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Firebug lead developer now working on Web dev tools at Google (groups.google.com)
205 points by tbassetto 1506 days ago | 87 comments



I switched to Chrome web dev tools about 5 months ago and haven't had a reason to launch Firefox since.

There's still stuff I miss about firebug, but overall the chrome web tools are a gigantic improvement in speed, reliability, and functionality. Firebug feels like a dinosaur in comparison.

Capturing the web developer mindshare is actually a huge win for Google, because it means the quality of web apps is going to be highest for Chrome end-users, with subtle but visible bugs in other browsers due to the simple fact that developers will spend less time in these browsers.

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I have the exact opposite experience with Chrome dev tools. It feel clunky and poorly designed in comparison to firebug. Things like clicking on an element you're trying to edit doesn't work. The page doesn't automatically update your changes as you type them. Trying to modify an html attribute in line is a battle. I could go on. It just doesn't feel polished. It doesn't feel like the people who wrote it actually use it, whereas firebug feels like the user experience was first priority.

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Chrome has the best Javascript debugging tools.

However when it comes to CSS and HTML, its lagging behind Firebug.

That said, now adays I find myself in Chrome far more than Firefox simply because Javascript debugging in Chrome is fast, never crashes, and is pretty necessary if you're building an extensive rich interface app.

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I don't think I agree, as a heavy JavaScript developer. I use FireBug specifically for JavaScript debugging, here are the reasons:

1. The console is a lot better. You aren't limited to the one line interpreter that Chrome provides.

2. Using console.log, and console.dir I get a colored DOM/JSON output. I can click the DOM element and it'll get me to the DOM/HTML tab. This is not available in Chrome. I can move the mouse over the DOM element and it'll be highlighted in the browser.

3. Add-ons: I use the jQuery and Cookies add-ons and they add a lot to the console. I can include jQuery with a click and it highlights the jQuery objects for me in the console. I can watch cookies changes from the console directly.

4. For the debugging tools, they are equal. For syntax coloring the JavaScript code, there is a Firebug add-on for that.

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Regarding #1, you can do multiline if you paste, or option-return.

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Chrome can do #1 and #2.

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2 only partially: it does not link to the DOM tab.

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How do you do #2?

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Recent versions of the Webkit dev tools do syntax coloration and highlighting on hover.

They don't link to the Elements tab though.

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I agree that Chrome's dev tools are faster and crash less. I also find them more visually appealing. I wouldn't say they are better than Firebug, though... there are a few kinks they need to work out.

One of them is console.log():

  (function(){
	var obj = {};
	console.log(obj);
	obj.new_value = "hello";
	console.log(obj);
  })();
In Chrome, this logs an object {new_value: "hello"} twice, as opposed to the expected: an empty object, and then the aforementioned object.

More details here: http://techblog.appnexus.com/2011/webkit-chrome-safari-conso...

It's not something I encounter often, but when I do, it's really obnoxious to have to work around it. I mean, it's console.log() ffs.

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Yeah that one's a complete pain in the ass, it makes debugging much harder in mutation loops as you always get the wrong value displayed in the console and then smash your head in the desk as a test which should be hit is not.

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I am a long time firebug and chrome developer tools user and i was with you on chrome having the "best Javascript debugging tools". Unfortunately, it still crashes when doing some tricky debugging things, and it has plenty of bugs (e.g. after a while debugging, the console stops outputting complex objects (objects, arrays) leaving spaces instead, so a collection of elements looks like [, , , ]).

I switched to OSX 4 years ago and i hate to say it, but I found IE9 and IE10 debuggers (even ran in virtual machine) the be the most stable debugging tools. I encourage you to give it a try. It turns out, that we're living rather a miserable life trying to find tools that don't crash, and there are good tools out there. Too bad they are on the "alternative" operating system MS Windows is.

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Want to know the value of a global variable using the IE dev tools? Well you'll have to put in a break point, because the watch window isn't even available unless execution is paused.

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I agree with you. I also made a comment about this topic earlier http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2721038.

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It appears that this might start to turn around now...

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I too have switched to Chrome about 5 months ago -- only because of its lower memory and CPU footprint (in my experience at least), and have found myself used to the Chrome web dev tools' assortment of annoyances. All things being equal, I'd prefer to use Firebug, but Firefox just eats up too much memory and starts to lock up for a few seconds at a time.

