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Mozilla plans to remove the Compact Density option from Firefox's Customize menu (ghacks.net)
402 points by 0x_rs on March 15, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 469 comments



I use this feature. On a large monitor, Firefox wastes quite a lot of space with the default layout. To be honest, I wish there was an option to make it more compact than the "compact" layout. There used to be an XUL extension to do this, before XUL was killed off.

Seems like every time I see coverage about Firefox, it's Mozilla removing or crippling some feature I care about.

Why bother using FF at this point? Most sites don't work as well, and Mozilla seems actively hostile to my use case. If I'm going to use a browser that is hostile to me, I may as well get better website compatibility out of the bargain.

Not surprised their market share keeps shrinking. At this point, what's the sell?

Edit 1: worth noting, there is a lower-down comment thread[0] with relevant links - Mozilla does not care if you like this feature.

0 - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26464973


> Why bother using FF at this point?

Lots of reasons: familiarity, it works for your use cases, preventing a Chrome hegemony (though we're already there), their focus on privacy, important add-ons still work great. The fact FF isn't owned by an ad-run business who's main concern is figuring out a more effective way to make you buy stuff.

> Most sites don't work as well

Citation definitely needed. This is worded without precision, you could claim "work as well" to mean nearly anything. Do you have specifics, with data? Performance? Functionality? Features? DRM? What is it? I haven't encountered any broken web sites with desktop Firefox. But, I also don't look at all the internet, so I'm curious - what's broken?

What alternatives are there? Chrome is a no-go, Brave is off doing it's URL redirect and bitcoin weirdness (that I don't need in a browser) Edge is just Chrome. There's some de-googled Chrome options and I guess some weird special-build Firefox options, but really, out of all the options I see, FF is best for me.

I'm not changing because they removed one tiny feature used by a very vocal minority, and it's a mistake to assume that FF has no value or no "sell".


> I'm not changing because they removed one tiny feature used by a very vocal minority

Seems you have trouble keeping count. Let me remind you how many features FF has nuked in recent times

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25589177

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24231017

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24128865

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24554393


Literally the top comment on each of these was something along the lines of "this is 1) not true 2) not a big deal"

> "Some of these are a bit spurious. I mean, Venkman was replaced by Firebug, which was much better. MXR was similarly replaced by DXR."

> "CNET (and Mozilla)[1] say that Firefox still has a fully functional security team. The source for this is an unsourced tweet. I'm going to flag it because HN does not seem like a good venue to hash out rumors."

> Kind of misleading title – what isn’t planned to be supported is installing PWA:s as standalone apps on desktop Firefox: https://twitter.com/englishmossop/status/1344428028315590656...

Try harder.


> what isn’t planned to be supported is installing PWA:s as standalone apps on desktop Firefox

That is still something that I very much wanted.


The XUL argument is the only significant one; and it was years ago, and there were very clear technical trade-offs.


And security trade offs.


And the Firefox Android addon ecosystem disaster. A big thank to an HN user that once pointed me to Kiwi Android browser that accepts Chrome addons.

I had stuck to firefox 68 because after that https over ssl could be disabled remotely for corporate computers but now I switched to Chrome.

I think the end result will be Firefox removing itself from the browser pool.


> Lots of reasons: familiarity

Not when they constantly change the general way it's used. I am personally tired of having to relearn how to use a tool. Address bar, lockwise, shared passwords, to start.


Exactly. If the interface in my car or the layout of my keyboard changed constantly, and even lost functionality regularly, it would drive me crazy. Fortunately, that doesn't happen. Unfortunately, I use Firefox so my interface to the internet is an ever changing mess.


The most obtrusive recent UI change was the new tab switcher that tries to mimic the OS app alt-tab overlay bar. It was taking 30 seconds (not an exaggeration!) to load the first time I hit ctrl-tab on my fast desktop, and would randomly pause up to 5 seconds after that. It also turned what was a rapid-fire muscle memory action with an ergonomic behavior, into a slow and unpredictable chore. To top it off, it would always display full-screen, outside of my never-maximized browser window. Just glad it could be disabled.

If you work on Firefox, or are new to development -- this is not Luddism, and don't let this attitude discourage you. Let it be a lesson that you need to understand your users and not just assume that everybody uses a maximized window on a 13-inch laptop screen with all day to wait for slow code to load.


That one annoys me as well. Would you mind sharing how it can be disabled?


I think it's about:config -> browser.ctrlTab.recentlyUsedOrder set to false. If that doesn't work, try searching the web for "firefox disable new tab switcher" or similar.

I also saw a browser.engagement.ctrlTab.has-used key in there; didn't know the config store was also tracking usage...


That's the one. Turns out that option is actually included in the main configuration menu: "Ctrl+Tab cycles through tabs in recently used order"

I have to say that the name doesn't explain what it actually does. Thank you for the assistance.


> Citation definitely needed. This is worded without precision, you could claim "work as well" to mean nearly anything. Do you have specifics, with data? Performance? Functionality? Features? DRM? What is it? I haven't encountered any broken web sites with desktop Firefox. But, I also don't look at all the internet, so I'm curious - what's broken?

Mostly JS-heavy sites by big companies. But yes, I admit that I don't have hard data to back this claim up.

> What alternatives are there? Chrome is a no-go, Brave is off doing it's URL redirect and bitcoin weirdness (that I don't need in a browser) Edge is just Chrome. There's some de-googled Chrome options and I guess some weird special-build Firefox options, but really, out of all the options I see, FF is best for me.

Un-googled chromium is one. I suppose that I trust Mozilla marginally more with my user data than Google.

But yes, I agree, the browser landscape is pretty lousy right now.

> I'm not changing because they moved one tiny feature used by a very vocal minority, and it's a mistake to assume that FF has no value or no "sell".

I perceive this to be the continuation of a trend.

I think FF still has value for now, but it seems like that value is pretty quickly dropping - as a piece of software, if not from a philosophical perspective (supporting the open web and all that).


The killer Firefox feature for me are multi-account containers. I haven't found another browser with that feature, and they make it SO much easier to deal with multiple accounts on the same site (Google, Facebook, AWS/GCP/Azure, etc.).


To me, they’re a worse version of People in Chrome. I had two windows open, one for work and one personal, one light one dark, easy to distinguish. Never any issue with multiple accounts.

With Firefox, opening a new tab in a non default container has a terrible default shortcut, and you can’t remap it to anything sensible (like cmd + some letter).

I’m sticking with Firefox because I want to support them, but I miss Chrome dearly.


With Firefox, opening a new tab in a non default container has a terrible default shortcut, and you can’t remap it to anything sensible (like cmd + some letter).

Just out of curiosity, have you tried creating a shortcut based on the menu name in the macOS global settings? As a Linux user who sometimes works for companies that issue Macs, that functionality goes a long way to preserving my sanity, but sometimes apps just hard-code a shortcut instead of using the OS.


It's especially bad when they killed the ability remap keys with the extension update in 2016 and haven't replaced the functionality since.

(Extensions can do it, but they only take effect after the current tab is loaded.)


Firefox has a profile manager and can run separate profiles. It's just a bit awkward to set up.


>> Most sites don't work as well >Citation definitely needed.

Cite me. Impossible to pay my elec bill w/o chrome on my country's biggest energy provider.

Silent errors on many sites.

FF-esr on Debian


"This site works best on Internet Explorer 6 at an resolution of 1024x768."


You know what they say about history repeating itself...


> Impossible to pay my elec bill w/o chrome on my country's biggest energy provider.

I've had similar experiences with various bills over the years (though fewer recently), so these days I default to dealing with those by 'pushing' the payment from my bank to the utility rather than having the utility 'pull' a payment from the bank.

It would be nice if the bank could poll a utility to discover the payment amount rather than having to enter the amount manually from reading the bill, but as inconveniences go that's fairly small potatoes.


I find it odd that anyone would have to manually pay an electricity bill these days.


I refuse to get auto-debited. This thing is obscene : you let a company debit any sum at will from your bank account.


People were getting five figure debits in Texas because of this. There should be some guardrails in bill pay arrangements.


My electricity provider has absolutely no trust from me after a number of experiences which I won’t describe here. I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to find they’ve overcharged me. The process to deal with them in any regard is always byzantine. So, I suppose it depends on what you mean by “have to.”


The world is big my friend, it happens where I live.


I find it odd that anyone would give permission to a third party (any third party) to at will withdraw money directly from your bank account (and if I'm understanding correctly how it works in the US without even being able to set limits on it, neither in frequency nor amount).


I switched to FF on Windows 10 as my daily driver a year and a half ago in order to adopt a multi-account container workflow. MACs aren't perfect [1] and overall I definitely sense that FF is not as power-efficient as Chrome, especially when in a Meet call, but overall I'm very happy with it and the power thing is not a huge issue if I'm sitting wired in all day anyway.

[1]: My criticisms: https://github.com/mozilla/multi-account-containers/issues/1...


On FF, Spotify frequently freezes for a minute or more with 100% CPU utilization, Amazon won't play videos in higher than 720p, and a lot of sites only show alternate text instead of graphical buttons. I switched over to Brave for a few weeks, and was suprised at how much smoother major websites run on a chromium based browser.


