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I agree with this opinion piece. Firefox is a product strangely hostile to its core userbase. It's almost like they've been deliberately trying to sabotage themselves for years. I don't use it because I approve of all their stupid pigheaded UI choices, I use it because it has been the least bad option despite those choices. That might not go on for much longer, though.



I'd say other way around is true. HN crowd won't like this but it's very hard to continuously update a product for the core userbase that Firefox has. (small sample size but I maintain a small privacy focused app and from my experience, most of the reviews I get are how it's missing features which competitors have or how it's unusable because it can't handle stuff without jeopardizing privacy focused nature of the app.)

Judging by the HN and Reddit comments with each Firefox/Signal/Matrix releases, it seems most of the customers of privacy focused products want all the other features of competitors; most of the times without paying any money (or they think donations should cover for everything because they once donated, so all hundreds of thousand users would). And they dislike/have negative sentiments towards any UI changes or breaking functionality for new features. So core userbase for these products becomes hostile towards the product growth by definition. In this environment, either the product stops growing and simply becomes a niche product for those set of users or it dies.


People are dumb, specially the tech community. I've been watching for at least 10 years how everyone switched to chrome because it's faster. Now we have one mega corporation in charge of both most of the search and most of the browser usage. That's literally controlling the internet.

And you made it happen by your choices.


Google's "success" with FLoC shows they don't really have that control, not because of the browser for sure. They affected the standard a lot, of course, but hard to see why it wasn't for everyone's benefit considering the apps like Figma we can have now.

Stuff like AMP was mostly brought throughs search alone.


People are dumb or certain companies are smart?


Both.


Privacy isn't even the main reason I use Firefox, if that was all I cared about, I'd use brave or ungoogled chromium with privacy extensions and settings.

I use it because I like it a little bit more than chrome. And because I don't want google to completely control the browser market. But the more firefox becomes like chrome, the less reason I have to continue using it.

And despite what Mozilla thinks and wants, I don't think most Firefox users care that much about privacy. I suspect most Firefox users use it because their tech saavy friend, relative, or IT administrator installed it for them and/or told them to use it. So losing core users also means using many other users in their sphere of influence.


> So core userbase for these products becomes hostile towards the product growth by definition. In this environment, either the product stops growing and simply becomes a niche product for those set of users or it dies.

Except FF market percentage has been decreasing not growing. The technical foundation has gotten better, but it’s like Mozilla execs are completely out of sync with the market share they could have. They want a “shiny” app that in theory people should want, not the app people actually want.

I just hope some group of geeks decides to fork it and change it up.


> The technical foundation has gotten better, but it’s like Mozilla execs are completely out of sync with the market share they could have.

Execs may have less to do with the decline than a changing market. Google poured resources and new ideas into a mostly greenfield effort, and leveraged its market position to push its browser. Edge and Safari also benefit from their makers' platforms and marketing.

It's a hostile world for an independent browser. And IMO Firefox is still the least worst option.


> It's a hostile world for an independent browser.

Sure, bit it would have been a little less hostile if they hadn't brought quite a lot of that on themselves with their long history of hostile-to-tech-savvy-users decisions.


https://waterfox.net/ is what you're looking for, I believe.


FWIW, Waterfox is now owned by System1, an ad company.


It does bother me a bit, too, but the Waterfox founder, Alex Kontos, was fairly transparent about the acquisition [1] and how it would affect the project. Still, that's a fair point.

[1]: https://www.waterfox.net/blog/waterfox-has-joined-system1/


How can anyone call firefox privacy focused when they use telemetry so fucking heavily? Per default telemetry is active, disable it and you still got telemetry/pings whatever. You have to opt out of everything. It's not even limited to the user side look at this https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1460678#c20


And again, you throw out the baby with the bathwater and go back to Big Google that does worse on every privacy-related issue by a mile.

Like, no matter what, telemetry is useful to the product, and defaults matter. Like the infamous “the opt-ot organ donor vs opt-in countries have a staggering difference of 90% difference”. Should firefox throw away 90% of its userbase’s useful telemetry, most of who would have no problem with providing it?


Oh no I still use firefox and like everyone I make bug reports or follow the existing once. But it's hard to recommend it to friends/family if you have to say "you only need to change these settings and install these addons" and I get responses like "I would rather use brave. It just works" or something like that.

I want firefox to be good. I don't even need to have the newest features I just wamt a stable browser I can use. Don't we all? Removing features I actually use and adding things I don't need is counterproductive and I don't know which part of their telemetry helped them make those choices, but many I didn't like.

> Should firefox throw away 90% of its userbase’s useful telemetry, most of who would have no problem with providing it?

Telemetry should always be opt-in. Firefox throws enough messages your way if they would ask (like many other programs) "Help make firefox better" and then offer different level of reporting it would be fine. They ask me to change my theme at the start, but they don't ask me if I want to send them my data?


>Removing features I actually use and adding things I don't need is counterproductive and I don't know which part of their telemetry helped them make those choices, but many I didn't like.

Well, this is exactly the point. If you disable telemetry, how do you expect them to know that you are using that feature and they shouldn't remove it?


I tell them directly. I actually took a look at what they send about:telemetry and as far as I can tell NONE of the features they removed that I used was captures through this. It's good to collect not too much, but removing features based on imagined data is bad. Maybe I overlooked something, but the only data that could interest them is my addon selection...

Anyway for the longest time I send detailed information with all my crash reports and similar, but not only could I never find out where they collected the crashes I send in no no error (even the reproducible once) got fixed. The only times my problems got fixed where when I actively filed a bug report myself or fixed the cause of the issue manually.

After a few years I began to wonder if anybody even reads those crash reports and added a request for a quick pingback something like "empty message is fine. I just want to know if anybody is actually reading this". Did this _multiple_ times, never got any response. Either they don't read or they don't care. Anyway I'm over giving my data for aggregations that probably never get used.

If someone from mozilla could tell me that they actually matter maybe I would change my mind, but for now I'll drive my privacy is important for me train, because it really is and if the people that collect my data don't or misuse it I don't see the point in sending it.

Maybe I was expecting too much, but if this is too much of a response then I don't want to contribute anything (at least like this).


