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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.

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."


Curing The Crash

Firefox has crashed, and now won't relaunch. What to do? Here's a simple solution.

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.

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Do you have a credible source to support that too?

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

Fair enough I can completely see WHAT you are trying to suggest, but it seems that you are very certain of what appears to be quite a stretch.

The way you say VERY confidently 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..."

This is a old statement for someone to try pushing by on TR, as I am sure you know and are prepared to support. Sorry to be a broken record, I know it's already been questioned, but it just seems a little 'fabricated'.

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Oz: deepsand must not have been serious

by 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..."

It's been a few days...deepsand must not have been serious about this after all. Good thing. It would have been WORSE if he were serious :-).

I *HATE* having to be a jerk and call someone out on a series of over-puffed statements like that. On the other hand, I am not my brother's keeper.


The Jerk

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It's a long time format

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

I have been called to task on comments dozens, if not hundreds, of times here. You simply cannot assert yourself in a forum built of technical minds without it being further considered or questioned.

While many of our off-topics are pure crap and just time killers, many also invoke a lot of thought and discuss some VERY interesting viewpoints. I think this is really what attracts many of us to TR.

It's not just a he said/she said forum and actually does create worthile discussion.

In short, I have no problem telling someone to prove themselves, god only knows how many times I've been asked to do it.

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Sorry guys, but Deepsand is quite serious.

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

As is the case with all freebies, many of those who downloaded FF are not technically sophisticated.

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Hopefilly, that IBM has officially adopted FF will give it a boost.

by deepsand In reply to Not the point

Given that Linux benefitted from IBM's endorsement, there is every reason to hope that FF will likewise gain a wider audience.

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Deepsand said it perfectly

by toreador In reply to FireFox users are not hap ...

I was unable to add a comment to something deepsand said so I am starting a new thread. I convinced management during a recent new PC rollout to allow me to install FF on them and remove the IE shortcut to try to force the users to use FF. Unfortunately this attempt to make their browsing experience more secure backfired when none of the users could access any of the internal websites. All of them were written to render IE perfectly but none of the other browsers were considered or tested so the great FF rollout of 2005 was a bust for me. I attempted to convince everyone to use IE for all internal web access but use FF for all external browsing but all I heard was this high pitched whining about having to use 2 apps to browse. At this point I think most of my users are back to exclusively using IE and all of my arguments fall on deaf ears. I tried to convince management to not allow the web admins to write webpages that are platform dependant but I was told no.
I am somewhat happy with FF, I do like the tabs and the mouse gestures alone make it worth using. If you are searching for speed, try Opera, it is smokin? fast!

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D*mned users!

by deepsand In reply to Deepsand said it perfectl ...

And, it's not just browsers that are the issue.

As a rule, in all regards, people want a Swiss Army knife, rather than a well stocked, more versatile, more effective & efficient tool box.

They want the all-in-one with one-stop-shopping; the everything-in-the-universe-all-in-one-place-at-the-same-time thingy.

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"I'll get right on that..."

by jmgarvin In reply to D*mned users!

Usually when a user wants the swiss army app, I just give them the standard "I'll get right on that" and leave...

Users should probably have to take a basic computer course....I'm really surprised at the number of the younger generation that are STILL like their older counterparts.

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Better idea

by tagmarkman In reply to "I'll get right on that.. ...

When someone wants an all in one solution... I spell it out in time, quality, and cost... If they are willing to still go for it, then they probably need it (or something close to it).

I'm a nut when it comes to testing, so I probably wouldn't have deployed the FF solution until I put it though the ringer... But once I found that problem, I'd put pressure on the webmasters of the internal suite.

Most people simply won't use two tools that seem to do the same thing. It's counter productive to them. Even if they do, you are likely to get linked to an offline source of information and not be able to contain them anyway without locking it down at the proxy level.

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6 is the 1st Perfect Number.

by deepsand In reply to "I'll get right on that.. ...

You are presently no. 6.

The 2nd Perfect No. is 28.

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