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Firefox is back. It's time to give it a try (nytimes.com)
1558 points by MilnerRoute 30 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 722 comments

Most of the comments here are about using or not using Firefox, depending on it's features as compared to primarily Chrome. However, for me, it is not about being better or having more features at all - it is because I like Firefox and want to support Mozilla and believe that Google should not control the web. It is somewhat similar to the free software vs. open source debate - one should use free software not because it is better, but because it is the right thing to do (I understand that not many people agree with this philosophy, which is fine).

Having said that, all sites which I regularly use work perfectly for me in Firefox with acceptable performance. So I never found a reason to switch at all. Rarely, I come across a website which is "best viewed with Chrome"; my default action is to close that site immediately.

That's been my experience/preference as well. In fact I have been very taken aback by all the "Firefox is back" and "time to try Firefox again" headlines. I guess I didn't realize what sort of exodus occurred when chrome came out. But honestly, I never ran into performance issues with Firefox over the years and various versions, including the overhaul with Firefox 3.

I typically have 2-8 tabs open (hasn't changed much over the years). Maybe other usage patterns used to cause problems... Also worth noting I was always on Linux; maybe Windows/Mac versions weren't as good?

When quantum came out, I didn't personally notice a big performance improvement in terms of user experience (though I don't doubt it's there, and I don't watch CPU/MEM constantly). I've seen these headlines and have just been thinking to myself "but it's always been good!"

This is an interesting take, since it's so difference from my experience. There's definitely some difference in use cases that had a large impact - whether that's device memory, open tabs, or even choice of websites.

I didn't switch to Chrome when it first came out, but over the next couple of years I found Firefox frustratingly slow and crash-prone. When I cut over, everything was drastically faster and more reliable, plus the feature set (extensions, url completion, incognito for parallel sign-ins, and so on) was noticeably better. High memory usage was the only price, and Chrome surrenders that somewhat gracefully when it's needed.

I'm hoping to make the switch back. Chrome has become more frustrating as Google adds brand alignment, and moreover I simply don't like being siloed by a brand. But the usability gain was massive when I first switched, and I'm only making the move now because there's been a lot of good news out of Mozilla.

It really depends on the websites. Firefox has long been significantly faster than it was in the Firefox-1.x days, when it was the fastest browser. It's always been perfectly snappy and efficient for hackernews, craigslist, 10,000-line colored diffs in the cgit web frontend ... but popular web sites got many times slower. Chrome enabled web developers to do atrociously inefficient things and just not care.

Even today, Travis-CI really struggles in firefox, it's modern pleasing animations are just so atrociously coded. And remember when the Reason (facebook language) website was unveiled, it really killed firefox, because of some strange shadow effect applied to all letters or something ...

I think the issue is less poor coding and resource consumption and more the fact that devs seem to primarily test their website on Chrome.

Whether inadvertently or not, the Chrome team hit on a genius way of gaining market share by focusing on dev tools so heavily.

The web is a complex platform, so it's definitely not hard to wind up using some feature that performs well in one browser but poorly in another. I don't know that it necessarily reflects badly on any individual browser--software is complex and it's hard to determine what combinations of web features will wind up being widely used. I do think it's a shame when this happens because sites don't get tested in anything but Chrome. There's no excuse when large companies release webapps and don't test in multiple browsers.

(Disclaimer: I work for Mozilla.)

i remember years back when people were installing Chrome simply because it had Adobe Flash built in and didn't require a system wide install anymore. For a while, that was the biggest reason my friends installed it. Then Flash started going away, and they were still using it, and wrapped up tightly in the Googleverse with Gmail and then Android.

I recall Firebug being one of the reasons for sticking with Firefox before Chrome had dev tools.

That's very interesting. I wonder what the environmental difference was/is. I'd say I've had Firefox crash only a handful of times over the years, and in some cases that involved me doing very bad things in JavaScript.

>* I guess I didn't realize what sort of exodus occurred when chrome came out.*

It wasn't really a mass exodus, but a gradual wax & wane over time (with more moves FF->C over the long term than C->FF).

In development fields the count is complicated by people who regularly use both, but prefer one.

> I typically have 2-8 tabs open

I tend to have many open[1], over several windows on different desktops. I use open tabs more than I use bookmarks! Every once in a while I go through the open tabs and close those I've not touched in a while that I don;t expect to touch any time soon (obviously the need to have it open has passed). I currently use Chrome more then FF, and here The Great Suspender[1] is a godsend for saving RAM (and to a lesser extent CPU time) Chrome would otherwise consume.

[1] TGS lists my current use on this machine as "22 windows, 148 tabs"

Thank you for link to TGS, I have similar browsing patterns, and I do notice chrome closing in on 5gb of RAM, slowing down alot of other stuff. Hopefully this will help :)

I've only been using it for a few weeks, but so far it has proven to be a wonderful tool. I've even been moved to donate a little.

You may have just changed my life with The Great Suspender...

I typically have 25-250 tabs open at a time, and also never left Firefox. Though maybe this is the other end of the spectrum because managing this number of tabs in Chrome is impossible.

I should have also said that it depends on one's definition of open. For instance, when expo mode was added to Firefox (I was sad to see it go), I used it to have about 4-5 groups of 2-8 tabs each, but only was ever actively using one group.

I have the same browsing habit. How to you manage tabs on FF?

I regularly have 50+ tabs open... i know friends who will have multiple browser windows open and im talking like 5 - 10 windows with 50-100+ tabs in each window. Browser developers absolutely have to account for the fact that some people are lazy and dont want to close tabs or browser windows. If a browser can handle these extreme cases, its got a bright future.

Edit: spelling

I have used Firefox since forever as well and fell the same way. I have never run into memory issues or slow loading with Firefox while I kept hearing about Chrome constantly using too much memory recently.

As a developer i noticed some minor default CSS bugs with the new Firefox Quantum that didn't used to be there but that's about it.

I also use Chrome in my development cycle so it does seem to have some neat features that Firefox is lacking but I doubt regular users would ever notice that.

It was just never enough to make me switch although I would appreciate Mozilla putting more effort into their developer tools.

P.S. I end up having over 100 tabs open so yeah... although my OS is Linux not Windows so your mileage may vary.

That's also been my experience for long years and 99% on firefox. I could never actually get over the fact you can't close all the tabs without it forcing the closing of the window that happens on chrome. Many other paper cuts exist in browsers not firefox that make it really hard to switch. Anyway almost all the time I see someone saying firefox is bad they are usually using Mac. So I blame Firefox on mac being the problem, not firefox itself.

I've seen other people's browsers with about 40 to 50 tabs open. I think the fact you close them is atypical.

Yeah. I like to keep my active set very organized to not lose myself in a sea of tabs. I also use Alt+# shortcuts to quickly switch. I think one behavior I've seen people do is treat tabs as if they are bookmarks, which would definitely result in 10s-100s of them open.

>> I didn't personally notice a big performance improvement in terms of user experience

I've seen no difference in performance in recent years, at least on my home machines. My browser performance is basically limited by my internet connection, making all the browser v browser speed tests moot. (At work I have to use windows+IE+bing+outlook because work are idiots.) I switched to chrome last year because a couple quality of life plugins were not longer compatible with the latest versions of firefox.

What I want is firefox from a couple years ago, back when all the plugins I wanted worked nicely together (mostly privacy and dev tool stuff). Firefox needs to simplify itself, to get rid of things that can be handled much better by plugins.

I'm primarily a Firefox user, but WebGL heavy apps tend to run way better in Chrome.

> I have been very taken aback by all the "Firefox is back" and "time to try Firefox again" headlines.

I think this is because there is a marketing campaign for firefox at the moment.

When it was front page reddit, the comments were overtly positive and any pro-chrome comments were downvoted to oblivion.

Thinking there is a massive marketing campaign and thats why we are seeing it.

Though there is undoubtedly a marketing campaign going on right now, there's nothing suggesting they're engaged in the kind of reddit manipulation you're describing.

Agree - and I don't think the lead New York Times consumer technology reporter would have publicly documented all the reasons why he's switching back to Firefox unless he genuinely felt that way.

They assumed that removing their last distinctions from chrome - the extensions that had become integral parts of the workflows of millions for up to a dozen years, and the lack of tab processes - would somehow get people to switch from chrome instead of to chrome in resentment. This was where the organization had fixed all of their hopes - once they got rid of extensions and got chrome's primary marked feature (on release), then they would stop hemorrhaging users, because now people could choose to have a browser that was almost exactly like chrome, just a little bit off, and a little bit slow on google-owned sites, but without google, and run by a non-profit.

Since this had no effect, except causing an instant loss of a lot of users (one that hasn't been completely felt yet due to esr), and a slight bump in chrome's user numbers, there's no resort other than advertise heavily the benefits of not using google's browser, without mentioning google negatively because they generally rely on google for funding. So just weird platitudes about "freer people web standard access foundation" or something. Or talk about start-up times that no one cares about, and which don't make them distinctive from chrome.