Correct. An easy win for Firefox is to become a zero telemetry browser by default. All that telemetry is giving them wrong data anyway as users they should be most interested in disable telemetry and are not represented in usage data.


I'm very confused by this comment. If you think of telemetry like a vote, disabling it is essentially forfeiting your vote, so it doesn't really make sense to me to complain that you are then not represented. If you've ever been to a big catered event, this is like a person who refuses to speak up when asked if they want the vegetarian option and then gets mad when only meat is served. You can't expect the organizers to order two of every meal and then throw out the ones people didn't want.

Turning off telemetry by default is also not an option, because then they would have no data, and would just be making decisions at random -- I really doubt that would please you either.


Telemetry is not a vote (for which you are asked to cast). Telemetry is extracting information from you and transmitting it together with private information like IP address without asking you ( as it is opt out by default). Telemetry also costs you in resources (bandwidth, cpu..) which is problematic when resources are scarce. This is a good enough reason for many to want a zero telemetry browser and do whatever they can to disable it in browsers like Firefox.

And now because Mozilla lacks data from its most coveted “tech” users, it does make decisions based on data that it has, which is usually totally opposite (like in your example) which in turns pisses off these users even more and they jump ship, taking all their friends and family with them (because they are the “tech” person in their circle). That is how you lose users.

You can of course make a zero telemetry browser, relying 100% on your own research and what the users volunteer to tell you directly. And those most passionate about it with tell you the most, a wonderful positive feedback loop. But this would require a change of product development mindset to a completely user centric one.


>Telemetry is not a vote

From the developer point of view, this is incorrect, the developers are using it to decide which features to prioritize. If you are aware that it's happening and you leave it on, then I don't see what the problem is. Resource and bandwidth usage should be very minimal, if it's not then I would urge you to actually measure it and report bugs. It should be possible to compress it so that it doesn't eat up your bandwidth. Remember that it also takes bandwidth and CPU to post on Hacker News, so you will have to compare it to that to have any kind of meaningful data.

My point is, it if lacks the data from those users, it would make sense to start sending them that data. It doesn't make sense to me to complain about them having incorrect data on you when you intentionally don't send them the right data and then threaten to jump ship because of what seems to be your own actions. I personally also disable telemetry but I know full well that I'm opting out of an important system for them so I don't expect to get attention in return for doing that. If you wanted to help, I think they would very much welcome attempts to fix the telemetry and make it more bandwidth-respecting and privacy-respecting, rather than finding ways to just throw it out.

>You can of course make a zero telemetry browser, relying 100% on your own research and what the users volunteer to tell you directly. And those most passionate about it with tell you the most, a wonderful positive feedback loop.

In my experience, this is an unreliable way to make products, the type of user who is passionate and volunteers this information is not the average user. You will end up with a very niche product that way, and the cost would be very high since you would be expecting the same quality of features but for a smaller number of users. If you're interested to do this I would suggest you to fork Firefox and attempt to get funding, and try that out just to see how much work it actually is compared to how little those users are actually willing to pay. Take a look at Waterfox if you want to see an example of how this would be done.


> If you are aware that it's happening and you leave it on, then I don't see what the problem is.

Most people are not aware of telemetry. Most of those that are, disable it. So you end up getting what you call 'votes' from the people who are not aware they are 'voting'. That is not voting (for which a person need to be consciously doing it) but rather extraction of information.

Imagine in an election, the votes of those who didn't explicitly vote get automatically extracted and cast based on a biased algorithm produced by the government. If you do not like the idea of that, you should not like the idea of opt-out telemetry. What you want is opt-in telemetry (aka. voting).

> Resource and bandwidth usage should be very minimal

I fully agree, that is the other reason zero telemetry is a way to go and should be default. You can not beat that.

> In my experience, this is an unreliable way to make products

Not sure what your experience is but I already built one company like that and I am doing another one right now (incidentally a web browser) based on this same principle which is called user-centric product development. Btw. Mozilla practiced that too ~15 years ago (the "golden age" of Firefox, reference here https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=28493855).


>Most people are not aware of telemetry. Most of those that are, disable it.

Do you have some numbers to back this up? I would suggest getting that before making any major product decisions. Also if you read the privacy policy, the telemetry is spelled out in detail, or at least it should be, so the people who are voting should be well aware of what is going on. If nobody reads it, then the solution there would then be to make it obvious and easy to read, not to throw it out completely.

>I fully agree, that is the other reason zero telemetry is a way to go and should be default. You can not beat that.

I don't understand. That isn't a meaningful comparison because you're comparing it with nothing, you would need to present an alternate data source. This to me is kind of like saying "not having a stomach beats having a stomach because you won't need to worry about eating anymore" or something like that.

>Imagine in an election, the votes of those who didn't explicitly vote get automatically extracted and cast based on a biased algorithm produced by the government.

I'm sorry but this is exactly what various governments already do in a lot of cases. Not for general elections but for services or programs that they run or for appointed positions. They will do a study with passive data gathering and determine who is actually using what services, and if the results are good they will increase funding to the service, otherwise they will cut funding, fire people, etc. This is generally how any organization functions at scale, so I really don't understand what you're getting at here or what alternative you're proposing. If you want to apply this to product development, it would simply be infeasible for users to vote on every single ticket that a developer handles, so you need to find some other data-driven way to make decisions. That's what telemetry is put in place to do. I think there is a misunderstanding here of how this works, but it's not your fault.

I wish you luck with your company, but I suspect you will have difficulty getting funding on the level of Firefox or Chrome, especially if you have no hard data from some kind of telemetry or similar source. The privacy-conscious user is known to be a fickle market. I also would advise against making misleading and/or unsourced statements about other browsers if you intend to develop a competing product, this makes your company look bad.


>Most people are not aware of telemetry.

This isn't true, Mozilla is making it very clear the first time you are launching Firefox and you have a button just next to the message to disable it easily without having to go to the settings. I don't know how they could be better about it.


