Actually, it shouldn’t be surprising at all since people lost a lot of useful functionality that still do not have replacements today. Users were not stuck on XUL as a technology. They cared about functionality and power user functionality!
I’m using mainline Firefox and not some fork that still supports XUL addons, but I still miss not having good replacements for:†
* Tab Mix Plus (I haven’t seen any replacement for this; and if you haven’t used this in the XUL world, you wouldn’t know the value of it)
* Lazarus (form saver)
* Session Manager (no, other session saving extensions still feel iffy to me)
For reasons I haven’t delved into, these extensions cannot live in a WebExtensions world today. So yes, I’m one of the people hurt by the choice not of removing XUL, but not providing alternatives even several years later.
> The main drawback is, of course, that WebExtensions do not give add-on developers as much power as the promiscuous extension mechanism. I hope that all the power that add-on developers need can eventually be added to WebExtensions API but that’s something that takes engineering power, a critical resource that we’re sorely lacking.
I don’t have a lot of hope since years have passed with progress in making some more addons work with WebExtentions but not really close to being there for other addons. Though the Firefox team has said it’s currently not planning to implement Manifest V3, if and when it does (and depending on how it does), that could potentially make uBlock Origin obsolete. That would be a much larger blow to the users.
†: Please let me know if you have suggestions for great replacements for the first two extensions.
I loved Tab Mix Plus too and yes, there are some things you still can’t do in WebExtensions that you could do before. And that sucks. But I stopped using Firefox despite those options because it was so slow and unstable, especially on the Mac. By the time it got better, it was not only too late, but Chrome had extensions.
Catering to the loyalists is what killed Firefox. What’s more important to normal users is speed, not Tab Mix Plus.
I guess the issue is a different view of what Firefox should be; I feel that many people would be satisfied if Firefox was just a small(ish) browser catering to power users. There's nothing wrong with that: power users are users too (and there are more of them than many seem to think), and I feel that many people are somewhat frustrated that all software seems designed with only my grandmother in mind. This is an issue that extends far beyond XUL by the way.
Except that it couldn't work in today's world, as more and more web sites would stop working in Firefox. Firefox needs significant market share to survive with an independent browser engine. Having an independent engine is key to achieving Mozilla's mission: https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/mission/
You can build a browser focused on power users if you don't need to worry about the engine. Perhaps you want to take a look at Vivaldi?
They were the ones marketing it. Mozilla cut the branch on which they were sitting and is now shocked that they lose maretshare.
There's no way to do that in today's environment. Browser development is extremely expensive (there's only 3 companies in the world developing competitive browser engines) so you need money. For Firefox, the only way to get serious cash is to have serious marketshare.
And in reality there isn't that many "power users". I mean, even a lot of developers (like me) use barely any extensions and in any case prefer more speed than more extensibility.
> For Firefox, the only way to get serious cash is to have serious marketshare.
Not true. That's only valid if your single income is marketshare-based. Mozilla for some unknown reasons hasn't made any serious attempts in the last 15+ years to get any alternative income, instead it was satisfied with being feeding on google and yahoo, while wasting money on some obvious dead projects.
Of course, but then there's enough Chromium skins, no?
Without independent browser engine you have no clout in defining and ratifying standard (as MS recently found out) which means giving Google full control.
> Mozilla for some unknown reasons hasn't made any serious attempts in the last 15+ years to get any alternative income, instead it was satisfied with being feeding on google and yahoo, while wasting money on some obvious dead projects.
They had some feeble attempts which largely failed.
Mozilla's main expertise is still browser technology based and it is probably difficult to monetize it.
Most of them are more than skins. A browser is the interface and whole workflow, not just the way the website is displayed.
> as MS recently found out
What do you mean?
> They had some feeble attempts which largely failed.
They had no SERIOUS attempt. Well until now at least. They did some half-assed with pocket and now VPN-reselling, but never touched real business.
The user interface is just minor part of the browser.
Mozilla's mission is to "free the web". Something like that can't be done with slightly sleeker UI on top of monopolistic rendering engine. You need to have an influence on all levels.
I've read it this week in some interview with the FF developers that ever since MS gave up on homegrown Edge engine and adopted Chromium/Blink their voice on the standards committee is weak and lacks clout.
No wonder. It's google who keeps strict control over chromium/blink. MS can discuss, propose, even send PRs, but it's google who will decide what gets in and what doesn't.
> They had no SERIOUS attempt. Well until now at least. They did some half-assed with pocket and now VPN-reselling, but never touched real business.
Well yeah. But it just sounds a bit simplistic to say "just earn that $500 million profits somewhere so you can sponsor your side project Firefox".
That depends on behaviour.
> I've read it this week in some interview with the FF developers that ever since MS gave up on homegrown Edge engine and adopted Chromium/Blink their voice on the standards committee is weak and lacks clout.
As if they had much to say before...
But that's the point, your influence depends on what you do and who is backing you. Chrome-Edge is just too small and Microsoft is not doing much to build their influence at the moment.
> Well yeah. But it just sounds a bit simplistic to say "just earn that $500 million profits somewhere so you can sponsor your side project Firefox".
If you have a budget of some hundred million dollars and a very big and enthuastic community, then it's very easy to make money. Even having enough money at all can make you money, though this might be ruled out for Mozilla because of their legal status.
Please send some of those "3 easy steps to start earning $500 million a year" to the Mozilla, they could use them.
Do you have ideas that can help Mozilla make money? Preferably without abandoning Firefox on the way?
Plenty have been voiced over the last decade. The problem is that none of the observations are ever received in earnest. Particularly starting in the Kovacs years and onwards, MoCo folks have adopted a default stance that if you're not within the figurative walls of @mozilla.com, then there's something you just don't understand as well as the anointed ones do. Meanwhile, none of the moves that the better-knowers have made have ever panned out. And in any discussion that does occur, there are all sorts of rhetorical tricks and intellectually dishonest maneuvers that are brought out to shut the conversation down. The Corporation's insistence on its own competence at this point is a lot like the "I have people skills!" scene from Office Space, only it's not a comedy and just depressing.
There's the separate matter, which is that Mozilla's problem isn't even a lack of money. Mozilla has money (and will continue to have money for at least some time). Mozilla's problem is its profligate spending and that it has chosen for itself a set of decisionmakers with Netscape-levels of ineptitude who can't be avoided.
If course correction is even possible at this point—and it's probably not—then the question is, who are the Hewitts and Blake Rosses and Ben Goodgers in 2020? Has Mozilla leadership even fostered an environment where those types can thrive? (Spoiler alert: the answer is no.)
1. Wikipedia has more "users" than Firefox.
2. Despite this, the donations Wikimedia receives are only about a fifth of Mozilla's budget.
However, people use their browser far more than they use any single website and hence might be more willing to donate more to Mozilla. (For example, I love Wikipedia, but I've gotten even more value from Firefox.)
Overall, this would be unlikely to cover all of Mozilla's expenses, but I'd also be surprised if donations (after such a campaign) would be less than 10% of current revenue; in any case it'd be a valuable source of diversification.
