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Firefox to regularly nag users to change their default browser (bugzilla.mozilla.org)
73 points by pentaxy 5 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 95 comments

> I hope this is either a bug, or misunderstanding: this apparent change does not respect the "Always check if Firefox is your default browser" setting.

We absolutely continue to respect that check box. We won't always check at startup if Firefox is your default browser. When that box is left checked, you get a modal/prompt at every single startup. It literally always checks if Firefox is your default.

In contrast, the work resulting from this bug is just checking every 5 weeks and we happen to not be default, we'll ask with a more gentle infobar. We won't display the more disruptive modal/prompt.

I love Firefox, just stop shooting yourself in the foot. There is no way that is a fair interpretation of that option.

Firefox is my last holdout for a decent graphical browser. After that it will be lynx. I am not looking forward to the endless debates with vendors to get an API gateway that supports simple forms so I can use lynx. Maybe there is a reputable company that has already done this so I can use them as a reference standard. Amazon maybe? I bet Amazon has an API with a full parity web front-end into their store.

[Edit] Just edited this message with lynx.

At some point someone [1] should just fork Firefox and work on it independently.


[1]: (not me, I'm horrible at maintaining projects, though I would help)

GNU IceCat is pretty much that, not a fork exactly but a sanitized version of the latest Firefox. The project looks dead though. Last stable release was in 2019.


Waterfox [1] is another one. Each of the forks has pros and cons. Most of the forks seem to have very few developers supporting them.

[1] - https://www.waterfox.net/

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Mozilla has no respect for its users. This is a continuing pattern as you've very clearly demonstrated.

The Mozilla manifesto [1] principle 8:

> Transparent community-based processes promote participation, accountability and trust.

Ha ha ha ha ha. Every change is decided in private. By the time anyone outside Mozilla becomes aware of them it's too late to provide any input. Discussion of such decisions is forbidden on bugzilla, and the forums are ignored.

The only way to provide meaningful feedback is to quit Firefox. But I don't want to use Chrome. sigh

[1]: https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/about/manifesto/

It's been that way since the very beginning. The folks behind Mozilla always assume they know more about what the users ought to do, than the users themselves. You would maybe think that this arrogant position would have diminished a bit over the last 20 years, but apparently it has not.

I'm more annoyed by Mozilla hiding functions used mainly by powerusers so they can be accessed only using about:config (for instance relatively recently layout.css.text-decoration-skip-ink.enabled) and then completely scrapping the functionality, because people don't use it (duh). Now they want to do same with compact mode. I dread when they completely disable usage of userChrome.css.

They completely ignore the fact that Firefox got big because technical users were installing it on computers of their less technically literate relatives. Now they changed the Firefox to be carbon copy of Chrome so powerusers no longer have any reason to use it, let alone install it for other people. My reason to keep using it is at this point only desire to avoid Chrome monoculture.

Which is a shame because the technical is entirely subordinate to and for the sake of the non-technical ultimately.

Kick the technical and keep the bureaucrats. What could go wrong?

Were you around in 2014?

Yes. Thank you for your work all those years.

bring back Brendan Eich?

Ughhh those sponsored links ( https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26262031 ) are only just new. I can't believe they are pulling that.

Glad it can be turned off but I bet it won't sync to all my other systems.

Why did you include the Mozilla Foundation as an awful decision?

Which link are you referring to?

Sorry for the late reply, but it was https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23391659

The main comments were people complaining about the foundation but I see you may have been pointing out the pocket recommendations.

How do people write this with a straight face?

Could they also show the modal 99.99% of the time and claim that meets the language they used?

I agree; anyone who deselected that check-box isn’t going to think - “ok now Firefox will only sporadically check if it is the default browser”

Yep, they might as well hire a lawyer to defend their bad decisions based on the exact wording of settings.

Nobody cares if the option doesn't literally imply it'll never "nudge" the user, I'd be annoyed regardless. And it's the only option visible to normal users.

They literally have the best (ok, subjectively) browser right now and they're just...

What even are they doing? What is their goal with all these user-hostile changes?

If it's to try juicing up active userbase just be a good browser and wait for chrome to make a change that annoys everyone (FLoC seems like a good candidate)

Better of shit options is leaving us all fucked.

This justification is making me strongly reconsider my browser choice.

