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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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Well... mostly yes

by tagmarkman In reply to That's because you're suf ...

They certainly have targeted a lot of the low hanging fruit. That's a good start. It has worked so far and Microsoft has raised a worried eyebrow against someone taking their marketshare. For example, they have added tabbed browsing. It has certainly made more headway than Opera.

After FF gathers most of the low hanging fruit ( informed IT professionals, techies, Microsoft haters, "cool" jockeys, and fad jumpers, how does FF break into mainstream? And what type of effect will thay have on the program, market, and Internet?

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That's the big question.

by deepsand In reply to Well... mostly yes

Many industry pundits, while cheering FF on, realize that most of the easy pickings are now in hand, and have doubts re. its continued growth.

The general consensus seems to be that, absent a champion, such as a major corporation adopting and/or sponsoring it, its chances of going mainstream are small.

Also hindering it is the fact that so many web sites are IE centric, and the prospect of many quickly being remediated so as to be W3C compliant offers little hope.

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Valid

by tagmarkman In reply to Well... mostly yes

Deepsand,
Those are certainly valid reasons but I think the biggest reason is the distribution method.. IE is included with the OS... (which is one reason why some sites are so IE centric)... (it is also one of the reasons why larger corporations tend to use IE)...

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Concur.

by deepsand In reply to Well... mostly yes

Obviously, if your tools allow you to be sloppy, with no immediately obvious penalty, there's little incentive to produce a better result.

There is of course also the "cool" factor. Too many in positions of power are so taken with "cool" features that, even if the developer both knows that such requires the use of a non-compliant construct & is desirous of avoiding such, his use of such is mandated by the wishes of a superior.

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Low hung and don't care

by sonoffar In reply to Depends of the camper.

OK so let me step up and admit to the fact that I am one of those nasty low hanging types. I use FF and have used it for a couple of years.
Yes it's true, just as you pointed out it's FREE.
It also works better than IE, I can't tell you technecly why, it just does. It's cooler, it has lots of stuff I can try to use that I don't realy need. When I get it all set up it sometimes screws up. So what.
I've learned to re-install, remove, update, all kinds of stuff.
I have one **** of a good time learning, but I still reserve the right to complaine when it has a bug, and the developers say it's all my fault.
You and I both know that us low hangers are one of the insperations you high and lofty ones need to make FF better than it was and is. I think we will even take some of the credit for FF being hands down better than IE.
So love to hate us if you will, but keep in mind the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and low hanging fruit is always calling out to those with their noses in the air, "Bite me."
And it still has some bugs. So there!

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Not the point

by tagmarkman In reply to Low hung and don't care

I don't think deepsand hates anyone for choosing FF. He was saying that a niche of people choose it and it's not accepted in mainstream browsing as of yet. He was also saying that most people that choose FF choose it because of reasons other than technical. If that is the case, there is little reason for a large enterprise to make the FF move. It can be costly to those companies (for example: website compatibility).

His nose isn't in the air... but he might be looking down it.
:)

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Worthless rhetoric and hyperbole about FireFox

by softcorp.us In reply to Not the point

This post is not directed at you tagmarkman. It just hooks into the discussion here. :-)

[rant]
I don't think very many IE users chose IE for technical reasons. I don't think very many IE users chose IE at all. It simply came with their computer. It is of less than zero value to try to make a point about FireFox in this way. IE users don't get any credit for having "qualifications" or being "well seasoned" or "sophisticated" or "experienced". They might get credit for being "lazy" and "sheepish" however.

I would respect and appreciate reading analysis and critical research about FireFox here on TR. But, the rhetoric and hyperbole about FireFox in many places in this thread is simply worthless gibberish.

The facts are:

- The FireFox website claims 64 million downloads (www.getfirefox.com). This is hardly some kind of fad or niche. This is far beyond the "anything but Microsoft crowd" and the "low hanging fruit".

- FireFox is far less vulnerable to the current malware out there.

- FireFox works very well.

If corporations are not deserting IE for FireFox en masse, it proves nothing. I suspect they stick to IE for the same reasons that they stick with all of the other MS products. It is a professional risk to inject FireFox into an organization just like we used to say "nobody ever got fired for choosing IBM" in the old mainframe days. When IE fails, MS gets blamed. If FF fails, the brave Admin will be blamed.

--------------------

I'm no Microsoft and FF hater, or lover. I use Windows XP, MS Office, and FF without apology. I also use Linux and MacOS for certain things. I chose to drop IE, Outlook, and Outlook Express due to the outrageous security problems. I suspect that the vast majority of the 64 million FF downloads are for the same reason. Microsoft should be embarassed and ashamed that a bunch of people working for free can out-run their engineering teams.
[/rant]

Go FireFox team! Give 'em h*ll!

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I stand behind FF

by tagmarkman In reply to Worthless rhetoric and hy ...

Thank you for not directing it at me :) I truely love FF...

Of the 800 million Internet users (64Million "downloads") is still a niche. I've downloaded FF at least 25 times - installing on different boxes, reinstall on another, etc..) My company alone has probably contributed several thousand downloads if not in the ten thousands...

I agree that most people are on IE because it's already avaliable (see some of my other posts) Although my company is very FF friendly, most of us still have IE on our boxes, because of something more complex than lazyness... compatibility... some of our clients are IE only shops and we need to interface with them. Luckly, this is becoming less frequent of and issue.

And yes... most stick with IE because of the professional risk at both the corporate level and at the personal admin level as you described.

I hope that FF can continue its trend and win more users and more technical professionals willing to invest their knowledge into it. But until I see OEMs distributing it with Windows, the acceptance will be limited. There is something to be said about providing tools to the lazy, sheepish, and uninformed :)

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Merits not the issue; users' expectations are.

by deepsand In reply to Worthless rhetoric and hy ...

I concur that IE users are no more technically sophisticated then others, but that is beside the point.

Nor are the relative merits of any browser the issue here.

The issue is that a large portion of the early adoptors of FF, by virtue of their lack of technical expertise, have unrealistic expectations, and are responding to the problems that they've encountered in a manner dictated by such expectations.

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Sorry...But this is complete nonsense

by softcorp.us In reply to Worthless rhetoric and hy ...

"...The issue is that a large portion of the early adoptors of FF, by virtue of their lack of technical expertise, have unrealistic expectations, and are responding to the problems that they've encountered in a manner dictated by such expectations..."

I'm sure you are a fine fellow. But, I think this is complete nonsense.

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