It's possible that the legal relation between the Foundation and the Corporation doesn't make this possible.
IIRC it started as a fork of Wikipedia from a few years ago, so no idea of its currently quality, but it exists.
Stack overflow has the same sort of setup, for the same reason. (though, that site is far more likely to die/get perverted)
They wouldn't start charging for Chrome, as that's not their business model, but they might move part of their development out of (open source) Chromium and into (closed source) Chrome or further curtail extensions (e.g. adblockers) etc.
As more browsers move to a Chromium base, Google might have a similar push to move more of Google's value-add out of the open-source Chromium core to the closed-source Chrome product.
The first two are browsers; software, the second two are stores of knowledge.
Browsers have been free for the longest time now, they are a commodity; the 'for pay' browser market died a long time ago. Possibly that was a mistake but that's where we are now and the parties that supply browers (Mozilla, Apple, Microsoft, Google to name the bulk) all try to win marketshare because they benefit from having more users. Putting up a barrier will automatically play into the hands of the opponents.
Wikipedia is a free and much larger alternative to EB, which historically was very expensive. If Wikipedia goes away there is no longer any incentive for EB to have a free tier, which is the one thing they can do to erode support for Wikipedia a little bit.
Apple would continue offering a relatively privacy-friendly alternative — but would require you to switch OS to use it; Microsoft might fork Chromium, but I fear that they'd only pay lip-service to privacy.
Obviously these analyses are complicated by the fact that in both cases the forces that helped create Wikipedia/Firefox wouldn't disappear. If Wikimedia died, then people would put up their Wikipedia dumps online in their own MediaWiki instances. If Mozilla died, then people would either try to keep Firefox alive or try to maintain a set of privacy patches on Chromium. How successful they'd be is another matter...
If you design your thing for the average user, it won't work well for any user.
The only benefit Firefox now has over Chrome is a vague political notion of not using Google-made software, something that there isn't enough call for in the real world to drive significant marketshare. Their real differentiation was sacrificed on the altar of ease of development, and now what we're left with is an also-ran, in multiple meanings of that term.
Worse, an also-ran that's doing increasingly arational things, almost as if they're wildly groping about for the mythical marketshare.
A majority? I doubt it. I think it’s an extremely vocal minority that don’t care about the slowness of their browser (pre-e10s, pre-quantum), about things breaking (XUL extensions) or about UI features for the broad masses.
I’d bet money that FF’s 25% in Germany would be far closer to US numbers if they stayed where those vocal people want them.
All I'm saying is that based on my observations people's views on what Firefox should or should not be are different, and that this explains why people are still "angry" about the extensions breaking and such. I'm not having an argument with anyone.
If anything, using the MUA bundled with your browser was less power-userish than using a stand-alone client.
Honestly, Opera is one of the best pieces of software I've ever used. It had tons of features and customizability without being slow or feeling "bloated". I never quite understood why it failed to gain marketshare 10 years ago while Firefox did.
Firefox was free and Opera wasn't. Geeks don't trust proprietary garbage.
Any theory which talks about niche features without accounting for that push is unlikely to be right.
Marketing gives you leg up, but at the end of the day, a product's merits have to live up to it. Both IE and Safari had an even bigger advantage than marketing by being built-in to their respective platforms, and both have lost marketshare to Chrome.
I'll say pointblank I don't know what people see in Chrome, but they clearly see something in it. To me today, Safari, Firefox, and Chrome are essentially identical, which is a bad spot to be in for everyone except the market leader, because there's no incentive to switch.
UPDATE: There's a stronger case regarding Google sabotaging Firefox, but I don't think that accounts for the magnitude of the switch, here's a detail of the accusation:
Google Chrome became the dominant browser around 2012, after being released in 2008. That's an astronomically fast takeover, if there were any shenanigans that accounted for it, they'd have to be quite aggressive (and therefore discussed more at that time).
These days, I agree that the main problem is that any modern browser is good enough that people don't feel a huge pressure to switch. I prefer Firefox's developer tools but that's not exactly a mainstream need. The most obvious angle would be something about ad blocking and privacy where Google has significant financial incentives not to follow but I' m not sure how much of an audience that could add up to and it will definitely get hostility if effective.
People on HN make the mistake of assuming that the mythical 'average' user will not use such features. And convincing them otherwise is so difficult. The folks who love your product will plumb every depth of it. Not everything needs to be dumbed down to the dirt.
If normal users cared about speed they can go and use Chrome. The framing in many of the comments here seems to be that there is 1 ideal that all web browsers should be working towards; and it is represented by Google Chrome. That isn't really the case, there are multiple interpretations. It is very annoying that Firefox chose the path of being Chrome-but-worse. All the people who want Chrome are using it - or chromium - and they don't need Firefox trying to implement the same thing but in red.
Firefox has lost substantial features over the years - Chatzilla for example was a great little add-on. It is quite a bold strategy to write a blog post saying "we stripped out a bunch of features, but trust me you didn't want them". Even if it is true there doesn't seem to be the level of regret here that is appropriate for trashing an ecosystem that has never recovered.
Catering to power users is the only reason Firefox ever had market share in the first place! Normal users do not install their own browsers. Normal users do not care about their browser. They barely even know what a browser is, other than it's the thing they use to get on the Internet.
Every bit of Mozilla's original market share came from power users wanting a browser with more features and power than Internet Explorer. And once the power users fell in love with it, they evangelized it relentlessly to their friends and family. There were campaigns for power users to go install it on grandma's computer. This is the only way Firefox ever got on a normal user's computer. (This was also the only way Firefox got headway in enterprise environments, though it would have made a lot more if Mozilla had listened to power users and system admins and added the group policy and installation options they asked for.)
Chrome crushed Firefox because it was a decent, fast browser and because of the massive marketing budget. Chrome was and is pushed hard on the biggest web properties on the world - you get notifications on Google and YouTube if you use anything other than Chrome. Various other installers also installed Chrome, unless you unchecked a box. There were TV commercials. It was the default browser on Google platforms from phones to Chromebooks. That's why Chrome won.
When Firefox killed feature after feature that catered to power users, power users cared less and less about evangelization, and some of them switched to Chrome because Firefox was becoming increasingly Chrome-like, Chrome dev tools were evidently pretty good, and many people perceived Chrome to be faster. I still use Firefox, but I honestly don't see any reason to other than ideological reasons, which are becoming increasingly tenuous and not really a winning argument even for power users.
This is why Firefox usage will continue to decline. It doesn’t matter how much faster Firefox becomes. It doesn’t matter how much easier Firefox development gets. Mozilla alienated their core user base, they aren’t coming back, and normal users are never going to start installing niche browsers that aren’t pushed hard by multi billion dollar companies. Mozilla has no path forward. They’ve screwed up irrevocably and the best they can hope for is to manage the decline and cling to their remaining user base. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like they’re going to be able to manage even that.
Its nice they help an addon or two, but does not help if they neglect the overall addon API & don't even let you install other addons not on their cherry picked list, even if they would work just fine!