Numerous times in the past couple of years I’ve briefly tried Firefox, or considered trying it again.

Stuff like this just keeps coming up completely souring it’s reputation.

At least anecdotally speaking, they’re shooting themselves in the foot and I’ll put off touching FF for another few months until I forget about this.

Ok but then what do you use? Lynx?

Chrome/Chromium/Brave have 10 times the amount of dark patterns. It's sad but the complexity and cruft of browser APIs have created an effective browser duopoly. There are no alternatives for any kind of mainstream usage.

What are the dark patterns in Brave?

Yes I've not encountered any yet.

Report them via github, or if you think intentionally dark, via https://hackerone.com/brave and we will pay bounty.

And this is why I use Brave. The people at the top are techies - who understand and respond to their users.

Mozilla could learn from this.

Thanks Brendan.

I use Safari + AdGuard for most things due to the native Mac interface and reduced power consumption. And Chromium + uBlock Origin when I need to use sites that don't work with anything other than Chrome.

They're absolutely shooting themselves in the foot. They need Firefox to stand out from Chrome. Instead they keep trying to turn it into Chrome. There's still some things they have that keep me from switching like some level of support for a tree styled tabs addon, container tabs, and not crippling the abilities of uBO filters. But I'm wondering how long it will be before those advantages go away. The tree style tabs are already suboptimal since the Quantum release. They share the same sidebar as anything else that wants to display in a sidebar and the addon can't toggle the display of the normal tabs.

> Why 5 weeks? [...] It's not often enough that it will annoy users.

You know what's annoying? Asking me to change something that I've already said no to, especially when you don't give me an obvious way to turn it off. 5 weeks, 5 days, 5 months, doesn't matter.

You already asked at install time and every time I started FireFox until finding and changing that setting. If I still haven't approved it and you keep asking, you're just going to piss me off.

Respect your users, Mozilla.

But this is somehow even worse: they do give you an obvious way to turn it off, then they ignore that setting 5 weeks later.

It's one thing to not ask your users for consent to a thing; it's another to ask them for consent, then intentionally ignore it and do the opposite. One is idiocy; the other borders on malice.

Is there anything I can help you with?

No, thanks; I'm just browsing.

Is there anything I can help you with?

I just said "no, thanks."

Is there anything I can help you with?


Is there anything I can help you with?

#$&@! Leave me alone. I'm not a criminal for just browsing here. Can you stop profiling me too?

Is there anything I can help you with?


It's like a fucking litany. I love you ff, but....

Don't fuck me over but....

I swear to the gods if there was one decent browser that wasn't fucking FF...

Heh, this won't annoy me in particular since Firefox is already my default. Instead, it'll specifically annoy web developers who prefer some other browser, but are being good netizens and testing in Firefox too. I'm not really okay with making Firefox more annoying for these developers. It's their preference, and the checkbox in settings that is meant to control this prompt should actually control this prompt, all the time.

Actually, it will annoy me in particular even though FF is my default browser. Technically, Choosy (https://www.choosyosx.com/) is my default "browser" on macOS and FF is the preferred browser in Choosy. I hope there will be an about:config preference to disable "nudging".

Even better they should embed this Choosy functionality inside firefox as an option. Eg: I'm on firefox and I click on a link that contains a domain that I would to open on a different browser. I admit this is a very power user feature but not much different than this precisely default browser thing: it affects only multi-browser users (which would love to jump out of firefox based on some rules, guess there is already an extension for it).

So if you enable `browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.asrouter.devtoolsEnabled` you can navigate to `about:home#asrouter`, look for `INFOBAR_DEFAULT_AND_PIN_87` (that's the ID for this message) and click BLOCK. It's best to flip the pref back cause it might cause issues (and this won't revert the block).

I swear I had this idea! (I mean choosy) Perhaps it's a natural conclusion. Another similar idea is auto-sorting downloaded files (and extracting archives, also acting on the origin by reading the FF sqlite DB, etc.)

> On April 16, when I started up Firefox 87 (stable) on my Ubuntu laptop, it popped up a prompt asking if I want to set Firefox as my default browser. Firefox is already my default browser.

Apparently it will annoy you as well. :)

“Can you sign this 10-Year agreement to make Firefox your default browser across all devices? Click here”

A few moments later..

