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A tale of how Google tried to win against Mozilla (twitter.com)
415 points by 8x8squares on Apr 15, 2019 | hide | past | web | favorite | 189 comments

One of the 'mysteries' of corporations is that they will either do nothing, or take an action that furthers their corporate interests. People don't seem to expect that of companies with a public face and seem surprised when they turn out to be just like any other corporate group.

It's a coordination thing - coordinating a large group of people is so challenging only simple messages like 'make a profit' get through on average. Simple things with clear metrics.

'Support the open web' has no metrics and is realistically not a comprehensive shared vision a company can rally around. The message that a Chrome-first strategy doesn't support the open web is (1) contestable (2) requires a lot of assumptions.

Anyone who believed or still believes that Google the Corporation is controlled by the engineers employed by Google is in for an eventual rude shock. Anyone who believes a corporation will support the open web for any reason other than it is in their interests to is likewise mistaken.

This is why focusing on capability is more important than focusing on intent, despite what human instinct generally suggests (humans overweight intent). Google is a scary company. They have more power over people than most companies, with the exception of the banks - and look at how the banks are regulated!

If you own Google docs, ensuring it doesn’t break or show an incompatible banner on competing browsers is not an abstract or metric-less concept, it is very tangible and measurable. In fact that’s the sort of thing I would expect any of their engineer to do as part of the development, unless they have been told that releasing a website that only renders on Chrome is OK.

But likely few people, if anyone, in the organization have any serious incentives (i.e. bonus/promotion) to proactively prioritize that. On the other hand, they almost certainly have at least bonuses on the line to add X users to service/product Y or roll out feature Z (server or client side.) So people work toward what the company rewards[1] and everything else becomes a break/fix situation as it occurs and time permits.

[1] There are also almost certainly individuals/teams in the company who also try to take the path of least resistance and attempt to hobble the competition to help get there. These types exist in every company to varying degrees.

I get your point but actually it should go the other way round. If the owner of Google Doc is really focused on own user base only, the incentive would be to make it the most browser compatible. By making it run on chrome only, google docs is potentially sacrificing its user base for a greater purpose.

Why? Remember that at this point, Google Docs is "sticky". Its audience is to some degree captive, and won't switch just because the document lags a bit on Firefox. What would they switch to? Office365, for which they have to pay? It wouldn't even solve their problem, as the document in question is a link they got from a friend, already in Google Docs. It's just easier to switch to Chrome.

Most of SaaS applications operate in this regime - they own user data, so they become "sticky" and non-substitutable very quickly. On the other hand, standardization of browser features makes browsers not very "sticky". This way, when a SaaS - any SaaS, not just Google's - works much better on Chrome than on Firefox, this drives adoption of Chrome by that much.

Online Office 365 is free and has more or less the same functionality as Google Docs.

Doesn't help you if someone else already made the document on Google Docs and asked you to collaborate on it.

What is the incentives for the owner of google docs?

If it i make google docs great/dominate, then firefox, and safari are critical. You would ask hard questions and have deep discussions around dropping support for internet explorer. If someone suggested khtml (picking something old and poorly maintained) would work with just a little effort you would have a serious discussion around just how much effort that takes.

If the incentive is to make google great then things are different. Losing a few Firefox users might well be worth it if you can convert a few others from firefox to chrome. You might even go so far as to needlessly break firefox once in a while to drive your incentive.

I don't know how google is setup. I've seen companies setup both ways. There are downsides to both.

Google is not a product company. It shelves and sunsets too many apps for that angle to make sense.

Google is an advertising company. The goal of every Google product is to provide the company with more data, to make users give the company more of their data so that data can be mined for more data.

Controlling the browser or OS means having the ultimate access to the users the ads will be shown to. So if a Google app doesn't help harvesting data, it must be used to push the OS or browser. Google allows for a lot of indirection but ultimately if a product neither harvests interesting data nor helps push users to using Google products that do, there's no reason to keep it around.

I don’t think this is true at all. From everything ive seen, large corporations favour shipping new products and new features. It seems rare to support existing customers unless there is a lot of money tied to it which is probably not the cases for Firefox users. This is doubly true since there is a known workaround to Firefox support: use chrome!

You can try and blame sales, you can try and blame “innovate or die” but also engineering always shares some blame too. Often it’s engineering who want to exploit shiny new tech or make new shiny thing and not do the inglorious work of maintenance and support.

Google of all companies should have cross-browser compatibility on all sites. They have the engineering know-how and employee base to automate testing even, I suspect. When Firefox is broken on a Google website it is hard not to feel some malicious intent.

The thing that happens in practice is the site is expected to be rebuilt on short timelines and at the end you find that it isn't trivial to make it work on other browsers. And the engineers don't even have machines that can reach their development servers that can also run IE, and the version of Edge that can run automated tests is so old that it doesn't support flexbox.

So now some VP has to make a decision whether to launch the thing to 85% of the users that also are on the companies own browser and support other browsers in the future, or delay everything on that. It tends to go the way that locally makes sense.

The engineer doesn't decide the schedule though. Usually their activity is controlled by having to do X tasks in time(X)-time(Y)=available_time, with Y being any set of reasons, political, financial, organisational that the engineers will accept as true.

Then as engineer what can you do? Either assume toxic Management (and switch Jobs) or do a subset of what you would usually do, and that means optimize for your own browser first and only work on bugs known to your management for the other browsers.

Admittedly, when I was at Google, I only worked on three different products. However, while there I had no real deadlines. My work was done when it was done. Performance was measured in quality and impact. This was in fact a part of the culture that was communicated to my team on multiple occasions.

With that said, there is some indication from the outside that the culture is changing. It can be difficult to sustain culture over time, especially in the face of massive success.

I wish more companies came closer to this.

its not always possible to sustain that philosophy of work economically for all businesses. I'm not defending every case of it, just that there are legitimate reasons why speed is valued over quality in certain cases.

> unless they have been told that releasing a website that only renders on Chrome is a requirement.

Fixed that for you.

> It's a coordination thing - coordinating a large group of people is so challenging only simple messages like 'make a profit' get through on average. Simple things with clear metrics.

No, it's a self-interest thing. Also known as greed, or selfishness. Do you honestly believe that if "being a decent human being" came with a simple metric like money, then companies would deviate one iota from pure profit motive?

Sometimes I wonder if people here are really this naive or if it's a case of "it's very hard to convince a man of something when his salary depends on him no believing it."

Self-interest is rarely an issue by itself. It's the coordination problems that make greed dangerous. Coordinating means recognizing longer-term win-win solutions - cases where sacrificing immediate personal gains leads to bigger personal gains in the future. When coordination fails, people tend to pursue their immediate interests, to the detriment of many (and sometimes all) of them.

I'm pretty sure that the executive that decided to break Firefox had that covered. They looked into the future, and realized that the extra money in their bank account would make their long term more pleasant, more than enough to offset any annoyances created by browser incompatibilities.

> cases where sacrificing immediate personal gains leads to bigger personal gains in the future

As Kaynes once said: "in the long run, we are all dead".

To go beyond this shallow level of morality requires an expansion of the concept of "self". Beware though: this sort of perspective shift might make you unemployable.

Coordination becomes difficult precisely because of self-interest, which leads to hierarchies of power. If your organization is built to disenfranchise your workers and empower execs, those execs will naturally have trouble hearing from, and thus talking to, those workers.

> only simple messages like 'make a profit' get through on average.

That was always the power of 'Don't be evil'. It gave employees official permission, perhaps even requirement to challenge decisions that could at least be thought of as being evil in some way.

It was a shame it was deprecated.

a colleague of mine pointed out many years ago that the slogan is not in fact 'Do be good' but rather just 'don't be evil'.

Be good is much more grey - all actions probably have some good but are not perfectly good. Whereas evil stuff is hopefully unusual.

There's the fallacy, then: there's no law that says that evil actions are inherently notable or eyebrow-raising. It's perfectly possible, and indeed common, to do evil by doing nothing at all.