What are you talking about? When I go to the store on Firefox for Android right now, it shows me a list of 11 "featured" extensions (so 9 is already wrong). To test whether that list is exhaustive, I searched for an extension not in the list (Old Reddit Redirect). I successfully installed it and confirmed that it works. So as far as I can see, both of your claims are completely wrong.
They are rolling the update in vawes abd not all countries are yet affected. But you can still try Fenix based Firefox by installing the Beta ir Nigtly versions
Fenix uses a whitelist-only model for extensions, and had only around 9, last I checked. Based on some github issue comments, it seems like they'd prefer to stay with a whitelist approach for the foreseeable future.
If your extensions are important to you, you'll need to disable auto-updates for Firefox in the Play store, and avoid using 'update all' and similar - that is, if your extensions aren't on the list.
A version of the old app is available through F-Droid, but it purports to de-mozilla-fy the browser, so I presume sync and other things may not work the same.
A couple more info points - yep, they indeed have a list of addons and if the addon is not on the list, you just can't run it, full stop. Even if no one actually tried if it is broken.
I know this as a fact as someone posted a patched build with a custom list covering many more addons. I installed that and tried two addons from that list I use on desktop Firefox. One did not work (ImTranslator), but the other run just fine (Furiganaize) as on desktop. So Firefox developpers are blocking user from using perfectly working addons as they can't be bothered to add them to their fancy list of allowed addons.
About Fennec from F-Droid
I have been using it since Mozilla broke the perfectly working Firefox install on my Android tablet with the quarter baked Fenic based release and so far I have not found anything missing even if it is supposedly cleaned up from non-free parts. But I don't use Firefox sync, so I can't comment on that.
BTW, Fenix based Firefox build is being worked on for F-Droid as well (they had to cut out all the non-free stuff Mozilla puts into a normal Firefox binary, reportedly a lot more than for Fennec) so if Fenix becomes usable one day, one can get it from a source that will not stealthily replace it by something broken.
Of course, most of them never happen, and people are disappointed.
Not sure what this one used to provide, but I rely a lot on Form History Control  to save my input before the browser crashes (which it tends to do every ~10 minutes these days) and stupid websites. I have done so for years, probably even when XUL was still a thing.
I use panorama Tabgroups as well as treestyletabs, but they have trouble coping with my 600+ tabs workflow. I think I might write my own with a graphical tree representation on a pinned tab, sort of a mindmap with tabs inside, comments, notes, etc. As this is how I would like to use my browser.
* Having a relatively big number of tabs (~600 in multiple tab groups)
* Having a lot of extensions
* Using sway/wayland
* Combination of the following environment variables: MOZ_ENABLE_WAYLAND=1 MOZ_WEBRENDER=1 MOZ_USE_XINPUT2=1
It used to work fine, until something broke a few weeks ago, maybe in a sway/mesa/firefox update (running ArchLinux). This was way worse when autoscroll was enabled, so I disabled it as there is a bugreport for that.
I'm on holidays, so the browser is more of a productivity sink than something else, at times. Usually I don't mind much, and might restart it or leave it. Plus, 10 minutes is kind of an overstatement (it sometimes happens faster, but last three crashes took 23, 17 and 18 minutes respectively).
I'm living on the bleeding edge, so that kind of stuff happens. I's recently gotten way worse with Qt apps as well, so I would tend to blame sway. But running it as is is a good way to find patterns that might help resolve the issues once reported. I've said a few words in #sway, but didn't get an answer.
Don't worry, I could probably change my configuration in a few seconds if I needed more stability in a pinch (use another compositor, maybe another browser): I've launched a few Qt applications with -platform xcb recently.
I'm getting errors ranging from [GFX1-]: Receive IPC close with reason=AbnormalShutdown to Gdk-Message: Error reading events from display: broken pipe
I don't know for sure, but those error messages look more like what happens when one process (eg the renderer) crashes and severs its connections with others. They're probably unrelated to the actual problem.
It may be that what you're running into is a side effect of forcing WebRender on blacklisted hardware? I could imagine it starting to use a new API that's buggy in your driver. </wild-handwaving>.
I have found this extension useful, for saving my machine when I leave too many tabs open.
Just make sure to whitelist things you don't want unloaded. Like infinite-scroll webpages.
For me, the number one feature originally was to force absolutely all popups to appear in tabs, not windows. This is actually just a built-in option now (maybe it was all along?) 
I used to use a feature where you could hold down the right mouse button and use the scroll wheel to switch tabs - I can't remember now whether that was provided by Tab Mix Plus or FireGestures. Anyway, now it's in FireGestures' successor, Foxy Gestures .
But the main recommendation is Tree Style Tab  (plus its own extensions  e.g. I use TST mouse wheel, and there seems to be a tab colouring one if that's your cup of tea). The key thing is that TST draws the tabs itself so it can make any manipulations it likes to them, which it can't do with the original tab bar in new extensions (you can hide the original tab bar  to avoid confusing and wasteful duplication).
I realise that laying your tabs out in a totally different way is quite a big change but it's actually an amazing change by itself. It's a much more logical way to layout tabs, and you can see more tabs at once (without resorting to multiple rows - yuck!). Once you get used to it, using a linear tab bar seems ridiculous in comparison. Plus extra vertical screen space is useful and horizontal space is typically just wasted. I recommend playing with its options a bit though; I find its default behaviour (collapsing trees automatically when you switch to another one) a bit frustrating.
 http://kb.mozillazine.org/Browser.link.open_newwindow.restri... (set to 0)
Take a look at browser/base/content/browser.xhtml
Extensions from other people (which is 90%+ of them even for extension developers) just need to be loaded, and your own extensions only need a text editor and something that can make zip files.
Maintaining Firefox build and update environments is a multiple-employee full-time job at Mozilla, and that's before you've even started modifying anything. It's just too much to expect an end user to do this (and even extension developers are end users most of the time).
It boils down to a simple question - does Firefox intend to go after power users in ways Chrome will not or cannot? The answer to this question used to be very clear to me in the first decade, now I think the answer is no. Even the Rust based oxidation efforts seemed limited to coming up with better implementation of the same primitives that Chrome offers, I didnt see anything about offering fundamentally different tradeoffs / choices.
If Firefox course corrects to going back to power users, I will be the first one to cheer them on. The vision for firefox has to be to reduce the gap between what browser developers can do and what end users can do.
There's a theoretical set of changes Firefox could make that would turn webExtensions into an extremely accessible, powerful user-facing feature for on-the-fly customizing and inspecting what their browser was doing. And I don't think it would need to be that inherently less secure.
It would need to approach security differently, but I feel like many of these are solvable problems, and many of the changes required (better sandboxing, active tab permissions) are stuff we want for extensions today anyway.
Some of the changes that came out of dropping XUL are really good. A lot of Firefox's styling is handled through CSS now. That should be a huge accessibility win for new users, and it should provide a nice gateway for new users to think more about moving on to making their own websites using the same technology. Except... userChrome.css is hidden in a config directory somewhere and not loaded by default. They built a really nice way for users to quickly add minor styling customizations, and then they hid it from end users.
