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FireFox users are not happy campers.

By deepsand ·
June 08, 2005

Firefox Users Sound Off: Fix Those Bugs!

Even ardent Firefox fans can experience problems with their favorite browser. What are these bugs, and what can you do about them?

By Mitch Wagner InternetWeek

Use Firefox for a while, and you're almost certain to become an evangelist for the software, telling your co-workers and friends how great it is and urging them to switch. And should anyone dare to criticize your new favorite browser, you're going to get defensive.
But just between us (and the 800 million people who have Internet access), you have to admit: Firefox has bugs. Why shouldn't it? It's not magic ? it's real-world software. These significant usability issues and problems must be addressed if it's going to become a serious, long-term challenger to Internet Explorer, and not just a fad.

To first find out what these problems were, we asked people familiar with Firefox to tell us their pet peeves. We started at home with the TechWeb Pipelines editors, many of whom have at least a year's experience using the browser. And we asked readers to help. TechWeb Pipelines Editor Scot Finnie put out a call for Firefox problems in his Scot's Newsletter, and Reviews Editor Barbara Krasnoff asked for the same in the Desktop Pipeline Newsletter. All told, we received about 200 responses.

The results? In short, Firefox users cited problems with extensions, performance slowdowns, patches and updates, and incompatibilities with some Web sites. Printing was also a problem for some users.

Some complained they often have a problem re-starting the browser after shutting it down. And several mentioned that members of the Firefox community can sometimes have a bad attitude, blaming the user when a user comes to them with a bug report.

Here's a rundown of some of the most-mentioned issues:

Extensions: Biggest Blessing And Biggest Curse
Firefox's extendable architecture is both the browser's biggest benefit, and the source of its biggest problems.

The benefit comes because the core browser itself is lean and ? at least when it's working right ? fast. When you first download and install Firefox, the software provides only the basics for HTML rendering, saving bookmarks, and tabbed browsing. Many users are content with this plain-vanilla approach. But if you want more, you can have it: There are hundreds of plug-in extensions to refine your browser tab behavior, customize the user interface, and even play Tetris or check on the weather.

The problem: Some extensions are incompatible with others, or are buggy. This creates problems with Firefox performance.

"Every problem I've had with Firefox has been due to extensions," said user Bob Schuchman. "Often, the order in which they are installed makes a difference." Schuchman said his favorite extension is Tabbrowser Extensions, which modifies browser behavior (Note: Throughout this article, we'll link to extensions we think are useful, but we won't link to extensions that appear to be buggy or otherwise harmful).

Schuchman continued, "Even the author admits that he can't fix it any more and the Mozilla people warn against using it. Just today I've uninstalled it and tried to find extensions that will take the place of the features I was using. Not all of them are available."

He added, "The extensions just don't get the attention that Firefox itself does. I don't know what the solution to this problem is, but I agree that something has to be done to vet extensions better than what is being done now. Maybe the answer is including the most important ones in basic Firefox, especially those related to tabbed browsing ? the most important feature as far as I'm concerned."

Schuchman's e-mail suggests a solution to the extension problem: The core Firefox development team should be devoting significant resources to testing extensions for bugs, security holes, and compatibility with Firefox and with other extensions. Extensions that pass the tests would receive certification, and users looking for stability would be able to limit their Firefox use to just those extensions. More adventurous users could continue to try out new, untested extensions as soon as they come down the pike.

Moreover, the Firefox developers should offer an alternative to the bare-bones approach to installation. There are some plug-ins and extensions that most users will want to use, and Firefox developers ought to offer a download with those utilities pre-installed. We can argue over what the Deluxe Firefox should include, but we can start the list with Java, Apple QuickTime, Macromedia Flash, and Adobe Acrobat. Not all users will want these, but the overwhelming majority will, and users who don't want them would continue to have the option of using bare-naked Firefox as it is now.

Think you have problems with extensions? Here's how to diagnose the problem and fix it.
[v]http://www.internetweek.com/technology/164301397[/v]

One problem I struggled with even as I researched this article: No standard way to uninstall extensions.
Or, rather, there is a standard way to uninstall extensions, and developers adhere to that standard almost all the time. It's that "almost" that's the source of the problem.

The normal way to uninstall extensions is to click the Tools menu, select Extensions, select the extension you want to get rid of, then click "Uninstall."