> Lots of reasons: familiarity, it works for your use cases [...]

Yes indeed... until not anymore. And will this be an enormous change? Oh no but an annoying one for some people, and completely switching browsers might be perceived as only marginally less familiar than just having some of your settings suddenly disappearing in FF.


> What alternatives are there?

This is my problem. If there was a real option to go to I probably would leave Firefox because of the things they've removed or haven't added. But then I look at the alternatives, and they are all worse.


> it works for your use cases

Until they remove the feature you used for years. But hey, they are the champion of the Free Web so anything goes.


I also use this feature. I suspected I did but I had to go and look at the settings. I took two screenshots in normal and compact density. The difference on my 15.6" laptop is very small. A few vertical pixels of spacing in the tab bar and address bars. I'd rather keep compact mode but I'll hardly notice the difference.

Anyway, this designers' fad of making desktop applications look like mobile apps (I'm intentionally using those two different names) must come to an end. My favorite example is "think if Excel on a computer would have half an inch padding around each cell with possibly no borders". This normal layout thing is only a very small step in that direction but it's still in that direction.


I have noticed this trend across many different applications/toolkits. In Linux land, GTK is an especially bad offender.

Desktops tend to have high-precision pointing devices. It is wasteful of space to make big, touch-friendly buttons. Many web apps and GTK programs that follow this trend are barely usable on my laptop (1366x768 display).

A good UI toolkit should support adjusting the size of the UI elements according to what platform is being used. In an ideal world, I could just set some kind of scale factor and have all my applications respect it. Then the people with touchscreens can be happy, as can the people with mice.

I guess from the perspective of commercial software, it's cheaper to write one UI and have it cater to the lowest-common-denominator. What I don't understand is why these design trends have become popular in the open source space.


Ubuntu directing me to "swipe up to login" on my desktop with a 4K monitor is a crime against humanity. IIRC a tap at the keyboard has the same effect but that's not the discoverable path


> Ubuntu directing me to "swipe up to login" on my desktop with a 4K monitor is a crime against humanity. IIRC a tap at the keyboard has the same effect but that's not the discoverable path

I accidentally discovered that the mouse's scroll wheel works for this too.


I recently tried to revive a Netbook. It has very limited vertical space.

I had to get rid of almost all programs that used modern GTK.

One major problem was dialogues windows, typically options setting dialogues. They were too big and the buttons were out of the screen (below the screen), because of too much white space everywhere, because of badly organised layout, and because of too many things being packed inside the same dialogue.

But the most infuriating was the bloody CSD (Client Side Decoration). They pretend it saves spaces, because it fuses a menu bar and the window bar (window manager bar).

But firstly, they made it so big that this single bar is only a couple pixels shorter than a traditional set of menu bar + window bar.

And secondly, on a traditional application, with the WM I had, I could (simply pressing one shortcut key) hide both the window bar of the current application (from the top), and the WM task bar (from the bottom), making the entire vertical space available from the current application content (including its menu bar). But with CSD, I cannot hide the window bar, since there is no window bar; so I am forced to keep their huge menu+window bar combo fusion and as a result there is less space available for the content...



> In Linux land, GTK is an especially bad offender.

That's has always been the case, even before mobile was a thing. GTK components have always been padded to the wazoo, and pretty badly too; it's one of the reasons I was very much a "KDE guy" back in the early '00s, QT component just looked and scaled so much better.

If only QT had had a C implementation, GTK would never have reached a tenth of its popularity.


Much of the excess padding in GTK apps comes from the Adwaita theme more than from the apps or GTK itself. After applying a GTK theme that cuts the padding down to more reasonable levels, I find that GTK apps are actually pretty nice and generally handle whitespace better than their Qt counterparts (which often go the opposite direction, packing controls too tightly or arranging them somewhat haphazardly).

Agree that Qt would be more popular with a C implementation. The myriad language bindings available for GTK have gone a long way in boosting its popularity.


Can you give an example of such a theme?


There’s a number of themes that cut down padding (just take a look at the GTK Themes section of gnome-look) but two where it’s more obvious are the Nordic and Mcata themes:

https://www.gnome-look.org/p/1267246/

https://www.gnome-look.org/p/1381832/


I don't know why tabs and taskbars go at the top and bottom of the screen by default. This is exactly where the space isn't. Every screen is wide.

The taskbar can be moved easily, but Firefox doesn't come with a vertical tabs option. Both Chrome and Edge seem to now.


IIRC tab bars are optimized for the most-common usage scenario where you only have two or three tabs open. In that case, running horizontally across the top/bottom of the screen means each tab gets to be wide-enough to show a large amount of text, maximizing the amount of context the tab can give for what it's about.

Vertical tabs are stuck in a side-bar, and that sidebar has to fight with the main content for screen real-estate, with the tab bar usually losing (i.e. getting shrunk by the user in order to increase the size of the main content.) That means that, even with only a few tabs open, a tabs sidebar can't show very much description text for each tab.

When you have a lot of tabs, a tab sidebar shows more per-tab context than a tab top/bottom bar does. But having a lot of tabs is comparatively rare.


I’ve never met anyone who only had a few tabs open at a time


It’s less “having only a few tabs open at once” and more “having a few tabs per window, in many windows.” People who exclusively use tabs are rare compared to people who mostly use windows and sometimes use tabs.

Remember, the default behaviour in all major browsers is to open external links from other applications in a new window. So, if you’re the regular “go with the flow” kind of computer user who presumes the defaults are defaults for a reason — and are a bit lazy in cleaning up your windows, and you use at least one external app (e.g. a mail client, a piece of collaboration software, etc.) — then even if you yourself prefer to open tabs, you’ll end up opening new windows quite frequently as well.

And, if you don’t care where you open each new tab, you’ll just end up opening it against whichever window was most recently opened; rather than having a dedicated “tabs I opened” window.

(As a person who bothered to install the “Merge Windows” Chrome extension to replicate the feature in Safari, I genuinely don’t get these people — but they really do exist, and are even seemingly in the majority.)


Not only Firefox but AFAIK most browsers -- at least on Windows -- have interpreted "target=new" as new tab, not window, for several years now. "Open in new tab" is also the first alternative on the right-click menu, before "Open in new window".

Also, BTW, Firefox has had a Tabs menu for years now; both vertical and hides itself away automatically. (Though perhaps you still can't save any vertical space with it: AFAICR it lives on the tab bar, so if you hide that you lose the menu too.)


This is very true for monitors especially with affordable 24+ inches high density models.

Actually, the screen of my laptops got only slightly wider in the last 25 years but considerably shorter. 16:9 is bad on laptops.

This means that an Ubuntu like launcher (on a side) should be optimal and yet it takes away the space I need to display two windows side by side.

That's why I always reconfigure Gnome to move the top bar to the bottom and merge it with a task bar. I also autohide it to gain some space.


> This means that an Ubuntu like launcher (on a side) should be optimal and yet it takes away the space I need to display two windows side by side.

> That's why I always reconfigure Gnome to move the top bar to the bottom and merge it with a task bar. I also autohide it to gain some space.

Why not use the autohide option with the launcher on the side?


Because I don't need the launcher. I start most of the programs I need on boot and they go on for weeks until the next reboot (emacs, terminals, browsers, Thunderbird, keepassx, Telegram and 32 GB of RAM.) I use a virtual desktop (a Gnome activity?) per project so I have very few windows open per desktop and I alt tab between them. One browser window per desktop, one terminal per desktop, one emacs frame per desktop, Slack, etc. BTW, I wish that desktop Slack had an option to display multiple windows. Doing it in a browser is obvious but the desktop app is better than the browser one, so I drag it into another desktop when I change project. I run the other programs by pressing the windows key and typing their name, not every day or week. What I use my bottom bar for is to access the icons in the notification bar. Glance at the time, open or close a VPN, take a screenshot with Flameshot. I also placed the favorites menu there (some extension?) to start the file manager. I'm using Nemo instead of Nautilus because I like to predictably access files and folders with type ahead. I occasionally use the bottom bar to click on the name of a dining program and it's nice to have see them side by side as in old Windows versions.


I can't edit my message anymore: a "dining program" is what my phone's autocorrect thinks a "running program" is doing. Dining on CPUs :-)

BTW, the Gnome's name for favorites is Places.


Does Chrome have a vertical tabs mode?! Because the primary reason I use Firefox is because it _does_ have a vertical tabs mode, via use of TreeStyleTabs and some userChrome.css hacks.


> Many web apps and GTK programs that follow this trend are barely usable on my laptop (1366x768 display).

Gtk seems to optimized for the higher-end of not-hdpi-yet displays (100-120 dpi, at @1X), i.e. 1600x900 to 1920x1080 at 14". Fullhd at this size, the sizing is great, it doesn't need hidpi support yet, which would also explain the sad hidpi support in many apps (not the toolkit! just some apps; e.g. virt-manager/spice-gtk only recently got it supported).


If anything I'd like it even more compact in >= 2k screens.


> Why bother using FF at this point? Most sites don't work as well, and Mozilla seems actively hostile to my use case.