One question I have as a user - what is an acceptable grace period for coming up with an equivalent replacement when you take an API away? Even the CSS styling not being loaded by default that you pointed out suggests that Firefox devs appear to view extensibility as something that they have to support cautiously and grudgingly. There is a chicken and egg problem here - if you make it harder to develop, build and ship non trivial extensions to end users then only a tiny fraction of users will use them. Then you will use the lack of usage of these extensibility features to deprioritize the development efforts that go into them.
I would really like someone to take on the task of building a "Workstation" browser - built for power users.
This is a really good point.
> what is an acceptable grace period for coming up with an equivalent replacement when you take an API away?
I really don't know.
I am frustrated with the current state of extensions in Firefox, even as I acknowledge that the situation in Firefox is still way better than it is in browsers like Chrome or Safari, and even as I remain hopeful that the Firefox extension ecosystem could be really good. I am sympathetic to the argument that it's an engineering resources problem. But, that also makes me really nervous about the Mozilla cuts that happened recently, because now how long are we going to wait for Servo to be in a usable state, if it even ever gets to a usable state?
Like you mention above, when you're forging a new trail in an underdeveloped area and making a case that users would benefit from these features if the ecosystem supported them enough and trained users to use them, you need some freedom to be flexible and experimental and to waste some resources forging that trail. And if resources are as scarce as Mozilla is claiming, then what are the features that are going to be cut first? The experimental, trailblazing ones, the weird ideas like, "shouldn't there be a section in the Firefox options where users can just live-edit the CSS to the browser?".
But that's not really a useful thing for me to say, because I have no idea where we can go to get that champion, and I'm at least low-key worried about Mozilla's ability and willingness to be that champion.
But agreed. I think it's about more than just XUL vs webExtensions, I think it's a broad tech/cultural issue about making the case that end-user-accessible control and customization is important.
Done correctly, the replacement should have already been there for one release before the deprecated method is removed; this is because the downstream developers also need to transition to the new code. Ideally there's some amount of time involved (so no releasing two versions in quick succession without letting people have time to move off the old way). That depends more on the scale of what people have been doing with your old APIs.
Note that the deprecated method only has to work; it doesn't need to be performant. That means doing it as a shim on top of the new way is fine (even though it's code that might be thrown away soon).
All of this has ~nothing to do with what Mozilla had been doing with Firefox, of course. I'm still waiting for features that existed in XPCOM that are no longer supported.
I expect it to become the Safari you would have to install.
For example I was maintaining VimFx as an unsigned extension for a while after it wasn't allowed in the store. Sure, it broke often, but the fixes were generally easy. However what really killed it was the lack of interest from not being able to be listed in the store and not being able to run on stable Firefox releases. If we could attract even a handful more maintainers I'm sure we could have kept it mostly up to date.
To this day I can't get back some of the functionality that I lost. Firefox is now just a different chrome. Sure, it is made by a different company, but the user functionality is now almost identical. (Sure, Firefox has about:config, but that is limited to what Mozilla imagined)
I'm really glad that Mozilla adopted WebExtensions. I think it is an amazing solution for most extensions. Plus it is safer and cross-browser. However there are a couple of extensions that need full access, and I wish that was still an option, even if there is no stability guarantee.
Both Firefox and Chrome support the Native Messaging API  to communicate with a process outside the browser.
This would still be absolutely less than ideal as the process would have to be installed separately (I believe) and maintained separately for each platform - but it would allow the extension to be listed again.
For VimFx the primary problem is that it makes major changes to how input is processed. It can't get the level of input access it needs from the WebExtension APIs. You can see this in the WebExtension versions of similar vim-style binding extensions, I've tried maybe a dozen and none of them work as you would expect. It is common for inputs to be missed by the extension depending on what part of the browser is focused at the moment.
This is basically Firefox extensions used to be. (well also XUL patches, but that could have been done with JS too)
It would really help if this article could use dates and/or version numbers to establish the timeline of events it's talking about.
But yes, you are right, there was a time during which a number of old-style extensions were ported to be compatible with e10s. It was possible for some, impossible for others, hard when it was possible, and most add-on developers didn't port them, either because it was too difficult or because they had grown tired or the _maintenance tax_ I mention.
And yet, after they had ported their add-ons to be e10s-compatible, the add-ons broke nevertheless, one by one, for all the reasons mentioned in the article.
At some point, we threw the towel.
You threw in the towel before your most important extension developers did. Well-maintained popular extensions like NoScript and TreeStyleTab remained functional throughout the e10s transition with fixes delivered before the breaking changes in Firefox made it to stable releases, but they were irreparably harmed by the WebExtension transition. Their WebExtension versions are still not up to feature parity, despite ongoing maintenance.
It's quite obvious that the WebExtension model is better for users and developers of simple extensions. But it continues to not be an adequate substitute for the kind of extensions that gave Firefox real advantages over Chrome and other browsers. It's not at all apparent why those advanced, killer app extensions had to die in order to get the bulk of the extension ecosystem moved over to WebExtensions.
I see a TreeStyleTab on AMO, so I guess it got ported: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/tree-style-ta... . It may have been harmed by the progressive disappearance of XUL, of course.
It wasn't really years. Electrolysis went live in spring 2017 (it came with Fx 48 and was gradually activated till Fx54). Around that time was the first massextinction of addons.
WebExtensions and Firefox Quantum then came in autonm 2017 with Fx 57, finalizing the bigger second massextinction.
Ok, so power users that mess with about:config (or users with zero extensions) were running e10s for more than a year before the WebExtension switch, and e10s was available in the beta and nightly channels long before then (ie. by late 2015).
But what's really important is that the process of enabling e10s was gradual and well-managed from a user perspective, rather than being a singular event that broke almost every extension long before viable replacements could be developed for most of them.
The same thing that happened to Firefox happened to Babel . Babel's plugin API exposes the internal structures and APIs to plugins, which means they're unrestricted in what they can do, but it also means that it's very hard to change things in the codebase because you might accidentally break plugins that rely on the previous behavior / APIs. This is one of the primary motivations behind Rome .
Linux is similar with drivers. Linux breaks internal kernel ABI all the time, but all the drivers upstreamed into the kernel are automatically fixed when this happens.
According to OP post, Firefox and addons developer would communicate when breaking changes happened, to make sure an upgrade path was doable. I wonder if a Linux-like system where a repo with all addons that developers could land refactors on when landing breaking changes would have changed the dynamic somewhat, by reducing the "addons developer tax".
You can't just "leave the existing" as that still means work if you have to write some translation layer from the old format to the new format. It's not like it would be free to keep the existing one around.
Nothing that the extension achieved is even remotely possible anymore — adding custom column in mailbox Thunderbird XUL, custom icon vbox in the Thunderbird mail header, reading from a browser profile directory to display picons, windowed preferences, etc. I find this sad.