It's still there in the Code of Conduct: https://abc.xyz/investor/other/google-code-of-conduct/

Scroll all the way to the bottom. It's the closing thought, one of the key places to emphasize something.

Corporations or any other business exist solely on one purpose: to make profit. If you're not making any profit you're not doing business, you're running a charity.

That's why you can't trust corporations when it comes to anything "open" and "free".

There is some nuance required here, since ‘corporation’ is such a vague term. Even Mozilla Corporation, which is wholly owned by the not-for-profit Mozilla Foundation, is a for-profit organisation (i.e. it aims to turn a profit and is taxed) which which reinvests its profit back into Mozilla’s projects and and other work which Mozilla considers to be in the public interest for a free and open Internet.

Everyone has to question the stated goals and desires of corporations, and ask things like e.g who is the corporation accountable to (shareholders? themselves?) and how open is the corporation about how it invests its profit. Attempting to turn a profit is in itself not necessarily an indication that everything they do is in the sole pursuit of profit for itself.

MoCo is for-profit in the legal sense, yes. But it doesn't "aim to turn a profit".

If it’s not supposed to make money, what do you think it does?

Mozilla plows all of the money it generates back into the products and services it develops. The goal is sustaining the Mozilla project and its work, not making/taking a profit.

This is too reductive a view: companies need to be financially viable to survive long-term but people absolutely found businesses with goals in addition to paying their bills and there's a spectrum of how profitable they need to be — Ubuntu, Red Hat, and Oracle are all Linux vendors but their approaches and degrees of aggressiveness about pursuing revenue vary considerably due to differences in corporate culture.

> It's a coordination thing - coordinating a large group of people is so challenging only simple messages like 'make a profit' get through on average.

How are NGOs and non-profit organizations coordinated then?

"Keep the organization going" (which is really the even simpler message under 'make a profit').

The fundamental purpose of any large organization is to preserve itself. Any organization that arises which doesn't have that purpose is eventually replaced by others that do.

> they will either do nothing, or take an action that furthers their corporate interests.

> - and look at how the banks are regulated!

And you can view the US Government in a similar fashion, except exchange corporate profits for power. Power is the currency of the US Government, and they will either do nothing, or take an action that furthers their "corporate interest": the increase of power. Regulations serve that role very nicely.

And by the way I see this mistake made all the time, but my spouse is a regulator and here's the dirty secret (well, it's not so secret to astute observers): the bank shills might be going on CNBC or Money Talk radio and go on tropin' about regulations, but they love the regulations. They work with the US Government to create new regulations. Regulations are a wonderful barrier of entry for them. They already have their decades long established regulatory compliance structures in place that would cost billions for the small bank to try and replicate. It helps keep the competition out. It's now a symbiotic relationship. Airwaves are regulated for similar fashion: keep the small broadcasters out, keep the big entrenched players on air and control the message.

If you regulate Google, you will further entrench their position as monopolistic/oligopolistic. You'll create the same situation that you have in banks: only the big have the resources to lobby and comply with complex regulatory overreach.

> finance and banking, cable television, health care, pharmaceuticals, agro-business – are all instances in which the competitive, free market has been interfered with by the paternalistic and regulatory hand of the government. It is not the market that has “failed” in these corners of the economy, but rather it is the presence and pervasiveness of the interventionist state.

> this, too, is typical of market critics such as Professor Stiglitz. They deceptively call “market failures” instances not of competitive free markets but of “crony capitalism” under which special interests have successfully interacted with politicians and bureaucrats to rig the market for their own benefit at the expense of both consumers and potential competitors who are legally prevented or hindered from entering sectors of the economy where they would like to try to gain market share and earn profits by offering better and lower priced goods than their privileged rivals are offering to those consumers.

I feel it is too often we mistake crony capitalism (and address that issue) for "market failures" and then demand that the regulatory hand of the government intervene, which further worsens the situation.

Quotes from https://www.fff.org/explore-freedom/article/governments-crea...

Making a broader point (not responding to something specifically you said but something I see often come up when discussing regulating Big Tech) -- I am not posting this article to say it is some dogma I 100% agree with, but it does offer a different vision than the leftist dogma that is often offered up by tech liberals as the solution to all their problems.

There are other ways out, and it involves freedom, which is neither easy to achieve nor free. It may hurt to get there, but you cannot complain about the surveillance state and government power and influence on our lives, and then be so willing to hand them more power the moment you feel threatened by the "big evil corp"

Sorry I brain dumped on your innocuous comment about a particular thing, Feel free to tell me "sir this is a Wendys"

> And you can view the US Government in a similar fashion, except exchange corporate profits for power.

The difference is that however flawed or imperfect it might be our government does have a democratic and representative system intended to give us a degree of control over it, and was designed with a series of checks and balances intended to mitigate the potential for abuse of power.

There are no such equivalent mechanisms in private corporations.

> There are no such equivalent mechanisms in private corporations.

To the contrary, you can view the free market as a parallel system of checks and balances where the people have voice and opinion: your wallet. Yes you can actually "vote" with your wallet in a free market.

And unfortunately unlike the free market, where greed of money actually acts as a balancing factor, greed of power is terrible in a democracy, and we have seen the power grabs of our court systems in not only this current regime, but previous ones controlled by democrats as well. Why is the court system so important? Why are senators willing to risk shutting down the government and achieving actually nothing meaningful session after session? Because there is absolute power there. And there is absolute power now in our imperial presidency, started by Bush, continued on by Obama, and now the loaded gun was left for Trump. If we restore power back to congress like the founders intended (and further restore power back to the people by eliminating political gerrymandering) we may return to the situation you describe, but I'll take free markets over the current broken system we have today.

At the end of the day, people have the choice to stop using Google Search, Youtube and use adblock to block Google's Ad networks. Consumers can simply elect to take a different action.

> To the contrary, you can view the free market as a parallel system of checks and balances where the people have voice and opinion: your wallet. Yes you can actually "vote" with your wallet in a free market.

As we can see from the way Microsoft and Oracle failed after milking their customers too aggressively, not to mention the way AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, etc. are begging everyone to come back. Yes, you can no-true-Scotsman a claim about those not being free markets but then you're going to have to bring in the essential role of the government in keeping markets from being dominated by large players.

> At the end of the day, if we all stopped using Google Search, Youtube and everyone used adblock to block Google's Ad networks, Google would be toast. Consumers can simply elect to take a different action.

Don't forget giving up Gmail, Google Docs, etc. “if we all” is technically true but really leaves out the degree of effort that it would take to get any significant fraction of people to switch — consider how effective Microsoft and Yahoo! were at competing with Google in those areas and ask yourself what it would take that they lacked.

When Firefox killed RSS support, they mutilated my bookmarks to remove all of the RSS URLs.

Those bookmarks were mine, and Firefox destroyed them without even giving me a chance to opt-out.

I can't use Firefox if it's going to do stuff like that. I use qutebrowser, instead.

I thought the thread would have more substance to it. His claim is that Google products would have performance bugs or would explicitly block any non-Chrome browser. As a long time Firefox user, I’m with him so far. But he loses me on the next bit where he rules out incompetence and then jumps to org-level malice. I don’t think it’s either. A simpler explanation is that Google simply stopped caring about non-Chrome browsers. People building say, Inbox were told it was acceptable to launch a product that is only accessible to one browser at launch. I hated that decision because it affected me directly but that’s not malice, simply prioritisation.

Of course standard disclaimers apply. I don’t work for Google, never held Google stock etc.

Have you tried using the new Gmail interface on Firefox?

It's ridiculously slow, to the point of being completely unusable.

A Google engineer claimed here on HN the reason was that the UI framework uses some deprecated API that is polyfilled in Firefox but available on Chrome.

Something like that should never have launched, but may have been a somewhat acceptable reason months ago. Now, after being in production for months, not fixing this is either saying "we don't care about those <10% Firefox users" or straight up intentional to force FF users to switch to Chrome.