I absolutely LOVE the way Firefox dies to force you to restart your browser. Silently updates in the background, then all of a sudden it stops working and you don't know why. Who among us hasn't wanted to be teaching a class with dozens of students and have their browser die? Guess they're going after those that yearn for the days of Windows 98 stability.


This actually only happens when you update Firefox through your distro's package manager when its running (or your distro updates automatically in the background).


That makes more sense because I've never encoutered this bug but my distro doesn't have a Firefox package, I use the "Windows" distro from Microsoft. Very stable and highly compatible anymore.


Unfortunately your distro decides when software updates and leaves very little in your control. Not very stable if it is updating things without your permission.


Those are OS updates, not appolication updates.


This has never happened to me.


I'm using two different profiles at work simultaneously with the Firefox Developer Edition. When Firefox updates in the background, sometimes new tabs just don't work anymore and keep loading indefinitely.

But I cut Mozilla some slack for it since this is a pretty unusual setup and the Developer Edition is updating quite a lot compared to the release branch and it doesn't happen all the time.


That’s more of an issue with the package manager that most likely deleted the actual executable underneath. Firefox’s in-built auto-update doesn’t do so.


It happened just a few days ago to a colleague of mine.


it happens pretty routinely to me on computers that idle with browsers for long periods.

example : a cctv kiosk I have just sits on a URL all day.

It updates silently and breaks the browser sometimes a few times a month, facilitating remote administration to reset.

The other lovely behavior is when after an update the tab to show update notes is prioritized upon browser auto-restart -- thus covering up the cctv kiosk tab with something advertising firefox changes.

Firefox is getting harder to love, (thankfully?) so is the competition in most cases.


I'm surprised there isn't a browser-ish application purpose-built to be used as a webview of a single site, with no distractions, that does the right thing when self-updating (= wait for a scheduled maintenance window, restart, then reload everything exactly as it was.) This app would be to browsers, as Windows IoT Core (nee Windows Embedded) is to regular Windows: the thing you run on a kiosk to minimize the need for interactive administration and maximize useful uptime.

I mean, you can kind of use Electron for this, but it's not designed to be used this way (i.e. to be used un-customized as a long-running service with hot updates.) It's designed as an SDK for developers to produce apps with, not as an app in-and-of itself.

https://fluidapp.com/ exists, but it's not multiplatform, and it still doesn't address the needs of the embedded market either.


Firefox has a kiosk mode; I wonder if they didn't consider the effect of updates on kiosk mode.

https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/firefox-enterprise-kios...


They even have a special page for it. I keep it handy because this seems to be the only response anyone ever makes when I bring it up:

"Firefox has just been updated in the background. Click Restart Firefox to complete the update."

It would at least be a minor improvement if they'd open a new tab to show you that information. Instead you're refreshing the page wasting everyone's time because it doesn't always tell you that's what's going on.


IIRC this only occurs if you are using your distro's firefox package. If your package manager upgrades firefox out from under it, things break and you have to restart Firefox to get back in a sane state.

If you use Mozilla's build of Firefox and it's built-in update system I think this won't happen.

(Disclosure: I work for Mozilla but not on this)


I believe this also happens with certain pre release editions (Nightly, which I use) which is absolutely reasonable.


Would you agree it’s still bad UX if it only happens to people who haven’t gone out of their way to get a “good” Firefox?


It's bad UX but how far should Firefox go out of its way to support the situation where a (from its perspective) third-party package manager just deleted all its files, replacing them with subtly different/newer ones?


Unlike Microsoft and Apple, on Linux you're never forced to upgrade. Thus, when you do upgrade, you should really be checking what packages are upgraded. The alternative to such a page would be to require you to stop Firefox before the updates start. So it is still a trade off.


it says something like "we need to restart to keep going" and you have to reload the browser, without warning, and it's hard to turn off without fucking around in about:config


This is a fairly common occurrence for anyone running a Debian-family Linux distribution with unattended-upgrades turned on.


> Why bother using FF at this point? Most sites don't work as well, and Mozilla seems actively hostile to my use case. If I'm going to use a browser that is hostile to me, I may as well get better website compatibility out of the bargain.

I feel the same. I am saddened that some guy from Mozilla now wants to remove support⁰ for user.js, supposedly to save a stat() call :-/

⓪ - https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1543752


> I use this feature. On a large monitor, Firefox wastes quite a lot of space with the default layout.

Ditto. First thing I do when setting up firefox, the default is just way too unnecessarily large.

A large monitor isn't even necessary, it's too large at every monitor size between 13" and 34" (which is the range my personal hardware covers).


I feel like it would be even worse on a smaller display where screen real-estate is at a premium. I am fortunate to be able to afford (relatively, compared to most of the world) high end computer equipment where wasting pixels is not as problematic as it might be for someone with less resources.


> Why bother using FF at this point?

Because it is still better and Google has worked even harder to make me dislike them?

That said, if someone made a viable fork of the latest Firefox and fixed all the problems and missing APIs I could easily pay $15 a month for it, maybe $25.

A good browser would be worth almost as much as a good IDE in my current position.

FTR: employeer pays my full subscription to all Jetbrains tools. I'd happily try to get them to pay for unbroken Firefox but more realistically pay it myself. $100 - 200 for the software and $50 to spite Mozilla at this point ;-) Just today someone tried politely to ask about what one could do to get them to reconsider the api to hide tabs and were brushed of by someone.


My guess is everyone has a different definition of unbroken. And with the Chromium-monoculture one can't reliably use some parts of the web with any other browser. Or even a too-old Chromium-based browser for that matter.


Firefox works for everything I need and want to to except my time sheets - and I do a lot.

A fork would of course need to be kept up to date with the base (until everyone switches :-).


> I wish there was an option to make it more compact than the "compact" layout.

You can make the url bar smaller by setting the layout.css.devPixelsPerPx in your about:config to a value between 0 and 1. This can also be done by adding the following line to your user.js:

user_pref("layout.css.devPixelsPerPx", 0.8);


or just get a 4k monitor and realize things are too small and you need the extra space for readability.


> Why bother using FF at this point? Most sites don't work as well, and Mozilla seems actively hostile to my use case.

I share some of your gripes and I do think that Mozilla routinely drops the ball with Firefox, but that's a gross overstatement. I exclusively use Firefox as my main browser (both on desktop and mobile) and I only very occasionally stumble upon websites that will only work correctly on Chromium.

It's annoying when it happens but it's most definitely not "most sites" in my experience, it's a small minority.


> Why bother using FF at this point?

Because the alternative is that Blink becomes the new IE6.


at the moment I plan on continuing using firefox so I'm not leaving but you can't keep using a browser with a worse experience because of some futile moral cause. Firefox has to earn their place and be a browser people to use. I think firefox going after the general public makes sense but when it comes at an expense to generally more advanced users they've probably gone a step too far though to be fair they don't have nearly as many devs as other browsers like chrome and edge.


"Worse" = very highly subjective

"Moral cause" = many people will walk right away from even expensive software over these kinds of things.

Just saying.


If it weren't for those 'using a browser with a worse experience because of some futile moral cause', IE would still be king.


Characterizing early Firefox as only gaining traction because people had more warm fuzzy feelings for it seems off to me, although I wasn't around at the time personally.

I started using Firefox in the late 2000s mostly because I switched to Linux, and Chrome wasn't a thing yet. The web dev tools were better (firebug, anyone?), there were extensions like pentydactyl and whichever predecessor it had back in the day, and overall I just preferred the UI.

Pretty much every reason I originally used Firefox is gone now. I used it out of habit now and because it's less memory intensive still, but that's it. There's just not much going for Firefox except being backed by "the good guys" in a fight against the Empire. Even the cross platform support has withered with all the Chrome components like Skia and dependencies on tools like node.js (ironic that Firefox needs chrome's javascript engine to compile) limiting it to mainstream target triplets.

Firefox is trying to stay usable and I applaud that, but now they're just perpetually stuck trying to play catch up with Chrome's features and performance, always lagging behind, either a little or a lot. Chrome sets the web standards -- I think Firefox has simply lost.


Actually not Firefox, but Konqueror. From conqueror came KHTML which was later the base for webkit which evolved in chrome and the rest is history: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KHTML


Uh, no? That argument would only make sense if IE were better than every alternative but died because people merely chose to not use it... in fact, it wasn't until the big lawsuits against Microsoft caused IE to stagnate and then better browsers existed that people switched to--first Firefox targeting developers / power users and then (later) Chrome laying waste to the entire field on performance--that IE was dethroned. We thereby need the same thing today: an arrow in the leg of Chrome (though I sadly don't know if we could even pull off an anti-competition suit against them with the current landscape... I am bullish always on such and I am not even seeing the argument :/) and some game-changing competition (which is hard to predict, but doesn't seem to be coming from Firefox the more they try to just emulate Chrome).


Konqueror was worse than most popular browsers of the era but users and developers did not gave up on it. It was enough for KHTML eventually evolve in webkit which eventually powered most popular browsers these days: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KHTML .

People sticking to their principles and willing to use a less advanced browser just to guarantee its improvement is what gave us the fast browsers we have today.