The immediate problem is the vast majority of people who are sympathetic to that branding were already firefox users, and at some point were turned off because firefox killed some plugin or other or it just stopped being updated, or because of some UI change which are now explicitly not mitigatable in quantum. The way firefox responded to those complaints (which is not materially, even once; when a meeting of firefox management has determined something is going to be done, it is going to be done, and exactly in that way) has assured that target audience that development by a non-profit is no more amenable to consumer desires than development by the largest, most predatory companies in the US. At least Microsoft and Google are big enough that user complaints catch fire in the mainstream media, and they're forced to respond to a critical audience. If firefox decides that they're going to take out the back button, because "in a modern internet, users shouldn't be moving backwards", you're just going to find a closed WONTFIX bug with 400 angry comments from users on it, and a few comments from Mozilla explaining how their user testing showed that people don't want a back button, the bug tracker isn't for general complaints, that the tone of the thread was very negative and regrettable, and that the thread was being closed for further comments.

The real problem is that Firefox has 10x as many employees as it needs, and is just another corporate bureaucracy collapsing under its own weight. Should have been slim and user-focused, and instead of rhetoric about a "free people web standard internet brings people together", central and visible in every conflict regarding the internet and its architecture, and the distribution of knowledge in general. It used to be almost that, but I think the fight over h264 broke it.

Now, the only reason it's alive is to keep the forces of antitrust from google's door.

Their employees, whether intentionally or inadvertantly, also brigade message boards.

> The real problem is that Firefox has 10x as many employees as it needs

Do you have any idea how much work it takes to maintain a modern web engine in 2018?

The only way to make it faster at this point was to replace large parts of the engine, the old extensions are wedded to that, that's why the old extensions are going.

A lot of people forget that the only browser used by most everyone was IE and that was stagnant and smelly as they come. Firefox nudged the web forward when it was introduced, and made quite a splash on its own by capturing about a fourth to a third of usage from IE, but a small company can't fend itself from Microsoft. It took Google and Chrome, later, to knock IE and Microsoft into its place with its big push forward.

And that was a good thing. However, I regrettably find Google now pushing and pulling the rest of us harder than we want or need. Now that they are in the lead, they give the impression they are the writer of the scrolls. (In fact, a Google employee is the editor of HTML.)

Now, one cannot complain too much. Google's leadership has done far more good for the web and we should be grateful, but too many developers are turning first to them for what to do and how to do things rather than seeing the whole forest.

> Google's leadership has done far more good for the web and we should be grateful

Only time will tell.

Personally I'm not that grateful to Google. Like you said, it all started out as a good thing - rather innocent. And of course it turned to "profit at all cost" soon after that.

IMHO most people not quite understand the trade-offs involving technology choice. Large companies like Google, Microsoft, Apple (in no particular order) take advantage of that in the interest of their stakeholders. Violating their user's freedom and privacy along the way.

Conflating freedom and privacy to lump them all in together is a bit unfair I feel.

Apple for example is a privacy leader. Easier to secure their walled garden perhaps and they have their own pros and cons but they shouldn’t be in a set with google, Facebook and to a lesser extent, MS.

The power of a company like Google can be great when harnessed appropriately. When Chrome was the new kid on the block, they had every incentive to be compatible, faster, better, more flexible, etc. Now that they are the leader, their incentives are very different. I'm very concerned about the rapid move away from straightforward text-based protocols to opaque binary protocols. Yes the performance is better, but the protocol itself is far less flexible, harder to troubleshoot, and harder to build on. The whole reason HTTP took off was because it was simple, human-readable, and easy to implement, and built on TCP which was well understood and simple. It was a liberating change from the rigid, corporate, non-standard binary protocols coming from the Microsofts and IBMs and Oracles of the world. There are plenty of ways HTTP/1.1 could have been improved for better performance without sacrificing its fundamental openness. But HTTP/2 and QUIC are taking us back into the realm of non-standard and more rigid and opaque binary protocols. Performance on poorly designed sites that load tens of megabytes of crap from hundreds of URLs on each page load is the hook Google is using to push us back into what I consider a dark age of network communication. But it doesn't have to be this way.

HTTP/2 is standard and isn't opaque. You can use any number of high quality tools to dump it -- here's one: https://wiki.wireshark.org/HTTP2 .

The performance improvements are quite substantial.

> But HTTP/2 and QUIC are taking us back into the realm of non-standard and more rigid and opaque binary protocols.

This whole BINARY vs. PLAINTEXT paradox where the binary tends to be more efficient where the plaintext more open and intermediate ground between humans and machines, for me can be solved in a optimal way where the final output is always binary, but where you can assist humans with plaintext latter.

Just look how many beautiful and expressive computer languages we have now where the output is a pure obscure binary.

So i think if you follow this path you can have the best of both worlds. And because of that i tend to disagree with your point of view, where the default must be plaintext.. The layered approach is probably much more sophisticated and less amateurish when you care about waste of CPU cycles and RAM memory, without the need to have only a obscure and opaque representation.

>a Google employee is the editor of HTML

If you're talking about Hixie, it's probably worth mentioning that he previously worked for Mozilla (and Opera).

Mozilla too gets to write certain bits. WebAssembly is all Mozilla. I guess Google has more resources to invest in Chrome is the bigger difference.

WebAssembly started at Mozilla, but is very much not controlled by Mozilla today. It's a W3C Community group: https://webassembly.org/community/contributing/

That should be the goal of any browser vendor: collaboration towards getting new tech standardized.

Is it really ? I was under the impression that a large influence and a precursor to wasm was NaCL from Chrome along with ASM.js from Mozilla. Also Microsoft seems to be very involved in WASM.

If they're not all involved, it won't work, but firefox really lead asm.js, which was the actual precursor to webassembly. NaCL was more like a competitor that tried to do something similar but never got the kind of mainstream adoption needed for cross-browser support.

NaCL is more like Google's ActiveX. wasm directly builds upon the experience and success Mozilla had with asm.js.

> Firefox nudged the web forward

> a small company can't fend itself from Microsoft. It took Google and Chrome, later, to knock IE and Microsoft into its place with its big push forward.

It wasn't Google that dethroned Microsoft, it was Apple. The combination of Microsoft neglecting Mac, and the resurgence of Apple were the primary drivers away from IE. Chrome had almost nothing at all to do with it, they just out maneuver Apple and Mozilla to steal the crown form the fallen king.

In the late 90s IE was king and many websites demanded it. Netscape lost the browser wars and opensourced Communicator under Mozilla in 1998. Mozilla was in no position to compete with Microsoft so it instead pushed for standards compliance.

Internet Explorer 4 on Mac and PC were based on the same code but when IE5 launched in 1998, it wasn't available on Mac. When it did eventually land, IE5 for Mac was based on a different code base and rendering engine. This caused a problem for Apple because their platform was no longer on feature parity with the PC when it came to the Internet. IE in general was slow but IE5 on the Mac was worse.

Apple announced Safari at Macworld in early 2003 with a big emphasis on performance, during the demo Steve Jobs spent 30 seconds closing and reopening the browser to drive home the fact that it loaded fast. Apple went to great lengths to make Safari standards compliant and fast but they went one step further and worked with the most popular websites around to make sure they too were standards compliant too.

Around the same time Apple brought Safari out of Beta at the 2003 WWDC, Mozilla released Phoenix (Firefox) with an emphasis on standards compliance and performance. This set the stage because Apple and Mozilla were now aligned in a common goal, to make the web fast and standards compliant, and neither of them registered on Microsoft's radar.

It was Apple's push for the adoption of standards compliance by major websites that allowed Firefox to capture 25% of the PC market and by the time Microsoft responded with IE7 in 2006, it was already too late. Microsoft had lost, the world had decided that IE was garbage and there was nothing they could do to save the sinking ship.

Apple saw this power void IE left and so in addition to launching full Safari on the iPhone in 2007, they also launched Safari for Windows in a bid to become the dominate browser on all the major platforms. Unfortunately Google saw that same vacancy but Google was the default search engine in Safari and in Firefox. Apple and Mozilla were contractually obligated to promote Google Search so in 2008 when Chrome was launched, there was nothing they could do to stop Google promoting Chrome on google.com.

When Chrome arrived in 2008 it touted compatibility with Safari and adherence to standards compliance but the killer feature was stability. At the time all browsers crashed, it was accepted as an eventuality. It was so bad that Session Restore had been touted as a major feature. Chrome launched with multi-process isolation so that when something crashed, it didn't bring down the whole browser. Google's other innovations were rapid development cycles and background updates. This meant their browser always had the latest features and their users were always up to date. It took Mozilla years to catch up, Apple still has not.

> website which is "best viewed with Chrome"

I'm stunned. Is this still a thing? Last time I remember seeing websites recommending a browser, it was late 90s with "get Netscape" gifs.

Google themselves launched or re-launched five Chrome-only sites last year (Hangouts, Meet, Adwords, Earth, and Allo). Six if you count the Google Advanced Protection Program.

Google Flights began blocking Firefox for Android last week, and Google still serves a degraded Search experience to Firefox users on Android (but hey, no AMP).

Despite well-meaning concern from the Chrome team, it's abundantly clear that Google's other product managers do not view interoperability with open, cross-browser standards as a requirement. And while many products eventually gain Firefox support, that support usually only comes months after launch, if at all. To wit, Earth was recently rebranded from "Earth on Web" to "Earth for Chrome," so who knows what's going to happen there.

Which I find especially hilarious because there was a period from 2014-2017 when hangouts worked better for me and my colleagues in other browsers

Also noticed this with Google Flights last week. I dislike the way they position it, as if Firefox for Android is insufficient:

> Time for an upgrade. Looks like your browser needs a boost. To get the best Google Flights experience, upgrade to one of the supported browsers.