Either of those amount to the same thing and classify as malicious to me.

I don't buy the "oops we dropped the ball on UAT". I was working in a bank once and we were making sure that our web-banking would work properly with EVERY POSSIBLE browser. And I don't mean IE, FF, Opera, Chrome.. I mean some end-of-corridor browsers that you could get from tucows. I don't buy that Google made mistakes like that with one of the top5 browsers. Did they ever pull a trick like that with Microsoft's IE?

According to an M$ intern they did which eventually caused Edge to fail and for M$ to say hey we'll just be a wrapper around Chrome and then they can't screw us.

This is "Shadow DOM v0" API and have been removed in latest Chrome:



Gmail never used Shadow DOM v0.

"Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."

But since Google's engineers are far from stupid, you may have a point.

This whole article makes me question that statement. I hear it all the time, but passive aggression is a very real tactic in a bloodless war.

For me it works fine. Whole page reloads in maybe 3 seconds, while browsing mails is pretty much instant.

You're both saying the same thing, but drawing different conclusions:

> Google simply stopped caring about non-Chrome browsers

> we don't care about those <10% Firefox users

Except that GP attributed that to incompetence and you to malice. I guess it's still hard to guess intent :)

Even if it can be rationalised as them not caring, or even just not prioritising support for Firefox, the point of TFA is you have to treat it as malice if you are on the other end. Maybe it's better characterised as neglect, but you have to actively call it out and fight it if you don't want to lose out.

It may be like being crushed by an elephant that's rolling over in it's sleep, but you need to wake the elephant up and tell it to sleep somewhere else.

I have completely shifted away from web UI to native application for the same reason.

> But he loses me on the next bit where he rules out incompetence and then jumps to org-level malice.

I think he has a reasonable justification for his position (two even):

- Google would have to be very incompetent for it to be incompetence (stated in the article)

- If Mozilla comes around every few weeks "hey guys, you broke it again" it's hard to argue they "don't care" or "don't prioritize" in the sense of "oh, we have so many things to do ..."

You even state it yourself: "People building say, Inbox were told it was acceptable to launch a product that is only accessible to one browser at launch."

Yeah. That's active malice if your company produces the one browser they choose. Whether you couch it as "simple prioritization" or not.

At the end of the day I still think the competition agencies should have thrown the law book at Google so hard that it bleeds. Start with a few billion and go up from there. Google had (has) a virtual search monopoly and actively used it to promote their browser. At least in the EU that's illegal. And that the agencies didn't kick Googles ass for it is for me one of their biggest regulation failures.

Google does save on the frontend, e.g. they use pixel-oriented design, which is incompetent. Maybe they have competent engineers somewhere deep in the backend.

It's not malice against another browser to build for where the users are. When the users were on IE and Firefox, Google built for those platforms, ignoring e.g. Konqueror or Opera. Now that the users are on Chrome, Google can ignore Firefox. Each product team can independently decide that the best thing to help the most people is to work on more features for 1 browser rather than fewer features for several browsers.

I was thinking about this comment and I thought of the perfect analogy: accessibility.

Everyone in the abstract would like to make accessible websites. Some people at Google are really passionate about accessibility and advocate for it, while others don't know as much about it or overlook it when building their product. There's surely some organization-level guidelines like "make sure your product is accessible before launch" that have likely changed over time as different people in power have prioritized different things, and with uneven enforcement when it comes time to launch a given product a given team will make a random judgement call as to whether to delay their launch or cut some other feature in order to make the product accessible. (Inevitably someone will protest here with "it's not that hard to make an accessible product, just do X Y Z and test configuration Q, and it's really important". That is true but doesn't change the reality that it has a cost that takes away from other work.)

Now substitute "Firefox compat" for "accessible" in the above and it all still applies pretty much perfectly.

I don't believe there's an anti-Firefox (or anti-accessibility) conspiracy at Google, but rather just that Firefox/a11y compat is not a hard blocker for launches. The net effect is the same, of course, in that it's as if every product somehow discovers a way to break a11y/Firefox, but it's actually just how entropy works -- unless you're continuously watching out for and verifying your a11y/Firefox it's inevitable you'll break it.

(disclaimer: I worked on Chrome but I wouldn't know either way if there is any higher-level conspiracy; as an engineer who has built multiple products in different orgs I have seen a general lack of specific guidelines/requirements for a11y/Firefox)

Even for smaller websites, I don’t think any web developper doesn’t test how the website renders on Firefox and Safari. Not doing so during the development process seems like a deliberate decision rather than an omission from engineers that do not know better.

Plenty and plenty of developers never tested on anything more than IE. And today on anything more than IE and Chrome.

And plenty of developers test on IE and Chrome and Safari For iOS and call it a day.

Its very much not obvious that this is a deliberate decision and not an omission.

This is an excellent analogy.

Personally I'm surprised by Google's attitude to a11y/Firefox because all their products have millions of users. 10% doesn't sound like much, but 10% (Firefox market share) of 50 million is more than the population of many countries.

I guess they rationalise it by saying "our product is new, with 0 users right now. Let's focus on the largest segments of users (Chrome, non-a11y) and ship an MVP. If it sticks, let's expand to Firefox, do the a11y work etc." If I was in that PM's shoes, this makes sense to me. As a user ... it feels wrong.

That's market forces for you.

If you just chase money all the time, you always end up with shoddy crap — there's no incentive to be any better than barely adequate, so you're constantly riding that line.

We only end up with nice things when someone dedicates time and effort _despite_ market forces. Mediocre businesses and their besuited human avatars spend so much time insisting they're “passionate” because even _they_ know that giving a shit is the only way you get anything other than crap.

I think the incentives to not support accessibility/minority platforms grows as the number of users grow, since the potential benefit of the features you would not implement because you have to work on a11y or Firefox support is multiplied by your number of users.

> 10% (Firefox market share)

Market share, across all platforms, is closer to:

* Chrome: 60%

* Safari 20%

* Firefox: 5%

* IE: 5%

* Edge: 2%

* Other: 8%

If you just mean desktop, though, then yes Firefox is about 10%. But mobile web is serious traffic these days.

>But he loses me on the next bit where he rules out incompetence and then jumps to org-level malice.

Google deliberately blocked Windows Phone users from MAPs. They gave bullshit reason that the browser wouldn't work. But it worked for those who knew how to change their user agent to something else.


It's stunning to me that in 2019 there are still people on Hacker News that don't believe in Google doing things like that intentionally.

I think Google's early culture and ethos (Don't be evil.) as well as their initial positioning as the anti-Microsoft helped them get a lot of "street cred" among tech workers. It's taking a while for that idealized image to change. I was still giving Google the benefit of the doubt right up until AMP started getting pushed hard.

This lack of care is awfully convenient. That each "oops" gave them more Chrome users might be a happy coincidence at first, but I'm sure some exec noticed the effect and suggested they continue to "prioritise" that way.

The distinction between accidentally building software that performs badly in any browser other than your own and intentionally doing so to deliver a degraded performance to people not using your browser is very small and hard if not impossible to determine from outside.

There is no good case that Google intentionally built the software in such a way that it would be slow in Firefox. But e.g. by not testing the app in Firefox or by explicitly using Chrome-specific optimisations or having the Chrome team create specific optimisations for those web apps (i.e. "good cross-team communication") you can effectively accomplish the same without ever having to spell it out as an intentional strategy.

If you build a browser with a significant marketshare and you also build widely used web apps, not spending any resources on fixing cross-browser compatibility or performance issues is effectively anti-competitive. Deciding not to correct "happy accidents" like "forgetting to test your apps in other browsers" leading to a competitive advantage is as bad as intentionally doing the same from the get-go.

We're talking about an international megacorp that is worth more than half a trillion dollars at this point. There are no accidents, especially not many identical accidents that remain consistent over years.

In my opinion, that is not really separate.