Some issues I've found with Chrome dev tools:

* console.log() is fundamentally broken [1]. There's a bug filed for it and it doesn't seem like it will be fixed.

* When you log an HTML element, there's no way to jump to it in the "Elements" view.

* If XHR response is in JSON, it does not show you it in friendly easy-to-navigate format, but rather a big string.

Aside from that both tools are really awesome and do pretty much everything I need them to.

[1]: http://techblog.appnexus.com/2011/webkit-chrome-safari-conso...

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For 1) using breakpoints works very well to see current state of variables.

#3 is fixed (at least in the dev channel). There is a preview tab next to headers and response.

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> For 1) using breakpoints works very well to see current state of variables.

That's a workaround for a completely broken behavior.

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Dealing with breakpoints is a very time consuming process. In my opinion, a better workaround is to have a "log" function which wraps console.log(), and clones any objects if the browser is Chrome or Safari.

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add to that list that the Chrome dev tools don't display errors in red in the network tab. A 200 next to a 404 is nearly to impossible to distinguish at first sight (basically, if you are looking at the name of the file, you are not looking at the response code at the same time.)

Every time I use the dev tools I find them lacking a lot of UI/UX details that Firebug had there forever.

Being unable to quickly switch between the CSS and Layout/Metrics view is another major downer. Tabs beat scrolling, always.

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I hope this doesn't portend bad things for Firebug down the road; it's nice to have a variety of tools, but kudos to Mr. Barton for making the move and, more importantly, providing a devastatingly useful and revolutionary web development tool.

Front end web development changed seemingly overnight for the better when Firebug came on the scene.

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Keen in mind that Firefox 8 (and 7, and I think earlier versions) has Web Developer tools built in, obviating much of the need for Firebug.

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Unfortunately, the new web developers tools* built into Firefox represent a small subset of what Firebug and Webkit Inspector can do. Since Firebug is not compatible with Nightlies (Firefox 8) and Aurora (Firefox 7), it's a major regression.

* https://developer.mozilla.org/en/Using_the_Web_Console

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The Firebug team has tests running against Nightly. Bugs are caught and fixed fairly quickly. Because we work to catch bugs during the Nightly phase, there should not be much time during which an Aurora build is not compatible with a pre-release (at least!) Firebug, and that would be soon after Aurora is branched.

Given that Nightly is the least stable kind of build and could have other problems along the way, we've reached a pretty good point with Firebug's compatibility.

Of course, you also have the Web Console if you're having trouble with Firebug (and I'll grant that this alone is not a replacement for Firebug!)

ObDisclaimer: I'm the product manager for devtools at Mozilla.

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Just thought I'd mention that Firebug 1.8 (now in beta) is compatible with Aurora and Nightly:

http://blog.getfirebug.com/2011/07/18/firebug-1-8b6/

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That's not even true.

The web console is not a replacement for firebug. its just decent built in tools.

Firebug - guess what - supports Firefox 7 and probably 8 too. And of course, Firefox 5 as well which is the latest release of Firefox btw.

It's tiring to read the large amount of FUD against Firefox lately. People like you are the major regression to the interwebs. Very seriously.

http://getfirebug.com/

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The page you linked indicates that Firefox 8 is not supported. Also, please try to be civil with your comments in the future (and welcome to HN).

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> That's not even true.

Today I needed to determine if any resources were 404ing on a page. Yesterday I wanted to see the exact POST request my browser was sending. I did both on FF using the inbuilt developer tools. I'm sure they may not replace every piece of Firebug functionality, but I didn't say they did.

> People like you are the major regression to the interwebs. Very seriously.

I've flagged your post. Please read http://ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

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Sort of like Chrome. Firefox has becoming nothing more than the browser that copies Chrome from this point on. Its market share is already starting to slip away and it won't be long now before Firefox is the next Netscape Navigator.

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App Tabs, In-content UI (like preferences in a tab), HTML/CSS/JS extension model and about:labs (proof on Aza Raskin's blog)

These are just a few things Google has copied from Mozilla. I don't go around complaining about all the thing Google has copied from Mozilla, but the record has to be set straight, Mozilla is not following Google, they are going there own way. They implemented sandboxed Flash first and compartments which Chrome is missing.

Funny that Google haven't updated the Google toolbar.