Maybe some people can but I question their commitment to privacy. Mozilla is heavily conflicted, being almost 100% supported by Google in exchange for sending searches to the Chocoloate Factory by default, yet they refuse to openly acknowledge or address the issue. What really gets me is they constantly use privacy as a selling point. Then they try to convince the public that web advertising is a necessity. Its like robbing Peter to pay Paul. You cant borrow your way out of debt.


Firefox's user base is made up of customization enthusiasts, privacy advocates, and people who remember when "web standards" meant "doesn't work in IE6."

If they pivot towards "mainstream appeal", it usually comes to the expense of that user community. Their alternative is to be the best Firefox they can possibly be, and wait for users to join their audience organically.

It feels like Vivaldi has done a better job of sticking to a clear user persona model. They are clearly targeting power users and Opera 12 refugees, and it feels like that still informs what they do. Unfortunately, the one thing they can't do is make a browser that doesn't run like cold treacle.


I don't get it. I surf on the couch while my wife binges netflix shows laptop has no issue with vivaldi and surfing with tons of tabs open. Am I doing something wrong? This laptop was made in 2014 and the only upgrade was an SSD drive and an extra 8 gigs of ram for a total of 12


> it seems most of the customers of privacy focused products

Do most people use Firefox because it's "privacy focused"? I don't - I think people use it because it does the things they want ... and "privacy" is far down that list.

I know I'm an odd-ball, but I haven't upgrading my FF because I want ftp support in my browser. I upgraded the desktop my kids use, and the tabs went all wonky. The only reason I haven't switched is I trust Google less than I do FF, and I want to stave off a technology monoculture.

Yes, my clear desire for ftp support means I don't want technologically perfect security or privacy.

Concerning "privacy" as the article points out in the section "Invading your privacy at the same time as telling us “we value your privacy”

] Telemetry. Hidden telemetry that isn’t disabled when you click “disable telemetry”. Firstrun pings. Forced signing of add-ons. Auto-updates you can’t switch off, pinging every 10 minutes. “Experiments” which require a separate opt out. Now the latest offence is enforcing app based 2FA to login to a Firefox Add-on account just to make a custom theme, which you wouldn’t need in the first place if not for forced add-on signing.

> either the product stops growing and simply becomes a niche product for those set of users or it dies.

FF has dropped a lot of users, so I assume you mean it's decided to be a niche product in the "privacy" space, and not a generally useful tool?

Its marketing doesn't seem that successful, as my first thoughts are to switch to a tool based on FOSS Chromium.


Like you, I don’t choose Firefox because of some privacy features. I use it because it doesn’t have completely bonkers “history” feature like Chromium does, and because it seems fast and I’m used to it.

Also, I must be blind but I didn’t notice any diff with the tabs in that recent update where everyone freaked out because the tabs were slightly different. The tabs are still fine!

Come to think of it I don’t have any complaints about Firefox, so I’m not sure why I’m bothering to contribute my thoughts here.


> it seems most of the customers of privacy focused products want all the other features of competitors; most of the times without paying any money

This is a business model question, right? Nothing prevents someone from making a great privacy focused browser and actually charging for it vs being directly (Brave?) or indirectly (Chrome, Firefox?) ad-monetized.

Also in this context, referring to "customers of privacy focus products" is technically incorrect, they are actually users. Definition of a customer is "someone who pays for goods or services" thus Mozilla's main customer is Google (accounting for close to 90% of its revenue). Maybe looking through this lens, relation of Firefox product direction and what its "customers" want becomes more clear.

edit: simplified for clarity


> This is a business model question, right? Mozilla has chosen to be indirectly ad-supported vs making a premium (as in paid-for) or a freemium browser as a business model. Nothing prevents someone from making a great privacy focused browser and actually charging for it?

Except the fact that nobody (relative to even their current userbase) would use it, and maintaining a browser is incredibly difficult and expensive.

It would be the death blow to their market share, which would destroy Gecko as a viable browser engine (not enough users to get websites to care about the bugs, or even necessarily get the bugs reported).

The only way that would work out is if they gave up on Gecko and switched to WebKit or Blink.

Their choice of business model isn't really much of a choice, it's the only viable option that gives them any influence whatsoever.


But then we are in conflict as we want Mozilla to create a superior product but we are not ready pay for it? One of these expectations has to give in then.


I'm very happy to pay money for it tbh. But don't forget Mozilla doesn't even take donations for Firefox. Only for their Foundation.


Yes, I completely agree that HN has a massive cognitive dissonance about this. They're so used to venture capitalists and FAANG companies lighting billions of dollars on fire to subsidize money-losing but moat-building projects that they have completely unrealistic expectations about what is reasonable for the other 99.99% of the universe (without magic money fountains propping them up) to do sustainably.

But the reality is that because of this, browsers are commoditized, and the average user will never pay for a browser if they can get Chrome or Safari for free. That's probably true of the average HN user, too, for that matter.


A big part of the problem, is that for Mozilla, Firefox is a tool for their other initiatives. They use money they make from Firefox to fund their other projects. And they use the influence they get from controlling a browser to push their agenda on web standards. Not that I disagree with their agenda in most cases. But I don't think Mozilla's primary objective is to make a great browser, unfortunately.


> maintaining a browser is incredibly difficult and expensive. It would be the death blow to their market share, which would destroy Gecko as a viable browser engine

Assuming 100 people needed for Gecko, and $150k/year annual, world-wide, average developer expense, we come to $15M/year. Mozilla already has about ~$50M/year non-Google revenue from its products (coming from "true" users/customers).


150k / person doesn't account for benefits or office expenses. And they have closer to 750 employees.


It does if your team is world-wide.

Does Gecko really need more than 100 people?


We are talking about a fking browser! Even microsoft dropped the ball on that one, it’s that complex of a problem!


Firefox is 20 million lines of code. What do you think?


How many of those 750 are actually developers?


Firefox != Gecko and I maintain a 200,000 lines of code product alone no problem, so I think possible.


Google needs firefox just as much as firefox needing google. Don’t see conteo in everything. Firefox is the only thing stopping google from some insane monopoly/anti-comp lawsuits. It is in their best interest for firefox to continue to exist.


Agreed. Firefox's userbase is moronically hostile to anything that might give the company legs and a non-Google revenue stream. They want a pristine, moral FOSS project that just makes amazing software and subsists on donations.