Pretty much all companies constantly whip their employees to get things done as fast as possible. And if that definition of "done" does not explicitly contain interoperability, then even the most well-intending employees will drop that sooner rather than later.

Which is the case for any side-goal. Security, code quality, documentation, tooling, test coverage etc. If you only prioritize one thing, other things will be neglected, unless you put explicit checks in place.

Which is why we have people whose job it is to manage these things. And if those managers failed to put checks in place, then we are back at either incompetence or malice of those managers.

I remember this "oops": http://fortune.com/2018/07/25/youtube-slow-mozilla-firefox-c... use of a deprecated API was slowing YouTube. Others may remember other oopses.

A simpler explanation is Google took a page from the Microsoft monopoly ‘Embrace, Extend, Extinguish’ playbook. It is illegal behavior designed to promote one part of your business by using the monopoly power of another part.

> People building say, Inbox were told it was acceptable to launch a product that is only accessible to one browser at launch. I hated that decision because it affected me directly but that’s not malice, simply prioritisation.

Would it have been acceptable if the one browser was Edge, Firefox or Opera? I bet dollars to donuts that they would not launch until they had it working on Chrome.

I don't know whats going wrong with Firefox. Im still an active firefox user. I intentionally avoid Chrome and use it rarely to see if the site which doesn't work in Firefox also doesn't work in Chrome. IMHO Firefox didn't make me feel slow anytime. The whole point of Google Chrome automatically logging-in as Gmail user throughout the browser should have sounded alarm for people who care about privacy. I do agree Google brings latest of web tech to Chrome fast, but that makes other browsers falling behind in terms of features. Catching up wastes lots of time for the other browser makers. IMHO monopoly in browser is not a good idea. We know what a monopolistic attitude brings to plate. Also, when we see new extensions for Chrome with an explicit subject as "extension for Chrome", for Firefox users it feels like being sidestepped. Then it becomes the onus of the Firefox user to see if he/she needs to get in touch the extension developer to see the possibility of portability. A caring developer shouldn't sidestep Firefox or even other browsers per se. If every developer becomes selfish about developing tools/extensions for their own environment, they are blocking the goodness to others.

> I do agree Google brings latest of web tech to Chrome fast, but that makes other browsers falling behind in terms of features.

Fire and Motion. By being first to add stuff that users (web developers) immediately start expecting from everyone, they ensure everyone else is too busy catching up with them to actually compete. Thus, they secure their leadership position. See: https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2002/01/06/fire-and-motion/.

Yes, Google's using all sorts of these tactics against Firefox.

I don't think Ff will survive, too many useful idiots out there to have any hope left.

It's pretty grim for Ff, but our real doom starts when they pull an Android and bundle lots of non-redistributable components to cut off their real competition, the Chromium clones. It'll be like Play Services in the aftermath of the Kindle Fire all over again, probably under the guise of Flutter and AMP.

Isn't there already something of this sort happening with DRM components? There was a story on here recently about someone whose Chromium-based browser was locked out of the video streaming addons. To be fair, that was more by the video streaming plugin developer than by Google, but it was still an example of undermining the open source portion of the product.

> To be fair, that was more by the video streaming plugin developer than by Google

The video streaming plugin was Google Widevine.

Same tatics been used with SPDY / HTTP2 / HTTP3. It leads to a very real competitive advantage for them.

Latest example I became aware of, React team speaking with Chrome one for special APIs.

Wow, that's just insulting. How did we get there?

They do claim it's the Chrome team that reached out to them, though.

One way or the other, will we ever see those "improvements" come up in other browsers?

Or it will be like when one reaches YouTube, Hangouts,... with other browsers?

"The browsers are working to standardise new lower level APIs that frameworks need"

Highlighting "standardise". They are NOT private APIs.

The usual way this works nowadays is that there's a proposal developed with minimal (if any) input from anyone outside Google, often tied to the specific architectures of Chrome and whatever Google app they are trying to improve. Once they publish it, other browsers point out various problems in the proposal, but Google is unwilling to change anything non-cosmetic because "we have put a lot of time into thinking about this and we're sure we're right". Unsurprisingly, the API fails to get adoption in other browsers and web apps unless forced to for web compat reasons.

As part of this process, Google publishes a proposed standards draft that goes nowhere because of the above dynamic plus because it typically doesn't actually match the Chrome implementation. The engineer responsible for the feature gets their bonus, which is tied to shipping the feature (and throwing a standards draft over the wall is a requirement for that; it's better than nothing, but also worse than an actual standard while allowing the engineer and the rest of the Chrome team to feel good about themselves).

Crucially, there are incentives inside Google for shipping features and throwing a standards draft over the wall, but no incentives for actually getting things standardized, adopted in other browsers, addressing feedback on the standards proposal, maintaining the standard, etc. All of this shows in the observed behavior of even well-meaning engineers who have limited time and bonus targets to hit.

There's some movement towards changing the incentive structure. We'll see how it goes. There are definitely _very_ well-meaning people on the Chrome team who are not happy with the state of things and are trying to improve them.

Disclaimer: I work on Firefox and see this play out quite regularly.

You mean like they have standardized LE Bluetooth, Local Files, Houdinini, PNaCL, Permissions manifests, WebGL Compute ?

Or like AMP ?

>IMHO Firefox didn't make me feel slow anytime

Agreed, used it since version 2. Been happy with it for over a decade.

It's not been flawless, but I never felt the need to jump ship. Flash used to be pretty slow on Linux and fullscreen video was sometimes a bit unpredictable. Of course, who cares about that now? :P The WebExtension transition was a bit premature in my opinion, but I think we're slowly getting there with new APIs. Prior to that, Firefox had the most rich functionality available to extensions of all browsers - and on mobile it's still better than Chrome.

Recently, it's been getting better. We had Developer Edition (though dev tools were always done pretty well in Firefox - I've been able to take screenshots of DOM elements via GLCI for 7 years, Google only got around to copying this feature in 2017), then Quantum. I'm optimistic about the future of the browser.

That's like saying "I don't know what's wrong with Windows XP, I intentionally avoid Windows 10 and XP works fine with me".

Right now Firefox has caught up a lot in terms of performance and security, but even now they are still not there.

It doesn't log you into your Google account, it doesn't enable syncing - it just displays your avatar and account name in the browser as soon as there's a Google Login cookie.

And why is tat a natural thing for a browser to do?

> I don't know whats going wrong with Firefox.

Pocket integration, advertisement on New Tab page, the Mr. Robot debacle, Google Analytics on extension page, etc.

That's hardly worse than anything done against your privacy in Chrome...

Doesn't mean they deserve a free pass.

With all the other benefits Chrome has over Firefox (e.g. advertisement on google.com), you'll need to be more than only "not as bad as Chrome".

How about extensions on the Android app, container tabs, better ui, no google integration, built in tracking protection etc

Doesn't seem to be enough, otherwise market share wouldn't be where it is today.

All I got out of that link of tweets was a series of "Look at all the ways big evil Google steered us off the internet". I'm not doubting any if those claims are true. At the same time, I don't think any of those malicious motives were strong enough.

That post came off as more of a whistle blowing speech from an oppressed developer. Nothing written was solid enough to make me think "Ohhh that's how Google killed Mozilla"

Just as Firefox destroyed IE, Chrome generally outperforms Firefox. If you dont believe me, read any benchmark out there. If you're too cynical, run them both yourself.

The GUI features Google introduced were very important. Draggable, swappable tabs that can be pulled out into separate windows, address bars with integrated search engines, built in PDF viewers. 10 years later these features sound like ridiculous remarks, but they were prominent selling points for many average users.

Not to mention, Google had an ever growing sense of brand identity. Especially during this time range of the YouTube aquisition, and rise of Android OS. Whether it's now or a decade ago, what is the first thing that comes to mind when the average user sees the name Mozilla? Does this demographic even know what Mozilla is? I stress average user because to us there is of course JavaScript and Netscapes heritage. Which is unfortunate to see Rome collapse this way, but so did IBM.

