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I'd rather my browser focused on being a browser.

And I think that's better for the long term health of Mozilla, and Firefox, too.




Where would you draw the line? A PDF reader is very useful, but not a core browser component. Or Chrome tying in with all the Google services, that's not browser functionality but Google service promotion. Why does Firefox get shit for this every time?


A PDF viewer only renders content of a file, and it's okay and good. A browser is not merely an HTML viewer, it should also render other files like plain text, images, videos etc. Hello is a service for video-conferencing, has nothing to do with rendering content. Pocket is another wart that I hate in Firefox (though it's a useful service, I was a paid user for a while). Pocket is no content rendering and it's external service, so is Hello. Many use Chromium instead of Chrome because the Google Services.


Modern browsers are platforms for modern apps and especially for communication apps, because the Internet is primarily about communications and browsers haven't been about rendering content for a long time now.

Consider: Slack, Gitter, Facebook Messenger, Gmail, Hangouts, Google Inbox, Fastmail, web.whatsapp.com and web.skype.com.

You can make an argument that Firefox should stay neutral. But I don't believe that many use Chromium instead of Chrome. For one because you can't find decent builds, unless you're on Linux, but also because people that don't want Chrome because of Google's services probably use Firefox, because Chromium is still integrated with Google (Web Store, Sync), while providing a poor experience (no PDF viewer, no Flash, no DRM, or any other proprietary bits).

Good thing that PDF.js, the PDF viewer from Firefox, ended up on Chrome's Web Store, so you can add it to Chromium. Which is the main difference between Mozilla and its competition: when Mozilla improves Firefox, it tends to benefit everybody.


> Good thing that PDF.js, the PDF viewer from Firefox, ended up on Chrome's Web Store, so you can add it to Chromium. Which is the main difference between Mozilla and its competition: when Mozilla improves Firefox, it tends to benefit everybody.

Humorously, this wasn't the best choice of examples for your point. Chromium displays PDFs just fine because they open sourced their PDF viewer over two years ago :)

https://pdfium.googlesource.com/pdfium/


Ah, didn't know about it, nice.


> Modern browsers are platforms for modern apps

I'm completely fine with this (although I don't like JS webapps myself, if they're anything more than a thin client), just that I don't want my platform to come with unremovable third party stuff. Further more, while being a "platform for apps", browsers are still content viewers where sometimes content happens to be an interactive application software.

> But I don't believe that many use Chromium instead of Chrome.

I said many as in "a multitude of people", not to mean "most". My version of Chromium has a PDF viewer, and I didn't install it (Chromium 52.0.2743.116, from FreeBSD pkg).


Another commenter informed me that the PDF viewer is now open-source. It wasn't last time I tried Chromium, but it must have been 2-3 years since then.


Providing a simple front-end for WebRTC, which is a core browser component, makes enough sense from a conceptual standpoint. Of course we now all know how it turned out, but I think the non-constructive criticism that many give is a bit misplaced.


I think that Firefox's move to include Pocket was a sensible idea, I just wish they baked their own solution like Safari did. Safari's read-it-later / readability features make sense for the subset of users who browse for prose content and want the text nicely formatted for reading.

I think the primary nuisance of Pocket was in making users have another relationship to a 3rd party. Credentials and another service to think about.


I believe Pocket was included for money. Otherwise it's trivial to implement a similar app, given many OSS libs for content extraction exist:

- goose (scala)

- python-goose (python port of the above)

- apache tika (java)

- boilerpipe (java)

- boilerpipy (python, not a port of the above)

- libextract (python)

- beautiful soup (python)


I would prefer the PDF reader, like the flash player, to be a plug-in that I can disable or even uninstall if I wish.

In fact, in my chrome setup I have disabled the PDF viewer because I prefer to download and open them in mupdf.

For PDF viewing especially, it wouldn't be impossible to hav an offering of various competing plug-ins, some perhaps offering extra features like annotations and others offering just the bare minimum.

I think firefox is held to a higher standard because "firefox user" is correlated positively with "aware of privacy issues". Those that just want something fast and easy to use might have used to use firefox instead of IE, but most of them have now moved to chrome.