> Judging by the HN and Reddit comments with each Firefox/Signal/Matrix releases

There are always comments and complaints. One need to evaluate the quality of this complains to understand their worth.

> either the product stops growing and simply becomes a niche product for those set of users or it dies.

Successful products prove this wrong. The most successful ones barely change at all, they usually evolve for a decade or two and then adapt to a new generation. Stability is a viable road to success.

Heck, even chrome didn't really change that much since it's first version. Firefox is really absurdly extraordinary in how unstable it is.


But reviews about missing feature, or reviews in general... that might not give you a good idea of why people are using it, if they don't leave a review at all


I have never written a review of anything in twenty years, I think. Consider that reviews are inherently biased towards people who are accustomed to speaking up, either because they like reviewing things (not many people) or because they’re upset and have a problem (many people). It becomes evident in practice that reviews generally aren’t productive to consider.


i use ffox on android because (for some reason) it's the only one I'm aware of that has ublock origin addon...( happy to be proven wrong :)

I also used to use reader mode once in a while...


I switched from Firefox on Android to Brave. Not because I like Brave, but because I disliked the new UI in Firefox. Brave also had much better performance for JavaScript and CSS animations.


I tried brave. But I constantly had ads on it. It would block trackers and ads on websites but if I was to open a few tab it would have crypto ads or some other nonsense.


I don't see any ads when using Brave. What kind of crypto ads are you talking about?


He’s talking about the empty tab screen. You can control what’s on it, but by default it does show ads.


Okey, maybe I changed that a long time ago and forgot about it. Mine just shows my most visited sites.


I think the UI on FF mobile is more than fine.. what did you not like about it?


I copied the following from one of my other comments since it's a lot of text, but these are the reasons I moved off Firefox for Android (Fenix) to Brave. Also, Chromium-based browsers for Android have none of the following issues.

---

- Scrolling up on Google search's results page and some other pages is not registered half the time, and sometimes triggers pull-to-refresh instead

- Scrolling up inside an input box while the page is at the top of the screen causes unintentional pull-to-refresh

- Bitwarden autofill is not registered unless you kill and restart the app after logging in

- You can't save images that require cookies to be passed to the request, such as under DDoS protected pages

- Links will sometimes redirect to about:blank unless you go back and click them again

- Most recently visited page is not restored when closing and reopening the app, even though it's saved to the history (closed as wontfix)

- Uses large amounts of memory, causing Android share actions to be silently killed due to OOM unless you quickly kill the app right after sending them

- Closing a tab and clicking "Undo" in the popup sends the tab all the way to the top of the list, instead of its original position (inconvenient if you have a large number of tabs open)

- Frequently loses open tabs in memory, even within ten seconds of navigating to another tab

- Startup time is noticably slower than Brave, taking at least a few seconds to show the UI and begin loading the page. It isn't much, but it impacts the user experience every time you start the app again.


Are you sure you're talking about Firefox? For example it doesn't even have pull to refresh so you can't trigger it unintentionally :)

I use it all the time now because it supports uBlock Origin and Dark Reader and I think it's good. And I have all my bookmarks on Firefox sync. I have some minor issues with it like the tab list that doesn't always scroll right but they're not deal-breakers.


UI is fine but 1. Battery consumption is at least twice the one of Brave 2. There is no option to always get the desktop site which makes it useless for tablets

Main reasons I also moved to Brave on all my devices. If these are fixed and Mac battery consumption is fixed I'd go back asap


Brave is a decent browser but I won't use anything from Brendan Eich. I also don't really agree with their BAT token stuff. I just want adtech to die at this stage, not to find an alternative model. Direct payments to sites I do support however and I'm a member of several.

I guess both opinions aren't popular :) But that's my reasons to use Firefox despite not being fully happy with it.


Seems hyperbolic to state, when I'm sure you're using javascript umpteen times daily.

Very arguable that Eich's single handedly more responsible for javascript than Brave, engineering wise.

I'm not a crypto fan, or of adtech, but BAT is atleast a functional solution to directly supporting sites.


Fair enough. The whole gay marriage thing just really annoyed me. I have some close friends who are struggling with such prejudice every day. And that's in a country where marriage isn't a problem for them.

It's one thing for an employee to have private views but another for a CEO to actively try and influence the law. Especially for something that's in my opinion totally a private matter between people. I don't want to support the brand because of that.

But I'm not doubting his skills as an engineer. It's more about the brand and its values. For a public figure like a CEO these things are hard to separate, I understand that. But we live in a world where a brand is more than just a name on a sticker. If I'm using it I'm also supporting the associated values.

But I agree the way I said it was hyperbolic.


For me it's exactly that Firefox is actively activist in more than a web standards and privacy type sense that made me drop them. I don't need a browser maker to be interested in telling me what I should see.


> It's one thing for an employee to have private views but another for a CEO to actively try and influence the law.

Which he did not. He wasn't CEO at that time. He made "small" donations from his own money under his own name years before his appointment. And at no point did he abused Mozilla for any personal political goal of him AFAIK. He just was an employee supporting his own private views. Just that he is a bit more famous than your average employee.


I'm trying to use brave search as an alternative to google, since it is an actual search engine that does indexing as opposed to DDG, and I don't want to use bing either.

What upsets me is that there's no way to add it as default search in a browser, on purpose, because they want you to have to install brave browser to do that. Nothing upsets me more than when someone deliberately makes their product less useful. I do not like Brave, but I will use the search engine for now.


We do not prevent you from adding Brave as default search to other browsers. I'm not sure why you think we would, so please tell me more. Thanks.

To make Brave Search default in another browser, please load https://search.brave.com/help/default. In Safari, there's no way we know of to add an alternative default. Apple controls the dropdown list's contents. But try this link in Firefox or Chrome.


So I tried. The link you give just gives you a link that says "read instructions specific to your browser" and when I click that link I just get "instructions not available for such and such browser." The instructions do not have to be specific to the browser. Why doesn't brave just implement OpenSearch?


When brave search was first released there was no way to add it, I haven't tried since, and there was some material saying get brave browser to make it your default search engine.