Would you like to renew Firefox as your default browser now before time runs out? Act now before prices go up! Supplies are limited! Not valid in AK, HI, and Guam.

Still nowhere near as bad as Windows popping up a system level notification on consumer configurations of Windows 10, with a big advertisement for Edge and trying to get people to change their browser to Edge.

It's even worse. When you launch Edge just to go to search and type 'download firefox' Edge tries to stop you by putting a nag banner right inside the search results.

Confirmed on Mac too..

Big banner with: "You're already browsing in the new Microsoft Edge Keep using to get world class performance with more privacy, more productivity, and more value"

Ridiculous. I never saw that before as I always install FF first so I do it from Safari. Edge comes auto deployed by work.

And mozilla isn't even the first link it found. #1 is Opera and #2 is Vivaldi despite having 'download firefox' as the search term.

And underneath that, there's an ad for opera...


I cant open a link from Teams or Outlook in Android if I don't download Edge. Even copying test returns a nagging/warning.

Is it Edge or Bing?

Are you sure you want to not use Edge? Please? I'm going to cry. Hey, I'll reset it to Edge in a bit anyway just in case.

Here, let me remind you how much I love you with the giant blue full screen 'welcome to windows, please make a microsoft account' message next time you log in.



"Not as bad as Windows" is such a low, low bar.

Mozilla would be far more effective if they would just properly align their incentives.

It's so disheartening to see Windows fall to such anti-user practices. But I guess this is par for the course for modern OSes. On apple systems I get a permanent system notification about Safari every few days. I have to dismiss it manually every time.

I mean no disrespect whatsoever - but how old are you? Because from a longer term perspective, having seen what Microsoft was up to in the mid to late 1990s, this is just them being consistent with how they've always been... It just has a new shiny friendly face on it with 'free' onedrive services, outlook webmail and such.



I'm a 90s kid. But most of my computer usage happened with Win XP and Win 7. I remember them quite fondly, and don't recall such blatant user hostility.

It was really more in the win98SE, NT4 and win2000 era that they took aggressive steps to make IE the default and crush Netscape as a competitor. Preventing PC manufacturers from bundling Netscape as a default installed program with an entry on the desktop as an icon, and in the start menu, was a big part of it.

Mozilla is really the sad old tale of how money can in fact corrupt. Ruining great technology, firing talented people all so that some CEO can make millions.

So many people would be tremendously happy about a free Web Browser that is not run by corporate interests, respects privacy and offers power user features.

And yes it could run on donation just fine. Wikipedia is running on donations and it more than well financed.

I have so often wished for a way to directly donate to and only to Firefox development but no they know better.

Not to mention the GNU project has proven that developers are in fact willing to work for the greater good for free, especially if you pick a license that protects users freedom instead of corporate interest.

I don't get anyone who is using this as a cudgel to claim that Chrome is better (and there are some in these comments already). Google don't deserve any credit for having stopped doing that after achieving near-total dominance through using those tactics.

How much of Chrome's current marketshare can be attributed to:

1) Bundling Chrome with Adobe Flash Player, Adobe Reader, Java, and multiple free antivirus suites, with a pre-checked "make Chrome my default browser" box

2) Putting "try Chrome" nagware popups on the Google homepage of Firefox users (and other browsers) - the most visited website on the planet.

I would argue a HUGE percentage of it. I'm not the "just click OK" type and it still slipped past me once.

Still, I'm sad to see this. It's a poor omen for Firefox.

This is part of the problem with courting the privacy/niche user group. They routinely make the perfect the enemy of the good.

While they scream constantly about these particular issues I have yet to see someone post a viable solution to FireFox's increasingly shrinking market share and there will be a point when the google search box either wont or cant pay the bills any longer.

I have yet to see someone post a viable solution to FireFox's increasingly shrinking market share

1. Stop alienating the people who care about things like this. Normal computer-illiterate users will not be convinced to switch to your browser. The last decade or so is evidence of that. Word of mouth is what unseated IE last time, but if you keep pissing off the people who actually care about their browser, you think that word is going to be positive?