Funnily enough, it links to a site (http://whatbrowser.org/) that suggests Chrome, Opera, and Firefox as supported browsers.

Allo works on Firefox now, but before, I used to set my user-agent to Chrome's and it'd work.

it's not a definition of working when you need to cheat system in order to get it working.

If the system is cheating you it's only fair you cheat it back... but I get what you mean; most users won't even know to do that or would be interested in doing it.

It's shady for Google to lie to their users especially when they imply its the browsers fault and not just their dev team being lazy gits and not validating that features work on Firefox.

Because that's the only valid excuse I could come up with that would make sense as to why they don't support it beside being shady that is...

Not only is it still a thing, Google itself is a major culprit of it. Seems like every new experiment they release is “best viewed” in — or worse, “requires” — Google Chrome.

Not just experiments. Neither Google Hangouts nor Meet worked in Firefox until the 22nd of May this year.

Oh, wow, Hangouts and Meet are working in Firefox now? I've been keeping Chrome running just for that for a couple of years, will be glad to stop having to do that.

Meet works now? I knew about hangouts, but Meet was still not working last I checked. That would be fantastic if that was the case.

EDIT: So it does! The last reason I was keeping Chrome as my default (so Meet calendar invite links would work) is gone.

Meet didn't even work in Chrome on Ubuntu 16.04 last time I checked. A customer of mine that went all Google talked about going back to Skype, which fixed most problems in the last months (with the obvious exception of the uselessly sparse layout.)

I've found that "work" in this case is still even a stretch. With it being the only application that I have open, with one tab on Firefox, these sites (but especially Inbox) cause my zBook to sound like it's mining Bitcoin or running SETI analysis.

Google Flights is still not working in Firefox

What is not working? I have been using google flights to book trips for months without issues now. The only google services I've had some trouble with firefox are hangouts, and even that is fixed.

Try it on Android, where Google controls more of the market, and has less incentive for interop. You get a door slammed in your face: https://twitter.com/andrewhobden/status/1007668509826928640

Great response from Alex Russell, but it's clear that the sentiments of the Chrome team aren't translating into policy elsewhere in Google, or we wouldn't be dealing with something like this every few months.

Oh wow, I never noticed this before, this must be a recent thing...Thanks!

Well yeah, if it's an experiment that demonstrates a feature that Firefox doesn't support then of course it will be best viewed in Chrome. Experiments shouldn't count here.

As soon as "experiment" stops meaning "soft launch" we can stop counting them.

Google Optimize requires both Chrome and a browser extension (which isn’t available for any other browser) to work.

It's quite a good filter, they can get user feedback with less risk of negative reviews.

Bank of America claims Firefox is an “unsupported browser”, so, yeah :/

You'll be surprised how well it works by just switching the user-agent. It's more of a "too lazy to make sure it works" than a "actually doesn't work and Chrome should be used" situation.

Too lazy to test probably. If you support IE, Safari, Chrome both on the desktop and mobile, chances are that your site supports practically everything.

Unfortunately, often giving the official thumbs up requires passing some test suite. If companies have gotten better with their development methodology, their testing methodology is still often "Take a bunch of guys in India and have then run through that extensive check list".

Unfortunately, yes, e.g. Google Earth: https://www.google.com/earth/

I'm dealing with this now. We're working on a very complex map visualization with D3, and Firefox runs it choppy as hell. On the other hand, WebKit/Blink browsers (Chromium, GNU Web (Epiphany), others) run it buttery smooth.

Given that everyone else on my team uses Chrome, I think we'll likely be sporting a "works best in Chrome" banner soon, especially as most people would be confused by "works best in WebKit/Blink".

Are you in a position to file a Firefox bug with a link to a page showing the problem? If you can do that and tell me the bug report url, I'll take a look.

Don't know if it is an issue of Firefox or Google just makes it slow, but viewing custom Google maps with few thousands of pins takes much longer time to parse and render in Firefox than in Chrome, where it feels almost instantaneous compared to Firefox.

Just today I tried browsing Google Flights on (the latest version of) Firefox mobile and not only did it recommend getting a "browser upgrade", it would not let me use the site at all.

Here's a screenshot: https://imgur.com/a/2CCRVDf

Outside of the Google projects people have mentioned, I hardly ever see this. Well, I do see "doesn't work on IE" or "please dear god stop visiting with IE 6" pretty often, but I can hardly blame sites for that...

There are many job postings, payment forms(!?) and financial websites that only work properly in Firefox. The best part is, for job postings, it's a great "not going to work there" filter.

Don't be too quick to dismiss a workplace because of something like that. Teams that are hiring often have very little control over the initial process (e.g.: the site where jobs are posted), but may be doing amazing things and be great to work with.

Well, "best viewed in IE" was the thing till 2010 or so. The Chrome version I have never seen except on sites experimenting with advanced features unavailable elsewhere.

Yep. You can't use google hangouts without chrome. I've seen other websites (non-google) doing the same. Chrome is the new IE it seems :(

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17364039 says Hangouts’ usable in firefox once more.

I can tell you that it's pretty touch and go. They don't even support screensharing in Chromium, did you know that?

Meet did start to work in latest Firefox recently, and then this week they broke mic audio. -.-

Well, at least this new IE is open-source, cross-platform, and way better than that browser which reached a 90% usage peak some time ago.

Joking aside, I've never really known the difference between Google Talk, Hangouts, etc, but I regularly chat with my contacts from the Gmail website, using Firefox, without any problem so far.

Yes, Google Flights refuses to work with Firefox and asks to switch to Chrome

*on mobile

For anyone confused.

I switched to Firefox a week or so ago for the same reasons. My issue is that I can't make Firefox usable for me without a bunch of tweaks. For example, scrolling with the mouse wheel feels like scrolling through mud. I like smooth scrolling but the defaults are too slow. Font rendering is also janky unless I disable hardware acceleration, which is a real shame. On Chrome, I do nothing but add a home button to the toolbar and I'm done. I still haven't found the magical combination of settings that makes Firefox feel natural.

There are lots of parameters in about:config to tweak scrolling (unlike in Chrome). Try searching for 'wheel'

My favorite is mousewheel.*.delta_multiplier_y - this way you can quickly scroll through long document by holding delta key modifier. Really handy!

yeah, performance-wise I can't complain :) I'm a compulsive tab hoarder with about 400 open (admittedly, have to enable the "don't load until focused"-setting) on a 5 yo laptop with lots of other stuff running. No problem at all.

I am a tab hoarder as well and switched to Firefox last year for this reason. I have a 16GB MBP and I had to restart Chrome twice a day due to memory usage. The most I saw was 25GB of RAM used by Chrome (thank you solid state swap!)

When Quantum was released, I did a side by side comparison, opening the exact same tabs in each browser, switching browsers each day, manually keeping tabs in sync. Did this for about two weeks. For my use case at that time, Firefox's memory usage was 1/4 of Chrome's right off the bat. After a full day of use, Firefox's memory would double, while Chrome's would triple. Given the starting numbers, this meant at the end of the day, Firefox would be using 4-6GB of RAM, while Chrome's memory usage would be something like 16-24GB.

By the time I switched, I had already moved to Rambox for Hangouts and Gmail and stopped using Keep, in an effort to reduce Chrome memory usage. Rambox mem usage was about half of what I saw with the Chrome Hangouts plugin.

Although I use FF 90% of the time now, I still prefer Chrome, probably due to using it for so long. I especially prefer the Chrome bookmark manager. I really wish I could find a good way to keep bookmarks in sync between browsers! Any suggestions??

A big bonus has been the huge improvement in battery life. I had no idea how much I was losing to Chrome. Safari is supposed to be great for that, but plugins and the fact I'm an Android user means it doesn't offer me much.

The downside is that FF has made my tab hoarding worse. Still, despite doubling the number of tabs, mem usage is still half of what I saw with Chrome.

As for the unused memory is wasted memory argument (which may be tongue in cheek re: browsers), my browser is not my OS and I have a lot more going on than just a browser. 32GB MBP can't come soon enough.....or a touchpad experience on any other hardware+Linux experience+lots'o'RAM. 3 yrs ago, I finally gave in and tried Mac. Touchpad experience is probably the number 1 thing that keeps me here.

Recently I've found out that touchpad experience is mostly determined by software. Windows drivers for common laptops are usually bad, and so are defaults on common GNU/Linux distributions (most of them use libinput now, which isn't quite ready for touchpads yet), however, playing with Synaptics X11 driver can make wonders. I have never understood why people believe Mac touchpads are so good until I've tried Wayland and Windows on my Lenovo Yoga - and wow, it sucked big time. Turns out I just happened to accidentally, cluelessly configure it just right when I was setting up my Arch on this machine.

(don't get me wrong, I like libinput's idea and I know old synaptics driver is an awful mess when it comes to its code, but there are still lots of papercuts libinput needs to handle. I believe it will get there, but it's not there yet)

I use saved.io for all of my bookmarks.

Once you register, all you have to do to save a bookmark is go to "saved.io/www.google.com", for example, and it will save www.google.com.

If you want to save to a subfolder, all you have to do is go to "subfolder.saved.io/www.google.com".

To access your bookmarks you just go to saved.io in whatever browser on whatever device you want. I use Safari on the iPad, Chrome on my Android phone, and Firefox on my desktops and it works great in all of them.