I will try to do it again, thanks.


Me too. Bit I also haven't updated it in over a year in order to avoid the awful rewrite.


not updating browsers is a huge security risk


Exactly, unless you turn off javascript and limit yourself to a very limited subset of sites you are a sitting duck. I would have thought HN general consensus would be that this is a very very bad idea.


The new updated Firefox on Android is better than the old one


Totally agree. It's not intrusive, gives lots of options organized well, it's fast... great browser. I assume it's still safer than Chrome as well, seems like the best option for now


I'm not sure why anyone would use chrome on android when brave, vivaldi, firefox are all better.


Same old answer, and actually the real reason why Firefox marketshare is dropping: people don't change the default application.


I don't know about that, it feels weird now. I don't appreciate gratuitous changes to the UI.


Kiwi Browser is a chromium based mobile browser with support for extensions. It is FOSS.


I use Adguard and Vivladi.

You can also switch in built in adblocker in Vivaldi. There's no reason to use Firefox.

In AdGuard, you can add "extensions" that extend the functionality of the browser. Its simple. For example, playing youtube in background or bypassing paywalls. Extensions are little javascripts.


Firefox on Android used to just freeze for me.

I'm happily on brave mobile, which does block ads.


... and replaces them with more ads directly in the user interface (e.g. the new tab screen).


It replaces the millions of ads and trackers on the web with exactly one ad, which is as you say on the new tab screen, that you can turn off in the settings.

There is also Brave Rewards, something that pays you for viewing ads but is disabled by default and can be totally hidden through another setting.

This straightforward set-up isn't something I feel deserves the number of negative comments I see on here. The benefits far outweigh the minor inconvenience of changing two settings.


Because it took lots of fights to get the Brave team to 1) allow disabling ads and 2) allow disabling Brave Rewards, neither of which anyone wanted and went against the whole concept of "Brave, the ad-free browser" to begin with.


There was no fighting—Brave's Ads were (and are) off by default. The New Tab Page's Sponsored Images (a later addition) is on by default, but only appears on every 4th new tab, and can be turned off with 2 clicks.

This type of advertising doesn't go against any of Brave's principles. The user is in control. Trackers and their ads are blocked by default as these harvest user data and more.

Brave's alternative, privacy-preserving advertising model is based on user-control and consent. The user decides whether or not they will participate, and to what degree. And, the user's data is never sent off-device; users are rewarded (with 70% of the associated ad revenue) for their attention rather than their data or actions.


> Brave's Ads were (and are) off by default.

I was never referring to ads that Brave blocks.

I'm talking about the new tab ads. Those shouldn't exist. Period.

> This type of advertising doesn't go against any of Brave's principles

No but it goes against the notion of "ad free browsing" that Brave kind of marketed. Perhaps they toed the line with exactly what they consider "ads" but at the end of the day users installed brave wanting ZERO ads.

Replacing someone else's ad for your own is not what I'd call "ad free" nor "ethical", regardless of the use (or lack thereof) of trackers.

> Brave's alternative, privacy-preserving advertising model is based on user-control and consent.

I never consented to ads. Period.

> The user decides whether or not they will participate, and to what degree

And I never decided that I wanted ads in my browser, yet here we are.

> And, the user's data is never sent off-device; users are rewarded (with 70% of the associated ad revenue) for their attention rather than their data or actions.

And what if I don't want a browser that has all of this fancy mining crap in it? Braves stance is "it's okay to add bloat as long as we preserve privacy". Nobody seems to see the problem with this.

It's such a middle finger to users, in my opinion.


Firefox just started doing that on desktop too :(


It took me a moment to get what you're talking about.

I notice such advertisement from time to time, but it's so unobstructive that I almost like them.

Yes, they put advertising where it doesn't bother me and where it doesn't slow down page loading.

That's brilliant.

Thank you for pointing that out!


a) can be disabled b) not in any way like the ads you would encounter on businessinsider or similar.


a) not when I last used it, there was an ongoing issue on GitHub, b) so?


You can turn all that stuff off. I'll never understand people complaining about free stuff that is useful to them, especially when it is minor stuff.


Because it's not about being free. It's about being honest and telling the complete truth.


this is my bit, too. they dropped an update that arbitrarily spaced out the area in between your bookmarks folders. You can you fit less on your screen now because of the stupid spacers


I'm more and more wary of Firefox updates because they keep pulling shit like that. Why are they doing this? How many users are there saying "I wish my bookmarks would suddenly take up double the space as before, so I have to scroll more?" I don't get it.

At least there's a workaround for the bookmark issue. There's no workaround for renamed menu items and changed shortcut keys.


You can remove the spacers with 3 clicks.


Until you can't, because Mozilla deems that only X% of users use that feature and maintaining its configurability consumes too much organizational resources.

First the GUI to edit the GUI disappears, then the about:config option follows later.

That's what's been steadily happening. Less and less customizability for power users, more and more streamlining for new users.


I don't see how that's a problem, you can just modify the CSS. If you too decide that's too much work and consumes too much of your resources for not enough gain, well then now you know why Mozilla made the decision.


Yes, you can. But once you think about it, you'll see that you actually can't. Because once you're making changes to components instead of formalized settings, you are doomed to re-apply them each software update. Not a smart way to customize.


But that's exactly what you're asking Mozilla to do when you ask them to keep that as a formalized setting, it's exactly the same work just it's done by a Mozilla employee and not you. So it really sounds like you're asking them to do something which you acknowledge yourself is not a smart or efficient thing to do.


Yeah, because it's so much more efficient if every user who liked the old interface gets to write and maintain a bunch of CSS for themselves, in stead of a Mozilla employee not doing the work of removing already-present settings...

Sheesh, don't you even notice how you're coming off here?


I think you just answered exactly how that's a problem...


I'm sorry I don't understand. Is the problem that modifying computer code takes effort? If so then sure, that's true, but Firefox (or any other browser) can't be blamed for that.


No problem, let me clarify: You suggested that the answer to a constant stream of changes was to either "just modify the CSS" or (if it's too much work for too little gain) then you essentially just accept Mozilla's decision.