> The GUI features Google introduced were very important.

I don't trust my memory, so I'm checking with Firefox 3.0.1[0], released in July 16, 2008[1], definitely before the first release of Chrome. I can't be bothered to also test early Chrome and multiple old versions of Firefox, so the fact that a feature isn't in Firefox 3.0.1 doesn't mean that it came first in Chrome.

> Draggable, swappable tabs

Firefox 3.0.1 had these.

> that can be pulled out into separate windows,

Not quite — you could drag tabs between existing windows, but apparently not out into a separate window.

> address bars with integrated search engines,

If you entered a keyword, rather than a URL into the URL bar, Firefox would search for it in Google. (In addition, there was obviously the dedicated search bar.)

> built in PDF viewers.

Firefox 3.0.1 didn't have one. According to Wikipedia[1], the PDF-viewer arrived officially only in Firefox 19 (February 19, 2013). It was installable as an add-on earlier, but almost certainly not before Chrome's in-built viewer. OTOH Konqueror (KDE's browser) had an embedded PDF-viewer before either — at least as early as August 2008[2] — not that that's relevant for mainstream use, or for a comparison of Firefox and Chrome.

Overall, only 1, possibly 1.5 of the 3 features came earlier in Chrome. 1.5 were definitely already in Firefox when Chrome launched.

[0] I couldn't find the binary for 3.0.0, which was my first choice.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firefox_version_history

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Konqueror&oldid=2...

Chrome's rip / tear tab support was unmatched when it came out. IIRC Firefox would reload the page, and was generally quite slow.

The search features were brand spanking new too. Firefox had a search bar, but the behavior of Chrome is what later prompted Mozilla to create the omnibar function.

The PDF and Flash built in were major features at the time because they avoided needing to install awful and exploitable third party components.

Firefox may have had _similar_ features to Chrome, but they were poorly implemented and unpolished compared to what Chrome had from the beginning.

Here's a screenshot of Firefox 3.0.1, for example: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/30/Mozilla_...

By contrast, here's Chrome 1.0: http://img.brothersoft.com/top/screenshots/g/Google-Chrome-1...

Aside from the sheer cleanness of the UI (Wow, tabs on top?) Chrome's implementation of draggable tabs was better (the tab itself moved when dragged, not just an icon representing the tab), as was the Omnibox (it was way better at guessing when you wanted a search vs a URL; even to this day Chrome's site search features are better than Firefox).

Just looking at that old Firefox screenshot vs modern day FF it's obvious how many UI features were borrowed from Chrome.

I think the original comic that Google used to announce Chrome explains pretty well what made it different from other browsers of the day: https://www.google.com/googlebooks/chrome/small_00.html Just think about how many of those features eventually became standard in modern-day browsers and it becomes pretty clear how far Chrome was ahead of its time. (Skip to the section on "Search and User Experience" for the bit most relevant to this discussion thread.)

> Chrome generally outperforms Firefox.

I don't agree. Chrome is pretty fast at executing JavaScript, but it is hundreds of times slower at executing DOM instructions compared to Firefox. It is also the slowest modern browser, by very far, at executing CSS animation.

It is ridiculous that JS benchmarks are accepted as "browser benchmarks". They are probably so popular with tech journalists because they are easy to run. How do you properly measure page load time (of real pages over the internet) anyway?

I found benchmarks to be a red herring. For me, the most significant factor seems to be an adblocker. Without one, most sites are barely usable.

You can block ads in Firefox without using addon. There is an setting for that.


I only skimmed this page but I don't see it mention ads only trackers? Honestly, FF should just integrate something like ublock but this won't happen for reasons.

Anyway, the performance impacts alone are so huge, imo adblocking should be enabled by default for every user focused browser not supported by ad money. Simply a superior browsing experience.

Ads are considered tracker. I have enabled this setting and I don't see any ads. See "content blocking" https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/content-blocking#w_how-...

> How do you properly measure page load time (of real pages over the internet) anyway?

I usually use webpagetest.org, which lets you run page loads in instrumented browsers.

Nice, that one should be better known.

And Safari has seemed to be best at DOM manip for something like 5 years...

Part of Firefox's slowness is intentional on their part. They (as of last time I opened it) still refuse to silently auto-update the browser, and instead insist on telling you about it and making you watch.

So my experience opening Firefox always involves it saying "wait. Before we get to what you wanted to do, I'm going to spend a minute downloading a new version. OK, now I'm going to install it. Almost there. Now here are a bunch of browser tabs full of information about the things we changed. If you still want to do what you wanted to do after reading those, you can open a new tab. Because we filled the starting one with a message saying we updated Firefox, in case you hadn't noticed."

That means I never use Firefox unless I absolutely need to, to test that a new responsive layout works on them or after implementing a semi-cutting edge bit of the html spec. Which, of course means that they're guaranteed to have updated the thing at least once since I used it last, which means I get the whole two-minute sit and spin to load again.

Try the same usage pattern in chrome, and what happens is that Chrome loads up in zero point seven seconds and lets you get on with your life. It may then start updating in the background but you as the end user never need to hear about it.

It's nutty that Firefox still does this, 15 years after everybody else got it right.

Nice story, but Firefox about:preferences has an option like, "Use a background service to install updates".

I never checked it, so I guess it is on by default.

> about:preferences has an option like, "Use a background service to install updates".

But even if it's checked, it seems the Firefox managers/decision makers still think that it improves the users awareness on the Firefox brand that they spend your time on these (quoted from jasonkester's post):

"wait. Before we get to what you wanted to do, I'm going to spend a minute downloading a new version. OK, now I'm going to install it. Almost there. Now here are a bunch of browser tabs full of information about the things we changed. If you still want to do what you wanted to do after reading those, you can open a new tab. Because we filled the starting one with a message saying we updated Firefox, in case you hadn't noticed."


"what happens is that Chrome loads up in zero point seven seconds and lets you get on with your life. It may then start updating in the background but you as the end user never need to hear about it."

Note: Nevertheless I personally avoid Chrome as much as I can because I really believe Google has too much power. Monocultures, political power and all that. For me is Chrome in the position IE was before, even if currently a lot of web developers prefer it.

Good news: Full background update functionality is in the works.

(I work on the team that owns install/update at Mozilla, though I don’t work on it myself.)

Will that also help with the 10% or so users that are not on up-to-date versions?

It looks like the user base is still a bit fractionated.

Hopefully it prevents more users from getting caught up in that. As for the existing ones, that's an ongoing problem that people have been working on.

meanwhile chrome already has it and it "just works". do you guys understand that most people aren't developers who can reconcile with the phrase "it's in the works and is coming"

firefox team on avg seems to me to focus on random things the average user doesn't care about. firefox sync doesn't "just work" so chrome sync is better. firefox doesn't play youtube videos as smoothly as chrome does(i don't care that you need to implement some stuff to get youtube to work smoother, youtube working smoothly is a primary feature for most people - you lose users)

i simply don't understand why the focus is the way it is at firefox. your focus is on the open web while the focus at chrome seems to be acquiring and keeping users happy. then firefox team complain about how chrome has the lions share of the market and is killing the open web...

All valid questions, and as far as I understand it, it’s Mozilla managers who prioritise things that sound good to managers (like the famous Looking Glass background) vs. simply persisting on removing technical issues that are definitely visible to users (like being much less battery friendly).

I criticise because I care and actually use Firefox, and expect it to be better.

I'm using Firefox since version circa 1.5 and I think some of your arguments regarding "very important features Google introduced." are slightly off:

> Draggable, swappable tabs

I cannot recall Firefox lacked such feature. You can even swap tabs without mouse (ctrl+shift+pgUp/Down) what is not possible in Chrome AFAIK. And you have slightly greater control over order and appearance of tabs in Firefox.