Sidebars

Curing The Crash

Firefox has crashed, and now won't relaunch. What to do? Here's a simple solution.
[v]http://update.internetweek.com/cgi-bin4/DM/y/eoWU0GPPhz0G4X0DSaC0Eb[/v]


Locating Erring Extensions

Sometimes, a Firefox problem is in an extension that isn't behaving itself. Here's how to find out which one, and get rid of it.
[v]http://update.internetweek.com/cgi-bin4/DM/y/eoWU0GPPhz0G4X0DSaD0Ec[/v]

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Low-hanging fruit

by softcorp.us In reply to Depends of the camper.

The only low-hanging fruit in this case are those people who have their head in the sand and are still using IE -- Is that what "deepsand" refers to? :-). Those people will easily be picked off by the viruses, trojan horses, and spyware. And, because they are so well-seasoned, they should be positively yummy...

I hope your sense of humor is as good as your rhetoric!

:-) :-) :-)

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... are those most easily within reach.

by deepsand In reply to Low-hanging fruit

The "low hanging fruit" are those who downloaded FireFox not because their evaluation of its technical merits, but because its new, "cool," but most importantly, free.

In short, they are the most unsophisticated users.

As an analogy, they are those for whom a vehicle with an automatic tranmission best suits them, but insist on driving a stick shift.

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Let's reverse that analogy...

by sdcphoneguy In reply to ... are those most easily ...

I drive a standard tranmission because I can work on it if need be and save a thousand dollars or more. I use Firefox because of tabs, speed, and I can work on it if I choose. IE doesn't allow you to work on it. In fact, you can't even get it fixed!

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But, as I've noted elsewhere, you DO know how to drive a stick shift.

by deepsand In reply to Let's reverse that analog ...

My point was that many of the early adopters of FF are those who, in the context of the analogy, neither know how to drive and/or repair a stick shift nor need one.

These are those who did not adopt FF for its technical merits, but because it's free, new, "cool" and/or not an MS product.

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Free

by Oz_Media In reply to ... are those most easily ...

Forgive me jumping in Deepsand, but aren't ALL web browsers free?

Do you think perhaps FREE SOFTWARE junkies are trying it just because it is ALSO free, or do you think they already know that browsers are free?


Or was it just a slip?

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IE is free?

by deepsand In reply to Free

All browsers are free?

That there may not be an explicit charge for a component of a bundled product does not mean that such component is provided free of any cost.

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Technically it is

by Oz_Media In reply to Free

It is bundled with 'doze. It is not a free download as it is tied in with 'doze as proprietary, but for those users it is free.

As for open source, I don't think too many linux users would be interested in IE if it was designed for Linux, do you?

So that market is irrelevant, really. MAC users enerally detest MS and IE too. So for the market segment they are working for, IE IS free. It's not separate MS software that you have to purchase and licence like Office or something. It's inclusive for Windows users, the target audience it is being pushed upon and the only audience it is designed to work for.

Others don't count as they don't qualify for the product it was designed to work with.

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I find that to be a very costly way to obtain a browser.

by deepsand In reply to Free

Despite the fact that MS bundles a lot of sh*t with the OS does'nt make any of it free, in any sense of the word. Were that the case, one could just as well make the argument that one was paying for the other components, and it was the OS that was free.

Furthermore, if all one wants is a single component, and the only way to obtain such is to buy the bundle, then the incremental cost of obtaining such component is the price of the bundle. That makes for a very expensive browser in this case.

Yes, I know that IE is so closely wedded to the OS that its use as a standalone is limited; but, such does not alter the cost of obtaining it.

And, there have been & are other browsers which are separately obtained at an expicitly stated price.

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Yes, it depends...

by tagmarkman In reply to Depends of the camper.

If I learned anything in my life it's this:
(it all depends...)

I was never an IE lover coming from Linx, Mosaic, Internet Chamileon, Netscape, Opera, chain of browsers. I fell into using IE slowly and I neither liked it or disliked it. I saw very little innovation that improved my productivity but it was convenent which means a lot to me.

However, IE became dead to me when they started redirecting my typos to another page requiring me to type the whole thing in again because they though I might want to use their search engine. It wasn't the fear of security, or some power feature (although tabbed browsing was a HUGE bonus), or the browser wars, or even Microsoft themselves that forced me to seek this gem of an alternative... it was a productivity issue.

Sure, a lot of campers are not going to be happy but I am.

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That's because you're sufficiently knowledgeable & experienced ...

by deepsand In reply to Yes, it depends...

to have both made an informed choice and properly use the product.

The "low hanging fruit" lack such qualifications.

See my above post re. analogy to automatic vs manual transmissions and their suitability for certain drivers.

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