If those are indeed the only other options besides users finding another product, I'd say you answered exactly why Firefox is in decline.


I'm sorry, I still don't understand. This is exactly the way it is with any other browser. If you don't like changes in Chrome for example, you can either modify them, accept their decision, or find another product. And Chrome is not in decline.


> If you don't like changes in Chrome for example, you can either modify them, accept their decision, or find another product. And Chrome is not in decline.

Yes, my point exactly. You can answer "just modify the CSS" every time someone complains about a change in Firefox, but in reality users will find another product instead.


I'm still not sure what that has to do with Firefox specifically? Those "other products" could very easily be modified versions of Firefox or Chrome, of which there are many. Some of them might even take the time to modify the CSS for you. So it's still unclear what your specific complaint is. Also if you're going to switch products constantly because of a few lines of CSS, that seems like you would always be switching constantly, and would never find one to settle on anyway.


Try looking at it from the other direction: If other products have the same playing field (modify, live with it, or change products), and Firefox is in decline while their primary competitor is not, doesn't it stand to reason that Firefox is making decisions that lose them users while their competitor is making decisions that gain them users?

(edit to fix typos on mobile)


I don't really have any comments on that, sorry. I was mentioning a fix for that specific issue, or other specific issues you might have with other browsers. Most complaints I see about Firefox tend to be about specific issues rather than about overall decisions made versus their competitors.


The problem isn't any single one decision. It is a pattern of making changes that cause users don't like and ignoring negative feedback.


I don't understand what that has to do with Firefox specifically, if you do a search you can find various amounts of negative feedback about any product in existence. It's impossible to make a product that will please everyone, so you'll have to be more specific about which changes and which users you mean if we want to discuss this meaningfully.


For me at least, it seems like ways of customizing the browser are being systematically removed without being replaced with new ways to customize it.

User css and js, which were once first class are now very hidden and require messing with about:config. There's no way to prevent tabs from being on top. Many extensions are no longer possible Post-Quantum. And I do think switching to WevExtensions was the right move, but they've been slow in adding capabilities to make some extensions work as well as they did before. Removing compact mode (they added it back but behind an about:config flag). They removed SSB with no plans to ever add it back. True SSB didn't fully work, but I had high hopes that it could let me run web apps in a way that felt more native.

And part of my frustration is with the response. The reason for removing things is often "no one is using it." But then when people who show up saying they use it, and it is important to them, Mozilla generally either outright ignores them, or dismisses those opinions as invalid.


I don't mean to be disappointing, but usually out-of-context internet commenters saying that they use something doesn't carry much weight. The reason why they have telemetry data is so they can so say for certain what people are using, with actual numbers. If the telemetry shows that a feature isn't being used, and another feature is being used, then the one being used is what they will put resources towards. Think of this from an organizational perspective -- employees have to use this information in meetings with their boss to justify what they are working on to earn the paycheck, so with that considered they will always go with what the numbers show. Some disappointed comments on internet forums from a small vocal minority are expected, but dealing with that is just a cost of doing business.

Now after this you may want to refer back to the article. I have seen various pieces and rants like this article that complain about this but none of them offer any more reliable sources of information. The article makes an unverifiable claim of "Almost everyone hated the changes" and unfortunately those type of claims seem to be extremely common instead of presenting some data. That's not enough to change anyone's course.

But in the end, I don't know what you mean by "systematically removed" in that way, frequent addition and removal of various features is completely normal for a large project. And technically only the setting was removed -- you can still customize all that but you'll have to modify the browser itself. No they probably won't add back in the setting but as I explained above, those have a cost, and when the cost-benefit analysis doesn't play out the right way, it doesn't make sense to blame an organization for cutting it.


> And technically only the setting was removed -- you can still customize all that but you'll have to modify the browser itself

You are suggesting that I replace a simple configuration change with familiarizing myself with a very complicated code base, creating a patch, and running a build that on my machine takes multiple hours, then repeat the process for every update? Yeah, I have no idea why more people don't do that.

> I don't know what you mean by "systematically removed" in that way, frequent addition and removal of various features is completely normal for a large project.

Sure. But from my perspective at least, the customisability is decreasing, more features are being removed than added. It used to be that Firefox was a browser built for power users, but it is becoming less so. That was one of it's major advantages over chrome.

I understand the cost of maintaining features, and the tradeoffs involved. The Firefox teams priorities are different than mine, and I understand that. For example, there are many features I would have rather seen worked on rather than redesigning the UI (and I do actually like a lot of the proton design). But I can accept that they have different priorities. But they are also bleeding users, so something is clearly not working for them. And maybe, as the OP suggests it is because of changes that anger a minority of their users. At some point, the union of many minorities becomes a majority.


If you cared about this change a lot, to the point where if you didn't have it then it was going to lose you a lot of money, then yes, I would expect you to do all that. Am I wrong? It just seems in a lot of ways to be a sad case where no one wants to shelter the cost for this, it's either a money losing proposition for Mozilla, or it's a money losing proposition for the users, and nobody wants to be the first to pay it.

I'll also mention that only one person needs to create the build, once you do that then anyone else can run that build. That's usually how development works, and in fact this is already the gist of how Mozilla tests their unstable builds.

>the customisability is decreasing, more features are being removed than added

I can't agree with this, maybe the amount of visible settings in the preferences has been reduced, but currently there are a few thousand about:config options, and the number seems to keep growing.

>But they are also bleeding users, so something is clearly not working for them. And maybe, as the OP suggests it is because of changes that anger a minority of their users.

For many years I asked people why they were switching to Chrome and I got various answers, very few of them were because of something negative about another browser, and most of them were about what they liked about Chrome. That's just my personal anecdote. It also just seems to me that Mozilla is in a bad place where people say they drop Firefox because they like Chrome, so Mozilla switches gears to make it more like Chrome, and then people complain it's not unique enough anymore and it's missing some old non-Chrome feature. How could they possibly win here?


Well I don't think it is possible to beat chrome by becoming chrome. They need something that chrome doesn't have. They seem to be focusing on privacy, but I don't think that is compelling enough for the general population, though I'll grant you customizability probably isn't either.

> but currently there are a few thousand about:config options, and the number seems to keep growing.