> [..] that can be pulled out into separate windows,

Pulling tabs from / to Chrome windows is FMPoW UX disaster against proven patterns, at least in Windows platform [1]

> [..] address bars with integrated search engines,

AFaIR Mozilla experimented with "Awesomebar" way before Google Chrome Omnibar appeared. Things like accelerator searches and keyword bookmarks were there since its dawn. It was just "ease of use and lack of control" that Chrome introduced. [2]

> [..] built in PDF viewer[s].

Frankly, I don't have data who had integrated plugin-less PDF viewer first. Yes, it might have been considerable advantage.

[1] usually you can dragNdrop anything between any two windows using the "delayed hover on taskbar" mechanism: e.g. with Firefox you 1) drag the item (tab) from the source window (dragging cursor / icon appears), 2) hover on taskbar item of target window (window appears), and 3) drop the tab among other tabs in target window.

In Chrome you must 1) choose (focus) the target window first, 2) switch to source window, 3) drag the tab (source window disappears completely, revealing target window under some weird temporal tab/window that sticks to target or could be dropped to create own new window) and 4) drop tab among other tabs in the target window.

[2] as expressed in other comments, some users preferes adress bar to primarily consume just URLS and for search use isolated input. Vanilla Firefox Quantum can be set like this today, and you can have your search bar hidden in overflow menu but still one keyboard shortcut away.

> Frankly, I don't have data who had integrated plugin-less PDF viewer first. Yes, it might have been considerable advantage.

Also Firefox's PDF viewer was slow and buggy, while Chrome's (I think based on Foxit Reader) was awesome from the start.

I think Chrome's PDF viewer is terrible. The desktop Safari one is my favourite.

Google had an ever growing amount of Chrome advertising and bundling.

You think a browser becomes #1 by word of mouth advertising? They used almost every trick they could to make people switch.

I'm wondering why you felt the need to comment on the topic, if you don't even know such basic things.

We had built in PDF viewers in IE long before Chrome. In fact, it was even better because it was an OLE component, so IE could embed Adobe PDF, not the cut-rate alternative Chrome has. (Edge is even worse, it’s PDF viewer can’t even search large documents properly.) We have massively regressed on that front over the last 20 years.

Embedding Adobe PDF was possible in Chrome and Firefox too. It was a terrible idea because generally you do not want full-blown Acrobat handling untrusted files from the web; for many years PDF + Flash were by far the top exploit vectors for malware.

Chrome's embedded PDF reader didnt support all of the extraneous crap Adobe did, but that's a feature. It was also sandboxed, which IE's implementation was not for many years.

> Chrome's embedded PDF reader didnt support all of the extraneous crap Adobe did, but that's a feature. It was also sandboxed, which IE's implementation was not for many years.

It also doesn’t work very well. There are many PDF files, particularly those with OCR text, where search doesn’t work in Chrome but works fine in Acrobat. (It’s also slow to index files for searching, and lacks the UI to distinguish between a search failing because the file hasn’t been indexed and search failing because the text doesn’t exist.)

We regressed in terms of content features but have made enormous improvements in speed, reliability, and safety. Clicking on a PDF used to mean waiting a long time for Acrobat to load, clicking through various nags about updating because they were years late to the automatic-update party, and closing whatever things their marketing department were currently promoting.

The IE PDF reader setup you're describing is extraordinarily dangerous.

> address bars with integrated search engines,

That is the worst thing to happen to Web browsers that I can remember. When I type an address into that bar, I expect the browser to attempt to contact the server I specify. I do not expect it to decide that what I typed was a search term and send me off to Google.

Firefox had actual quick searches in the address bar years before. That is where you prefix what you type with something that unambiguously says where you want to search (e.g. I've had Wikipedia set up for many years now, I type "wp <search term>"). Having a separate search box, as Firefox always had as far as I can remember, has its virtues too as the box stays around between page loads.

Searching in the address bar does nothing but serve Google by making people forget about urls and having all Web access routed through them.

Back when IE was king and there were separate search/address bars, everyone I knew either went to search engine websites or used the search bar. Only those in my tech-literate circle occasionally typed in full domain names when they knew exactly what website they want to go to. The web was marketed as a place to "find anything", and the address bar didn't do that for the regular user.

True, and a big reason why Google effectively removed the address bar. People are now too dumb to type addresses? Let's them fall back to our search engine even more often than they originally did.

Now when I'm typing an URL, I must make sure it has a valid syntax, because otherwise I'm redirected to the search engine right away. Kind of annoying, since one reason I don't go through the search engine is to avoid being tracked.

(Less of a problem now that I use DuckDuckGo by default, though.)

> People are now too dumb to type addresses?

This is unwarranted condescension. Many URLs are long and non-obvious — do remember that people usually want specific pages rather than a top-level homepage — and there's a thriving industry registering domains which are one typo away from something legitimate and loading them up with ads & malware. For the average person, it's safer and faster just to let Google figure it out.

> Now when I'm typing an URL, I must make sure it has a valid syntax, because otherwise I'm redirected to the search engine right away.

I don't know about Chrome but Firefox shows the status while you're typing so you can tell when you've entered something such as a space which will cause it to be treated as a search query instead.

> For the average person, it's safer and faster just to let Google figure it out.

Of course. Only a genius like me can use the address bar's auto completion. I know: even my programmers colleagues at work reach for the search bar, I must be a unique snowflake.

Seriously though, the difference isn't that big, barely a speed bump. But that speed bump is enough to cause people to go around it, and use Google even when reaching for something as simple as news.ycombinator.com!

I think it's less a matter of capability, and more a misunderstanding of the costs. Giving your search terms away doesn't seem like such a bad deal, considering the search engine is free to use. We just tend to forget that we pay with our data, and that data is valuable because it will later be used to sell us things we would otherwise not have bought.

But such a cost is so indirect and so removed from its actual cause that we tend to just ignore it. I know I often do.

I agree that there's a downside to having search as a fallback to locations but try to be a bit more empathetic for the people who might type something like “support.apple.com” as “supportapple.com” and end up somewhere sketchy.

If they've previously hit the site before, autocompletion will work but lots of people hear about sites in contexts which don't give them a direct clickable link on the computer they want to use and they're a lot more likely to have a negative outcome from that than Google's data mining.

I still keep my search and address bar separate, mainly because the search bar is static across tabs, whereas the address bar loses information whenever I click away. I like a bit of both styles, though I generally use the search bar.

You can still do that in Firefox. It's in the settings.

> The GUI features Google introduced were very important. Draggable, swappable tabs that can be pulled out into separate windows

Meanwhile all the extensions for better tabs are still broken because the tab bar still exists across the top. They had a more capable browser then they killed it. I doubt these issue are visible in their telemetry.

> address bars with integrated search engines

The original mozilla suite had this, no idea why it was separated in Firefox.

> The original mozilla suite had this, no idea why it was separated in Firefox.


Mozilla thought it was a good idea to avoid sending every keystroke you type to Google.

Turns out people don't care or complain loudly that it doesn't work like in Chrome so now it is combined by default AFAIK, but there is a fallback for people like me (and many other HNers).

As for why consider what happens when you type <somethingyouwouldprefergoogledidnotknow>.com

Until the .com this looks like a search.


- internal websites with revealing URLs

- support websites for things yoou don't want ads for (mental conditions etc)

- etc

I used to be in the nothing to hide, nothing to fear camp but 2 decades of Internet use have changed my mind (even if I still think I have nothing to hide for police or family.)

> Mozilla thought it was a good idea to avoid sending every keystroke you type to Google.

It's not like that's the only choice. They could have local auto complete and only send the search request to google when you hit enter.

> It's not like that's the only choice. They could have local auto complete and only send the search request to google when you hit enter.

... and that's what it used to do IIRC.

Today you'll also have to turn off "Show search suggestions in address bar results" to get back to that behaviour it seems.

They didn't try to, they actually won. Microsoft switching to Blink was had news for Mozilla, and sites that are "optimized for Chrome" started to crop up all over the place.