2. Start respecting your users rather than regarding them with the same disdain as Chrome and GNOME with a thin veneer of "but we're not Google" to paper it over as a selling point. "We give a shit about you" (when backed by matching actions.. i.e. the opposite of the last 10 years of Firefox) is a selling point. "We're basically Chrome but made by someone else who uses a lot more flowery words about 'privacy' and 'empowerment'" is not.

That's it. Firefox isn't losing market share because of malfeasance, they are losing it because of an infuriating series of self-owns and poor decisions.

I think this zero-sum game thinking, where Firefox is either the default browser or it isn't, is antiquated.

While I'm not necessarily representative of a broader population, I find that I prefer different web browsers based on what I want to do in my browser.

For example, I really like Safari for shopping because of its first class support for Apple Pay on my Mac. I just tap my finger on the sensor, and I'm done.

When I use Google Meet, Safari doesn't work great, so I will boot up Brave or Chrome.

For reasons that are unclear to me, Firefox renders pages with extremely rich and bright colors that jump right off the page. So I love using Firefox for browsing pages with a lot of photos or interesting graphic design.

Apps like https://www.choosyosx.com have helped make workflows like the above a bit easier, but are far from perfect. I wonder if there is a place for Mozilla to explore a way to make the UX for multiple browser vendors even better. I think many people would love to have Firefox as their default browser for 80 - 90% of the web, but not 100%.

> For reasons that are unclear to me, Firefox renders pages with extremely rich and bright colors that jump right off the page. So I love using Firefox for browsing pages with a lot of photos or interesting graphic design.

I guess you're using a high-gamut display, and Firefox fails to map sRGB colors properly. When websites say #FF0000, they expect that the red pixels leak a bit of green/blue light wavelengths, and correctly operating browsers will add a bit of green (and blue?) if you have a high-gamut display (where red pixels don't leak green/blue light wavelengths), except in images and colors specifically tagged to produce "super-saturated" colors beyond sRGB. Firefox doesn't do this by default, which is "wrong" in a sense.

Well, the zero-sum game isn't really Mozilla's fault. This is just how the OS works. There is only one default browser per user. It's the one that handles hyperlinks coming from other apps.

What is their fault is bugging users with no way of turning it off.

I’m annoyed by this new notification because Firefox doesn’t recognize macOS Choosy.app as a multi-default browser router, which I use to control the directions of various links into the right places in my collection of browsers. I expect my use case is too rare to be of interest to the browser team, but it’ll serve as a useful reminder to me of why nothing is every fully correct at humanity scale.

> Unfortunately, it did not perform anywhere near as well

Just guessing here, but I strongly suspect that by "performance" they're only paying attention to the number of people who made Firefox the default browser right away and totally ignoring the number of people who were so irritated that they won't use Firefox again, ever, unless forced to do so.

It's like the websites that justify throwing up a million interstitial popups by claiming that it increases mailing list signups by 0.012%, while blithely ignoring all the people who are angered by such time-wasting shenanigans.

You're allowed to ask me to install your software/subscribe to your newsletter/like your app on the App Store.


More than that and I'm going to do anything I can to avoid using your product ever again.

This sounds exactly like the stupid decisions made when all you do is look at data and not care about anything else. If all you care about is more people making Firefox the default browser and not care about doing the right thing, then you get people like this doing what he is doing.

Doing the right thing is to ask once, and stop asking. To do something different is horribly stupid and reflects very poorly on Firefox as a whole.

YouTube keeps asking me if I want to switch to a paying account and I keep clicking no. It’s very annoying and the fact that Firefox is following this tactic is truly sad.

Mechanical, rational optimization instead of a mix of social UX goodwill with some rational optimization. Reason with empathy perhaps.

I think the fail here was that it continued to nag Linux users who already had Firefox set as their default browser.

Sufficiently secured systems that don't allow certain read/writes in /home have the issue where Firefox can't tell if it's the default browser, so even if it is default it will continue prompting forever. I had that issue on a few Linux systems, and the default config on OpenBSD (specifically the 'unveil' setup for firefox).

It's not a good user experience, even for people who are used to things not working perfectly.

Does that complete the circle now, where you'll have a nag from one of the top browsers no matter what you install?

Basically, every browser now has to copy Chrome's incessant nagging, or continue to lose ground to Chrome.

> Basically, every browser now has to copy Chrome's incessant nagging, and continue to lose ground to Chrome.