But those configurations are not very discoverable, not well documented, are in constant flux, and if you set them incorrectly can really mess up your browser (I speak from experience).

> I'll also mention that only one person needs to create the build, once you do that then anyone else can run that build

From my understanding, if I were to distribute my custom build I would also need to change all the firefox branding, since Mozilla has trademarks on it, which increases the effort even more.


The problem with saying they need something Chrome doesn't have is that a lot of others seem to expect them to have feature parity with Chrome, both in the GUI, and in the backend rendering engine. I don't think it's economically feasible, it seems you can have one or the other but not both. Unless of course you're willing to outspend Google, which not even the very wealthy Microsoft wants to try to do (they dropped their own browsing engine and switched to Blink). To be clear what is on the table here: not keeping pace with Chrome means that some websites will just stop working in Firefox because some new web API is missing. So that's what you would be trading.

I think the huge number of about:config options is actually a major problem for Firefox, there is no possible way to test all those options and ensure they stay working forever and have zero regressions. You won't like this, but a lot of them probably need to be removed.

You would need to change the branding but I think some of the other Firefox modifications have systems in place to deal with that. If you ever need to do it, maybe it would be worth asking them.


> I don't mean to be disappointing

Then why do you keep being so?


Look at the ultimate feedback: Users switching to or away from the product. It is apparently possible -- for other browser makers -- to make products that more users switch to than from. For Mozilla, it's been the opposite the last dozen years.

But, I bet you'll refuse to understand this too, and continue your bot-like repetition of non-answers. (Hint: Don't bother; nobody is buying.)


The ability to change that css is another one of those things that has been moved to enabling options in about:config that will probably get removed int the future.

And any firefox update could potentially break your css fix.


I don't mean about:config, I mean editing the CSS directly.

Yes an update could break your CSS fix, but if you follow the beta releases then this isn't a problem. You usually have at least a few weeks to update your patches before the release goes out.


You have to change a setting in about:config to enable custom css. Unless you mean making a custom build of Firefox, which is even more difficult to do.


I don't see what difference it makes for somebody else implementing it as about:config setting versus you doing that yourself in a custom build. Firefox is not really any more difficult to build than any other large open source project.


Is that something you would expect a typical user to do? Especially users that aren't developers?

> Firefox is not really any more difficult to build than any other large open source project.

That has not been my experience. Granted, chromium also has a very difficult and slow build, and browsers are big complicated things. But my point is it isn't easy.


In my personal experience, typical users (i.e. non-developers) don't really spend time tweaking their browser. The defaults are good enough for most, and the job of the developer is usually to just find good defaults to optimize for that. For the power user who knows XML/CSS/JS/C++/Rust/etc and wants to have total control, then yes, I would expect them to either create extensions or edit the source directly. Same thing goes for Chrome users of that type. Am I off base here?

It's true the build process is slow, but that's different from being difficult. I don't know what you mean by difficult. Maybe it was difficult in the past but it's entirely automated at this point. You can just start the build and come back some hours later, and that's only if you're starting from a clean repo and modifying the C++/Rust. For the CSS and Javascript, that doesn't need a rebuild at all.


Yeah but it takes way too many steps to modify the CSS and it's not really worth it when they could have just left it alone.


I don't know the details of this specific change, but in my experience its removal probably means it couldn't be left alone. If another piece of code that touches it gets refactored, the developer has to choose between trying to spend time fixing it, or just removing it. If it's an unpopular feature then removing it can be seen as the most reasonable option.

And I know I've said this already but taking those "way too many steps" is exactly what you'd be asking them to do, so it's unclear why it's not worth it for you but it would be for them.


You think editing this [1] is acceptable configuration??

[1] view-source:chrome://browser/content/browser.xhtml


Yes, why wouldn't it be? Editing that is exactly what you would be asking Mozilla to do. If you think it's hard to work on, well, maybe you can sympathize with Mozilla for trying to cut down on the number of settings that complicate it further.


Yes the same now with the compact mode which is even more needed now than ever with the new UI. The compact mode now has the same density as the regular mode had before.


And the whole thing is now something like 3px higher.. definitely a reason to go back to google, and make the only remaining libre browser fighting for an independent web crumble.


Don't get me wrong, I'm not going back but I would hate it if they remove the compact mode. It would be just another drop in the bucket but not the final one for me.


Irony being that there are barely any new users.


> First the GUI to edit the GUI disappears, then the about:config option follows later.

> That's what's been steadily happening.

You wrote this in a way that is (probably deliberately) misleading. Neither of those things have happened nor is there any indication that they will.

Especially about:config which (probably) provides an enormous amount of benefit for early testing of features.


> > First the GUI to edit the GUI disappears, then the about:config option follows later.

> > That's what's been steadily happening.

> You wrote this in a way that is (probably deliberately) misleading. Neither of those things have happened nor is there any indication that they will.

You're not so much misleading as outright lying. That is exactly what has been happening, over and over again.


can i ask how? thank you


Right click the toolbar. Click "customize toolbar".

Drag the spacers from the toolbar into the element menu.

Click "Done"


> It's almost like they've been deliberately trying to sabotage themselves for years.

I believe it to be corporate sabotage by Google ... due to the 100's of millions of dollars that Google gives to the Mozilla Foundation, they have a lot of influence over Firefox.


> It's almost like they've been deliberately trying to sabotage themselves for years.

I just hope it's not Nokia level deliberate sabotage.

> That might not go on for much longer, though.

I will use it till the end and will use what ever the FOSS community forks from it or existing forks. Because, I'm guilty that me not using FF and FOSS alternatives for Operating Systems, Browsers, Software has led to rise of the Mono/Duo/Oligopolies in-spite of possessing the skills to understand the outcome, In-spite of having access to the warnings for smart people who said exactly this would happen.


I'll be understanding with mozilla, their challenge is difficult, and they've been going hard surprisingly long. I think they folded under the many new trends in the space, UI being one.

I wish they could find a stronger inner core to work on, something more utilitarian than user-drafting.