"It doesn't take a conscious effort to make software incompatible. All you have to do is not work too hard at fixing bugs—which, if you're a big company, you produce in copious quantities. The situation is analogous to the writing of "literary theorists." Most don't try to be obscure; they just don't make an effort to be clear. It wouldn't pay." - Paul Graham http://paulgraham.com/microsoft.html

Embrace, Extend, Extinguish.

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Exactly. There is not a thing that Firefox does that Chrome doesn't do better.

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I don't know if that's entirely true.

I do a lot of Firefox extension development. Many companies or users have a need for highly specialized functionality built into a browser, and Firefox provides an very rich platform for that. You can easily build powerful applications that integrate tightly with Firefox.

Chrome's extension capability is much lighter and more restricted; Chrome extensions are just light little packets of functionality that add to the browser. There's many things that you can't do that you could do in Firefox.

I think that area is definitely where Firefox wins, and will probably continue winning in the future.

Does everyone need that, and is it enough to keep a large market share? I don't know...but it is something that Firefox does better.

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Unfortunately Mozilla is intent on squandering every last advantage they still had by copying what Chrome does.

They abandoned XULRunner and Gecko as independent platforms. They're committing to breaking every traditional extension every 6 weeks with the new release cycle (and told institutional users to go fuck themselves). The new stable extension APIs will be limited just like Chrome.

Companies will just switch to modern IE, Iceweasel, or Safari to get a maintained shelf-stable browser. Everyone else will use Chrome.

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It's definitely a difficult transition time for Mozilla/Firefox, and I think they're struggling to find their footing. I'm not sure if all the decisions they are making are correct, but as time goes on I think their plans are coming together more. i Plugin incompatibility is a problem at the moment, but they have systems in place to help mitigate it. If they can manage to keep it temporary, I think they can survive.

I don't have much experience with the new extension SDK, so I can't comment on it authoritatively. The old system is not without problems, and I'm actually glad that they are moving over to something closer to Chrome in terms of certain things...

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Text rendering. OpenType features.

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Zoom text only (showstopper, IMO).

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Do you mean Chrome 8 and 7? Firefox is only up to 5 now.

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Firefox 8 is the nightly build now:

http://ostatic.com/blog/early-glimpse-of-firefox-8-shows-vas...

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Firefox moved to new release cycle. The current nightly build of Firefox is Firefox 8 @ http://nightly.mozilla.org/

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Front end web development changed seemingly overnight for the better when Firebug came on the scene.

That's true, but let's give credit where credit's due. It was Joe Hewitt who created Firebug.

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I am Sold. I am switching to WebDev tools. If anyone needs an intro, here is video of session done during Google I/O 2011

-> Google I/O 2011: Chrome Dev Tools Reloaded http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8SS-rUEZPg

Btw, Paul Irish is co-presenter ;)

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Interesting video. Thanks!

Some nice tips & tricks were also posted on the chromium blog a few months ago: http://blog.chromium.org/2011/02/chrome-developer-tools-back...

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the best thing i learned from this video: #BADA55 <-- nice shade of green

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Hmm, interesting. I guess, now it's Joe's chance to elevate Firebug yet again :-)

http://joehewitt.com/post/creative-tools

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Dead link

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Well, it boils down to money, and Google's got it. I'd call that a major win for Google ;)

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I don't think Mozilla is short on cash.

In 2009 the Mozilla Foundation chalked up $104 million in revenue[1] from ties with Google, Yahoo, Yandex, Amazon, Ebay and others. I'd imagine there are some large donations in there as well.

[1] http://www.mozilla.org/foundation/annualreport/2009/faq.html

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So like,

  I think our current drive to re-architect Firebug is on the
  right track, but I could not obtain another year of support
  from IBM to contribute to that work.
Clearly, he would have stayed if either IBM or Mozilla offered their "support." Programmers need to eat :x

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Google's resources are orders of magnitude larger than Mozilla's.

Google's marketing budget for Chrome is likely larger than Mozilla's entire budget overall.

I can't say anything about this particular hire and what the reasons were there, since I know nothing about it. But in general if money is your goal, Google can outbid everyone else, often by a lot.

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In spite of the completely irrelevant lack of marketing money, Mozilla could still have hired John (if he would even have accepted, at this point).

