Browser

Firefox is breaking my heart...sort of

Jack Wallen takes a peek at the Firefox 4 beta and, to be honest, he's just not that impressed. In fact, he's a bit down trodden by where it's heading. Read on to find out more.

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.

Say what?

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!)

So anyway...

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.
  • Websockets.
  • 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.

About

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.

54 comments
masc3369
masc3369

I went and downloaded firefox version 3.0.18 and now I'm living happily ever after !!!

devlin_X
devlin_X

I use to love Firefox. It was quick, and reliable. I am surprised I still have to tweak it for speed and switch disable the IPV6. It is no longer fast, and I am tired of having to wait while it decides to temporally hang turning gray for a minute or so then suddenly deciding to let me us it again. Considering there are other options I don't need to suffer with this apparently common problem that greatly affects usability. I was given a few tips to try but if that doesn't resolve the hanging it's off to Opera and/or Chrome....

husserl
husserl

I've come to this rather late, having tried a variety of other browsers. I found FF exceptional compared to them, but the latest update - in both portable and installed form - has caused me a problems. I wondered if the plugin container was an issue. Pages don't load, the package hangs, I have to kill it using process explorer and then restart, at which point the problems have gone. I get the feeling that FF is in danger of becoming bloatware though, having said this, I have just installed https everywhere [ https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2010/06/encrypt-web-https-everywhere-firefox-extension ]. I find myself hoping that the EFF are as good as people say they are.

serpentsnare
serpentsnare

I've been doing a lot of surfing lately using Midori. It is not quite yet ready to replace FireFox, but it is definitely on its way. Hopefully they implement the Mozilla "Content Security Policy" recommendation.

Mel Sommersberg
Mel Sommersberg

"This is not the Firefox the world needs. The world needs a secure, reliable Firefox to combat the insecure, unreliable Internet Explorer." You say that after bleating about Firefox's horrendous memory leaks? Go back to school, seriously.

jrussell_75423
jrussell_75423

I've only used Firefox for a while. Messed with (X)Ubuntu and such a bit. As long as it doesn't get more Mac looking (sorry mac lovers!) or try to be Chrome, ok. I do NOT like all the instant add on crap that Chrome does any more than I do the Adobe AIR stuff, etc. and find myself uninstalling all the instataneous update tools for these apps, so if Firefox starts it, I'll nuke it and go back to Internet Stumbler - at least I'm familiar enough with it to not have to learn the weaknesses the hard way...

winzig45
winzig45

Mozilla.org fix the bloody memory leaks!!!! PUHLEESE!!!!!!!!

jf.chabot
jf.chabot

I tried it and I remarked a boost in performance mostly over https connection. Not as much as Chrome though. As for the linux community pay-back it is a good point but Chromne choose the same path by delivering stable version on Windows first, so ....

jon_saxon
jon_saxon

Firefox is breaking my heart but for different reasons. Every since I got a 64-bit Win 7 PC at home, Firefox has crashed with increasing frequency. I have very few add-ins and I have updated to newer versions as they are released. The net result is frequent crashes that are becoming MORE frequent lately. All was good on my Win XP machine though. Until the last two or three weeks. Now it is crashing too! I am just about to look at Opera and Chrome. I frequently browse with dozens of windows open and a crash is very annoying. Firefox (on Win 7) now crashes several times a week and I need a browser that is more stable. At this point I couldn't care less about Firefox 4 since I probably will be using a new browser before Firefox 4 gets out of beta...

ps.techrep
ps.techrep

Anyone remember OS/2 and its clean "desktop"?