What's most sad to me is that my workflow was never quite the same after I stopped using SeaMonkey with many of the famous XUL-based extensions (Old Addons Page, Chatzilla, MessageFaces, etc.) — it was aesthetic bliss, particularly with the Orthodox (Netscape/Mozilla Suite) complete theme.
I've ranted about this in the past, but I still feel like XUL was a bit ahead of its time (see Facebook's JSX). Had Mozilla invested more development time in fleshing out the XULRunner APIs and marketing it as a universal platform-independent "native" UI language, perhaps the modern web ecosystem would look a bit different today.
I fear that the web today is slowly converging, aesthetically speaking, through the further limitation of site interfaces and UI, into a corporatized unary devoid of any creativity/novelty.
But you said that you understand that from a technical perspective they had to replace it. That sounds more like a dead end than ahead of its time, unless there's something more?
IMHO, it was the wrong solution for a number of problems. Most of them don't exist anymore.
I agree that XUL was, ultimately, probably the wrong solution due to a number of reasons, but its effects are definitely still somewhat visible in the ecosystem today.
What i'm still trying to figure out is how we recapture the freedom and aesthetic creativity that thrived during the early years of the web. We can argue that this was mostly a cultural/demographic shift in users, but I would also argue that, as McLuhan noted, shifting interfaces (particularly through a uniformity of aesthetics) can influence culture.
Chrome may soon give Firefox a little win here by nerfing uBlock Origin, but is that enough?
For most of (former/present) Firefox users extensibility wasn't the "killer app".
FF gained its marketshare at the time because IE was so crappy on most metrics and that was the main competition.
But as the article explains, this was largely caused by the need to provide extensive backwards compatibility which stifled innovation or completely prevented it (in case of multi-process architecture).
But whoever kept Firefox after Chrome gained popularity probably do so because of the extensions.
It's a matter of getting the word out. Mozilla likely won't outright bundle its features as to not completely alienate Google, since they are their main source of revenue, but seem to be okay with promoting it otherwise, as it is on the front page of addons.mozilla.org and was the first extension (and the only one, for a time, and still only one of nine) supported in the new Firefox for Android.
There are also "normal" users who do not care about blocking ads and tracking, or do not know about the performance issues, malware risk, and other reasons for using a blocker and have not made such a decision, trusting the browser to act in the best interest of the user. (We know that last bit doesn't work anymore.)
(Regarding uBlock Origin, gorhill has expressed that he will not neuter the extension to work with Chrome's API change, reference: https://github.com/uBlockOrigin/uBlock-issues/issues/338#iss... )
Also, the comment you describe is from May 2019, so their timeline of "within the next year" is already refuted by reality.
Except in the end these were not the best way forward (well, at least for now, old technological paradigms do come back periodically, making the whole idea of an obvious unified "best way forward" questionable), and so Mozilla had to ditch them, and I understand that.
But that means when Mozilla is preaching that WebAsm or Rust or whatever is a truly revolutionary technology that will save the world, well, I don't ignore Mozilla, I just don't trust in their technological foresight like I used to.
In the bigger scheme of things, I tend to be more skeptical that programming paradigms like this really are revolutionary in general. Programming paradigms are interesting ideas, but I no longer see them as some forward march of progress that is paving the way to a golden age of technology.
I feel a little silly that I once thought this way, and a little silly for once being as passionate as I was for Mozilla.
Now that I'm old and jaded, it all seems silly. There are no silver bullets, everything is at best an approximation of a great idea that would solve at most a small fraction of all the real problems out there, etc.
I'm still pretty invested in Mozilla (ok, I work here now), but more for the good of human advancement and discourse, and an actually useful portable runtime that is kept free from being captured by entities that would inevitably use it as a weapon for lock-in and monopolization.
Things aren't looking all that great on the latter front right now, and indirectly though it might be, Firefox's market share is one of the most potent defenses against that. Even if Mozilla has a trail of missteps and lost opportunities. (To be honest, I actually think Mozilla has done far better than is commonly portrayed on this site. It's amazing how many people could obviously done vastly better than the idiotic monkeys running Mozilla into the ground for their own small-minded amusement.)
To give an example of the flavor of issue: when building an array (even from a literal), you couldn't push a series of values to the stack and then construct an array out of them, because with E4X between elements 2 and 3 you might end up invoking arbitrary code with access to the array so that it establishes a setter on element 4 and adds a `valueOf` hook to what you're passing as element 5, but oh wait that's the same object you already inserted as element 0, and anyway the array might be frozen now and... (I'm making this up; I know the issues were similar to this but I probably don't have the details quite right.)
E4X was a rich, rich source of security bugs. I'm sure a simplified form of it is possible and would be quite cool, but that niche is already filled now with JSX for better or worse.
I guess I’ve underestimated all these years that what David described as the problems with XUL and the reasons it had to go away weren’t commonly understood. As the post states, it was clear as far back as 2010 (and honestly earlier), that XUL extensions were both Firefox's killer feature and also the reason that it got its ass kicked by Chrome (and to a lesser-extent, Safari). Extensions were amazing but the tax it created for performance, development, and security ended up becoming what made the browser so slow. Chrome and Safari didn’t have extensions but they had speed and built-in features that replicated many of the most popular extensions. And once Chrome added extensions support — and support that didn’t require that add-on development tax — it was over.
I found this bit of the post really telling:
> And yet, there was no choice for Mozilla. Every day that Mozilla didn’t ship Electrolysis was one day that Chrome was simply better in terms of architecture, safety and security. Unfortunately, Mozilla delayed Electrolysis by years, in part because of the illusion that the Firefox benchmarks were better enough that it wouldn’t matter for a long time, in part because we decided to test-drive Electrolysis with FirefoxOS before Firefox itself, but mostly because we did not want to lose all these add-ons.
>In the end, Mozilla decided to introduce WebExtensions and finally make the jump towards e10s as part of the Quantum Project. We had lost years of development that we would never recover.
This aligns with what has always been my personal view which is that Mozilla waited too long to make the changes it needed to compete with Chrome and by the time it finally did the hard thing and lose extensions and start over.
When you consider that there was still time after Chrome was released but before Quantum where IE had the largest browser share (it wasn’t a long period of time post-Chrome, but it existed), that’s indicates to me that there was time both before and after Chrome's introduction for Mozilla to rip the band-aid off and drop XUL for the greater good of the browser. After all, IE didn’t have extensions in any comprehensive way, which could have given Firefox to refactor and approach. Sadly, Mozilla waited too long.
But what really makes me sad is that there are still diehards mad that XUL died. When to me, we should all be angrier that it was allowed to live as long as it did.
I suspect a lot of these people aren't very familiar with the details of the technology involved, or the tradeoffs involved. The were simply (understandably) upset when suddenly their favourite extensions stopped working. And in the early days WebExtensions, there weren't any good replacements for a lot of popular plugins. Even now, there's no way to do some of the things plugins did before.
I am very familiar with software and in particular the tradeoffs between business pressure to ship something new and shiny vs keep maintaining something that works....