I wasn't expecting this announcement, but it's not surprising. Google is actively developing their dev tools, and Mozilla has...some exploratory experiments, with no concrete roadmap for a feature complete Firebug replacement. I still don't understand the politics behind Mozilla's decisions regarding firebug and switching to developing built-in tools (while giving token support to the firebug crew), but it was a poor one. A clean slate is great in theory, but when you alienate a community and defacto-deprecate a tool with no replacement in sight, this is exactly the kind of thing you should expect.

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I will certainly grant that our roadmap has never called for a "feature complete Firebug replacement". Our goal has been to explore new ideas while building out tools that we can ship with the browser. We're also working on improving Firefox's infrastructure for developer tools (a whole new JavaScript debugging interface is underway for SpiderMonkey, for example).

Mozilla has a lot going on and Firebug, for it's part, is an independent project with goals and plans of its own. I wrote about this a bit here:

http://blog.mozilla.com/devtools/2011/05/25/the-relationship...

Mozilla's developer tools work has been steadily increasing this year, and you'll start seeing a good deal more communication about what we're up to.

Kevin (product manager for Mozilla's developer tools)

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> In spite of the completely irrelevant lack of marketing money, Mozilla could still have hired John (if he would even have accepted, at this point).

Of course, Mozilla could have hired him in theory. Perhaps it made him an offer. I have no idea. I was just responding to the previous comment, pointing out that as far as money is concerned, I am quite sure Google can offer much more than Mozilla (or basically anyone else, except perhaps Apple, Microsoft, etc. And of course some startups can offer more in terms of shares, but not cash.)

The comment about marketing was a quick way to give an idea of the difference in budget between Google and Mozilla.

> I wasn't expecting this announcement, but it's not surprising. Google is actively developing their dev tools, and Mozilla has...some exploratory experiments

I would say Mozilla's development tools are much more than experiments, but I agree Google has focused on them as a core part of the browser for longer. In part this is because of the existence of Firebug, which made it so Mozilla did not have to focus on such things. But there has definitely been a recent shift in Mozilla on this matter.

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There is no politics. Simply put, the developer who first wrote it worked at Mozilla, Firefox's tools aren't designed to replace Firebug and Mozilla coordinated releases with the Firebug team. So many negatives assumptions and unsupported claims when it comes to Firefox, if people wouldn't be so insular they would know what they are talking about.

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Business as usual, at Mountain View.

My guess, Firefox have gotten that big because of the developers that installed the browser everywhere. It's the same story as Twitter, which flourished the same way.

That's why the Chrome developments do not come as a surprise, as well as the Google+'s API, which is already in closed beta (how many years it took Facebook to create their own "platform" that, effectively, alienated many regular users, not interested in the farm news?)

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You can use 'Firebug Lite' with Chrome (http://getfirebug.com/), as well as IE/other browsers.

I use Chrome's built in dev tools but also Firebug Lite, its handy to see Ajax queries (and console debug logs) on the actual page instead of a separate Chrome window.

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Well the Chrome tools are already awesome. I didn't even need the CSS Selector plugin for Firefox with Chrome because it has a similar built it feature. It can only get better with the inclusion of Firebug's lead developer! Congrats for the best!

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I do a lot of my development in GWT. Ironically whilst JS heavy app run much better in Chrome, in GWT devmode Firefox is still king and Firebug the dev weapon of choice.

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Mozilla is pretty much treading water at this point. It's only a matter of time before the inevitable drowning.

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I thought so too but Firefox 5+ is much improved. It's close to a toss-up for me between Chrome and Firefox at the moment.

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feature request:

figure out some convention to do console output that doesn't break on browsers that don't support the console. Maybe something like:

//->console.log("hello world")

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if (!window.console) { window.console = { log: function() {} } }

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1. there are more methods (dir, group, error, etc)

2. some browsers provide console.log but not others

3. those methods most of the time are not .apply'able or .call'able. that matters when you try to output an array of items with the right firebug/devtools coloring. But you cant. You get the ["Message", "was sent", {Object}] output with the arrayish square brackets and all strings with the double quotes. If you pass values directly via console.log(type, action, object) the output will not have double quotes around each string and the "Message was sent" part will read as one sentence, not two values of one array.

4. Some combinations of firefox (i think ff4) with firebug (even disabled) raise exceptions when you attempt to redefine one of the console objects. The exception alone renders some of the sites broken.