Man, I remember the Mozilla days, and then Phoenix and Firebird... so many issues, so many problems. But there was a sense of belonging to "the good web" which would have inevitably triumphed. And then Google showed us that anything can be corrupted.


I find myself in a similar situation, they keep removing more and more features that made me choose Firefox over the alternatives for the last 15 years. Recently I've been using Brave a bit and it seems a good Chrome-based alternative, I still prefer Firefox as my main driver, but in the direction they're headed at some point there'll be just no reason to keep using it.


> Why bother using FF at this point?

Tree Style Tabs on the desktop and and uBO on Android.


...and not many other extensions on Android. They killed most of them, leaving just 17 or so. Oh yes, and you can actually install the rest of them on nightly if you follow some weird procedure, just so that we all know there is actually no technical reason for it. Thank you Mozilla, appreciate it.


> Why bother using FF at this point?

Well, the thing is that Firefox would have to be crippled much much much more in order to make me switch to a different browser because there's simply no competition there - everything else is much worse already, so I'd simply trade my browser getting slowly crippled over time with a single instantaneous crippling.


> Edit 1: worth noting, there is a lower-down comment thread[0] with relevant links - Mozilla does not care if you like this feature.

They're just saying to please stop spamming the bug tracker with "me too" messages. There are Mozilla forums for giving product feedback which are likely read by product people and not engineers fixing bugs.


They said that engineers are well aware of the feedback, that implies they don't care about the other channels either to me


> Seems like every time I see coverage about Firefox, it's Mozilla removing or crippling some feature I care about.

I agree. They need an emulate chrome option: Match keyboard shortcuts, menu, and compact layout.


100% agree with the default layout wasting too much space. I like this user also wish there was even a more compact layout. This is most certainly a abandon software breaking change for me.


I gave up to Firefox about a month ago and switched to Vivaldi. So far I'm not looking back.

I would certainly have preferred to stick with a non-blink browser, but Mozilla won't stop remove features I like and making harmful changes.

How many pointless UX revamps have they done in the last decade? Meanwhile everyone is still waiting for the many unkept promises, including mobile extensions.


I’ll never understand why designers hate dense interfaces so much.


Here is my theory:

The designers before them went for different metrics.

Designers need to design.

And this is how the circle of UX paradigms is powered.

Like fashion, it will cycle.

The current trends are current, until they aren't.


By the way, that is not a negative statement towards design or designers. I think it's just our nature playing out.


It kind of is a negative statement: It illustrates that sometimes (often), our nature sucks.


> Seems like every time I see coverage about Firefox, it's Mozilla removing or crippling some feature I care about.

Maybe this reflects the coverage more than the reality. Read the changelog and you will see things worth getting excited by, but no one is going to write an article about each new feature and change.


> I use this feature. On a large monitor, Firefox wastes quite a lot of space with the default layout. To be honest, I wish there was an option to make it more compact than the "compact" layout.

Ditto ... I am not clear why we need eight pixels' padding around the location bar and what looks like 15 pixels' padding around the icons alongside. It looks like the location bar is around 32 px on this admittedly ancient 1280x800 laptop screen and I'd be happy with 20 px.


I'm an 18+ year non-stop Firefox user and have always routinely checked out the competition (once every few years). Just did my latest comparison last night in fact. What I appreciate about a browser has changed over the years, I'm less of a privacy expert or some sort of Gecko diehard, and more about features and performance.

Brave- no dedicated search bar option (important for privacy / prefetching and not having to continually retype your search query). Didn't get to mobile support and crossplatform sync.

Opera- dedicated search bar, with no way to set a hotkey to focus it. Disqualified as that makes it a non-power user's browser for me right off the bat. This browser's closed source and Chinese ownership does give me pause.

Vivaldi- dedicated search bar and hotkey (yay!), but no way to sync tabs with iOS.

I've already determined for a while now that Firefox (best on features) and native browsers, Edge and Safari (best on performance) were my 3 browsers of choice, and that remains unchanged. Edge on Windows 10 is truly great, and has a decent start at sync, even if it doesn't come close to how well Firefox does there. It just needs fleshed out more.

To answer your question on what the sell is, it's really dependent on the user, and native browsers have huge advantages (most people should probably just use Edge/Safari IMO), but I see Firefox as the only non-native browser worth using due to the best-in-class feature set. I'm not going to draw this post out further detailing all of them, but it wouldn't be hard for me to demonstrate how much Firefox outclasses the competition there. It's a very mature browser.


> I use this feature. On a large monitor, Firefox wastes quite a lot of space with the default layout. Ditto, I hate programs wasting space with these things. The compact design matches really good with other toolbars and stuff in KDE. (however, there could be an option to make it bigger, for touch displays, but it should'nt the only choise)


I haven’t used Firefox since they introduced The Australis interface. I hated it. It broke all the extensions I used, the ones I developed, and took away my ability to put the buttons where I wanted. I figured if I had to learn a new browser I’d go with Chrome. Now I mainly use Edge and I really like it.


> Why bother using FF at this point?

I use it almost entirely for containers. Do any other browsers have the same functionality either built-in or via plugin?


Chrome has an addon that's closed sourced but claims to emulate containers feature from FF. I've forgotten the name since I never bothered checking it out.


I only use them on mobile at this point (for adblock). For desktop, they are just worse than Chrome.


Brave has better adblock on mobile in my experience anyway.


> Why bother using FF at this point?

All these people complaining about a free browser, and one that isn't selling your soul to pay for it.

Please check your behavior, and set a better example in the future.


> Why bother using FF at this point?

Panorama Tab Groups


I don't get it. The wording of the bugzilla specifically says

> The "Compact" density is a feature of the "Customize toolbar" view which is currently fairly hard to discover, and we assume gets low engagement.

So not only do they not have telemetry for that, they aren't even attempting to make it more discoverable to test if there's a correlation between "hard to discover" and "low engagement"?

I would use this but never knew this could be changed.


It seems no one really read through the bugzilla ticket. Three days ago after this got attention Mozilla both added telemetry to collect usage stats [1] and plan to run an experiment with the new proton UI [2] to determine what density users prefer and make discovery easier.

This is not yet finalized/decided and a great big thanks to the Firefox devs for listening to the feedback and collecting real information before making a final decision.

[1] https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1698100

[2] https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1698171


Thanks for this. I didn't read the comments so that's good to know :)


I wish gecko/servo were separated enough from Firefox that we had other browser options built around it, with features like native sidebar tabs and compact mode. I've tried to stick with Firefox because I don't love Google owning the hugely dominant browser engine, but Mozilla isn't making it easy for me.

Looks increasingly nice across the pond with Edgeium, Vivaldi, Brave, etc.

Is servo even still in development? I know bits and pieces of the project have made their way into Firefox, but I'm not sure where that stands after the layoffs last year.


They fired all the Servo devs. (And) probably increased their CEOs annual salary and bonuses.

At this point, Mozilla is just hell-bent on a path to completely destroying whatever's left of Firefox. It being the only non-Blink browser alternative left is no longer a valid excuse.


I've contributed to Servo, compiled it, used it, etc.

The parts of Servo that were not already merged into Firefox (like Stylo and WebRender) had no clear path to being merged into Firefox within the next few years.

I'm really, really sad that they were laid off, but in terms of the future survival of Firefox, it wasn't a catastrophic decision.


I've seen this kind of thing happen before, where the underdog in some area develops a kind of self-doubt about the ways they are different. Unique advantages get mistaken for liabilities and then the underdog degrades into a weak immitation.


>(And) probably increased their CEOs annual salary and bonuses.

Please don't post this kind of cynical speculation unless you have something to back it up.


She's in the news every year or two, when she gets another pay raise.


I would say that many of the issues with Firefox for Android (Fenix) come from the fact that there are a lot of modular components that get managed by different teams. My experience is that whenever I've encountered a bug in Fenix that has a dependency on a GeckoView issue, it doesn't get fixed for at least a couple of months. Examples include the inability to copy magnet links and the inability to download images that need cookies attached to the request, like the ones for Cloudflare's DDoS protection. There is literally nothing I can do in those cases except use a Chromium-based browser. I may be biased, but in my experience having more than one repo with their own separate PRs and commit processes slows down bugfixes by an order of magnitude, even more so when they're managed by different teams.

For that matter, some other issues that have nothing to do with GeckoView, like breaking Bitwarden autocomplete and not restoring deleted tabs to their correct position on undo, haven't been fixed for even longer.

I think that Mozilla has good intentions, but they pushed out Fenix way, way too early, which broke the experience for users of previous version of Firefox for Android. And it seems that their mobile team is understaffed and overworked. I don't blame them, since they're essentially trying to create an entirely new browser (minus the rendering engine). But should be labeled as a beta, if not an alpha, in the state it's in - not "release-ready" as the version on the Play Store. It's proven that web browsers are too important in this era to get wrong when so much of our lives depend on them. If the experience is even slightly inferior to Chrome, the average user can easily switch and never end up using Firefox again.


> For that matter, some other issues that have nothing to do with GeckoView, like breaking Bitwarden autocomplete and not restoring deleted tabs to their correct position on undo, haven't been fixed for even longer.

Is this related to me typically not even getting the password manager popup? Or that even when I do get it, sometimes it just flat doesn't work?