> A big bonus has been the huge improvement in battery life. I had no idea how much I was losing to Chrome. Safari is supposed to be great for that, but plugins and the fact I'm an Android user means it doesn't offer me much.

Firefox is still bad compared to Safari.

For bookmark sync, use, well, Firefox Sync. It's built-in.

He meant keeping sync between different browsers, i.e. between Chrome and Firefox.

I am genuinely interested: why so many and how can you handle 400 open tabs?? How do you navigate between them? I am lost as soon as I have more than 10 tabs open at the same time...

Oh, that's not hard. First, Firefox doesn't squeeze tabs past certain limit, so you don't have these tiny-tiny tabs that you can't click. You get the scrolling, but it won't bother you after a while. Thus, visually even with 1000 or 2000 tabs browser UI stays clean.

Second, when you type stuff into the address bar Firefox searches through opened tabs and suggests switching to that. This minimizes the number of times you'd open a new tab.

Third, there are many addons that help you organize your tabs. There are ways to search for tab content, group them into containers, find duplicates, etc.

How to start having many tabs open? Just change your MO when you use the browser. Want to search for something? Hit new tab and go. Researching something? Open every link you find somewhat promising in a new tab. When you have 200+ tabs opened, another 8-12 won't be a big change. Done with your research? Why close tabs? Just keep them open in case you'll need them later.

Often when I work on a project for, say, half a year I don't close tabs at all, and keep getting back to stuff I accidentally stumbled upon 2-3 months ago. It's very helpful at times to be able to dig stuff up one tab away. One could argue that bookmarks and history could be as helpful, but in practice when you switch to an old tab you see the context around it. What else I was looking at at that time, often information in the neighboring tabs is relevant, yet bookmarks and browser history don't have a good UI to surface it if front of you.

Yes, your browser becomes a memory hog, but as people noticed Firefox has means to compensate that. At 200+ tabs it consumes significantly less memory than Chrome (even with Chrome's load on demand turned on).

It takes time to get used to, and ones or twice a year you'd be doing tab cleaning, but I've being using browsers like this for 15+ years and really see benefits in this workflow.

For context: right now I have 330 tabs opened, Firefox consumes 1.8 GiB of RAM

Exactly this! I'm also using Tab Center Redux to have tabs on the left side, which seems better UX- and space-wise for me even with just a few tabs open, although in the past I've used Firefox's default UI as well for a long time and it worked fine, unlike Chrome's UI.

This is how my Firefox looks like:



Once a while I'm getting to 1000-2000 open tabs and this is a point where the whole UI starts to feel a bit heavy, which is the only reason I clean them up then - navigating is a non-issue.

I wonder how you shrink the sidebar to icon size and remove the standard tab bar from Firefox??

Found the answer in the custom CSS manual of Tab Center Redux...

Ha, as with any hoarding, they are not all useful and I'm the first to admit it :).

It's a symptom of my non-optimal behavior. Blame the wetware between my ears. On any given moment, I might have perhaps 5-50 new tabs that I actually work in, closing them as I go along (but along those numbers). The rest are mostly left-overs since previous days.

My weakness is eg "this is an interesting read, but I don't have time now", or "this is a good reference, better save that". Over time, those add up.

To actually make it work, I set FF to not load tabs until focused. Then, when I start up, there are in reality a couple of hundred place holder tabs where I can see the icon and page name so I can find them again.

The second enabler is the plugin to have the tabs vertically, in a list on the side, instead of horizontally on top.

I really should just close them all and never look back, but I gotta admit, it's hard to say goodbye to dear friends. In this case though, I only know them by name :P

On Firefox at least, it doesn't actually load those tabs until you click on them. I have about 400 tabs on this session of FF Nightly, on a 2010 4GB Ubuntu laptop.


API documentation. It's very, very useful to have the structure of the APIs represented in a tree of open tabs. It gets messy eventually, but the groups can be easily rearranged.

Extensions. Back in the mid-to-late 2000s Tax Mix Plus was released, I had it configured so that after a configurable number of tabs appeared on the tab row, a new row would be created, up to a configurable number of rows after which I think you'd have to start scrolling the tab rows. You could also unload tabs and have them only load when clicked on, thus the memory usage was typically inconsequential even though my laptops back then only had something like 256MB - 1 GB of RAM. I had a tab colorizer installed too. Thus formed my habit of accumulating tabs.

Later on TreeStyle Tab came out, and I've used that ever since. I've got 501 tabs right now (thanks tab count extension), I usually go on purges every so often when it gets around this high and close large groups of them, reading some before closing, bookmarking many of them before closing with a current month/year annotation and other tags, so I can get back down to a more reasonable ~100-200. Even if it didn't have its tree collapsing functionality (I've got 25 tabs collapsed in a tree right now related to setting up and using some new software I started doing last night, it takes up one tab of space when collapsed) I would still use it just for the fundamental insight that with widescreen resolutions being standard vertical screen real estate is much more important than horizontal real estate. Admittedly that's not as big an insight anymore with 4k screens (and I use a big 42inch one). Anyway with TreeStyle Tab I can have tabs that are on the left side of the browser, that grow down, with scrolling, but I can still read the titles of each tab unlike in Chrome where each tab after ~10-20 is just an icon (at best).

The URL bar is also just superior to Chrome's. It's not called the Awesome Bar for no reason. The table at the bottom of https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/awesome-bar-search-fire... has a list of commands you can use to match things -- I actually often have that page in my sea of tabs since sometimes I forget a couple sigils but I found it immediately with ctrl+L + "awesome %".

This submission's title is kind of hilarious. Firefox never went away, I started using it pre 1.5 on a Windows 95 machine and though now I use Chrome/Chromium for some things I've never felt the need to leave Firefox. Well, except until recently with the Quantum updates, ironically. For my personal desktop, I'm still pre-Quantum, it works just as it always has, while on my other machines I've been giving the new Firefox a fair chance and am just hoping it gets better. The tree tabs addon port especially isn't as good, I really miss my right click context menu for noscript, etc.


I'm writing this from a 2016 Thinkpad with 508 open tabs in Chrome. works. (wouldn't work if turned off the ad-blocker, but why would I do that...)

Firefox does it at least as well, just having both open is a bit much.


Opened up Firefox too and ctrl-tabbed around a bit to cause it to actually load some pages (hundreds of open tabs too, similar uBlock setup), and Windows reports

Chrome 5.3 GB

Firefox 4.2 GB

I couldn't find a tally of where Windows applies its "memory compression" logic, to be honest I don't even know what exactly it does, but let's assume it's some background task and it did more to Chrome than to Firefox since Chrome had been running longer.

So yes, Chrome needs noticeably more memory, and I prefer Firefox overall, but both can handle tons of tabs in my experience. Chrome also appears to be more responsive under pressure, I assume this is because it splits work into lots more processes than Firefox does, which is both probably a memory drain and a security benefit.

Can you repeat without ctrl-tabbing? What was Firefox usage then?

Jumped to 950 MB, settled at ~800 MB. Deferred loading seems to do a lot, so I could imagine that different usage patterns make a big difference, but that would need a detailed look into how Firefox and Chrome manage memory for "stale" tabs. If I remember right Mozilla recently added improvements there, getting rid of their memory more aggressively?

So, under actual usage (not ctrl-tabbing around to aggressively force-load things) it is 950 MB vs 5.3 GB. (I imagine for a comparable number of tabs?)


EDIT in response to your reply:

Please do! I agree that logging would be interesting.

Do you know, does Firefox defer/discard tabs again if they do fully load but you don't use them for a long time? Or are the only deferred tabs, ones that you never looked at this session?

I don't think you can count a freshly started browser that has only loaded 7 tabs (one per window) as "actual usage". I'd guess tabbing around triggered <50 tabs, that doesn't seem like a totally unrealistic working set, at least not when I'm actively researching something.

Maybe I should set up logging for this, might be interesting.

Please do! I agree that logging would be interesting.

Do you know, does Firefox defer/discard tabs again if they do fully load but you don't use them for a long time? Or are the only deferred tabs, ones that you never looked at this session?

I have a Chromium install without an ad blocker. And it takes one bad out of control page with a shitty advert, to down my entire machine. Something like: outlook.com.

(Doesn't matter if I have 2 or 100 tabs if there is one bad apple.)

Indeed. "Firefox is back." - Well, from where I stand, it never left, nor I it.

Usability is #1

People have different workflows and different priorities in that department, the best thing a browser could do to try and gain market share is keep their mind open to these differences and try and enable all of them. Something most browsers fail at to one degree or another.

For example, I loved firefoxes two address bar approach over chrome's omnibar. I would set the default search on the address bar to route to google's browse by name (it auto selects showing a search results page or going to the first result (i'm feeling lucky) based on how confident it was that the first result was what the user wanted) and the default search on the search bar to google. If I wanted to go somewhere by name I'd type in the address bar, if I wanted to search for something and be sure i got a results page I could just type it in the search bar.

I've used chrome for my daily driver despite loving firefox for one simple reason, and that's the Google Voice extension. It has a little number in the icon next to the address bar, that tells me how many unread voicemails or text messages or missed calls I have on my cell phone, its always visible in the window I have active on at least 1 monitor 99% of the time, and it's the primary way I keep track of incoming text messages as well as missed calls.