Handling the console object is needlessly painful and hard. Someone has to stop it.

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    function myLog() {
      if(window.console && window.console.log) {
        window.console.log(arguments)
      }
    }

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What do you think happens when you pass arguments to functions like that?

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window.console.log.apply(window.console, arguments)

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See? There's the problem. Since there's no conclusion between vendors on console object API, console.log function may not have .apply method.

It's not only the console object functions actually, most of the browsers choke on a [1,2,3].forEach(alert) and other [Native Code] functions.

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Function.prototype.apply.apply(console.log, [console, arguments]);

Works both on IE9 broken console.log, and regular console.log from other vendors. Same hack as using Array.prototype.slice to convert arguments into a real array.

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I have been using that approach and for some reason IE8 still errors!

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couldn't he still contribute to Firebug in his spare time?

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this is pretty much game over for firebug...

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No, actually it's not. John is part of a team that manages and develops Firebug. The team is still there, including Jan Odvarko who we (Mozilla) pay to work full-time on Firebug.

I don't want to downplay John's part in Firebug, which is huge and it's a real shame that the project is losing him. I just want to point out that you will continue to see Firebug releases going forward.

Kevin (PM for Mozilla's developer tools)

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That is the way, Google grows.

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I don't think it's about money. I feel that Mozilla has made a strategic mistake in switching to a very rapid release schedule. My clients keep saying things like, "Firefox 5? Didn't Firefox 4 just come out like two months ago?"

I haven't even bothered with Firefox 5 yet. It's not worth my time to work inside yet another browser. At this rate, I might as well just dump Firefox and work inside Chrome.

Mozilla needs to slow the hell down and let Extension developers catch up.

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> I feel that Mozilla has made a strategic mistake in switching to a very rapid release schedule.

That wasn't the mistake. The mistake was stealing the technical part from Chrome, and not the part that end users love.

Trust me, the only reason Chrome's rapid release schedule hasn't garnered this criticism is because 9/10 users couldn't tell you what the current version of Chrome is, much less what it was when they originally installed it.

Google, while adopting rapid release, has simultaneously made version numbers irrelevant to anyone except devs and power users. That was the important part. Updates don't matter and they just happen.

Mozilla adopted rapid release but kept publicizing each major version like it was a big deal and giving end users ways to opt out other than turning off updates completely. This is a BAD idea.

Rapid release needs to come hand in hand with safer, less drastic, and seamless updates. This will never happen until Mozilla overhauls its extensions system because of how deep & old-world it is and how prone extensions are to break during minor updates.

It's unfortunate for the NoScript fanatics, but a rapid release schedule simply does not work if you provide this many hesitations. I still see FF3.6 and FF4 everywhere, yet unless the person doesn't run Chrome very often, Chrome is always at 12.x. If it isn't, it will be next time they launch.

It's funny, in a way users who clamour for stuff like NoScript are actually putting average users in more danger for their own personal benefit. If Mozilla was allowed to overhaul FF's extension system, updates could be much more seamless and end users would actually end up with the latest version of the program.

Instead, we run the gamut from 1.x to 2.x to 3.x to 4.x to 5.x and everything in between. I'm sure anyone who has worked as a desktop tech has somewhat recently encountered a Firefox 1.x/2.x installation here and there, ever catch a Chrome 1? Chrome 3? Chrome 7? Really, anything except the latest version at the time? Exactly.

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Firefox versions after v4 update automatically. They show a dialog during restart while they check extension compatibility but everything happens seamlessly.

Mozilla also has a script that scans extensions on AMO and auto updates the versions they support if they don't detect any issues. For the majority of extensions they should keep working unless they do wired hacky things or use more advanced extension APIs.

Mozilla has also been downplaying the version numbers in recent announcements for Firefox updates. By the end of the year everyone using Firefox will be in the same state of not caring that Chrome users are at.

Mozilla has also overhauled the extension system with the introduction of the Add-on SDK. It is still a little rough but it is HTML/JS, doesn't require browser restarts and it has a fresh API for developers to use. Developers just need to switch to it.

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> Firefox versions after v4 update automatically.

I haven't experienced that behaviour, at least in the Mac version. Every machine I have was updated from v4 to v5 manually, because it didn't happen automatically.