Even with all the dirty tricks, Firefox is not able to claw back any user share.

I'm using Firefox as my daily driver. This sounds like a slope so slippery that you can turn it into a water slide. "After doing research, we've found that it works even better when we remind users every week". And since somebody's bonus will be tied to "default browser" settings, eventually it'll be "we found that users appreciate it if we just make that decision for them".

WTF, it's already started. And, FF discontinued on Android TV.

Mozilla is being run into the ground with leadership entropy like an empire in decline.

My work computer requires Chrome be default for all the intranet garbage. I personally go out of my way to install Firefox out of a deep respect for the old web and the old Mozilla.

New mozilla, you have made extensions worse, cancelled numerous awesome projects, and laid off hundreds of employees, while giving your new CEO a huge raise: this nag screen, is it really the best move?

I wish Google nagged every 5 weeks, and only if you were already on chrome, instead of every time you use it with any browser.

Great, now I have to go find how to make it the default browser even if I'm running it inside a docker container and there's no such thing as a "default browser" in that context...

What I’d like to see is a way for loyal users to fund Mozilla Corporation (MoCo) [1], reduce the reliance of MoCo just a teeny bit on Google’s search partnership, and MoCo use some money to buy ads on Google to download Firefox. Google used the last method on all its online properties to sell Chrome to users, among other methods.

[1]: Donations on mozilla.org go to Mozilla Foundation, and that money is not spent on Firefox as such. Limited partnerships with Mullvad for VPN aren’t enough and aren’t even available around the world. This needs a larger effort. Firefox development gets money mainly from the search partnership with Google.

Well, if this is the plan, fine. I think it is inadvisable. However, I also think asking people nicely, in creative, well grounded fashion is better than a full on nag, however low key it is.

"Please consider using Firefox as your default browser because [insert what FF is all about] matters."

"Browser monoculture leads to [insert it here], why not help out by using Firefox as your default browser?"

You get the idea.

Again, inadvisable, but if you all are going to do it anyway, really do it. Have some fun, be passionate.

Maybe it will work despite the naysayers, myself included. Sometimes things do.

The bar appeared for me on dev. edition and as I use that as a secondary browser (To Firefox standard), I dismissed the bar. If many people are like me, the measurements could very well be wrong, no?

Chrome is better than Firefox for most everyday use. I use Firefox because I don’t want to use a Google browser and I like the idea of having browsers that aren’t based on Chromium, but for goodness’ sake at least make me not hate that choice. I cannot, and do not, recommend Firefox to anybody because it’s not good enough. This is not helping.

This is a great way to get me to uninstall Firefox and completely remove it from my system. Kudos to whoever did this.

I'd be amused if someone wrote a program that hooked into the OS in such a way that it could detect when a browser is about to launch and then temporarily change the default to that browser, changing it back a moment or two after the launch finishes.

That way, every browser would think that it is already the default.

5 weeks is 35 days .. I don't think that I would even remember spending 3 seconds to dismiss a bar every 5 weeks. But it would definitely help someone less tech-savvy who doesn't know how to set their default browser.

This is after you've already unchecked "Always check if Firefox is your default browser". People uncheck that because they don't want to be nagged. This is just Mozilla not respecting user choices.

To be honest, I uncheck that option because if you don’t it pops up every time you open Firefox (and it is a modal). I’m not actually hostile to a nag that only occurs once every few weeks, especially one that is not modal. I don’t think we should burn Mozilla at the stake for this, it seems like such a small thing. This nag might result in a higher adoption over Chrome. Hey, I support that!

And even then Windows doesn't offer you a straight forward API. Firefox can only open the Settings page for you, user has to change it from the dropdown. After you change, Windows makes you confirm with an "Edge is new and great" prompt.

This is getting bad enough that it’s making me want to check out the De-Googled Chromium fork.

Doesn’t someone somewhere have a De-Fucked Firefox fork that is actually kept up to date?

Title doesn't match.

Emailing this as a comment to the mods using the footer link is the most effective way to see the title corrected, as posting about it doesn’t always work out so well.

To be honest with Firefox market share at an all time low I would want them to nag me more.

Not being as user-hostile as the dominant browser would grow Firefox's market share.

Annoying your users, even the ones who have explicitly said they don't want to be annoyed, is not the key to market success.

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