On this note, anyone have thoughts on Waterfox and Palemoon? My mental picture of them is basically “forks of old Firefox versions” but I don’t know how accurate that is. Web compatibility issues or anything else to know about?


I can only speak for Pale Moon. It gets updated frequently, but it does have trouble with a lot of websites. I use it in conjunction with NoScript, so I'm used to the web breaking regularly, but there are sites that I can't make work correctly even opening NoScript up completely. For instance, it doesn't work with the SSO solution we use here at work. I do use it for some web browsing (I'm using it here) but I wouldn't recommend it to new users who aren't nostalgic about the old firefox.


That is the most messed up reasoning I have ever heard. "We will remove this feature because we didn't promote it well."

It might be a crazy idea, but maybe we could add telemetry and see if people actually use it despite it being hard to discover.


Yes, that idea is nonsensical. The reason I use FF is because they're fighting tracking and telemetry. Not so they can spy on me.


Firefox has telemetry, it just doesn't gather data on this feature. It does gather:

  Interaction data includes information about your interactions with Firefox such as number of open tabs and windows, number of webpages visited, number and type of installed Firefox Add-ons and session length, as well as Firefox features offered by Mozilla or our partners such as interaction with Firefox search features and search partner referrals. [0]
I don't think telling if the compact UI was enabled is more invasive than this data.

[0] https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/telemetry-clientid


I opt out. I assume people inclined to tweak their FF settings are more likely to opt out than those who don't. By definition, I guess. So that's gonna spoil whatever statistics you want out of this.


> I opt out.

Then there was the issue of "studies"[1].

[1]: https://old.reddit.com/r/firefox/comments/bl035o/what_are_th...


Modern telemetry is a plague on power users. Imagine if Vim made product decisions around which features get the most use.


Every new Vim instance would show instructions on how to :q and a million StackOverflow posts would become redundant


Neovim startup page looks like this now:

    NVIM v0.4.3

    Nvim is open source and freely distributable
    https://neovim.io/#chat

    type  :help nvim<Enter>       if you are new!
    type  :checkhealth<Enter>     to optimize Nvim
    type  :q<Enter>               to exit
    type  :help<Enter>            for help

    Become a registered Vim user!
    type  :help register<Enter>   for information

I imagine vim is similar


It is.

You can also hit ^C, and it will prompt you with instructions.


Vim (at least v8.1.1401) already does that.

type :q<Enter> to exit

type :help<Enter> or <F1> for on-line help

type :help version8<Enter> for version info

As the sibling comment noted, neovim also has something similar.


> I would use this but never knew this could be changed.

Same here, but since it affects both the toolbar and the tab bar, I'm inclined to keep the density set to Normal except on small screens.


Also the touch scale, also only discoverable through that same UI widget, is not up for removal.


Yes and if touch mode remains a simple "x times more padding" variant (like it's today) it's a bit hard to see how ditching compact mode would save much code complexity...


I use this feature as the UI takes a lot of space, and it would be bother me quite noticeably were it removed. However, I understand that maintaining features & options can incur costs, which may not be worthwhile if they're not widely used. So I'd be happy to accept the inconvenience if I knew that I was in a minority.

Stunned to see that's not the case, and completely baffled at how contradictory and indicative of incompetence this stated reasoning is.


However, I understand that maintaining features & options can incur costs,

Don't be persuaded by that argument unless you have a good idea of what the actual costs are --- especially when the one making the argument is also spending what is almost certainly a lot more on new features that almost no one cares about.


Same here. I also find this reasoning very disturbing and discouraging, even though I can live without this feature, and will most likely continue using FF after this change lands.


This is the exact same language they used to justify removing RSS support so they could push their Pocket(tm) product.

Glad I left, won’t be back.


Same here. I didn't know this was in Firefox, saw this article, went and tried it. I think I'll leave it that way (until the feature goes away) because I prefer leaving space for content. I use the keyboard to focus on the url bar anyway, so the smaller size doesn't hurt me.


"Nobody visited the restaurant that we decided to build in the middle of nowhere and never advertised, so obviously it failed and we closed it down."


Correction:

"We built a restaurant in the middle of nowhere and never advertised it. We don't have the numbers but it seems fair to assume that nobody goes there so we'll be closing it down."

The important missing part in your analogy is that they don't even know if people use it or not!


Even if they knew how many people are using it they still wouldn't know if more people wanted to use it.


I don't think Mozilla has a clear vision of what they want to achieve. They've been randomly removing features, or even plain butchering their products (eg the recent Firefox mobile update) for several years, and all they probably achieved is to lose more and more users.

Yet with their tiny market share they aren't exactly in a position to lose users.


I actually really like Firefox Mobile. The old Firefox on Android was a dumpster fire. But I'm one of those types that used to use Firefox Focus as my main mobile browser. My main concern on a mobile browser is that it's so difficult to deal with cookies and tracking etc. Firefox Focus really earned my trust there and I like that the new Firefox Mobile is continuing that.

My only real "complaint" is trivial and it isn't really their fault--it's that there are some dumb websites/apps that require a pass through Chrome to login and I haven't found a super quick way to do that (it's not difficult but it used to be super easy and obvious in Focus).


My main complaint about Firefox mobile is the menu locations - three dots on the upper right, hamburger on lower right, page select on bottom. With the issue being that there's nothing intuitive around what lands in the dots or the burger, so I not-so-rarely find myself randomly clicking on one or the other looking for e.g., the share menu.

It doesn't stop me from using it, but it's annoying.


Hmmm, I have my toolbar on the bottom and don't have anything in the upper right at all. Dunno what that could be. The location of the toolbar (menu/address/etc) can be set top or bottom in preferences (Settings >> Customize >> Toolbar).

I have my toolbar set to auto hide to maximize screen space for reading and bottom works better for me because when you scroll to the top, the hidden toolbar reappears at the bottom before pulling further to refresh. It seems like hiding/unhiding the toolbar at the top would be super annoying because it would either jump over the top of the page or jerk the page up and down under my finger as it hides/unhides.

(FWIW: I'm on a Pixel running Android 11 so dunno if there could be an Android version level or manufacturer overlay issue causing your menu to split, or maybe it's an iOS feature)


I used Firefox on Android on my tablet and it was perfect for my needs. Since the change, I went from using it every day to never using it. The reviews on the play store are brutal now.

The problem with Mozilla is that there aren't giving users what they want: Empowerment. Instead Mozilla wants the empowerment for themselves and to heck with giving users any control over the experience.


The reviews on the play store are extremely positive


After the switch the reviews were extremely negative. Now looking at recent reviews it's like 50/50. There are still some people complaining about the new UI but you're not going to keep doing that months later. Those people are just gone.


The rating is increasing so the positive ratio is far higher than 50/50. There was an extremely vocal minority who left lots of negative reviews after the switch, and yes many of them may now be gone. But clearly new users are happy with it.


For several years now it has seemed like every notable change in Firefox has been about removing a reason to use Firefox instead of Chrome. (There are certainly reasons for the opposite case, including but not limited to the fact that every single website is certainly tested to work in Chrome.)

Now, I've been using Firefox as my primary browser since before it was called Firefox, and I'm quite used to it and unlikely to switch to anything else, but boy are they (at the Mozilla Foundation) trying hard to make me.


One could almost hazard a guess that Google has people inside Mozilla deliberately sabotaging the browser, to drive people to Chrome, while keeping Firefox around for the sole purpose of avoiding anti-trust lawsuits...


Not sure why you are being downvoted, this seems like a pretty plausible explanation. Certainly better than any other I have seen.


Google doesn't need to do that. Between mozilla's management and general hard, thankless work developing browsers.

For instance, Chrome loses to Edge and Safari, on metrics like memory or power consumption.

Does that mean Apple and Microsoft have infiltrated Google Chrome team?


Depends. Is Chrome team actively working on making their browser worse?


Is Firefox? It definitely doesn't seem so.

The more options you support the harder is to fix/change things.


A side effect of using the Vimperator extension for many years was that it provided a stable interface unaffected by upstream UI tweaks, while still benefiting from other feature and security updates. I couldn't imagine switching away from Firefox for any reason, but when Vimperator was no longer supported, I realized I didn't like what remained and evaluated alternatives. Eventually, I stopped installing Firefox on my machines because I no longer open it.


I've gone from a diehard Firefox advocate to not even recommending it to friends and family for exactly this reason. The amount UX churn and functionality regressions over the past half decade is absurd and a huge turnoff.


Exactly this: recent Firefox mobile update. It is the worst happen to software I like to use and I use it on daily basis. It went bad. And I don't understand why they removed so many helpful features. It is time to (again) depart from Firefox and choose Chromium again.


Please don't. Anything but Chrome based browsers. Chromium based browsers already have a monopoly, giving Google a huge weight when it comes to the web.


How about NetSurf? (Doesn't use the engines from Chromium or Firefox or WebKit etc)

https://www.netsurf-browser.org


so firefox


Unfortunately yes. I really do wish we had more options.

I guess the other option is WebKit which is now independent from Chrome so has influence over the direction of the web.


