Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Firefox MASSIVE FAIL - frequent, incompatible upgrades and instability

For years, I have been a dedicated Firefox user.  Before Chrome, Firefox was a browser that really
met my needs.  Firefox was faster and more flexible than Internet Explorer.  Firefox was innovative, supporting tabs, add-ons, standards, and multiple platforms.  Over the years, I customized my Firefox environment to meet my needs, with add-ons that made my many tabs manageable, that enabled my news curation on Twitter, that remembered my many user names and passwords.

I've retained Internet Explorer, since many corporate apps I use are supported only on IE or otherwise don't work well on Firefox.  But my main browser use has been with Firefox until recently.

I'm sad to say that this post marks my final use of Firefox.  I'm switching to Chrome finally, with IE for some corporate apps.  This is not a sudden decision of mine; rather, this is a decision I've been putting off for a while in the hopes that things would get better with Firefox, but things just keep getting worse and worse.  What are my complaints?
  1. I rely on Firefox add-ons to achieve productivity and for their many innovations.  Yet, the good folks at Mozilla have decided to frequently update Firefox and to do so in ways that are not upwardly compatible.  Firefox updates unpredictably break add-ons on which I rely.  With each update, and updates now seem to come about once per month, some add-on is broken.  You might argue that the add-ons I need are not likely to be available on Chrome, but more and more of the Firefox add-ons I need are not maintained with the same cadence as Firefox.  I think the add-on makers are demoralized and are giving up.  You might also argue that I could find other add-ons to replace my favorites, but who has the time?  And, anyway, you just know that no add-ons will keep up with the Mozilla cadence.  If you are going to that update cadence, you need many things to be upwardly compatible. :(  At the same time, Google has found a way to do frequent Chrome updates while keeping updates compatible enough to keep Chrome add-ons working.
  2. Firefox has become a slow, buggy, bloated product with little apparent innovation.  With all these releases, you'd think you'd see tremendous changes from release to release.  Instead, other than breaking the add-ons, I can't see any improvements in user experience or functionality from Firefox 20 to Firefox 23.  These days, it seems like most of the innovation is in the Chrome ecosystem.  In the past, the innovation seemed to be partly in the Mozilla team, and partly in the add-on ecosystem, but that add-on ecosystem has all but ground to a halt.
  3. Back to Firefox being slow and buggy.  At least once per day, Firefox becomes unresponsive; sometimes it recovers after a few minutes, but more often it just hangs and must be forced to shut down.  Firefox has become very unstable.
  4. But Firefox is also slow.  I know that some recent projects focus on Firefox performance and some recent benchmarks show Firefox performance improving, but that is not my experience.  In fact, the more tabs you have open, and the longer the pages you view in Firefox, the noticeably slower it gets.  And then it crashes.  And takes a VERY long time to restart.
In the end, though, the killer for me is Firefox's constant upgrades blowing away its crowning jewel - the add-on ecosystem.  Without add-ons, Firefox is just another browser.  Stacked up against Chrome, Firefox lacks adequate support for Android, lacks stability, drags slowly on start-up (especially on restarting after crashing), and shows little or no innovation.  Mozilla needs to slow down the upgrade cadence, attempt some bigger and more innovative projects, support the add-on ecosystem to be ready with updates whenever the browser gets updated, and find a new reason to exist beyond fighting the bygone bogeyman of Microsoft hegemony.

What do you think?  Do you agree or disagree with me?  Let me know by leaving comments below ...

1 comment:

  1. Firefox has gone from being my browser of choice to the dustbin for the same reasons. That said, as a mac user I find Chrome comes with some issues as well. One of my favorite parts of mac fanboy-dom is the opportunity to leave my MacbookAir 'on' for a week (okay a month) without rebooting. Chrome is one of the few applications that tends to go into memory gobbling mode, ultimately becoming unresponsive if left unchecked. I had to add RAM to the iMac at home to compensate. Not a big deal, but a pain nonetheless.