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Dear Firefox, please keep the RSS icon (scripting.com)
42 points by davewiner on Jan 15, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 41 comments

This may be an old school rant but I'm old school so...

There has been a bothersome trend in software in general lately to strip things down. It used to mean that a new version of software contained new features on top of those you already had but lately there has been a push to remove things that are viewed as used by only a small percentage of the user base. Sadly many of those things are used by the more 'advanced' segment of the user base.

FF4 is removing the RSS icon and also the bottom status bar which are the two that irk me. Not just turning off, removing entirely. The status bar functionality has to be restored by a plug-in now, which only serves to bog the browser down. The RSS functionality I'm sure will be the same but again, more plugins to replace what was native functionality.

I fully understand catering to the bulk of the market but this should apply to default settings, not removing features entirely. Default them to off if you want an uber clean interface, don't gut existing features.

I have always avoided Chrome (even with its speed) because I can't stand its UI but once FF4 ships I may just make the leap since really I'm not seeing much difference anymore. (though FF does let me put the tabs back down where I like them) Just a word from one old school guy... if you have features, don't remove them just for the sake of streamlining. Someone out there relies on that... and that someone may just be one more rat that jumps ship.

I'm using FF4b8 and the status bar is in "off", but you can easily turn it on.

It's not removed entirely, it's just hidden. And that's what I love about Mozilla. Even if they remove it entirely, there will always be an extension to put it back. And that's a thing Google will never let you do with Chrome because they thing they know better about how you use your browser than you.

I'll be impressed if you can find a status bar in Beta 8 since it was removed in Beta 7 ;) There is now an Add-ons bar under tool bars that is used to contain plug-ins that used to sit on the status bar. But the new bar doesn't have the actual status label anymore that shows you what the browser is doing.

Status-4-Evar plugin restores the functionality in the way it should have been done from the start. Make the Status bar a full toolbar, and make the Status Label an element you can drag in and out like every other toolbar element. No functionality lost, no plugins required, native code, and lots of choice for the user.

Anyhow, I've digressed enough off the OT.

I don’t really understand why removing the bottom status bar is a problem for you. Firefox will still display where hovered links are pointing to. (I would argue that displaying that information in the address bar is a great solution that’s much easier to understand.)

I also don’t understand why you have a problem with turning the RSS button into a toolbar button that’s not on the default toolbar.

And I don’t understand how you go from that to the conclusion that removing features is always a bad idea.

I really like that the status bar has moved to the address bar. The extra screen space is great. I still have Firefox 3 on my laptop and it feels like there is too much in the way now.

I even like that the menu bar has been rolled up into the Firefox button. There is no reason to display those menus all of the time.

It isn't a new trend, when it came out Firefox was great because it was a cut down Mozilla.

So come out with a new browser that's a stripped down version of Firefox, but leave Firefox where it is (and keep updating it for security fixes).

FF4 did not remove the Feed icon entirely, it's been removed from the awesome bar, and defaulted to off, but it exists as a positionable toolbar icon, you just have to configure your toolbar, and add the icon whereever you want to regain access to it. My recommendation for the position is the very right end of the awesome bar, for familiarity's sake.

Thanks a bunch for pointing this out. I was annoyed they removed it but not yet to the point of searching for it (although I did hope for a comment like yours when coming).

> FF does let me put the tabs back down where I like them

I don't understand how putting tabs above the location bar can be equated to stripping the browser down. It just makes more sense, because the location bar is specific to the tab, so it should be contained "within" the tab.

> FF4 is removing the RSS icon and also the bottom status bar

Wait so there's no way to see where links are pointed now?

Yeah, they over-lay it on the URL bar now, doesn't work well IMO. There is however no way to monitor individual requests while a page is loading. I.e. you can't see that your favourite website isn't loading because their Ad provider is down.

I never found the RSS icon too useful. I think Firefox should keep the ability to parse RSS but most feed readers have an auto-discovery feature and that's usually enough.

In sum, the icon is another example of a broken UI for RSS, which is otherwise a great technology.

But it's only there if the page you're looking at has a feed, and it indicates the presence of a feed through auto-discovery.

Sites evolved away from having links to the feed in the HTML text BECAUSE browsers got this feature, led by Firefox.

Your point that Firefox led site owners away from linking to the feed is an important one which I hadn't considered.

I also agree the icon's useful for indicating an existing feed. It's easy not to think about this use, because most of us probably just notice it when we need it but rarely click on it.

Other than the icon being an indicator, I don't find the way Firefox handles feeds too useful (that mix between bookmarks and news feeds).

You can easily tell firefox to use another program (or even service) to subscribe to the feeds. I've got mine going to google reader with them. The icon has been removed from firefox 4 (I'm running the betas). I don't know if they'll put it back in by default from any amount of pleading, BUT surprise surprise, there's an extension that reimplements previous functionality. https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/rss-icon/

> I never found the RSS icon too useful.

I did. I never actually clicked on it, but I find telling me that a site has feeds valuable, because if I'm interested in the site's content I can just paste its URL in Reader and know it will work.

The icon integrates with Google Reader just fine. Pasting it manually is an unnecessary step. I use it to add all the feeds I add.

It probably doesnt help my case that I never really used RSS, but I do appreciate Mozilla's effort towards stripping down the the core of the UI (and entire application)

A browser that lacked unessential features was the original appeal for firefox and if anything chromes popularity is in a large part because people see it as a speedy lean alternative to an ever bloating firefox.