The other option is IE --- I will continue to fight its deprecation because it still works damn well for the majority of non-JS sites, and MS continues to release security updates for it (contrary to what a lot of propaganda is saying.) Of course it doesn't have all the (site-facing) features of other browsers, and especially Google's behemoth, but I'm of the opinion that the web is already too bloated and needs to stop "moving forward" anyway.

(My main browser is IE. My secondary one is Firefox.)


Doesn't Microsoft have an end-of-life date set after which they will only support Edge? It seems like the IE horse is guaranteed to drop out of this race.


ie doesn't even properly support flexbox. it works because people are taking special care to work around it's various bugs, for now.


That's what I meant by not having as many site-facing features. But, as someone who has written and used quite a few very usable sites when HTML4 and CSS2 was the norm, maybe it's not really a problem; and writing simple code and not trying to trendchase is good for both accessibility and browser diversity:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25915313

It's not about the tool but how you use it...


Hey, I was around in times of not even having inline-blocks at our disposal too. It was horrible and I don't want to go back to it. I mean I don't even disagree with you entirely, but I don't really think flexbox or grid (which I know ie supports if you're willing to do the whole thing twice in two different syntaxes, which I'm not) is just a cherry on top, if anything they should have existed years before they did. Especially these days with responsive layouts being a thing, and if you don't want to just cheat and use javascript/browser detection to do it, they are pretty important to support different devices. That's where IE support can really step on your toe

by the way, I read that article at the time and opened my site in safari 6 on an old second generation ipod, and it worked hilariously well. Believe me, I'm not part of the problem, but I still can't wait for ie11 to fucking die so I can just write my layouts without having to worry about it's various idiosyncrasies, and finally use grid without impunity.


I completely disagree, I think the new Firefox mobile is great. It's significantly faster, and while there were initially some problems with the extensions I was using, they're all supported now.


Which Firefox is that? It seems to me there are more of them than Nokia had OSs back in the day.


After the Firefox mobile upgrade, I dropped Firefox on all platforms and switched to Vivaldi. So far it's pretty good. It's Chromium based too, can sync settings, passwords, etc. to all platforms and, important for me, has a built-in ad blocker on mobile (unlike Chrome).


>butchering their products (eg the recent Firefox mobile update)

This still stings. The Firefox mobile update was a huge step down in every way.


Hard disagree, it's an improvement in nearly every respect for me.


They dropped support for every extension sans 5-6 of them. And some of the extensions were incredibly useful.


You can use any plugin you want on Nightly.

https://blog.mozilla.org/addons/2020/09/29/expanded-extensio...

It's just that they're not guaranteed to work yet due to all the changes they made to the browser engine.


They got 18 extensions on android now. Including Ublock Origin, HTTPS Everywhere (by EFF), BitWarden, NoScript.


They don't have the main one I care about, and you can't install external extensions (not from their website).


Actually you can. You need nightly and you need to setup some account and set your extensions there. This is just so they can show you that they still work and they have disabled them because reasons. Nicely played.


I'm not sure I understand, you mean I need to use nightly and I need to publish the extensions to AMO myself? Neither of that is going to happen.


You don't need to publish the extensions, but you need to choose the extensions that you want to make available to Firefox. The instructions are here:

https://blog.mozilla.org/addons/2020/09/29/expanded-extensio...

The stable version of Fennec F-Droid (a fork of Firefox for Android) also supports custom extensions through this method if you don't want to use Firefox Nightly:

https://f-droid.org/en/packages/org.mozilla.fennec_fdroid/


I want to use a non AMO extension


Before if I was on a page and wanted to go to a site pinned on the homepage (i.e basically all the ones I use on mobile) I just had to click on the address bar which would display the homepage and I could click it, now it doesn't work, it shows nothing instead (why?) and god do I still hate it.

Also not exactly related the the new version but tab sending from desktop to mobile is basically not working these days.


I want to agree, I really prefer the new layout, but everytime I open a link from another app it just hangs for at least 30 seconds and I am not on a resource constrained device.


I have no such experience on several devices and android versions. Perhaps clear cache / reinstall and see if that helps clear the bug? Otherwise it might be device specific.


I'm also surprised to see this strongly negative feedback.

For me, Firefox/Android is something I've always wanted to use very badly, because I'm a staunch Firefox desktop user and wanted the bookmarks sync, but I kept reaching for Chrome because of the superior performance and UI refinement anyway.

The major upgrade of Firefox/Android made it dramatically better on those fronts for me. And now that UBlock is back, I think it's ready for a serious attempt at switching. It definitely wasn't before.

What are some things they broke/dropped?


Lots of little things that might not matter much individually, but still add up significantly when taken together:

- tabs can't be reordered any more

- bookmarks/history/recently closed tabs/top sites... are more cumbersome to access

- no "recently closed tabs" for quite a few months after the initial release

- bookmarks always force-open a new tab

- search suggestions needlessly take up more space (apparently by design, because these days information density is baaaaad), so you can't see local history/bookmark results without closing the keyboard or scrolling down

- using a search engine other than the default one requires two extra click at least, whereas previously they were directly accessible at the bottom of the screen

- Can't install search engines any more, instead you manually need to enter the correct search URL, which isn't fun (and then the manually created engine is of course lacking a proper icon)

- bookmark keywords and keyword searches aren't supported

- you used to be able to open a new tab by simply tapping the "tabs" button twice because the "new tab" button in the tabs list was suitably aligned – this is no longer the case (at least with the URL bar in classic on top mode)

- the tab queue for tabs opened from other apps doesn't exist any more

- the share sheet – you used to be able to share a URL to Firefox and then directly bookmark it or send it to another Firefox instance via Firefox Sync without having to actually open the URL in Firefox locally. Now you can't – any shared URLs are automatically opened and you need to wait for the full browser to actually load before you can bookmark/send the tab (and then you also need to close it again)

- view page source doesn't exist, not even if you manually prepend view-source: to the URL (supposedly there's an addon that works, but due to the blasted add-on policy you can't actually install it)

- can't view/browse local (HTML) files any more

- can't install themes anymore

- various small bugs introduced by the fact that this was a total rewrite

- despite having to rewrite the whole UI from scratch anyway, they didn't fix the "XKCD" bug and make long <img "title"> attributes scrollable instead of truncating them

- and probably quite a few more things I'd notice if I was actually regularly using the current version…

And of course the whole add-on thing: Even on the previous iteration of Firefox, the Webextension API implementation was somewhat half-hearted once you got to APIs that required special handling on the Android version, and the fact that this was a total rewrite hasn't helped in significantly expanding the coverage there, because instead the dev time largely had to be spent on re-implementing things.

Then there's of course that absolutely infuriating policy of only allowing a very limited selection of add-ons to be installed (unless you're on Nightly and jump through about half a dozen hoops, and even then you can only install the current version (and only the current version) of add-ons actually published on AMO). If you're lucky (or basically only using uBlock), maybe your add-on needs are actually covered by that, but the long tail of unsupported add-ons starts very early.

This also makes life more difficult for add-on developers (even if your add-on is actually one of the selected few), because you can no longer permanently install a testing version of your add-on or heaven help distribute a Beta version to your users (no, not even on Nightly and not even if the add-on is signed) – the best you get is temporary installation as long as your phone is connected to your computer and that's that.


Thanks! Fantastic reply.


>I don't think Mozilla has a clear vision of what they want to achieve.

Nope, they are obsessed about how tabs and [x] button look like. Is that 6th big change on the panel in 5 years?


I use Firefox Beta on android. One can change about:config options to improve pivacy. There is something called 'encrypted client hello', which was discussed here on HN, which lets me access many blocked sites in my country.

I use the about:config options in this guide [1] plus enable encrypted DNS and encrypted client hello in about:config (on FF Beta android).

A few days ago, there was an HN page showcasing a cool webpage which can read the position angles of your phone (whether it's flat, inclined etc in detail). That page works well on regular FF Android. But on the FF Beta with the config options enabled as above prevents the page from reading the angles. I also have telemetry upload disabled on FF Beta, but maybe a bit something is still uploaded, idk.

[1] https://restoreprivacy.com/firefox-privacy/

Edit: If one trawls through some recent past threads, one can see that FF cares about privacy. They have official extensions to isolate sites (or cookies?) to prevent tracking, on desktop. (Facebook Container and Firefox Multi-Account container). They are working on something like per site isolation by default (Project Fission [2]). Yeah Chrome has it but then they try to log you into the whole browser when you just wanna log in to gmail. And they are not doing something scammy plus impactful like AMP, FLoC [3] like Google. These AMP links are everywhere, many times it looks like it's the official site link.

[2] https://wiki.mozilla.org/Project_Fission

[3] https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2021/03/googles-floc-terrible-...


The device angle can be used for fingerprinting. I suspect that resetting the “ privacy.resistFingerprinting” preference to “false” will fix the device angle website.


Yeah that's what I meant. The page not working is a feature.


Oh. I mistakenly thought it might be a new bug. :)


I'm not very mobile savvy, but I use FF on mobile what did they mess up? I'm using 86.1.1 (Build #2015794881)


Extensions, there's a whitelist of about 10.


Ah. I only use uBlock Origin on mobile so that explains it.


They have a very clear vision: drive as many users to other browsers.