I'm certain that you can disable pdf.js in about:config


Not even needed, just open the Preferences, select the Applications page and for PDF instead of using "Firefox preview" select any other application, or just "Ask each time". I use this to open PDF with an external PDF reader on Linux and Windows, works like a charm.


Indeed, set pdfjs.disabled to true. I always do it, because I don't use pdfjs, but there was a pdfjs vulnerability that exposed local files to third-party JS -- so you might as well disable complex stuff that you don't really use.


Because we hold Mozilla to a higher standard than Google.


If that "higher standard" means that a Free SW project is forbidden from implementing new functionality and experimenting in general (even if some of those experiments fail, as is the case here), that's not a very good standard at all.

In fact, it sounds more like a recipe for letting others innovate and being perpetually stuck chasing taillights.


Disagree. They added a new feature requiring an external service and gave it to everyone by default. Now, Mozilla has opt-in experiments of new features that can be tested and seen by the community before they are integrated by default.


> Where would you draw the line?

For the back-end: Everything that's required for correctly rendering or executing modern web content (i.e., everything that's mandated by the current snapshot of the HTML living standard plus non-HTML formats which are "de-facto" part of the web, like Flash and PDF).

For the UI: Stuff that can be expected to make the task of browsing web pages easier for the average user.

Neither Hello nor Pocket fit any of the above descriptions.


The people to whom this is important have already dropped all the browsers from for-profit software and/or online services companies for (among others) Firefox because of these concerns. So they don't complain about Chrome as much -- because its already dead to them. They complain about Firefox more because it still matters to them.


I don't even want a bookmark manager built-in. Address bar, tabs, viewport, dev tools. Done. Make it fast.


So to the average non-developer computer-neanderthal who checks weather, movie times and news, you think it's more important to have dev tools in the standard build than bookmarks?

I find this "Give me only what I want" attitude quite frustrating. Perhaps you could argue for a more modular system that disables any given feature, but I would challenge you 8 days a week that bookmarks are a useful tool for most.

And really, bookmarks? How is that a performance hit? Maybe one would say that the "awesome bar" takes cycles to auto-search bookmarks when typing a URL, but you can disable that already.


It was an extreme example to convey a point but now I realize I didn't take it far enough. My original point was that path keeping should be handle by a standalone program for several reasons: web pages aren't the only source of paths I want to keep; my primary browser isn't the only program I want to open paths in; there is often more data I want to associate with a path like a tags, notes, user names/passwords (often more than 1 pair), etc. We already have window managers so tabs are taken care of. URLs are just like file paths... Actually, my file manager looks exactly like my browser, I just don't have an HTML/JavaScript/CSS handler that doesn't also have it's own version of a file manager. The internet is just another file system and we already have file system browsers. You're right about dev tools, that should be separate, probably best to incorporate it into gdb. I think I'm on to something here.


I don't think he mean that, but this instead: "Give me these stuff. And also make it fast".


I agree, it would be nice if everything else (even the dev tools) was just an add-on, even if it was officially provided and supported by Mozilla and installed by default (or asked upon install when doing a custom install). That's not the way things are though, in no popular browser, and people complaining about Mozilla doing this bugs me a bit.

As an aside, I'm looking for this on Android (address bar, tabs and viewport). Habit Browser comes close but is not open source. Basically just a WebView with an address bar and tabs. If anyone has ideas, let me know.


Wait till someone points out that dev tools are not useful to the average user and should exist as a separate extension.

Where's the line?


The dev tools can be very useful to average users, even if they don't use them the same way that developers might.

For example, I know several non-technical users who use the built-in dev tools to remove the annoying overlays that some sites show, but that don't allow to be hidden without logging in or something dumb like that.

These users don't really know what the DOM is, but they do know that they can open the dev tools, click the node selection button, click on the overlay they want to get rid of, press the Delete key, and now they're able to use the site again.


Firefox's DevTools can render a whole web page as an image to disk (not just the visible viewport, like screenshot tools do). Quite a few non-developers have found that useful when I've showed this feature to them. No extensions or 3rd-party software required.


I don't know about that too, how can I do it?


Press Shift-F2 and at the prompt type "screenshot --clipboard --fullpage" to copy the current page to the clipboard.


> The dev tools can be very useful to average users

I think you missed the GP's point. Bookmarks can also be very useful to average users. One man's trash is another man's dev tools or whatever.