I used to use FF because it was better than Chromium. Now I used it because Mozilla is not Google.
* (I work on Firefox)
I've largely switched to just running FF inside a VM. It seems to use all the available memory in a given system so I just give it less memory and it performs about the same...
Enable SysRq magic key and use it to invoke OOM killer manually when it freezes. Linux has this weird peculiarity of not invoking OOM killer automatically before system exhausts memory. (and instead just runs extremely slowly, shrinking buffers to zero and loading executable pages from disk)
5% faster page load still isn't a killer feature.
>Extensions were amazing
And the reason everyone who left used the browser.
>lose extensions and start over.
A smart company would never have done this. They would have maintained both to see if anyone would use the new browser. Instead, they took their customers on a forced march down a trail of tears.
Imagine if another company tried this. Imagine if Tesla said, "We know you love electric cars. So today we're going to stop making them and sell hydrogen powered motorcycles instead. They're faster! Sorry, we won't be making parts for or supporting the cars anymore." It would be corporate suicide. Imagine how angry the car owners would be, after they invested in the idea and the charging equipment, only to be abandoned by the company.
It makes perfect sense to continue shipping the old product in the face of a "new better" one. Apple continued selling iPods long after the iPhone arrived. Killing the successful core product and releasing a new untested competing product is an insane gamble. I can't see how Mozilla leadership ever thought that was a good idea.
Now, if you write a Firefox extension, and it's not a Mozilla-recommended extension (something you have to beg for) anyone installing it gets a scary notice:
"This is not monitored for security through Mozilla's Recommended Extensions program. Make sure you trust it before installing."
This is after going through Mozila's approval and signing process. Unsigned extensions won't install at all in the release version of Firefox.
Firefox extensions aren't something worth working on any more.
Unfortunately I now totally share this sentiment, I had an extension that delayed page loads in a realistic way to test slower connections. I started on back when XUL was the way to do it but dealing with the churn led me to give up. When XUL was being deprecated I ported to the newer way but I could tell that the churn was starting to get annoying and that my enthusiasm had changed. As much as I would have liked to continue work with that extension with the recent changes I'm glad I gave up when I did.
I'd really like to see something change to make working on extensions feel like it's more worthwhile again. Do people think that things are likely to stabilize in the next few years?
As Google removes user control, they can make Firefox go along, since they're Mozilla's biggest revenue source.
So far, the only manners in which Google has influenced Firefox are:
- the influence of Google in standards;
- the need for Mozilla to keep improving its products to remain competitive.
So, if Google removes user control, that's actually good news for Firefox.
It is not removing XUL 'power' extensions and replacing them with 'neutered' WebExtensions mechanism.
It is not choosing to closely align with Chrome in terms of UI/UX and functionality.
It is not the letting go of Brendan Eich and the newer (much criticised) management.
It is not because of Mozilla foundation highlighting a few 'social justice' issues here and there.
The decline of Firefox is because of one thing only - the enormous marketing and engineering clout of Google and their utterly ruthless, relentless, anti-competitive pushing of Chrome across Android and all their web properties and even through ads all over the world.
More specifically, it is their bundling of Chrome as the default, preset browser on the world most popular mobile operating system that really swung the tide decisively in their favour. Once ordinary users got used to Chrome on Android, they would naturally seek out the same browser on their laptops and desktops, to minimise interoperability issues and maximise familiarity.
And while pre-installing Chrome on Android (and by the way, it is pre-installed even on most laptop/desktop purchases by "helpful" OEMs - such is its viral reach) may not be strictly illegal as per anti-monopoly laws (because alternatives are 'freely' available on the default app store), the fact remains that if a program that comes with the OS is "good enough", the very vast majority of users will not bothering changing it, and thus Google managed to cripple all other browsers while still subtly side-stepping any potential lawsuits.
So the decline of Firefox is in my opinion a social/political phenomenon and nothing to do with its technical competence or extendibility vis-a-vis Chrome. It is certainly a more than competent drop-in replacement for Chrome (unlike say w3m or NetSurf), but who will bother to do the replacement in the first place, as long as Chrome continues to be "good enough" (which is does excellently) and it doesn't outrageously hurt the user base by some extraordinarily shocking screw-up (and Facebook shows, even such odious abuse will be condoned by the user base by and large when the network effects are too big).
That probably had an effect, but I don't agree that its the single biggest factor. Before Chrome arrived, my experience in general was that Firefox had gotten slow and buggy, and when one tab crashed the whole browser went down with it. It was a once great product that had stagnated.
Compared to that, Chrome was a breath of fresh air, so me and many people I know migrated and then recommended it to friends and family. That had nothing to do with the Android version; at the time I didn't even have a smartphone, and many other tech people that migrated had iPhones. The desktop browser was simply a better product; and since at the time Google wasn't considered evil, and its Chromium base was open-source software, there was no reason not to use it.
I eventually migrated back to Firefox myself, and am currently very happy with its performance, stability, and exploration of privacy features like Container Tabs. However, it wasn't before e10s I felt I could really recommend Firefox over Chromium to anyone else.
This was before Chrome was released. And when Chrome was released it was frankly better for most users, even without extensions at the start. Yes it was heavily advertised, but it also felt faster and gave a better experience.
Now Firefox after the quantum reactor, and getting rid of XUL, upsetting plugin users, has caught up with Chrome—but they did this from what was once a leading position, and getting back those users lost seems less likely.
I'd experienced this as well, and the most common fix was indeed to create a new profile and import your bookmarks/etc - but at least for me, it was totally unnecessary: All I had to do was delete history older than 6 months, and it was back to being snappy as new.
You're saying that Google is so amazing at marketing, that they beat Apple, Microsoft and Firefox at marketing that browser, although Chrome wasn't even the default preinstalled browser on most devices? Chrome isn't the default on Windows, it's not the default on macOS, it's not the default on Linux, it's not the default even on most Android devices (Samsung Browser is, since Samsung is still handling the majority of Android market, followed by Chinese manufacturers who don't bundle Chrome at all).
That for all the efforts of Apple to push Safari as default, Microsoft to push Edge as default... Chrome had no other merits than just ONLY Google marketing which has somehow managed to beat out the default preinstalled well marketed browsers without any special additional technical merits?
You reasoning is missing something fundamental. Is it possible, and entertain the thought for a bit, that Chrome was just the better browser for a long time? Maybe?
Google literally had a banner on their homepage prompting users to try Chrome.
E: Of course, I don't mean to say Chrome was a bad browser and won entirely through marketing. But its current market position has as much to do with Google's explosive marketing (they had billboard ads for Chrome! For a free browser!) as much as with Chrome's technical qualities.
That's just for the launch.
I may be forgetting things but I don't remember ever seeing launches for a free product that were so heavily marketed.
With Firefox and Chrome (and Chrome forks that aren't independently developed, but mostly kept close to the source with some added functionality), they're offering all the options on the market (except Safari, but it's not an option on the global market, only on Apple), if you want a Browser, you'll use something Google-controlled, one way or another.