MaeIstrom
MaeIstrom

Have you really forgotten about all those months linux users had to wait for a chrome beta while the windows version was out? I haven't and it's one reason why my hand seems to instinctively head towards the firefox icon each time I start browsing even though I'm sure chrome is a better browser, at least we get a release at the same time as the windows/mac crowd. As for your whining about features being there for windows and not linux I can hardly see linux developers developing these features for someone else so it follows they're being developed by the windows crowd. A slightly more logical theory than your fallacy about someone at mozilla HQ deciding to "give" features to windows. Maybe you could download a source tarball and implement the missing features yourself rather than complaining about your broken heart.

jhenkins
jhenkins

Hello Jack, When last have you vacuumed your Firefox profile? Sounds silly, but here is the reason: Firefox uses sqlite extensively. Over time, these files get a bit messy and fragmented, resulting in a really slow browsing experience. You can vacuum them on Linux by using the following script: ---start--- #!/bin/bash WORKING=`pwd` cd ~/.mozilla/firefox for i in `find . -iname "*.sqlite"` do echo "Vacuuming $i" echo "VACUUM;" | sqlite3 $i done cd $WORKING echo "" echo "Done!" ---end--- It makes a huge difference! Cheers, JanH

myepals
myepals

Will there be a 64Bit version?

sar10538
sar10538

I've tried using Google Chrome but it does not handle tab overflow and that is a show stopper for me. There is also this strange cut and past feature where you can start to highlight something and then it turns into a blue line for some strange reason. These, plus a number of other annoying things, keep me tethered to Firefox, at least for now. I agree that Chrome is faster but that's a bit arbitrary when your ISP does not supply a fast connection in the first place. I agree, it looks like Firefox is just joining the look-alike club sadly.

geoffejohnson
geoffejohnson

As a loyal Firefox man I've been on the verge of quitting the Mozilla camp ever since 3.6 introduced the dreaded "Plugin Container for Firefox". This regularly blows my processor out of the water, especially when viewing sites with Flash content. Is this issue resolved or, dare I say, made worse in this new Beta?

parnote
parnote

Mozilla has been getting increasingly sloppy with the Firefox coding. With each new version, there's something else that refuses to work. Just like you, Jack, I'm becoming increasingly frustrated with using Firefox. And, just as you do, I have to rely on Firefox to get certain things done, so I doubt that it will be going away from my system any time soon. But it's use will pretty much be relegated to those few uses, while I use Chrome/Chromium for the bulk of my needs. While I am shocked that Mozilla would abandon the user base that is largely responsible for their position in the browser market, I'm not surprised. It seems to be the "vogue" thing to do to abandon the Linux users who have propelled your product to stardom, and then repay them by pandering to Windows users. Just witness what Songbird did to the Linux users, as an example. Just a note to the Firefox developers over at Mozilla: the browser wars aren't over. With your coding becoming sloppy over the last several versions, coupled with Windows users not reporting bugs (they are accustomed to just accepting things as "that's just the way it is"), you may have just started the long fall from grace, and may witness your market share drop without the bug-reporting abilities of the Linux crowd. To quote "Marco from Tripolia" in the recent movie "Taken" ... Good Luck!

Jaqui
Jaqui

FireSUCKS has been on a downward spiral all along. duplicating the useless google chrome ui [ sorry, menus belong right below the title bar of the window, not halfway down the window like chrome and ie have them, or across the top of the screen completely outside the app window like Macos does. ], pulling a microshaft and not fixing critical flaws, and ignoring their core user base just like microshaft does only proves it.

drachenfire76
drachenfire76

I haven't tried the new Firefox yet, so I have no first-hand experience, but I don't like what I'm hearing. I like Chrome because of its speed, but I can't stand having the Tools, Options, etc. in a drop-down list stuck in the upper-right corner. I'd much rather have a customizable toolbar.

ideason88
ideason88

The only thing that keeps me going back to FF are the features (plug-ins actually) that are not available in Chrome yet. I use Chrome almost exclusively now, although about 6 months ago I never used anything but FF unless I was testing a website to see how it looked in different browsers. Maybe someone knows here...is there an Ad-blocker available for chrome? Web developer plug-in? I haven't looked recently. Edit: A quick Google search shows several options for both, and I just found the extension library for Chrome. Guess I just revealed my ignorance! :)

wesnugent
wesnugent

IT'S FREE! Next you'll be complaining about tap water.

