape of Firefox is changing. Feature creep, forsaking it's first love, and trying to be someone it's not. Well, Firefox...I guess it's time we break up. It's been a long relationship but it seems I have someone else who, at least on the surface, seems to care more about me than you. I could be wrong. I've been wrong before (and I'll be wrong again). But you seem to be more in love with Windows than you are me now ("me" being Linux, not the literally "me" - that would be creepy).
Truthfully, however, we'll see what comes out in the wash. I've been trying the Firefox 4 beta in both Ubuntu and Fedora and, well, to be honest, I haven't noticed much of a difference. Why? Because the new features aren't as prevalent as they would be if I were using Windows. It's a good browser...although still not nearly as fast as Chrome. I'm sure Firefox 4 will be a solid browser. Will it be faster than Chrome? I doubt it. Will all of it's new sleek, shiny, features translate from Windows to Linux and back again? I doubt it. I guess only time will tell. Until then, Firefox will just keep breaking my heart.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.