Drawing a clear line between what's essential for a browser and what's bloat probably isn't possible for any decent sized group of users.


The built-in dev tools are also a social-engineering attack vector. Try opening the dev tools on facebook.com and you'll see a huge warning to users that have been told to copy/paste malicious JavaScript into their dev tools. So one could make a reasonable argument that built-in dev tools are a bad thing.


Funnily enough, Facebook is one of the sites where I've seen these non-technical users have to use the dev tools to make the site usable again!

I think it was a login prompt overlay shown on business profile pages. These users didn't want to log in to Facebook, yet needed to view the business' Facebook page. The overlay would cover a significant portion of the page, without any good way to get rid of it. So the users would use the dev tools to clean up the page, essentially, even if they didn't really know what they were doing.


Why not Address bar and viewport. Dev tools are only useful to devs. Tabs should be handled by the window manager.


Removing tabs would be awful for an overwhelming majority of users who use platforms that are incapable of managing dozens of windows.

And, as an (occasional) i3 user, I would not want this, because two browser windows seem to use up far more resources than one window with two tabs. Browsers are almost unusable once a certain number of tabs are open; I can only imagine how badly my computer would operate were the 100+ tabs I have open each consuming the resources required by a separate window.


OK in that case may I keep my bookmarks, history, password management, download manager etc.

One person's bloat is another person's feature.


Changed my mind, I agree with the window manager thing and that dev tools should be separate. However, ubiquitous dev tools are really nice when, as a developer, you're trying to figure out why a page doesn't work for that one user that has 20 extensions and 5 viruses and you don't have to ask them to install anything extra.


Actually, the better option here is: "viewport and plugin manager". Install dev tools - or bookmarks, or whatever - if you want them, ignore them otherwise.

Anyway, you can already use uzbl[1] if you want something minimal.

[1] https://www.uzbl.org/


> I don't even want a bookmark manager built-in

No bookmarks? You mean one would have to type in every website address you want to go to?

It's so much easier to click on bookmark in the list, and with today's wide monitors, horizontal space is wasted anyway so I keep the bookmark sidebar open all the time.


I haven't used built-in bookmarks for years. If I really want to bookmark something, it goes in Pocket or Pinboard.

Browser history search via the address bar is much faster than searching through bookmark folders for a particular page. Even nicer with Vimium where I can just hit "o" and search for what I want. For everything else, I just Google.


> Browser history search via the address bar is much faster than searching through bookmark folders for a particular page.

History wasn't part of jasonkostempski's specification (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12442292), though, which just brings back to the central point: when you try to build a browser with the absolute minimum set of features required, you'll find that everyone's minimum set of features is different.


Browsers used to just embed OS X's built-in PDF reader, which is excellent and incredibly fast and smooth. At some point, they decided to write their own (in JavaScript, I guess), which scroll and perform terribly.


In the very specific case of pdfjs, it's justified by the greater good of avoiding the defect-ridden Adobe Reader.


Except that around 90% or more of the time I find myself having to open PDFs using a real native PDF reader because pdf.js is too slow, or it improperly renders the PDF, or it won't allow me to fill out forms the way I want, or some other issue like that.

So even with pdf.js present, I end up using a proprietary reader most of the time. The added hassle or reopening PDFs in a separate reader most of the time exceeds the supposed convenience of the reader being built in.


I guess it's the type of PDFs one views. I find pdf.js quite adequate for my needs. It's even rendered brochure-type PDFs quite well -- e.g. this 32 page brochure that was a top hit for [filetype:pdf brochure]: https://www.mbusa.com/vcm/MB/DigitalAssets/pdfmb/brochures/M...


Mozilla are in a unique position with control over the client-side software.

I think they're best to focus on the things that can only exist within that client.

Because any other party can start a 'Hello' like service online. Or write a PDF reader (or a program to open any other file format)

I don't think we should be comparing to Chrome here; which doesn't purport to have the 'noble' aims of the Mozilla foundation. A browser should not be part of an 'ecosystem' of online services; for me, having a strong web means that the two are decoupled.


Because people who don't like that gave up on chrome.


Because firefox's daddy, Netscape, had tons of crap in it and got bogged down to the point of being inferior to IE.

This, in turn, started the dark age of the web.