I would be lost without this so despite firefox having a lot of features I prefer over chrome, chrome is still my daily driver because of one extension that firefox doesn't have last time I checked.

> It is somewhat similar to the free software vs. open source debate - one should use free software not because it is better, but because it is the right thing to do

But then sometimes the free option is also, i.e. in addition, the better choice for other reasons as well. And those cases (e.g. Postgres, Darktable, etc.) are worth pointing out, because they may serve as gateway drugs to free software, for users that may not initially care for it because they associate it with invariably bad user experience.

I have an article brewing on this, because I increasingly think it's important. When free software does not suck from an UX perspective, there is zero reason not to use it. That's a huge market.

> ... and believe that Google should not control the web.

I don't have a whole lot to add to this discussion that hasn't already been said except:

I'm the frontend developer at my job, and my coworkers are slowly discovering that I'm not joking when I say that Chrome is the new IE, for reasons pertaining to this. One example that I think made a few of them realize what I mean when I say that was during that short time recently when Chrome Experiments worked in every browser except Chrome, and the reason why that was the case: a (shady, to me) built in whitelist.

The open source statement isn’t accurate because Chromium is open source.

But I do agree that one company shouldn’t control the internet or browsing experience end to end. Although as far as pushing web standards and browsing Google has mostly been a good citizen. Let’s just pretend AMP wasn’t a thing.

> The open source statement isn’t accurate because Chromium is open source.

But Firefox is free software :)

Go get some Chromium Stable installation for Windows. Choose wisely, though [0].


These are not the official repos and they can contain some malicious code.

Just like any extension you are using.

You can uninstall or block extension, you can't uncompile RCE or trojan or whatever.

To be fair the industry is LITERALLY developing for Chrome and Safari first.

Google won. Everything people hated MS for in the 90s Google has actually accomplished. Resistance is futile.

absolutely this.

one feature directly related to it is support for extensions. why can chrome run extensions on the desktop (ie ad blocker) but not on mobile? the answer should be obvious.

Firefox broke off backwards compatibility with massive amount of extensions - without them stock FF is quite shite and unusable. Not only that, some of the features of the old extensions are impossible to implement in the new extension engine.

The new extension engine is from december 2015, so not really new. https://blog.mozilla.org/addons/2015/12/21/webextensions-in-... The API is very close to Chrome, am I right ? https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/Add-ons/WebExtensions/Po...

Personally, I port my Chrome extension to a Firefox addons without much trouble, except for the stringent review process by a human developer which raised a lot my opinion of the firefox community.

The new extension engine shipped to the general public as part of Firefox 57 in November 2017.

While magicalbeans may be a bit hyperbolic in their criticism, as a web developer who uses all the major browsers, I am still annoyed every day by little things that are worse in Firefox since that time. It is a reasonable and valid criticism that many useful extensions were broken by the change and that a significant part of the functionality that was lost can't be reimplemented in the new system. The claims that the general reduction in functionality through loss of previous extensions would be a temporary problem and would be corrected as the new model evolved over subsequent versions have proven to be optimistic.

It is also fair to say that claims of extensions being better contained and more stable in the new model have been exaggerated. I see far more problems caused by the smaller number of extensions I now use than I ever saw before, and I have done consistently ever since the change, through three more major versions of Firefox itself and several updates to most of the extensions.

I appreciate the intent to make Firefox faster and more reliable and more secure. Surely no-one would argue that those aren't good things. But the fact is, a lot of stuff did get broken and hasn't been fixed, and for the class of users who valued Firefox for its customisability, it is a worse browser today than it was 9 months ago.

> The API is very close to Chrome, am I right ?

The API is a superset of Chrome's. You can do stuff with Firefox WebExtensions that you cannot do with Chrome.

> some of the features of the old extensions are impossible to implement in the new extension engine

I am stuck on FF 53 (and reinstalling it whenever automatic updates sneak past me) since it still has the XUL API Pentadactyl uses to receive keyboard input[0]. The new WebExtension API don't expose the same level of functionality, so it can't be simply ported to them as is.

0: https://github.com/5digits/dactyl/issues/99

One approach to coping with quantum is to run 2 (or more) Firefox profiles, one for the old, or ESR, or pre-quantum executable; and the other for Quantum:

/usr/bin/firefox53 -P esr

/usr/bin/firefox -P quantum

and if you want access to the same saved bookmarks, just use Firefox Sync to match them up.

It won't help with Pentadactyl, but folks with other use cases may find it useful.

> without them stock FF is quite shite and unusable

Pardon ?

Actually FF is better that Chrome!

Without extensions all web browsers are quite equally unusable. Long gone are the days of Opera presto when browsers shipped fully featured.

IMO Firefox is much better without extensions than most browsers with extensions. Chrome (chromium) being the one exception I know of.

Then I find Firefox better than Chrome when both run with or without extensions.

I haven't seen anyone mention this, but Firefox is my "daily driver" for almost all browsing, and is also locked down with uMatrix, uBlock Origin, DecentralEyes and Ghostery (though I could probably drop Ghostery without missing it). Chrome has uBlock Origin and a few other things but interferes with pages less. I keep a set of pages for some specific web apps (e.g. GMail, Google Calendar, task management, etc.) open in Chrome, but otherwise only use it when something just won't work in my locked-down Firefox.

I also can't recommend highly enough Firefox on Android, particularly with uBlock Origin and the "Dark Background and Light Text" addon (currently at version 0.6.8 for ease of finding). For HN you'll want to use the "Simple CSS" dark setting instead of the default - that keeps the arrows, but you do lose the greying-out of downvoted comments.

Edit: I also think it's interesting how much Chrome now minimizes and almost hides the Chrome App Store to add new extensions. It's almost as if it's not making Google any money and people keep installing adblockers through it.

I'd remove Ghostery. Not only is it useless once you are running uMatrix & uBlock Origin, they also used to sells your data (page visit, blocking, and advertising statistics) if you activated a feature called "GhostRank". Not sure whether it's still true or not.

Ghostery also had an incident [1] last month where they exposed e-mail addresses of some users, which I guess adds further doubt to their reliability.

[1]: https://www.ghostery.com/blog/ghostery-news/ghostery-email-i...

wait, why do they need users' emails?

If you want, you can create an account to ‘sync your ghostery settings’. The username of the account is your email address.

The exposure happened because they sent a mail with a lot of people in the CC: field. Amateurish but it happens. The irony is that the mail was to inform you of the privacy changes due to GDPR.

They don't, that's the thing; they wanted to monetize their service, and selling e-mail addresses and user data is one way to do that.

Ghostery is convenient in that it categorizes what it's blocking - most of the time it's obvious, particularly with uBlock Origin in Advanced mode, but sometimes I'll look at things in uMatrix and say "OK, X is blocked, but why was it on the page and will unblocking it resolve things?" For example, looking at jumpcloud.com Ghostery breaks the 7 blocked items into 2 advertising trackers, 2 "Essential" trackers, 2 analytics trackers and 1 social media tracker.

As for Ghostery having a breach and exposing email, etc. that would require that I actually create an account for Ghostery. It works just fine without.

> As for Ghostery having a breach and exposing email, etc. that would require that I actually create an account for Ghostery. It works just fine without.

For now, sooner or later it's going to be mandatory for sure.

Indeed, and I personally replaced it with the EFF privacy badger plugin.

+1 for ff on android (because it can run extensions)

recommend checking out 'night light mode' for night browsing -- it does some things a little nicer like dims images and uses low contrast (full disclosure: i am the author. feedback welcome!)


When I go to https://rideways.com/ it inverts the large background image

thanks for the report! a fix is forthcoming (looks like some kind of css preloading is tripping up the plugin)

I really love addons like 'Dark Background and Light Text', but they don't work with the 'New Tab', 'about:*' and addons.mozilla.org pages like most other addons in recent Firefox.

For the 'New Tab' page I now use 'New Tab Tools' to set the background to black. But I am still unhappy that its not possible to set all other pages to a dark theme.

Also that Vimium doesn't work with those pages is a shame as well. I hope Mozilla fixes that regression soon. Web Extensions should have the same abilities as the XUL extensions.

You can still tweak Firefox internals but you have to resort to its native `userChrome.css` [0] since current extensions API does not allow access to every corner. Luckily you can use devtools for that [1] what makes it quite pleasant (at least you don't have to restart browser to see the change). You can use pre-made package ([2][3]) and toggle what you want.

[0] https://www.userchrome.org/ [1] https://www.reddit.com/r/FirefoxCSS/comments/73dvty/tutorial... [2] https://github.com/Aris-t2/CustomCSSforFx/ [3] https://github.com/Timvde/UserChrome-Tweaks

there's an extreme method of doing 'light text on dark background', like my guide below


in which all background & foreground color are of your choice. been using it for 5 years at least

Thanks, but I do like it to be easily switchable. Some pages expect certain background colors and changing them makes embedded svgs hard or impossible to see.

Maybe you can get away with using the solarized theme, but I prefer having a black background...

Thanks for this suggestions anyway

You can change the universal background color to anything :D that is just a guide

heck, I'm using a black background nowadays, trying to mimic blackboard color ha

Is there a reason to use both uBlock Origin and uMatrix? I thought uMatrix was a more explicit version of the same functionality as uBlock Origin (and written by the same guy).