Yes, Firefox is slow on Macs, but you should consider switching to it. We know how it went with IE back then. On Android, the extension support alone makes it so much better than the competition.

Is Firefox slow on Mac for you? I haven't noticed slowness in a long time.

I don't use a Mac, but it's a known issue with the high-resolution ones. I believe it doesn't use the OS compositor, so it ends up redrawing too much.



I've used a few retina Macs to do various kinds of web dev. Firefox tends to do some things fastest (eg: re-layout when resizing the window), some things the slowest (eg: certain large, complex CSS animations). For most things, it's perceptually equivalent to Chrome or Safari. Some things that are fast/good in Chrome will be slow/bad in FF, and vice versa. The biggest shortcomings I currently face are (1) a lot of banding when layering lots of complex gradients, due to a poor job of dithering and (2) weird handling of certain colors on my P3 display due to the assumption that colors are in the full display space rather than sRGB.

A big problem of early Quantum Firefox on HiDPI Macs was its high battery usage. I think it got slightly better with later releases, but I don't have data to support that.

For people running in non-default scaled resolutions. In the default configuration it's somewhere in between Safari (best) and Chrome (worst).

I have never run my MacBook Pro in anything but the default scaling resolution. Quantum has been and continues to be a nightmare on my device. Unusably slow performance with high CPU utilization and occasionally spiking CPU utilization to 100% for prolonged periods. Usually long enough that I am forced to reboot the laptop.

Unfortunately, a non-native scaling mode is the default on new Mac laptops now. You need to switch to one of the custom scaling modes to get a true, native 2x.

I've heard this but haven't seen it on any new hardware — I thought it was limited to 2016 or so.

> On Android, the extension support alone makes it so much better than the competition.

Firefox doesn't open links handled by apps directly with the app, like almost every other Android browser does. This makes it unusable for me.

Here's the bug report (7 years old) btw: https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=806385

I consider that a feature. If I go to youtube.com with firefox, it means that I intentionally want to avoid opening the app, so I don't want every video I click on in firefox to open with the youtube app.

However, I think there was an option to have it enabled if you wish to.

+1. YouTube example is spot-on, as this is no.1 case where I actively avoid the app in favor of the browser. YoutTube's app and mobile website have some ridiculously stupid extra filtering that silently removes many videos - videos that are suddenly accessible if you check the "Request desktop version" box in the browsers. It's almost an universal occurrence that the video I'm searching for is one that gets silently filtered out in the app.

Nb. with extensions you can also get background play and even ad blocking on YouTube.

> background play

Oooh, I so very much want that. Thanks, I'll check it out!

> However, I think there was an option to have it enabled if you wish to.

No, otherwise that bug would have been marked as fixed.

Eh, that's interesting, I quite prefer that behavior over Chrome's, as it gives me more control with (what I feel is) minimal extra effort.

it slows down your workflow with minimum effort too. transforming/accessing data quickly is a big part of doing anything on mobile and i don't need a browser that stops the flow in between

I personally don't mind that. Also, it gives you a button to open the page in the app, so it's not like it makes it unusable.

When Firefox killed RSS support, they mutilated my bookmarks to remove all of the RSS URLs.

Those bookmarks were mine, and Firefox destroyed them without even giving me a chance to opt-out.

I can't use Firefox if it's going to do stuff like that. I use qutebrowser, instead.

To be fair, they communicated that change. Did you miss the chance to export your RSS list? I think it was supposed to export an OPML so you could add them to another feed reader. Some of them are even available as Firefox extensions.

> without even giving me a chance to opt-out

It didn't flip a pref, the infrastructure behind that feature was removed because it was a maintenance nightmare, and not enough people were using it. You could have opted out (for a while) by switching to the ESR.

I haven't tried qutebrowser, does it have extension or RSS support?

> I haven't tried qutebrowser, does it have extension or RSS support?

It has a userscript:


... but extensions in qutebrowser are admittedly in a very early and immature state now, and the codebase for them is going to be changed.

Didn't Firefox automatically export them to an OPML file on your desktop?


Sounds like you got hit by a bug, because it definitively should've: https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/feed-reader-replacement...

So, you just restored from a backup then?

I disagree about Firefox losing users due to Google's Opps incident.

I forced the use of Firefox over 100s of computer and witness the growth of Chrome all by user installing it themselves. And when I ask them why, trying to talk them out of it, the number one reason was, Chrome was WAY faster than Firefox at the time. From Cold Start, Prefetch, rendering, first time to paint, actual UI etc. Every single god damn thing. And many users notice. At first I would not help them to install Chrome or told them Firefox was simply better. Over time one by one they just install it themselves.

And that was the era when Mozilla thought Javascript speed would solve everything, and Memory bloat was the root of all evil and started MemShrink later.

It wasn't about the Open Web, Standards etc. None of the users cares about any of these. It was the actual browser UX.

I see some of those "Oops" items. Recently, Codero's hosting dashboard stopped working with Firefox. They blame the Firefox configuration. They're trying to do something with cross-site cookies that Firefox doesn't like.

I didn't understand the parallel to Sidewalk Labs, can someone please share more context?

>gmail & gdocs started to experience selective performance issues and bugs on Firefox. Demo sites would falsely block Firefox as “incompatible.”

>All of this is stuff you’re allowed to do to compete, of course.

Of-course not, any country with decent enough anti-competitive laws would give a verdict in favour of Firefox. But I do understand why Firefox did not take legal route.

Related reading (2008) https://thetruthaboutmozilla.wordpress.com/2008/02/25/the-go...

(That’s a year an a half before Chrome launched with a leaked comic book)

It's also worth mentioning that the Firefox team did the same kind of "oopses" to browsers embedding Gecko. See this interview with Mike Pinkerton, who later went to Google to work on the Chrome Mac team:

"People will make changes to do something good for Firefox and because Firefox is the only really blessed project by the Mozilla Corporation and the Foundation, that’s their only focus. So they’ll make changes that work great in Firefox and then they’ll do—they’ll either like, break Camino’s build just entirely, or things will stop working, or things will slow down, and nobody will really understand why. Because, you know, there was no communication about, you know, this change might have this effect. There’s also a lot of strife back and forth between features that are implemented in the core Gecko in a way that they will only work with Firefox. [...] So we’d run into situations where we try and implement a feature and we discover we just can’t do it. And we kind of raise our hands and say, “Ah, can we get this fixed?” And the answer would invariably be, “Well, it works in Firefox. Who cares?” [...] And that’s something that eventually made me sour greatly on the Foundation and the Corporation and why we kind of took our ball and went elsewhere, and stopped trying to work directly with the Foundation for the majority of problems."


I don't see the two situations as comparable. Websites are supposed to work on all browsers. But while Gecko is open-source, it only really cared about being Firefox's engine. And it's perfectly fine for a project like that to only care about the browser that pays its development team. If you care about non-Firefox usage, you can roll up your sleeves and pitch in, implement your desired changes, and try to get them merged upstream. But it's not fine for a company like Google, building products for "the open web", to intentionally build sites that don't work in non-Chrome browsers (let alone explicitly manufacturing fake "incompatibilities"). Leveraging their dominance in web apps to force adoption of their browser is the exact sort of monopolistic tactic that's supposed to be illegal.

Did they actually offer/promote Gecko for embedding? I kind of doubt that.

Read the full interview. Netscape was owned by AOL back then and the motivation for Gecko was to have an HTML engine that could be embedded in AOL's software. Firefox was just one browser based on that engine, but became the primary focus once its popularity rose.

Camino was another browser based on Gecko, but died in 2011 when Mozilla killed off support for embedding: http://caminobrowser.org/blog/#mozembedding

For the past 3 years I've noticed gmail being extra slow on Firefox. Every other site loads almost instantly, except gmail. Even when I used to use Facebook, it would load fairly quick. Chrome wasn't much quicker or slower. Except for gmail. Gmail loads almost instantly on Chrome. I've basically given up on using mail's web interface even though I much prefer it over all linux mail clients.