And I'm certain that Google determined that whatever they paid for it (in cash or opportunity cost or whatever) was worthwhile to them! (And today, it very much looks like they were right.)
Without recognizing good things Chrome does, there cannot be a viable competitor.
Now, how many times do you search for things on web? Every search page and search results page had a call to action to install Chrome. It's the only product Google advertised on their home page for years. The download was tiny (it downloaded the rest of the app in background), it did not require admin rights to install and hijacked the default browser setting.
Plus Google put aggressive ads on YouTube, in Gmail, Maps and Docs at the time. One click on a banner, you browser showed a dialog - and bam! You got Chrome.
Plus, there were bundles with Flash player, Skype, all popular antivirus freeware, etc. In 2010-2014 it was almost impossible not to have Chrome on one's computer on accident.
And many banner ads in major cities around the world. London underground was flooded with Chrome banners - something no other browser had done before or since.
Everyone moved to using Chrome and never went back. Breaking XUL dropped Firefox adoption considerably. But folks who did this don't want to accept it.
XUL extensions gave Firefox unique power which it lost and never regained back. Firefox chopped off its powerful , special tentacles and grew flimsy, poor hands back. Firefox defanged itself.
Something doesn't add up.
"usefulness of firefox" + "usefulness of extensions" > "usefulness of chrome"
"usefulness of firefox" < "usefulness of chrome"
And that's not counting disappointment/animosity towards firefox for breaking the implicit contract.
I am not arguing that this was the main issue that have caused firefox usage to drop, as according to stats on AMO, extensions never had very large usage. But i personally have stopped using firefox after this, and stopped installing it on computers of friends and coworkers, so there must have been some small effect.
This was the missing hidden variable not explained in the narrative.
Firefox was previously significantly behind Chrome in the technical design, now it's getting better but there is still some lag.
And as explained in the article, this lag has been historically to a large degree caused by the extension model (need to keep backwards compatibility on a huge API surface, impossibility to introduce multi process architecture, need to always negotiate with extension devs on what can be changed and what not...).
There were two options:
1) specialize on power users with XUL extension but lag even more behind Chrome - leads quite certainly to drop of users, slide to irrelevancy and the eventual death
2) try to catch up with Chrome in technical design, but drop historical baggage, including XUL based addons - does not guarantee success but still provides at least hope
> ... and stopped installing it on computers of friends and coworkers, so there must have been some small effect.
It's sad to see people supporting monopoly this way ...
The realistic way to avoid monopolies and retain free-ish markets is to actively enforce anti-trust legislation. (And in the case of social media companies: force all players of a certain size to provide federation APIs, so people can leave the service and still talk to their friends and family.)
There will always be some people that try to avoid monopolies for ideological reasons; but 90% of the population won't care, they just want things to work and move on with their lives, and capturing that segment still makes you a monopoly.
Yes, I meant it more specifically that people here on HN who should know and should care are actively propagating and helping a monopoly. (these people often also have disproportionate influence)
When google controls the only remaining browser engine, it effectively controls web standards (or in other words, independent standard documents lose meaning since Blink is the standard).
Google is then free to push the web technologies in the direction which benefits mainly Google (think AMP) and which further tightens their grip on the web.
Ah yes, if you're reduced to power users your death is inevitable. Which is why Linux, of course, is a myth and does not exist.
Linux (as a kernel) is alive and thriving because of the server market not because of power users tweaking their bash powerlines.
It was exactly Quantum release which took away XUL extensions.
I agree that the number and power of WebExtension hooks is critical.
our brain is hard wired to respond to negative actions much stronger than positive ones. this comes from the not conscious part of the brain and it happens because it was much important in our early history to respond to threats, than it was to respond to good things.
consider this: how often have you stopped using a bank/restaurant/whatever else because they did something bad to you? how often have you switched just because somewhere was better, but not way better? a positive action has to be much much stronger in order to compete with a negative action.
Firefox had a unique, special power which differentiated it and Mozilla chose to kill it. No wonder its browser share dropped like a stone.
To talk on more specific terms, which XUL extension did you replace with Chrome App?
But I changed my browser to Chrome since Firefox lost its value proposition. It had a differentiating factor of superior experience and features that it chose to deliberately abandon.
You're choosing not to do that.
Technically, there were two choices:
- killing this off; or
- continuing to burn out add-on developers for the sake of add-ons that would progressively become impossible to port.
I can understand moving to web extensions, but why has nobody made a programmable way to move the toolbar around?
I mean, it cannot be completely impossible to do in a safe way: it exist in Vivaldi?
That should of course be tab bar. :-/
Sadly, Firefox has to race against Chromium with about 1/4 of the developers (I don't remember where I got that estimate from), so we have to focus our efforts. As you can imagine, Mozilla's comparative lack of resources (hence the recent layoffs) won't improve that.
What that metric-chasing meant is having their extension store spammed with useless extensions. I think that extension-count was a mistaken metric to chase, and no wonder they felt overwhelmed with trying to support spam-level amounts of extensions.
At it's core, I think this entire debate boils down to "who is responsible if an extension breaks the browser or some other extension". A relatively small set of "complex" or "tightly integrated" extensions that enhance and extend Firefox's behavior is a good spot to be in. Rather than what we have now where all the "interesting" browser extension points are not available to the extensions to modify and we have a metric tonne of copy-paste-similar extensions that are hard to discover.
The blog post describes how Firefox tried to focus on its 'core' - assuming you mean people heavily invested in XUL add-ons - for years before they eventually decided it was a road to nowhere.
A shorter article:
Microsoft was convicted by the US for tying Windows and IE in the 90's, and Google was more recently convicted by the EU for tying Android and Chrome. US regulators have declined so far to do the same for the latter, although the political winds seem to be changing.
Personally I would use Firefox if it was not slower than Chrome. I like most things about it more, but it is noticeably slower in some cases, it randomly becomes unresponsive in some cases and it consumes more system resources.
And actually when they dropped XUL I started using Firefox a lot less than before because now the extensions that kept me using Firefox were no longer available.
Maybe it is just me, but I really do think there is plenty Firefox is doing that hurts them. I really really want to like Firefox, and I really don't like chrome. But for what they are, browsers, Chrome is better than Firefox in my experience.
Most android phones I've had have shipped with a stripped down "web" browser as the default.
I use primarily Chrome on my Android phones because performance is consistent. I keep Firefox (with an add blocker) installed and use it for sites where that's needed, but it just doesn't do a good enough job to me fore regular browsing on mobile. This is the same reason I used to stick with Chrome on the desktop too, though since Firefox Quantum I've been able to cope with Firefox for regular use on the desktop.
Chrome had already beat Firefox' in market share before it was even released on Android. Unless they included time-travel in that release, there's no way that influenced them overtaking Firefox before it happening.
When they released on Android, Chrome already was the biggest on Windows, having surpassed Internet Explorer as well.
Sorry, but you're either intentionally misleading people or you haven't actually looked at the timelines.
If you visited Google on Firefox or IE you would get a banner suggesting you to try Chrome.