Netscape's demise was completely due to the mismanagement of the company, not the particular features they provided. In the middle of the browser war they decided to stop all maintenance and execute a complete rewrite. That would kill any company. They are one of the reasons why Joel Spolsky says "never rewrite from scratch".


And I'd suggest that "don't stop and rewrite" is not the important lesson. It's "don't let your code base get to the point where you have to stop and rewrite".

Netscape's rewrite was 1997-2000. In 1999, Martin Fowler published "Refactoring", which showed us how to continually improve the technical architecture of a system without trying to stop the world. JUnit, the first really popular testing framework came out about then as well; good unit testing makes it safe to refactor boldly. And the Internet itself gives us the ability to release early and often, encouraging us to do everything in smaller, more manageable chunks.

Giant rewrites were just what you did in the bad old days. But we never have to do it again if we make a point of keeping our technical debt low and our releases frequent.


Where things were before the Web 2.0 craziness.


I'd certainly draw the line before it gets to a PDF reader and Google services. Chrome doesn't get shit for it because is expected to be part of the business strategy of Google first, and a browser second. Firefox has no other purpose, so the choices that they make simply seem bizarre.


PDF viewer is over the line too, Evince and Sumatra are so much faster and render nicer.


I agree with PDF viewer being added. When browsers started adding full game rendering with 3d graphics libraries it crossed the line for me. They're using it as a delivery platform for anything and everything.


What Google services dies Cringe tie on to that you find inappropriate? The search integration for autocompletion as well as the cross device syncing seen very fitting for a browser to me since they help me getting to the content that the browser should enable me to view. Does it integrate with anything else Google I'm unaware of?


Cuz there's a reason I don't use chrome...


"What is and what isn't a part of an operating system?" is a similar difficult question as "What is and what isn't part of a browser?"

Like the kernel is only one non-optional (?) part of an OS, HTML rendering is a part of a browser.


Let's be honest here. There's nothing Mozilla can do to prolong the life of Firefox. Once you lose marketshare it's more expensive to gain it back. Just look at what Microsoft spent at getting IE/Edge to where they are today. And Mozilla is in a worse position than Microsoft.


Strange, from my perspective Firefox is very widely used.

And for me Chrome/Chromium has just to many usability bugs, to be used productive. E.g. Tabbar doesn't scroll, not very good extensions available (e.g. regex search) and its more difficult to select head of tail of the url (in firefox just click in middle and drag down/up wards)


In terms of marketshare Firefox is in the single digits now. Regardless of what is the better browser Firefox is, relative to Chrome and IE, not that widely used.


Hmm... The thing is, it doesn't matter that much how widely a piece of software is used, but by whom.


It matters to the search engines that pay Mozilla for that default search setting plus royalties for referrals. Which in turn funds all of their projects including Firefox.


It also matters to developers. Who even tests on Opera, which is ~1% of market share? Once people stop caring about whether your browser works, you lose all ability to lead how browsers work.


Market share is nice, but when many developers use Firefox, guess what gets developed even if they don't get money for it?


Except most of the devs use chrome / safari and if it works there, it's done. No one cares about ie / edge anymore either.


webcompat.com is a Mozilla initiative for users to report bugs for websites that don't work cross-browser. Mozilla staff and volunteers then reach out to the website's developers. It's disheartening that many web developers can't be bothered to test Firefox or Edge.

https://webcompat.com/about


Mozilla started from Netscape which had already lost a lot of market share before surging back. Browsers are free which makes it fairly easy to gain or lose marker share. All it takes is the current leader to stumble and people quickly jump ship. I suspect it's easer to catch up as you have some goal to target.


Mozilla isn't Netscape rather it's a spin-off. Also, Netscape at its highest was 100% marketshare. Netscape is gone. It never "surged" back.


Mozilla was literally made from the original Netscape source code. I think you need to learn your history

Also Netscape never had "100% marketshare". According to http://www.cc.gatech.edu/gvu/user_surveys/survey-04-1996/gra... (sourced from Wikipedia) they had roughly 89%. Still significant, but not complete control


Mozilla was spun out from Netscape but it itself is not Netscape as Netscape was aquired by AOL. 89% is still a far cry from anything Firefox has managed.

Either way you look at it Netscape did not bounce back.




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