With AMP, the fact MS Edge is joining the chromium ranks ensuring more and more sites are Chrome only, all the "oops" stuff. Google is worse than MS ever was

A tale of how Google won against end users - introduced aggressive auto-updates under the guise of "security & safety".

Since Inbox is often brought up as a textbook example, I'll give my two cents and some history. This is my post-mortem perspective, and the opinion of my former team members may be different.

I worked on Inbox from inception (as a former member of the GWT team), at the time Google was moving towards 'mobile first' (notice how there's no still Web version of the new Google Calendar), so the new generation of apps prioritized architecture and design for native-mobile and material design over desktop. Inbox was mostly written in a shared Java codebase transpiled with GWT (later J2CL) and J2ObjC (for iOS), so it could run natively on mobile from a single codebase. It obtained >75% code reuse between platforms, but a result of that however was a rather large SPA on the Web.

Because of its design as an installable material-design mobile app, it forced bleeding edge technology on the Web version to maintain a shared codebase. So for example, because it includes an entire compiled datastore/synchronization engine that is too heavyweight to run on the browser UI thread, it made early use intensive of WebWorkers to simulate multithreading (at a time when there were lots of browser implementation bugs in Workers). For most of the time that I worked on it, Firefox Dev Tools couldn't even debug web workers well, and often Firefox dev tools would just fail with huge size of SPAs like Inbox.

Getting material-design style animations compositing at 60fps cross browser was also fraught with peril because the different browser renderers had very different ways they scheduled GPU texture uploads for compositing, different hazards when they fall back to software rasterization, and very poor devtools visibility into what would cause anomalous painting problems (excessive repaints, layouts, or straight up freezes waiting for the GPU). Yes, today that is all much better, but in 2012 it wasn't, and short of getting ahold of browser engineers and asking them to hook up C++ debuggers or instrumentation to tell Web engineers why rendering was failing, debugging performance jank was hard. When we ran into a rendering problem with Chrome, we'd file bugs against Blink, and when we encountered problems with Firefox, we'd contact the engineers there. Perhaps because of heavy work on Firefox OS at the time, the Blink engineers would respond with help faster, so that obviously had an effect on performance differentials and delays, especially when the problems are mystifying to a Web Dev without browser internals knowledge.

Even something as simple as Javascript arrays were fraught with peril. Inbox made heavy use of protobuffers. Protobuffers compiled to JS exist as sparse arrays in Javascript due to proto-number extensions having huge gaps. Well, on Firefox at the time, if you did something like var a = [], a[100000000]=1, and then Object.keys(a), it would return an array with 100 million elements IIRC, but Chrome/Safari/Edge would return an array of 1 element. When you tried to debug this, Firefox Dev Tools would just freeze. It took me a week of inserting console.logs and bisecting until I figured it out.

(see https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1045391 https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1088189)

Now you could say argue one of the following: 1) Google could have held up shipping Inbox until Firefox and Edge fixed all of their bugs that were blocking it 2) They could have just shipped the Android/iOS versions and held up the Web versions 3) They could have chose a different architecture (no shared code with mobile, rewrite a custom 100% web version from scratch) 4) Avoided excessive use of WebWorkers or SPAs 5) Not required a UI design/DOM structure that would require complex layout and painting stressing rendering pipelines

But no where in there was any active attempt to try and disadvantage other browsers. They sat out with an ambitious design for a Web app that they wanted to be 100% in parity with native mobile versions, and then found out that the Web platform itself wasn't up to handling it. Chrome could barely handle Inbox in 2012.

Here's an article about the referenced "slow play" by Sidewalk Labs: https://thelogic.co/news/exclusive/waterfront-toronto-chair-...

Unfortunately most of it is behind a paywall. Can anyone else provide additional context?

How about we put all these 'oopses' in one place and keep updating?

SSDD: Windows isn't done until Lotus doesn't work

reCaptcha on any other browser than Chrome is nightmare. Hate what Google is doing to web.

They did it to Opera. Why shouldn't do it for Firefox?


I don't understand why nobody even thinks for a second that the reason why chrome is used more is just because it's better. If firefox would just stop complaining and look at chrome and what it does right they might actually learn something from it. Like microsoft who are now going to use chromium

One way Mozilla could still differentiate is by doing privacy&security all-out.

It currently seems that Firefox is only a little more privacy-respecting than the browser of one of the most invasive surveillance dotcoms.

It's been that way for years, and every year is lost ground.

I suspect that Mozilla's need for funding, and the sources of funding for so long, are what have them looking so similar to a dotcom.

When users won't pay money, Mozilla has seemed to focus on ways to sell its users to big companies.

Maybe there's a viable combination of expense reductions, refined focus, and switching to solely charitable (hands-off) donations? (Maybe we'd see little sponsor logos for most of the FAANGs, for various motivations. And for some other Fortune 500s, for good PR. And for public-interest organizations and government units/programs.)

It's definitely true that Mozilla needs funding beyond what users are willing to donate. Especially with other 'free' browsers available. But all scandals that I'm aware of were nonsense that journalists wanted to believe, in order to land the next big "the good guys are actually evil"-story.

A more privacy-friendly default search engine is clearly the elephant in the room, but their other financing strategies have been done to try to supersede that and to my knowledge did never infringe on privacy. If you feel different about one of them, please read up on it. There's been a lot of misinformation out there.

Mozilla would make themselves liable to prosecution, if they were to simply violate privacy without a very good reason, as privacy is an explicit goal of their legally-binding non-profit mission statement.

Having said that, there is a good reason why Mozilla has to compromise in terms of privacy. And that is webpage owners' interests.

Webpage owners want to track you. And they can opt to not support Firefox, if they can't track you. Which is kind of bad for Firefox and ultimately for Mozilla's mission, which is making the web a healthier place, for which they need Firefox even just as a second implementation of the web standards.

So, yes, they do have to balance out webpage owners' interests and yours. And yes, they cannot give you as privacy-friendly defaults as some of the browsers that don't have to care about webpage owners' interests. If you're a tiny Chromium fork, no one's going to block you, because mother Chrome is absolutely lovely to webpage owners.

But you should notice that Mozilla gives you the tools to fix the defaults and goes to great lengths to be privacy-friendly when webpage owners are not involved.

Every year is lost ground:

1. Your conception of a modern browser is what surveillance&brochure dotcoms want it to be. "Tools to fix the defaults" doesn't fix this.

2. The anti-user facilities in your browser that are now expected are what dotcoms wanted. Taking them away will be harder than saying they couldn't have them in the first place.

3. The now-massive complexity of browsers (to provide features and directions that the dotcoms want) is also a barrier to engineering and improvement, and also keeps out upstarts.

4. Dotcoms couldn't always afford to block Firefox.

With the now small market share, Mozilla might be a charity case, or it might be an antitrust buffer case. I'd favor Mozilla adopting a public interest charity model, and taking PR money from big corps (among other sources) in exchange for a sponsor logo, but not selling its users in any way.

I feel like Mozilla had definitely had a culture change during this whole time period, and I'm not a huge fan of where it's ended up. It seemed to start like a ray of light from the heavens, proclaiming to all how much better a browser could be than Internet Explorer. After that, it entered what I would call the Firefox golden age, from 2006-2011. In that time Firefox built an identity around browser customization and user choice. The shift to copycat Chrome with rapid versioning at Firefox 5 in 2011 was the start of the end for the power user culture at Mozilla. Ever since then, Firefox features have been trimmed with every release, seemingly in lock-step with its shrinking market share. Functions that used to be accessed with a button press were relegated to the about:config menu, and then to extensions, and then support for those extensions gradually rotted away.

Mozilla's respect for their users has shrunk so much that something as simple as putting the tabs below the address bar and bookmarks bar is virtually impossible on Firefox 66, when it used to be as simple as clicking the customize button and dragging things where you wanted them.

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