> Mozilla also has a script that scans extensions on AMO and auto updates the versions they support if they don't detect any issues. For the majority of extensions they should keep working unless they do wired hacky things or use more advanced extension APIs.

That unfortunately characterizes many Firefox extensions. I also feel that you are downplaying the issue, I have had simple plugins have their toolbar buttons break between minor updates. The current Firefox extension system just isn't right for the times.

> Mozilla has also been downplaying the version numbers in recent announcements for Firefox updates.

> Mozilla has also overhauled the extension system with the introduction of the Add-on SDK.

That is good to hear, I wasn't aware of that. I still would have preferred it if they had dealt with these issues before switching schedules, it's not like they came out of the blue. Now we have this drawn out transition period that could have been shorter. It also remains to be seen if they'll be aggressive about migrating to this new extensions system.

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> but kept publicizing each major version like it was a > big deal

Uh... There's been only one release on the new schedule so far: Firefox 5. And it was just announced as a release. None of the announcements mentioned the number "5" anywhere.

Now the extension compat story is a real problem, though things like NoScript are a smaller part of it than things like Google Toolbar, the various antivirus toolbars, etc.

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Don't forget that the powerful Firefox extensions like noscript, firebug, imacros,... are what (many) users love about Firefox. Chrome only has "lite" versions of these tools for technical reasons (limited extension API).

So I agree that the very rapid release schedule is the problem here. It brings more problems than it solves. Just because Google does something, does not mean it is good for everyone.

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> Don't forget that the powerful Firefox extensions like noscript, firebug, imacros,... are what (many) users love about Firefox.

It depends how you characterize "many". Many users you encounter doesn't necessarily equal many FF users. I think what the vast majority of Firefox users love about it is that it is the browser they use, and have used for a long time. In other words, their loyalty doesn't run so deep. Those are the users this move is for, those that use Firefox habitually instead of for some particular reason and could possibly switch to Chrome.

> Chrome only has "lite" versions of these tools for technical reasons (limited extension API).

Not just Chrome, but Safari & Opera as well. There is a reason for that, it's because it's the smarter way to go. Firefox's extension system is a massive cause of headaches for Mozilla. It's going to go eventually, the only question is how soon.

> So I agree that the very rapid release schedule is the problem here. It brings more problems than it solves.

Problems for you, you mean. Rapid release, seamless updates and a less invasive extension system solves big problems for Mozilla and most end users, problems that are causing them to switch to Chrome.

> Just because Google does something, does not mean it is good for everyone.

Likewise, just because devs want it doesn't mean it's worth compromising the experience for everyone else. They'll find another way, users will just find another product.

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> Mozilla adopted rapid release but kept publicizing each major version like it was a big deal and giving end users ways to opt out other than turning off updates completely. This is a BAD idea.

Yes, this is the correct way to think about it.

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> I haven't even bothered with Firefox 5 yet. It's not worth my time to work inside yet another browser. At this rate, I might as well just dump Firefox and work inside Chrome.

> Mozilla needs to slow the hell down

I don't understand. You want to switch from Firefox because of it's rapid releases, to the browser that invented rapid releases?

Both Chrome and Firefox release a new major version every 6 weeks, both obsolete the version right before it at that time, etc.

If you want a slow-releasing browser, your options are IE and Safari.

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thats exactly what google are good at, advertising. they make DEVS believe totally crazy things like what you just mentioned.

its scary - but they sure know their thing

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As far as I know, Chrome releases every 6 weeks as well. If you switch to working with Chrome you'll be working under the same rapid release schedule.

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But without knowing any better. Chrome has always updated on its own and there's no reason to know what version of Chrome you're using because it's the latest. I had to check just now, apparently it's 12. FireFox has always had hugely publicized major updates with a long time between them, so there's a disconnect--you're supposed to care about a new FF version.

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Firefox updates also result in extension breakage.

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Chrome updates also result in JavaScript breakage.

File/Blob API is an example that, while being experimental and a moving target, happened on the background and broke from one launch of the browser to the other without the dev knowing what the heck was going on.

Same breakage happened from Firefox 4 to 5, but at least the end user (the dev in this case) knows that something important happened and might be related to that. This is key.

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BASTARDS THEYRE TAKING IT ALL AWAY FROM ME!

I used to love firefox but since firefox4 and the awesome speed of Chrome...it's been hard not to turn away from it ;/

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