I dug into this myself just now. At it's core, uMatrix is "default deny" so it doesn't need all the blacklists. But there are things that uBlock Origin provides that uMatrix does not perhaps including cosmetic filtering, popup blocker, zapper/picker element, etc. The author Raymond Hill (gorhill) has switched back to uMatrix himself and dedicates more development efforts to it now.


I use them together, uMatrix as a fine grained control tool where I can setup a saved profile and click-allow until functionality & appearance are acceptable to me, and for 'one-off' or 'fuck-it no time' situations I just toggle uMatrix off. It is very rare I have to turn off uBlock Origin as well (the nuclear option). This leaves me four-five quick clicks away from the median or average user experience.

uBlock Origin offers part of the uMatrix functionality as well in the "advanced user" mode.


Other than the issue of cosmetic filters (which I don't personally use), the main difference is that for uBlock you can subscribe to really good lists, collected and curated by a lot of people - so it is "defauly allow, except for these...", whereas uMatrix is "default deny, except for what you explicitly allowed".

I run both, occasionally have to allow something in uMatrix, never have to turn uBlock off.

You can configure uBlock to use default deny as well by changing the mode [1].

It's not as fine-grained as uMatrix but works similarly.

[1] https://github.com/gorhill/uBlock/wiki/Blocking-mode

Upvoted for the info, but I'll restate why I use both:

uBlock is my blacklist. uMatix is my whitelist. For various reasons, I occasionally need to skip the whitelist, but I never had a reason to turn off the blacklist in a few years of using uBlock.

They can do similar things, uBlock Origin is setup to block ads and other elements on the page (depending on the lists you subscribe to). But uMatrix is more like Noscript, it's blocking the loading of resources from the web. So you can block javascript from some domains, while allowing images or video, etc. I use both so i can block a lot of third party scripts even without them being ads (so most tracking scripts and such).

> Firefox is my "daily driver"

I only have FF Developer Edition (IE and Edge, blegh) installed on my host. The only time I open Chrome or otherwise is inside a VM. If a website doesn't work I just close the tab. That is assuming that ever happens; off the top of my head this hasn't happened since the Quantum beta launched.

Even with Quantum I still find Firefox is almost unusably slow on some pages. It also causes very spikey resource usage. I’d like to use it exclusively but sometimes when I want to cool down my laptop I just switch to Chrome. This is on a Retina MacBook.

This is macOS-specific, I had noticed it there too, but not on Linux.

Have you tried setting the screen scaling back to the default, or using Firefox Nightly? I believe we recently resolved a bug around that, though I could be mis-remembering.

That will happen a lot with Google's own pages ;).

I second this. I've been using FF with uBlock origin on the desktop and on Android for years now. I'm using fairly demanding and rapidly changing web apps for my customer's cloud stuff, and FF runs it flawlessly where it would have memory-leaks etc just three years ago.

The only complaint I've had was with dog-slow SVG animations a couple years ago (for a simplistic game programming project with the kids), but I believe that has since long improved as well.

I hope we can keep the level of relatively mature support for Web standards accross browsers as it is, rather than make the Web more complex all the time.

Also very simple but highly useful Extension: Cookie AutoDelete

Deletes cookies & local storage after you leave a website. You can whitelist a few domains like Github etc. for convenience. The only downside is you'll get "privacy reminder / cookie accept" popups every time anew.

Actually I would really like to use FF again. But each and every time I try it I'm impressed with the desktop version, install the Android version and instantly am driven away from FF.

Not only that FF on Android is awfully slow for me. But they also refuse to support either Android accessability services or the new auto completion services which makes them basically totally useless if you want to use a password manager on Android.

This one thing (and the performance, but that I could ignore) is what totally prevents me from using FF.

Depending on what password manager you use, you can try getting the Firefox extension for it. I use Bitwarden, and their extension just works. Although I agree with you that they should have support for it through the accessibility/auto-completion services. The ability to have uBlock in a mobile browser is too convenient to give up.

I recommend removing Ghostery. They sell aggregated data or something.

EFF makes an extension called privacy badger. It learns which websites are tracking you automatically. and blocks them or their cookies.

Ghostery like filtering is already implemented in firefox (https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/tracking-protection).

Thanks for pointing me towards "Dark Background and Light Text". Having a dark background and light text is something that's very important to me.

> you do lose the greying-out of downvoted comments

sounds like a win, honestly.

Just dropping a note in support of Firefox ...

It's a great browser and I've came back to it even before the changes in Quantum, because the UI is better and it's also a browser I can trust to protect my interests.

Just one thing to consider ... recently in Chrome 66 they introduced the means for cosmetic ads blocking via stylesheets that can no longer be overridden, as Google finally succumbed to demands for it. Firefox has been supporting the feature for years and is on the cutting edge in regards to protecting privacy.

For example I'm using Multi-Account Containers + Facebook Container, an add-on which sandboxes Facebook. Along with the blocking of trackers that's now built-in, Firefox is leading the offense against privacy invading web services (although granted Apple's Safari doesn't do a bad job either).

The only downside of Firefox is that Chrome's dev tools are still better, however Firefox has been improving a lot lately and I'm pretty sure they'll be on par pretty soon. After all, lets not forget that Firebug, which then inspired every other browser, was an add-on that happened for Firefox.

Oh, and I love that they are refactoring its internals via Rust. That's an awesome development.

This is a great point. It's evident in Chrome's course so far that the browser has put Google's interests first, whereas Firefox puts the users' interests first. That's why I stuck with FF when it was slow, and I'm very glad that's all fixed now.

Plus, FF for Android is amazing. I can run Privacy Badger and uBlock Origin on my mobile browser!

And uMatrix! I don't know what I'd do without it.

Pretty much the only time I use chromium now is when I need to debug Websockets, since the traffic is impossible to see in Firefox. Really hope they fix https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1373639 some day.

On the other hand, Chrome refuses to show binary WebSocket traffic, so I just use SSLKEYLOGFILE + Firefox + Wireshark/tshark to debug secured WS traffic. tshark can even be configured to dump out the packets basically as they come in.

I am struggling quite a bit to make this work. Do you have any good writeups on how to do this?

First, launch Firefox:

    SSLKEYLOGFILE=$(pwd)/ssl_keys.log firefox -P 
("firefox-bin" on some Linuxes, "/Applications/Firefox.app/Contents/MacOS/firefox" on Mac, etc.). This launches a Profile Manager; pick a profile that isn't being used by any other running Firefox. This avoids accidentally logging keys for normal browsing traffic, making it easier to pick out the target SSL traffic and avoiding a security risk.

Second, launch tcpdump:

    tcpdump -i en0 -w dump.pcap
(where en0 is your primary Internet interface).

Browse to the site you want to debug and make some websocket requests.

Finally, you can use tshark to inspect the traffic:

    tshark -n -r dump.pcap -o http.ssl.port:443 -o ssl.keylog_file:ssl_keys.log -Y websocket -Tfields -e frame.time_relative -e ip.src -e ip.dst -e data
The -e fields I chose there are just examples; this particular example dumps out all the websocket payloads to a file.

You can also configure Wireshark to use the log file, so that you can inspect the traffic interactively; to do so, edit Preferences -> Protocols -> SSL and set the (Pre-)Master Secret key log filename appropriately.

Just use Charles debugging proxy with the SSL mitm enabled, it's much easier

Yep, same here. I use it as my regular browser. Occasionally I switch to Chrome for miscellaneous "other reasons", sometimes just to maintain separation between work and personal browsing sessions (I use FF for work).

I'm about to start a new contract doing React development again though. I wonder if I'll stick to FF or if I'll get dragged back to Chrome for DevTools support...

I can recommend https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/containers highly, i have a bunch of containers for work, personal, projects, research, etc...

it also allows to be logged into twitter/fb with multiple accounts in the same window.

I'm developping with React every day on Firefox, the devTools work perfectly!

Typical for me is to have Firefox as a default browser - all links from external apps like email, Slack, etc. is opened there. But when I do web development I open the page I work on in Chrome. When I need to search Stackoverflow or MDN I switch to Firefox.

> Firefox is leading the offense against privacy invading web services (although granted Apple's Safari doesn't do a bad job either).

I thought Safari was leading the charge, so I did a little digging. I haven’t reached a conclusion yet but found out about Firefox’s Tracking Protection[1]. Any idea how it compares to uBlock Origin? If you’re the kind of person that’d rather use as few extensions as possible, would using Firefox’s TP with a solid list be as effective as using uBlock Origin with the same list?

[1]: https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/tracking-protection

At least FF devtools show you the event handlers attached to html nodes! But generally I agree with your statements.

FF devtools also allow you to edit network requests and replay them all in the browser. This was super useful in my QA days as well as for general fun hacking around.

Firefox was never away, at least for me. Therefore the expression "Firefox is back" sounds a little odd to me.

I have been using it since 2006 (Firefox 2.0). Back then, the presence of the Firebug extension for Firefox made me switch to Firefox as my primary browser.

Two years later, Chrome arrived but Firefox remained as my primary browser because I wanted to continue using the Vimperator extension for Firefox that allowed mouseless browsing with Vim-like key bindings and commands.

Firefox still remains as my primary browser with Chrome being an additional browser that I use sometimes. These days, I use the Vimium extension for both to use Vim-like key bindings. I occasionally use Safari and qutebrowser too.