Things tend to go that way when your major sponsor is also the owner of your main competing product.


Or you know, there is a bias towards the negative for some backward-ass reason and there is this much engagement over some random clickbait UI feature, and almost none about actual technical advances in the renderer and the like that happen regularly, which is kind of saddening on HN.

It would be nice if the community would have more acceptance towards the last remaining browser fighting the good fight, with the many welcome, recent (!) advancements regarding privacy.


This is a 100% failure by Mozilla foundation management.

They are non technical people who only care about own salaries and sjw issues, while ignoring their core product.

Meanwhile the developer team does whatever they want: they mostly do greenfield projects that are used to boost their CVs. Those projects get 0 users and usually are cancelled at 70% completion so nothing hard needs to be done anyway (no bugfixing which is unsexy work).

Here a developer probably does not want to code the compact option (or possibly: does not know how to do it) so they just want to remove it. Because the new firefox motto is "fuck our remaining users". Mozilla management does not care.

Then they will wonder why firefox has a 3% market share.


I have never used FF mobile, but so far no one has gone into detail about what changed about FF mobile that made it so much worse. Can you elaborate a little?


There were a number of major changes that were poorly received:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/barrycollins/2020/08/26/firefox...

Perhaps the most disruptive change was that the update was not compatible with the vast majority of extensions. Given that, for "power users", the ability to install extensions was THE killer feature of Firefox for Android, this change was controversial.

I still use Firefox 68.


This is what I've come up with off the top of my head, and if I was actually regularly using the new version, there'd probably be quite a few more things to add:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26470454


Honestly I really like the mobile update, the interface feels more intuitive and modern. The only complaint for me is the "recommended" plugin restrictions.


The main problem with discovery is that Compact Density is enabled from a toolbar at the bottom of the Customize Firefox page, which looks looks like one of those annoying floating footers that badly designed web pages use to waste your screen space. It is affected by "banner blindness" and is effectively invisible.

When I saw this article I checked the Customize Firefox page to confirm I had compact layout enabled. I did not see the toolbar. I compared the UI density with a screenshot, and it seemed I had already set it to Compact, which I vaguely remembered doing. Puzzled, I returned to Customize Firefox, and still failed to see the toolbar.

I then checked about:config (which was also sabotaged recently to make it slower and remove features), and found browser.uidensity set to 1, so I really did have Compact density enabled. I returned to Customize Firefox, and only then, on my third attempt, did I see the toolbar.


> The main problem with discovery is that Compact Density is enabled from a toolbar at the bottom of the Customize Firefox page, which looks looks like one of those annoying floating footers that badly designed web pages use to waste your screen space. It is affected by "banner blindness" and is effectively invisible.

Exactly!

I have been using Firefox since Phoenix/Firebird days and I had never seen this option until I read about this on HN today.

That's 20+ years!


Holy shit I just found dark mode next to density in customize! When did they add that??


On Windows, the default theme now follows the OS setting. So if you turn on "Dark mode" for apps, Firefox will automatically go dark.


It was enabled by default for me - I presume it just took my OS appearance settings?


You could find it in themes in about:addons, and that's where I expected to find option like density too.


I then checked about:config (which was also sabotaged recently to make it slower and remove features),

For many years I've lamented the usability of about:config and wish they'd turn it into a tree structure and/or at least provide useful descriptions of the options (if something as space-constrained as a mobo BIOS can provide some descriptive help text next to each option in the setup screens...), only to find the next big change they did was that abomination of "designer-ism" (for lack of better term.) That felt like a punch to the face.


I don't know why firefox has so many different places to change settings


Turns out, I was using default density. I thought I was using Compact, so I suppose it isn't personally a big deal to me.

I do agree with most of the complaints, however.

It is apparent to me that there is a faction within Mozilla/Firefox that have an explicit directive to trim low-use features, no matter how passionate the users of those features are. I wish Firefox looked to the GNOME project to see how people feel about removing low-use features ideologically (hint: it sucks).

Chrome does a lot of things correctly, and it has its core competencies. Firefox should have its own, and optimize towards that. The only large group of people advocating for it anymore seem to be skilled users. Why piss them off?

Separate but related: My parents explicitly wanted off FF because it kept on changing its layout. Casual users don't like UI changes.


> looked to the GNOME project to see how people feel about removing low-use features

I like it and its the main reason I use gnome. Gnome does everything I need and is pretty close to my ideal use case. There are a few minor things I don't like but they are easy to deal with. The DE is very stable and nice looking and is typically first on new tech like Wayland. I assume a large chunk of this speed and stability comes from not being bogged down with 1000 options and alternative workflows.

At work we have to support so many obscure workflows and options and its a constant source of bugs when you forgot there is a toggle that changes the way things work and your new change doesn't support that. Or that a feature has 5 alternative workflows making your change 5x harder so its not worth starting at all.


Agreed. I used to be really into customization and I get that there's a certain pride and sense of accomplishment and sense of ownership that goes with it.

But there's also a certain zen to just declaring bankruptcy on configuration and tweakery. Gnome used to bother me (and Ubuntu did too) but I've learned to just let go. If I can't figure out how to change something in a few seconds, it's probably not worth the effort because in a few years or months I'll be under configuration debt.

Tangentially, as an example, I switched to this launcher on Android called Niagara. The developer refuses to make categories/folders to group apps. And it made me so angry at first. But he also made it really easy to rename things and the launcher's key feature is that selecting things alphabetically is nearly instant. The problem was that I could never remember what things were called. Like... what's the name of that god damn app that opens my garage door? And I'd hunt for it all over and curse the fact that I couldn't put things in a quick folder. And then I realized I could just... rename the app "Garage Door". Who needs categories. Ok prefix games with "Game - " etc. All the dumb apps my kids schools require are prefixed with the kid's name.

Now, that does still sound like putting effort into configuration. But it's just one feature and the payoff is not having to even think about things ever again. And there's no configuration debt because it didn't take as much effort in the first place as you'd think. If I don't find something quickly, then it needs to be renamed.

Well that rambled a bit, but the point is that just because I know a complex way to do things (an elaborate folder structure of apps in the old launcher that I used to have to constantly reconfigure and fuss about because even then it was difficult to find things), maybe there are better ways to do things. Like Niagra's method to scroll through all the apps fast as hell and now I never think about how to organize icons.

So sure Firefox was one way decades ago. Chrome is different and does things differently than Firefox does. If people are willing to declare bankruptcy and switch to Chrome, why not be willing to declare bankruptcy to the same features and allow Firefox to evolve?

... does Chrome even have an equivalent of this compact view? In the big picture, shaving a few pixels in a browser theme seems like the wrong reason to choose a web browser. Too much bikeshedding.


Lucky you. You're probably the average user GNOME was designed for. Unfortunately for GNOME, most users aren't average.


Gnome works almost the same as macOS, which I'd say is for the average user. I have a bunch of minor complaints like the lack of a minimize button but I find ignoring these issues is more palatable than using a less polished DE that doesn't contain defaults that are almost exactly what I want anyway.


Just FYI, minimise is both in the window menu (alt-space or the top left) and can be configured to have a button or be triggered by an action like double click or middle click in GNOME tweaks.


How are you determining who most users are? Is this based on anything beyond anecdotal evidence?


It's unfortunate that they are trimming the low-use, killer features that enthusiasts love. But I suspect they have limited developer resources, and given their declining market share, it makes sense that they would focus their efforts.

Unless a group of independently wealthy developers want to take up the mantle of maintaining the enthusiasts features, we should anticipate more cuts.


Except they recently renewed a cool $400M a year [0] Google search deal.

[0] https://tidbits.com/2020/08/17/mozillas-renewed-deal-with-go...


You underestimate the ability of Mozilla's leadership team to piss away money.


Or you know, a browser is not a trivial app, especially with the feature churn of the modern web, that has to be kept up-to-date.


Which makes it seem not quite genius that they add as much feature churn again in their own app.


Dear Mozilla,

I've been an evangelist for FF for 15-ish years, since before Chrome existed. I teach computer science, which means my evangelism is multiplied by the hundreds of students I see every year.

Why is it that every time we interact, you're ruining something?

This removal of Compact will not be the straw that breaks my back, but it's still one more straw. Why are you playing chicken with your userbase?

Yours, jholman


Try interacting with the actual developer-oriented forums about new features, not the click-baity, feeling-based HN thread.


Weird, because Mozilla's actual advice on this bug report is to interact with the HN thread. So I did.


I think something a lot of the comments are missing (rather than just realizing it's a well hidden setting these days) is this line:

"The upcoming Proton design refresh of the Firefox web browser could increase the default size of that interface significantly."

There is a UI redesign due in a few versions and in the previews at the moment it increases the UI size quite a bit. Compact is being removed as part of "making that new UI code simpler" so even if you think normal is fine today it's going to get larger - doubly so for those that used the compact feature on the old UI.


Yup. I'm using Firefox in Compact mode already, but the Proton tabs look even taller than the current Normal size. Not looking forward to this redesign.