jmcdonald01
jmcdonald01

a repeat of the Netscape v IE war of old . . bad move on Mozilla's part . .

jck
jck

I've dropped back to Firefox 2.x because the newest versions of 3.x were just poor performers, and 4.x looks even worse. I think if they don't clean up code and better implement, they are bound to go the way of IE.

jfuller05
jfuller05

I use Firefox 3.5 when I use Firefox. For work, I use IE 8, that's what we use and at home I use Opera. I'll try out Firefox 4, but just from what I've read about it, I probably won't like it.

Slayer_
Slayer_

I am not sure which engine it is using, but its almost a year old now. So still stable and fast :). Gecko core 1.9.1.6

oldbaritone
oldbaritone

since so many tech blogs talk about bugs and crashes. I'm still on 3.5, which seems to be fairly stable. I've been loyal to FF since the 1.x days, but maybe it's time to look at Chrome.

QAonCall
QAonCall

The memory issues are starting to turn me away from FF, and I have been using it for about 5 years now. I cannot continue to do my work, when there are alternatives that are around the corner supporting HTML5 and not the same memory issues. Sad really, since is this was MS or some other big company, this would be a headline, and the darn thing has been a problem since the beginning.

npman5
npman5

Man, I knew that FF had problems with loading memory up when left open, but I haven't heard that it was memory leaks. Being only a lowly CSE undergrad, I still know that memory leaks are something that should not be tolerated. If we have memory leaks in class assignments, we fail the assignment. I know this is something different seeing as the largest thing I have written is less than 1000 lines but I still think that good software security should demand that issues that can affect an entire system are ones that should be fixed before continuing.

kyle.baker
kyle.baker

I use a blend of XP and Vista machines, and have 0 crashes for about 7 months now. I've not heard any complaints of frequent crashes from my windows 7 using friends either. And it's not like we don't talk shop about the programs we like or don't like. So if they were having frequent crashes i'd hear about it. This is the issue with Windows. Often times we have things installed that are causing other programs to mess up. Rather than really route out the source of the problem. We blame the program that is getting the incompatibility beating. I had the same issue with Bioshock for a very long time til someone asked me about what over clock programs I was running. After I was instructed to uninstall my over clocker Bioshock ran beautifully on my vista machine.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I also remember when I had less than 14% body fat. Like OS/2, all of those are gone.

jf.chabot
jf.chabot

I will try this vaccum trick and probably try it with an sql client for my firefox on windows ! Sorry Jack ! I read all of your articles since a while and I like the way you critic, but now JanH you make my day by beeing constructive ! Kudos ! Jeff

lcplwilson
lcplwilson

I suppose the next step for FF is to start charging us users a fist load of money to use it.

Jaqui
Jaqui

Seamonkey is following the same circular path down the drain, they are incorporating more and more of Firesucks into the SeAmonkey code base. they are incorporating more and more of bad Firesucks UI design into it as well, started with the message bars idiocy that have made it a no go for newer versions of Seamonkey for me.

ideason88
ideason88

That's about my only gripe with Chrome that I've found so far....

Shane A.
Shane A.

Looks like an additional birthday for YOU this year! I - like you, it seems - am finding more and more reasons to completely shift over to Chrome. Isn't it funny how the pendulum shifts every few years or so?

Slayer_
Slayer_

Tastes like your drinking chemicals and chlorine. But it's still cleaner than bottled water.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Take everything I hate from Chrome and add it to everything I hate about Firefox and that gives you firefox 4. Same sloth and memory hogging, no interface.

justagallopin
justagallopin

If new to Chrome, try the srware Iron version of chromium. I like it much better, as others have mentioned it drops some of googles tracking mechanism. As for FF I still use it and am a tab junkie so I use bartab add on. Helps as I don't have them all loaded each use.