I have a very similar background with Firefox / Firebug and Vimperator, but there was a period where - despite all JS benchmarks seemingly proving otherwise - Chrome's real / perceived performance completely blew FF out of the water. Specifically things like startup time, opening a new window or tearing a tab off one, time to first content displayed when clicking a link, etc. As a result from about 2011 to 2017, I kept periodically checking back with FF, but was effectively a Chrome convert (Vimium was a good enough replacement for Vimperator). Once Servo hit the FF mainstream, it immediately felt faster, and I switched back. I still find myself switching back to Chrome for web dev debugging, probably for familiarity reasons. In this sense though, I'm sure I'm not the only one for whom "Firefox is back".

Do you mean "Quantum hit the mainstream"? Most of Servo itself it still a research project at this stage.

Yepp, you're right.

It’s for your average NY Times reader that doesn’t keep up with the day-to-day tech news world.

And don't forget about those thousands (millions?) of users who suddenly found Chrome installed on their computer because they updated their Virus Scanner or installed some Freeware where it was bundled with Chrome.

Still an upgrade from IE8 the same group would be using. I'm not advocating bundled installs, but installing secure (compared to old IE) browser alongside antivirus software is one of the very few cases where it makes sense.

From my private IT support perspective: I hate it! My "customers" have FF installed and are every time utterly confused missing their favorites on their "Internet Program".

There is so much wrong with this bundling but yes, it's probably still better then IE...

Same here, but I think we're in a bubble.

Looking at the past market share we're clearly the minority

The same for me, but with the recent Firefox they broke the old addons and the current ones cannot do the same.

I hope they fix that regression.

WebExtensions (aka new generation addons) are getting more powerful with each version :)

Thanks for the info. :) Great work so far!

High on my list is for the extensions to work on about:* and addons.mozilla.org pages.

I like to use Vimium everywhere and 'Dark Background and Light Text' to also work on the preferences.

Also I really miss DownThemAll... I tried a couple of replacements, but they didn't for instance download all books from a Humble Book Bundle.

> High on my list is for the extensions to work on [...] addons.mozilla.org pages.

There's actually an about:config setting that fixes this already. I put a helper in Tridactyl for it called `:fixamo` [1], but you can easily do it manually by setting

"privacy.resistFingerprinting.block_mozAddonManager" = true


"extensions.webextensions.restrictedDomains" = ""

(Unfortunately, this does nothing about about: pages or the PDF viewer which used to work but was "fixed" :( ).

[1] https://github.com/cmcaine/tridactyl/blob/8c49d26340cdc0db3c...

privacy.resistFingerprinting.block_mozAddonManager does not exist in my about:config.

Just changing "extensions.webextensions.restrictedDomains" is apparently not enough.

I also tried :fixamo in tridactyl, but it just returns: "# Error: Attempt to postMessage on disconnected port"

I was using version 1.13.1pre1454 with FF 60.0.2.

Have you tried adding the setting that doesn't exist manually? There's a little + button you can click on about:config.


That's a particularly unhelpful error, sorry about that. It usually means that Tridactyl can't access the native messenger. Did you install it with `:installnative`? What is the output of `:native`?

> That's a particularly unhelpful error, sorry about that. It usually means that Tridactyl can't access the native messenger. Did you install it with `:installnative`? What is the output of `:native`?

I did not, but now I have.

:fixamo now doesn't return any error but still doesn't work.

Adding "privacy.resistFingerprinting.block_mozAddonManager" manually and setting it to true did the job. Thanks!

So far I like Tridactyl, especially the useful commands, but since it seems to be incompatible with other addons that overwrite the NewTab page. I think I will have to disable it.

I also miss the smooth scrolling experience with j,k from VimiumFF, jumping lines like Tridactyl does makes me loose the point were I left of. I might check back how the progress is going tough.

> :fixamo now doesn't return any error but still doesn't work.

You need to restart the browser afterwards. Sorry, people usually find the command through the help page where it has all of these caveats.

We have smooth scrolling, you just need to do `set smoothscroll true`. It's a bit rubbish, though.

You can often fix the new tab page by disabling and re-enabling the new tab add-on you want. Every time Tridactyl is updated it will steal the page back, so I'd suggest that you don't use the beta releases and instead use the normal ones.

We could reasonably easily provide a build that didn't use the new tab page (we occasionally get people who feel very strongly about this) but I'm afraid it's quite low down my list of priorities. If you're feeling up to it there's an issue open: https://github.com/cmcaine/tridactyl/issues/534

But I won't hold it against you if you use Vimium. It's very well polished : )

> You need to restart the browser afterwards. Sorry, people usually find the command through the help page where it has all of these caveats.

:help fixamo

Does not state that I need to restart firefox afterwards. [1]

I did restart firefox after I installed `native` and before I run :fixamo. :native also returned that the it was installed correctly before I run :fixamo.

[1]: fixamo

    fixamo(): Promise<void>

        Defined in src/excmds.ts:290

    Simply sets

in about:config via user.js so that Tridactyl (and other extensions!) can be used on addons.mozilla.org and other sites.

    Requires native.
    Returns Promise<void>

Ah, good spot. I've added that to the documentation now.

If you're saying that a restart didn't make fixamo work, would you mind filing an issue so we can try to fix it?

Edit: sorry, I should have been clearer: fixamo edits a file which is only read at Firefox startup, so you need to run fixamo and then restart.

> If you're saying that a restart didn't make fixamo work, would you mind filing an issue so we can try to fix it?

No I haven't tried that. After I run :fixamo and that didn't work I just opened about:config and change those settings myself without restarting firefox.

Edit: Since I now continued to test tridactyl I found that this newtab overwriting function gets pretty annoying from a usability perspective. When I start a new Tab with [Ctrl]+[t] and immediately type my desired address part of it will be overwritten when 'about:blank' is inserted. I guess you want people to use just a binding to :tabopen, but I do like my options. Also since :tabopen do not contain my bookmarks I prefer using the address line.

> Since I now continued to test tridactyl I found that this newtab overwriting function gets pretty annoying from a usability perspective. When I start a new Tab with [Ctrl]+[t] and immediately type my desired address part of it will be overwritten when 'about:blank' is inserted. I guess you want people to use just a binding to :tabopen, but I do like my options. Also since :tabopen do not contain my bookmarks I prefer using the address line.

Huh, that is annoying. I hadn't noticed that. There's not much we can do about it though, short of just disabling the new tab page.

The lack of bookmarks in tabopen is annoying, I agree. We rushed to get the completions out with Tridactyl, and did it shoddily and haven't bothered to rewrite it yet.

There is bmarks which just completes from bookmarks, but that opens things in the current tab.

Ok, great. That means the only bug is bad documentation and feedback to users. Thanks for your time!

Oh really ... Not having DownThemAll just breaks my entire workflow, and there's no replacement. They should have at least considered the "most popular add-ons" to be in working condition before even releasing WebExtensions to all.

Breaking "old" add-ons with no working replacement and no way to implement quite a few of them killed FF for me. What those idiots at Mozilla don't get is that without the add-ons their stock browser is no better than any other.

Yes to me too.

I can also use it on android with ublock etc. Chrome hasn't even been installed in my main computer in maybe a year, firefox works for everything I need, including google apps for business mail and youtube.

My biggest reason for using it is the fact that it is open source, the other is that ad-block software actually block calls to adds not just the display of them as in chrome.

I personally was never impressed by firebug. I haven't checked it out in a while but it was incredibly clunky.

Isn’t it essentially the prototype for all modern browser dev tools though? As in, they are all substantially similar to what Firebug was like, and Firebug existed before any of the others?

I could be getting my history wrong, but from what I remember Firebug was absolutely mind-blowing.

I remember the first time I found the firebug JavaScript snippet, I could finally use a decent debugger when testing other browsers.

That was equally kind blowing to me.

Firefox since at least 2004!

I just ran both of the speed test benchmarks [1][2] mentioned in the article, plus two other tests [3][4].

                    |     Firefox    |     Safari      |    Chrome 
    Speedometer 2.0 | 83.0 ±0.91     | 92.1 ±2.8       | 75.7 ±3.4
    JetStream       | 219.40 ±8.5563 | 294.79 ±11.138  | 201.81 ±15.171
    Motion Mark     | 203.71 ±5.41%  | 525.77 ±6.56%   | 388.85 ±4.79
    ARES-6          | 54.06 ±0.95ms  | 16.85 ±1.19ms   | 20.26 ±0.56ms

It looks like Firefox beats Chome in some perfomrance tests but Safari is still faster than Chrome and a lot faster than Firefox. At this point, I'm not sure any of Firefox's features are compelling enough to get me to switch back. I started using Firefox at 0.4 back when I was in college then I switched to Chrome when Firefox got slow, but I think the way I use the web now has changed. I really only use a few sites and I just want better security/ad-block/tracking block tools (which Apple is committing to) and speed.

edit: If someone uses Windows, I would be curious to see how Edge compares to Firefox and Chrome.

[1] - https://browserbench.org/Speedometer2.0/

[2] - https://browserbench.org/JetStream/

[3] - https://browserbench.org/MotionMark/

[4] - https://browserbench.org/ARES-6/

Firefox’s biggest problem is rapacious battery draining. Unplug your charger and Safari feels like a dainty butterfly in a soft summer breeze, while Firefox thrashes around like a drunken Godzilla in mid-90s Tokyo.