I dont see why a plugin is less user friendly than yet another neglected preference feature, optional value added features is exactly what plugins are for

My mother doesn't know what that is or its use. Neither does my brother, sister, neighbor, dog, ipad, etc. So I'd say only geeks know what a feed is. Then let geeks use an extension and don't bother +90% of internet users with that.

It is in a sense like developer tools, if you know where they are you can easily activate them and use them, if not, they are out of the way.

Good riddance.

While it's probably true that geeks make up most RSS users, that doesn't mean either that it should be this way, or that it will remain this way, or that there is some obvious and immutable reason that it must be this way.

In fact, of course, using an RSS feed is a very simple concept, which turns out to be extraordinarily useful to normal, non-geekly folks who just want to read a lot without being pestered by all the normal encumbrances of the web.

So, your argument strikes me as weak.

While I agree that feeds are a simple concept, the vast majority doesn't care. Feeds have been available since the early 00s and its adoption hasn't grown outside the geek circles. People just don't like to be bothered with the simplest complexity.

I bet less than 80% of ordinary people even use bookmarks, being way simpler than feeds in concept.

Now in the good spirit of a designer in search of a solution to everything and everybody, add an option in preferences to show/hide the feed button. How about that?

The preferences in Firefox are already cluttered. Using about:config seems appropriate.

Edit: Some are claiming that you can still add the button to the toolbar, it’s just off by default. That sounds extremely reasonable and confuses me at the same time because I don’t understand what all the fuss is about.

Because it's not an indicator anymore.

The button is grayed out (disabled) if the website offers no RSS feed. It’s still an indicator.

I'm afraid that in the upcoming years, Chrome will shred Firefox' market share to confetti pieces.

I haven't played with the latest FF4 beta, but FF4b7 it was pretty simple to add a Feed button, as it's provided, though defaulted to off. The one issue with it is that it isn't contained in the awesome bar any longer.

If you want to re-enable it, you just have to configure your toolbars, and find the feed icon, then position it where you want it. Sorry, this is non-descript, I don't currently have access to Firefox so that I could provide the complete steps.

Do we know how many people use the icon, even as something like "% of Firefox users"?

It does seem a bit silly to remove the RSS icon without any data on its usefulness. Then again, maybe Mozilla has some data we're not privy to on how many people actually use that button besides Dave Winer.

Yes, we do. Heatmap from Mozilla [1], accompanying blog post [2].

Participants had to opt-in, the study collected data for five days from 9,667 people.

7.3 percent of all participants clicked the RSS button at least once in those five days. That places it behind the favicon (those seem to be accidental clicks [3], 9%), the Go button (11.4%), as well as the New Tab button in the tab bar (12.7%) and in front of the New Tab button in the toolbar (not displayed by default, 5.2%) as well as the Site Identity button for websites with SSL (4.8%).

A participant clicked the button 0.3 times on average, the 9,667 participants clicked about 3,000 times. Since we know that 7.3 percent of all those participants clicked the button, we also know that those who clicked the button did so about four times on average.

[1] https://heatmap.mozillalabs.com/mozmetrics/

[2] http://blog.mozilla.com/metrics/2010/07/01/firefox-main-wind...

[3] If a website doesn’t use SSL, clicking the favicon does nothing in Firefox except displaying a short note that the current website doesn’t use SSL. Since only 4.8% click when a website actually does use SSL (and when the favicon turns into the Site Identity button which is clearly identifiable as such) the majority of those who click on the favicon when it doesn’t look like a button which will display information about certificates seem to be clicking accidentally. Clicking the favicon selects the whole URL in some other browsers (Safari, Chrome, I don’t know about Internet Explorer) so my suspicion is that many of those 9% expect Firefox to do something similar. (I would and it drives me crazy.)

I'm surprised to see that as many people use the Back button as the Awesomebar.

Thanks for the data. Seems like its a relatively underutilized feature.

Why not implement it as an extension, like Chrome does?

Because it's already in there, they have to do something to take it out. But that said, I don't know why -- I'm just a user of Firefox. Haven't wanted to switch because of things like this. You get used to the quirks of a product.

I'd be fine with an extension in Firefox, but like the author I use this ALL the time. And I'm not a fan of the Chrome extension. It doesn't even show the feed URL in the address bar.

It sucks that this is being removed. All of the other browsers have it and so many websites have supported it. By removing it from easy access you discourage the use of an open standard. It is not just about who clicks on it. It is about who supports it. RSS is used by all kinds of applications and services and anything that discourages its easy usage makes the web a less open place. I can not imagine that there is a significant amount of code to make this work and I don't see how it is causing a reduction in the usage of Firefox. It definitely does not impact workflow but actually improves it. If Firefox is following the road of the bean counter then I think it is time to move on.

Doesn't the RSS icon in Firefox only show up when an RSS feed is present? Has Mozilla corrected their stats for that? https://heatmap.mozillalabs.com/mozmetrics/?os=all&color... Maybe it was only clicked by 7.3% of the users but 10% of the users went to a site that had an RSS feed available.

I installed the Firefox 4 beta.

It's crap.

I've now removed it and will no longer be using Firefox.

Seriously, it is that bad, and will probably never get any better.

RIP Firefox. We hardly knew ye.

Care to elaborate? What is so bad about it? What makes it crap?

removing the RSS icon

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