I'll try it, but decent odds that this is the straw that pushes me to switch browsers. One of my computers I've done the jumping through hoops of browser customization to set up Tree Style Tabs with no tab bar up top, and I'm just not interested in going through more of that to figure out if there's a way to hack the Proton UI down to a size I like. Hell, I don't even know if Proton still lets you do apply custom CSS to the UI at all, it seems like the kind of feature that they'd want to drop to keep it "simple to maintain."

What's even sadder is they're keeping Normal and Touch, so it's not like this lets them take out the system for changing the sizes of all these UI elements. They're just taking away the small size. "People have vertical pixels, and damn it we're going to use as many of them as we can!"

As if I wasn't using that space for displaying webpages in my web browser or anything.


Why are designers unquestionable dictators and tyrants these days?

You get vast seas of "NO!!" and the projects are like "well sorry, mr art school over here moved some jpegs around. This is what we're doing!"

I mean what on earth, stop this insane nonsense already. Listen to the users.


> Listen to the users.

To be fair, this tells you what the vocal users think, and this is sometimes very different from what the majority of users think. For something with a shrinking market share, you also have to consider what potential users think, not just existing users.


That's the "don't listen to real people. Imagine people instead" defense.

It allows people to justify whatever they want without any confirmation or feedback on reality. They can always imagine some future user that permits them to ignore every single existing one.

It's a closed loop justification to do whatever they want without listening to anyone while pretending they're making it better for everyone.


> That's the "don't listen to real people. Imagine people instead" defense.

It's not a defense. I'm invalidating the argument that the vocal users are always right. I'm not claiming that this automatically means that what the project owners think instead is correct.

Figuring out how best to make everyone happy is more complicated than this. Claiming it is simple ("just listen to the vocal users!") is a fallacy.


It really depends. If you're running a passion project where you depend on the dedication and commitment of others to move the project forward, heeding to the vocal users is integral to a successful strategy.

Outside of that case it's also really hard to say. I think the best advice I can give are "vocal users who aren't crazy" with all of those words doing magical handwaving and lifting.

For instance, certain features have a lot of vocal normal, reasonable users but seem to be ignored. On youtube, disabling the "recommended for you" videos. On facebook, whenever you have a capital letter, an annoying name selector popup happens. There's essentially armies of complaints for an option to disable it, make it only @ etc ... all ignored.

Another example is Firefox's ctrl+q issue (finally addressed) or the GTK-3 file selector. There's plenty of things where there's a substantial number of vocal non-crazy users requesting reasonable things And there's a very popular philosophy that strongly advocates for completely ignoring them.

I mean open source is partially about addressing the tyranny of decision in closed source. Not through combative forks and team splitting but through open community dialog. Some of these larger projects seem to lift their projects away from that, probably to avoid the aforementioned wackos who overreach their welcome.

There's really better amelioration than justifying the restriction of the many by the trespass of the few.


This is supposed to be what A/B testing with KPIs is for.

There are plenty of times when stated preference contradicts actual behavior (e.g. more search results per page resulting in less successful searches on Google) due to other countervailing factors (additional latency causing abandonment before the page finishes loading)


That's not what this is.

The quantitative model has its own problems. It's why youtube, for instance, looks like it's designed for toddlers using tablets.


You have a very fair point, but I have a different read on the situation. I would characterize the situation a bit more charitably - "Mozilla is implementing a larger UI change, for X, Y, Z reasons, and will benefit the users in A, B, C ways. Unfortunately, one casualty of that is feature e will be discontinued".


What's their actual goal? At one time it was an open source alternative to IE 6, then they were the ones with the best debug tools, that was 10 years ago, now what?

The modern evolutionary descendent of Netscape Communications needs a crisper purpose then just amorphous open source vibes. Blink and Webkit are in that game as well and they have the most profitable tech companies in the world behind them. Even Microsoft's current browser works in Linux. The world has changed.

At least Eichs post Mozilla project Brave has some patreon-style crowdfunding with crypto in exchange for revenue sharing ad dollars, it's a reason for existing. Say what you will about it but it's got a reason for being around.


I can only infer what their goal is, to me, their goal is to help steer the web towards more privacy, less dark UIs, and help reduce general web 'badness', while trying to matching other browsers for ease of use and features.


Really, that's Eich's Brave. I don't like the guy's politics that much either, but the project's solid.


That project is a chrome with pre-installed extensions and they do some shady things with even that small amount of custom code.

It is barely comparable to a non-chrome based browser that actually values user’s freedom.


What "pre-installed extensions"?

You can't even fairly describe Brave, why should anyone believe you on a purported "non-chrome based browser that actually values user's freedom"? Mozilla is riding Firefox down to maximize Google search revenue in the bank. At some point this means they find the savings more attractive than the remaining tail of the deal, and collapse back into only a non-profit. Yes, Firefox is currently developed by the for-profit, arms-length subsidiary of the foundation. Both boards controlled by the $3M/year CEO overseeing the downward spiral.

I wish there were another engine well-funded enough to take web tech to the next level, while matching Google and Apple on de-facto WebKit + Chromium/Blink compatibility. There isn't, so that's not the hill to die on. Better to fight a level up for privacy and user sovereignty against Google's business conflict of interest with its users.


They're chasing potential users by trying to be exactly what potential users already have. This gives potential users no reason to switch and existing users a good excuse to jump ship.

I've already completely stopped using Firefox on Android because it literally stopped being useful for me.


Removing options is just silly. Not having the budget to support it is one thing but removing choice because you think you know better leaves you susceptible to becoming the next Ubuntu/Snap debacle.


If you read the Bugzilla ticket, there is no indication this change is driven by a designer on a crusade. No need to be condescending to an entire profession.


Why are developers unquestionable dictators and tyrants these days?

You get vast seas of "NO!!" and the projects are like "well sorry, mr engineering school over here used a UI framework at some point and liked that and also blah blah blah technical limitations blah, and wooh, abstractions that let you apply and reuse components in a programmatic manner or whatever blah blah blah. This is what we're doing!"

I mean what on earth, stop this insane nonsense already. Listen to the users.


Equally stupid.

I call it abstractolish when someone is tasked with say writing some code to order pizza on the internet and they approach it acting like they're Bertrand Russell writing JavaScript.

Everyone can get caught up in their own bullshit.

Be stupid and make obvious things. It's an art, sure.

Door handles, toilets, faucets, showers, hammers, physical world assets provide great analogies for what works and doesn't.

Much love for the design of everyday things but I think Norman missed the boat by not making the connections more explicit between the Fred Brooks pure thought stuff and you know, the tea kettle on the cover of his book. Maybe it's just my projection


It's not normally "being caught up in their own bullshit" though. Design + development + user research + user testing of software is expensive (in time, in thought, in arranging coordination, in cash). In this case, the thing in question is a product whose funding has been drastically -- why are you making the assumption a. this is a change driven by designers and b. isn't completely practical from a software design PoV (with the trade-off being that a few users don't like the change -- I don't for example, but it's no biggie)


Is it designers’ or is it the designers’ manager?

Designers know who pay them and can try and shape a conversation but ultimately they have to do something the paying client wants.


It's an industry generality. Aesthetics over usability, imagined users over real ones, minimalism over functionality, naive users over power users, wizards over tools.

It's not everybody but it's way too many.


I've been exploring ff ui architecture lately and what I've found is the css inside is kind of inconsistent and messy. I believe this change could be beneficial if that means they'll have a chance at refactoring it. Also, now that I think about it they could be also saving some resources on testing all the variations.


Take a look at almost every successful product and find the hacker news post where it was originally announced. Dropbox is useless because ftp exists, the iphone is useless because its too big and will get fingerprints, airpods are stupid because they look ugly and will fall in the drain, everyone will just use a strap to tie them to their phone.

If product managers listened to hacker news users our computers would be a faster version of Windows XP machines since that is the UI that most HN users prefer.


That's just plain false.

Here's dropbox's launch on hn: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=301605

iphone launch was june 2007, here's a post made shortly after, all positive: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=31873

Airpods was more questions (quality, battery life etc), not gernally dismissive though: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12446094

HN also hated the flops before they were flops.

Google glass: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5249841

GoPro's karma drone: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12532948

Amazon's Fire phone: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7911934

FirefoxOS: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5969691

so no, totally false.


The dropbox thread seems to be not the initial announcement but the public release which is after people have already tried it and not the initial reaction to the idea alone. The iphone is the same, people commenting while they have the product already. People tend to hate on an idea when they first hear it but come to like it after they have it in their hands (if its actually good)

I'm also partly taking in to consideration the reddit drama over the iphone and airpods which is a low bar I guess but the initial reactions, especially to the airpods was very poor.


Alright, if you'd like to find counter examples I'd love to see.

I've heard your sentiment before so I decided to actually go and check. I don't believe I cherry-picked. I tried to pick a balance between the earliest mention and the largest comment thread (sometime the earliest mention had zero comments).

I know such malcontents exist, I'm not disputing that. I just believe the evidence stands that they are not the majority voice.

Personally I've been using hn hype as a proxy for investment advice for years. Whenever I see a bunch of fanboys pop up, I go off and buy the stock. Whenever they are negative, I consider selling it. I bought things like Tesla and Bitcoin based on hn hype, both in 2011.

They're way more right then they are wrong, just saying.


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