It was bundled with all sorts of software, including Flash which would install it by default unless you found the right checkbox. (Many non-technical people I know ended up unintentionally installing it this way)
They even had offline (real-world) advertising for it.
I'm sure word of mouth had an effect, but it was only a small part of why it succeeded. Remember that Firefox only ever achieved a fraction of Chrome's (current) market share, and relied mostly on word of mouth (though they did have the occasional real-world ad campaign), despite its superiority to IE.
Let’s not understate this, as I remember it clearly.
As a Firefox user, using any Google-product on the web, I was constantly badgered to “upgrade” my browser.
That’s right: Google lied and told Firefox-users that they were downloading upgrades to their Firefox installations.
Completely inexcusable, fraudulent behaviour. Combined with the bu sling and drive-by-installers Google paid for, me and lots of my technical friends still consider Chrome genuine malware for this reason.
Marketing is a large part of everything, I agree. But the argument I replied to was that it was the monopoly & bundling that made it successful. That's obviously completely false and pure propaganda, trying to absolve Firefox of anything and everything, essentially saying "none of those things matter, it was only Google's evil behavior".
> I'm sure word of mouth had an effect, but it was only a small part of why it succeeded.
I'm not so sure. Internet Explorer as "the perfect tool to download Chrome" wasn't a meme because people watched ads, but because Chrome (on Windows) was easy to download & install and fast & stable. Firefox wasn't any of that in comparison, that's why lots of people I know switched to Chrome back then.
And once you've gotten used to something, you really need a reason to switch back - something that Firefox never provided. Privacy might become that, but Chrome with plugins isn't terrible either, and Firefox sent data to Google for analytics "out of the box" as well (and probably still does?).
I understand that it's nice to have a boogeyman that can be blamed, but I don't think that's accurate. Firefox lost because of Mozilla, not because of Google.
But listen to the Firefox developer in the article - Chrome was making a better product because they weren't tied down with backwards compatibility issues. It was genuinely faster, more secure and they were shipping features quicker. Meanwhile Firefox wasted years attempting and failing to become multiprocess because they were tied down with the legacy of XUL.
But you have to give Chrome credit for making a good product. No doubt marketing helped, bundling with Android helped. But for a solid 5-7 years, it was clearly the best. And I say that as someone who has used Firefox for a decade.
I don't speak of those benchmark milliseconds things.The entire browsers was so slow scrolling was a problem and more and more time the entire OS (Mac os) freezes for 10 seconds or so.
That's where I left and years later why coming back if it doesn't have any more interesting features than chrome.
Could it have been every 15 seconds?
I think I was part of the team that fixed that bug :)
Chrome on Android is a miserable experience right now because someone at Google thinks that hiding URLS and making it difficult to edit them is a feature.
I also hate the bottom focused layout.
OK, so your answer is that world is super simple and comes down to a single variable explaining everything? Sorry but that does not sound very convincing to say the least.
There was a time where Firefox needed to be installed manually on Windows where IE was provided by default and it become the leading browser. Ask yourself why it's not the case anymore.
Chrome is good enough and from a trusted source.
Google plastered Chrome ads everywhere to get on everyone's mind, and was good enough that you didn't need changing.
The other factors contributed though.
The other items on your list, when you proclaim not to be a factor, were and are a factor as well. A significant facto in my opinion.
While google has a marketing and monetary edge, FireFox can not stop shooting itself in the foot either.
I had Huawei and Xiaomi phones and until 3 years ago they didn't even come with Google apps by default.
Google is evil so I still use Firefox, but it just feels like Chrome without Google. The evangelizing passion I had for it ever since version 1.5 is dead and Mozilla killed it.
Also, I have this bad taste in my mouth from Mozilla getting all that Google money just hours after sacking their developers, like it was a condition.
That's exactly how reading Mozilla apologetics comes across. I'd say pre-registration could help sift out the bullshit from the well-founded predictions, but there's seemingly no way to get Firefoxers to deviate from their narrative, and the proof would come at a time that's too late to act on, anyway.
For all the retrospectives that exist about Jobs's ability to captivate, Mozilla folks have a self-perpetuating echo chamber/reality distortion field of their own—except the only thing it's good for is a thousand self-inflicted wounds and a smug sense of persecution. Terrible combo.
'I never, never want to write C++.'
Seriously, I can't say how much I want not to write C or C++. Life is too short to use unsafe languages.
I would like to be able to add pull data from sites I visit and plumb it through the rest of my system using something like Plan 9's plumber. I don't want a browser which says, 'sorry, I won't trust you to choose the extensions you like.'
There are bindings for several languages, no need to write C++.
Chrome extensions are ugly and have no unified design. They are glorified web pages in a floating window.
I liked XUL because it provided a framework for extension authors and extensions felt like part of Firefox.
I eventually returned to Firefox and I find the extensions to be not so terrible.
I'm a new WebExtension indie dev. I just launched my first extension on the Chrome, Firefox, Edge stores. Opera is in review. Safari 14 took 15 minutes and 1 commend, just waiting for it to drop. I couldn't have shipped this quickly by myself if not for the WebExtensions standard. It leaves me time to focus on building what users want and telling users about what I built. Yes I did have to settle for less developer power and control. I'm totally ok with it.
Feel free to AMA!
What does that mean exactly? What are the other platforms that the web is competing against?
In either case though, I think this is just one more reason to hate Web Extensions. I don't want browsers to win over native applications. (Of course "applications" that are little more than a bundled browser are even worse, whether on mobile or desktop.)
I really wanted to use mouse gestures and Vim-like controls again, and the WebExtension version of those addons is not nearly reliable enough.
In the article, there are a couple of passes that mention “benchmarks” where Firefox was faster than Chrome. It sounds like those benchmarks, albeit I assume they were correct, were actually providing a distorted reality of what “fast” actually means, because I distinctly remember people (including myself) switching to Chrome in early days because it was simply objectively faster. It sounds like the existence of those benchmarks have had a net negative on Firefox: it provided a false confidence that the browser was “fast”, and possibly delayed the refactorings that eventually managed to really speed up Firefox again.
You mention that Chrome used “UX tricks” but I assume what this means is that Chrome developers were actually driven by more correct benchmarks: the ones that actually translate to a better experience for the end user.
Since I’m always intrigued by the topic of false benchmarking and how complex it is to do correct benchmarks that don’t fall into traps, I’d love to hear what those benchmarks you mention were measuring, and if you agree that they gave a false assurance to the Firefox team.
Chrome developers were benchmarking for responsiveness: how long between the time you click and the user interface shows that something is going on. And that's all that end users actually see. Chrome showed its initial window faster (although it took more time until you could actually do anything with it), was slower at loading pages (but stopped its throbber earlier), slower at switching tabs (but the screen changed faster to show you that it was switching tabs), ...
Which ones were the "correct benchmarks" remains an open question, but it's clear which ones the users perceive/remember as being faster!
Of course, the better architecture that Chrome used meant that they eventually got faster at throughput, too, on computers that had sufficient RAM.