The energy usage tab on the activity monitor consistently shows Firefox at a ~40 “score” (whatever that unit is), and Safari more around 4. Anecdotally, the difference in battery time is real.

This is the biggest reason to keep using Safari on Mac in battery mode. (Or Always Be Charging :) )

I hope they can ever fix this :( sounds pretty fundamental, but I know little.

As someone who has worked a bit on energy usage: it's a really, really hard problem, and the tools used to develop/optimize for energy are really, really bad.

Also, being cross-platform complicates things a lot: I'm certain that Safari has access to a number of libraries that are energy-efficient but exist only on macOS/iOS.

I have a vague hope that maybe the Rust community can find a way to somehow develop a standard benchmarking tool that takes into account energy use. This would help considerably on the front of refactoring Firefox towards better energy efficiency.

I switched over to Firefox for about 3 months. The following were dealbreakers for me and I switched back to Chrome:

- Battery draining...it's seriously really bad. Even if the app is just open on my MacBook, I go from ~8hours of battery to like ~2hrs. I travel a lot...it's untenable

- Performance is generally pretty good, but it never felt better than Chrome.

- At first CPU on streaming video (Twitch, YT, etc) was better on Firefox, but over time I got the infamous "fan spinning" and CPU churning issues.

- Site compatibility: about 10-15% of sites I would visit broke.

- Nitpick, but not deal breaker: icons on my bookmark toolbar didn't work consistently. I would save a bookmark and it would stick to some other site and I could never clear the cache to fix it. It also frequently used non-retina images.

I also observe the same problem with Firefox on Windows and Linux. I have an impression that their developers don't have any priority on the battery drain, instead they just measure speed, and don't want to investigate too much on reducing actual work done, even when, from the user perspective, we're "doing nothing" (e.g. just keeping the browser open on some pages). I know there are many sites today that have tracking codes etc that "always run" but it seems that it's an excuse not to investigate what the browser "always does" in all the scenarios when it should just do as little as possible. Also, different kind of "movement" on the pages (videos, animated gifs, sounds) all take more battery than the competition.

My measurements are that on some specific pages, even when I "do nothing" Firefox uses up to twice as much CPU. Luckily, it's not always twice as much battery drain, because even idle uses power. But it's definitely visible and measurable: from 3 hours of other browsers you'd probably have only 2 of Firefox.

> like a drunken Godzilla in mid-90s Tokyo.

You know you're old when you hear people making references to Godzilla in the 90s :-)

It is pretty fundamental. While Safari lacks features, it feels so much lighter and is noticeably less memory/CPU intensive. As a developer who needs every MB of memory, this makes me resort to Safari for pretty much everything. I'll occasionally use Firefox/Chrome when I really really need their superior webdev tools.

What tools in FF do you think are better than Chrome? Honestly, my computer is beefy (and firmly attached to a power source) enough that performance is rarely an issue with any browser, and Chrome dev tools seem to be superior in most ways, with the slight exception that it's harder to see what events are bound to an element, but the software I develop usually has fairly tight couplings so that feature isn't needed often.

I need someone to make a case that FF dev tools are better than Chrome, simply because without performance being an issue, I need confidence that switching would be a net productivity increase despite having to learn the slightly different tooling of the FF dev tools.

Well don't listen to me, my work is mainly backend. The only frontend work I do is restricted to side projects. But most frontend devs I know prefer Chrome. My personal preference to FireFox is paranoid me trying to avoid Google (but that's another topic).

It would be useful to indicate whether higher results are better or not for each of the tests. From what I know, Speedometer: higher is better; ARES-6: lower is better.

It's much faster than it was. I don't notice any difference when I switched. I switched just so chrome wouldn't have such a monopoly

FYI, firefox is working on switching to rendering the entire page in opengl which should bring it's motion mark score up substantially. Details on that (and how to enable it in nightly at the bottom of each post) at https://mozillagfx.wordpress.com

They’d better switch to using metal because Apple deprecated OpenGL for MacOS.

Webrender (the new renderer maxyme was talking about) will move to gfx-rs later on [1]. That allows the renderer to run on Vulkan, DirectX 11 and 12, Metal and OpenGL.

[1] https://github.com/servo/webrender/issues/407

Since Firefox is a cross-platform project it'd be easier for them to target Vulkan and then use the MoltenVK library to do Vulkan on macOS:



Work on WebRender started before Vulkan API was widely available (even now there are lots of users, that can't use it) and right now they focus on integrating it in Firefox. Vulkan support is kept to be implemented "later", as it should enable further opportunities for parallelization in future.

Sadly a substantial number of Mac users are on os versions that don't support Metal. And a substantial number of then wouldn't even get support if they updated their OS.

So Metal-only isn't really an option for many projects, it's OpenGL + Metal or just OpenGL (for now).

That's a problem that Apple fabricated themselves. All MacOS games would also have to switch and I don't see that happening other than through the MoltenVK library if they support Vulkan at all.

Apple deprecated a lot of stuff decades ago that still works fine (talking about macOS).

There will be a free OpenGL-over-Metal implementation sooner or later, so I would still go with OpenGL for a cross-platform application.

That's Apple's problem, not Mozilla's.

Going to affect the LibreOffice guys also.

Apple caused it, but Mozilla (and, well, everybody else) needs to pay for it.


                    |     Firefox     |     Edge        |    Chrome 
    Speedometer 2.0 |  65.70 ±01.100  |  59.10 ±01.300  |  86.92 ±00.600
    JetStream       | 191.73 ±14.598  | 226.78 ±12.531  | 162.21 ±02.1999
    Motion Mark     | 173.67 ±04.61%  | 432.36 ±13.07%  | 279.61 ±13.67%
    ARES-6          |  63.72 ±01.26ms |  77.97 ±20.19ms |  27.65 ±00.79ms

To compare: i7 6700k / GTX 1080 / Windows 10

                  |     Edge 42       |    Chrome 67     |     Firefox 61
  Speedometer 2.0 | [3]  76.8 ±1.0    | [1] 118.0 ±1.3   | [2]  85.7 ±2.1
  JetStream       | [1] 283.0 ±21.4   | [3] 235.1 ±2.4   | [2] 240.8 ±2.7
  Motion Mark     | [3] 273.2 ±12.9%  | [2] 305.4 ±0.9%  | [1] 445.7 ±0.8%
  ARES-6          | [3]  65.4 ±16.5ms | [1]  17.8 ±0.4ms | [2]  51.4 ±1.7ms

Thanks for putting the [1] [2] [3], it becomes easier to understand for someone who doesn't know about these test scores

FWIW the major factor driving user experience is content blocking. It is good to know the subtle diffrences, but any browser that ships with content blocking enabled by defult smashes the browser with the fastest rendering speed when it comes to actual browsing.

Moz://a could easily ship the best browser on the market if they actually cared about the users, instead of taking Google money and pretending to be a competition.

If they stopped taking the Google money it would be much harder to pay developers. I think this would be worse overall for the users, and I bet Mozilla thinks the same.

Disagree, there are many ways to financial stability besides taking money from a direct competitor. Are they that cash strapped?

They would be if the revenue from search engine deals fell away. They've been experimenting with different, user-respecting sources of funding (and still are), but also have to face with enormous amounts of backlash every time they do, so finding alternative funding is not as simple as you make it out to be.

> Are they that cash strapped?

It's more the opposite. They get a huge amount of money from Google. It's pretty hard to replace. E.g. see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mozilla_Foundation#Financing for a mention + source of 300 MUSD per year.

Assuming these are all in ms, how do you conclude that Safari is faster than Chrome or Firefox? It's slower in almost every test.

I know that at least for the Jetstream benchmark, higher scores are better (ie they're not just time measurements). If you make an assumption that makes the parent comment contradict itself, it seems like it would make sense to investigate your assumption instead of thinking the parent comment is contradictory.

I dunno, this _is_ the internet...

Higher is better in Motion Mark, Speedometer, and Jetstream. ARES-6 is elapsed time.

Safari beat the other two browsers in all four benchmarks.

FWIW, I keep coming back to Opera which feels the snappiest on the latest MBP 13". Any real-world numbers?

I've also switched to Opera a couple of months ago. I'm running Opera touch on android too. I've found Opera on desktop (Linux) to be faster than Firefox and Chrome and the only functionality I'm missing is "to move the tabs to left and right". Even the chromecast works on Opera, which is fantastic. I've been using the Flow functionality ever since I've started using Opera, and I think that is the second reason (well, after it being fast) I'm going to stick with Opera.

Strangely, I've also found that Opera's android browser is by far the fastest, very noticeably.

Also Opera is the only major mobile browser left with a decent text reflow implementation. Shame on Chrome for dropping it.

Yeah I agree with your assessment ancedotally. Firefox a few months ago had horrible performance in google maps and strangely facebook. I checked again today, it's improved a lot, but it is still noticeably slower for those two cornerstone websites. It was enough to make me stop using firefox again

I'm glad that the perf issues have been improved. They just need to get a little bit better and most objections for firefox would go away. Maybe as a workaround someone could make an extension that opens specific urls in chrome/safari when you open them. Only use chrome for maps and facebook for example :p

Too bad there is no way to install Safari on Windows.

Safari is heavily optimized for Mac, so porting it doesn't really make sense.


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