RipVan
RipVan

Those issues will keep me off of Chrome.

Timbo Zimbabwe
Timbo Zimbabwe

"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." Really, Jack? Is that why *so much* hardware works with Linux? I hate to be a stick in the mud, but I'm assuming they're following the market share and Windows dominates the market. As for any other problem you have with the new FF, all I can say is "don't upgrade".

dawgit
dawgit

Java Script on the Client Side, in the program architecture it self. Terrible. No security mentality in basic build up. Sad.

seanferd
seanferd

I really fail to grasp this UI concept. Why do I want to traverse the menus to get to a tab? It's tolerable on a browser which does absolutely nothing but browse, like Chrome. But on a tank like FF, it just doesn't work for me. (OK, I can't actually tolerate Google Chrome, or any other Google software products, at all. I base my Chrome/Webkit experience on the much cleaner SRWare iron.) I just hope that the SeaMonkey developers don't have to follow FF in everything they do. edit: Ugh. The post was meant to reply to the root of the tree, not QAonCall. I'll never understand why the "RE: reply box" has a different behaviors.

jfuller05
jfuller05

No more it seems. Now, it seems as if Firefox is the follower.

marcdw
marcdw

The reporting of bugs and whether or not hardware works with Linux are two different things. Linux users have been filing bugs or complaining about hardware from the get go but it's up to hardware vendors to care or not (thus causing some coders to do their darndest to engineer some kind of working drivers). Firefox isn't hardware. It's a shame their putting Linux second (though not as shameful as SongBird essentially dropping Linux). I, too, have been a fan of Firefox from the beginning but man it just seems to get bigger and slower with each new major version.

zclayton2
zclayton2

than the side or bottom. we each have our preferences.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I don't load beta software but it that's what you're talking about, I agree with it being a bad idea. I'm not nuts about MS's Ribbon menu, but one thing about it is the ability to collapse the menu and then have it automatically and temporarily expand when clicked. More developers should look at that space-saving feature, especially browsers and other apps where 'real estate' is critical.

themaestroofemail
themaestroofemail

...rip off foobar2000s. I realize it's a media player. But it's a media player that has no set-in-stone UI whatsoever. THAT is what I want in a browser.

drodr05
drodr05

Well, I loaded FF 4 Beta, last night. I was not pleased to see the tabs on top. I even sent a Feedback saying so. After digging around for a few minutes, I found the option to turn that feature off. At least you included that to help those of us who didn't like the 'new look'.

munsch
munsch

Yeah. If you're going to rip something off of Chrome, try going for the speed, not the worst browser UI design idea ever. It's just the inevitable corporate slide that reaches appearances, which are perceived as attainable, over substance and function, which becomes perceived as idealistic.

dawgit
dawgit

I agree, and also home it doesn't follow the FF trend. It's the last of the original mind set of Mozilla. -d

willy_uk
willy_uk

When I saw mention of "tabs up top" it turned me cold, and I've been using FF for so long I can't remember when I changed to it. I just know it was called Firefox when I made the switch. I can't even imagine why anyone ever thought it made sense to detach the tabs from the main browsing area. I don't even look at the menu/address-bar/other parts of the browser until I need them and having to look above them and back to the tabs it just a seriously clunky feature*. Bad, bad move there. I'm just glad there will be an option to turn that feature* off and put the tabs back where they belong. Truth be told I'd much rather everything else stay as it is in FF 3.x and they fixed whatever it is makes FF ramp up to making my machine hang than tinkering with the looks. The fact is, I'll piss and moan about major flaws in Firefox but customising and familiarity will keep me loyal. It does seriously get me down though.

dryd
dryd

SeaMonkey 1.1.18 I really don't think much of the SM2x branch.

Jaqui
Jaqui

Seamonkey 2 is 50% firesucks code base. that is the source of many of the Seamonkey 2 bugs.

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