There's a lot of people saying chrome wins because websites are better with it, sites with high requirements like zoom IIRC, but in my experience it's not common nor impactful enough (these sites work fine enough on my old laptop)

whoever has the solution i hope it comes fast


> Firefox is a product strangely hostile to its core userbase. It's almost like they've been deliberately trying to sabotage themselves for years.

Easily explainable

Mozilla been captured by "aspirational" MBA types who think they don't really need that userbase, instead they want to chase "what big boys do", and copy lame features in hopes that monkeying Apple will score them iDevices users — the type of people they psychologically want to associate themselves with.


People were commenting about acquisitions in other thread: some wouod be unexplainable ones, until you realize that management just wanted to hang out with hip/stylish/trendy people…


Judging from management's increased comp, while disappearing 25% of their staff, they can hang out with the Big Tech hispters without batting an eyelid.


Firefox was/is trying to be a top browser in global market share. The "core userbase" is irrelevant to this mission. You wouldn't really even talk about Chrome's "core userbase" because they aren't trying to make a niche community happy, they are trying to best serve their billions of users, something that the author of this piece clearly knows nothing about - eg, when your userbase is this large, the only meaningful form of feedback is statistical analysis. Telemetry is of course the best option but if you wanted to know what "people were saying" you wouldn't be operating at the level of reading individual posts, you'd be looking for trends on social media platforms.


Well, they are doing a terrible job. The more they become like chrome, the less people have a reason to use it instead of chrome.

And most people probably don't make a conscious decision about which browser to use. A lot of Firefox's momentum comes from tech saavy users who recommend it to friends, family, coworkers, etc. So losing "core" users cause a chain effect of losing non "core" users.


Yes. How on the earth should I recommend Firefox to other? By saying firefox will `constantly remove functions you use and change the UI in random way that make it less useful`? I am a firefox user since firefox 3. But If a non tech user ask me about it today, I will probably recommend `edge` instead. At least it don't do so many offending changes and cause so many frustrations.


They don't have billions of users though. They are down to 200-300 million users, depending on who you ask. It's going down steadily every year.


Even so, the huge decline shows they're not interpreting those statistics correctly, or not appealing to whatever their userbase is


This would be funnier if Chrome for Android wasn't trying to shove tab groups down my throat for the ninth time. This time without an obscure flag to disable it.

Looking at why established users complain about Firefox isn't why billions of people moved to Chrome, from many sources. It was the default on our phone and that makes it an obvious desktop choice.

(Not to mention it does do some things nicely, I just much prefer FF for webdev)


Exact same thought here... Otter browser seems promising.


I mean, isn't this a bit like saying, "I left Windows for Ubuntu because of the invasive privacy concerns I had... But man Unity is terrible, I'm going back to Windows!"

If privacy is the ultimate concern, I can suffer usability.

I think the real issue is we've stopped advocating for privacy loudly and publicly. All the users know is convenience.


The thing is, if you do not like the UI of unity, maybe you'll like Gnome, KDE, LXDE, fluxbox, i3 or ratpoison or .... With most Linux distros, you can have both privacy and your favourite UI paradigm. You usually do not need to suffer in the usability department (or at least not too much).

But with Firefox, all the UI choices are gone now, intentionally sacrificed on the altair of rewrites, UI changes, branding and some dubious security claims. You used to get the choice of vertical tabs (better on todays widescreen laptops), tree-style tabs, Buttons where you liked them, user-provided CSS customization for pages and the UI. Not anymore, all gone (they paid some lip service to some of the above concerns, but nothing relevant, and overall a massive downturn).

Now you only get the take-it-or-leave-it of one crappy and worsening Chrome clone UI.


Huh? Happy Tree Style Tabs user here, and another addon (Sidebery) seems to be growing in popularity as well. You can disable the built-in tabs with userChrome.css. What am I missing?


How do you disable the top tabs these days?

I activated browser debugging, pressed ctrl + alt + shift + i and then hunted down the offending tab bar and put in "display: none" for it.

It gets harder and harder year by year though and on the tabstrip issue in Bugzilla there's at least one person who was annoyed and told me to not question peoples motives after I asked a simple question about it.

Anyone here working for Mozilla, I ask the same question here: are you overcomplicating it? I managed to get rid of that tab bar using a CSS hack, why can't we just get a function to apply that css, at least in developer edition?


The CSS "hack" is the official way. That's sort of the point of using CSS to display the UI. It's editable.


Pretty sure the point of using the rendering engine to display the UI was to make it easier to write cross-platform UI; granted, though, the point of then having the feature to use CSS to modify the UI was to do that (and it was relatively easy once the UI was already written in the rendering engine).


I actually had changed some about:newtab styles. They even outlived one or two updates after that, until full reset.


Except I don't think it is even documented anymore?


If you're happy with the current tree style tabs, I'll wager you never used the original. The current one is a bad rip off, with 90% of the actual features missing.


None of that matters to most people. People want a robust, fast, and secure browser that evolves rather than tries to be revolutionary. I think the large GUI changes did bug a lot of people.


But the privacy isn't the ultimate concern for everyone, so perhaps it isn't one for GP. It isn't for me. I stick to Firefox because of combination of being best at privacy and least shitty overall, but I'm by no means happy. I'm very much unhappy about the mobile version - their recent (~year ago?) UI revamp turned a perfectly good browser into a bloated piece of garbage, that gets slower and more annoying to use over time. The only reason I use it instead of Chrome is because I can install an ad blocker in it.


Brave and Vivaldi have ad blockers built in on Android and desktop both.


That's how everybody is here. Nobody takes a principled stand when it involves even the slightest sacrifice.


Sample size of 1, but I have been choosing mostly open source/free for years and I don't think I am alone.

That said, these days Linux is just more convenient than the alternatives for me personally. Same goes for Firefox (still).


But they’re sure to let you know that all things being equal they’d certainly take the principled option.


Most people don’t have the time or energy at the end of the day to take principled stands on every issue.


I care about privacy, that's why I didn't move away from Firefox years ago (or as of yet). But ideally I would prefer not to suffer from privacy or usability issues...


> I don't use it because I approve of all their stupid pigheaded UI choices

I don't use Ff because I can't approve with exactly one of their UI choices: tab closing button on the wrong side. I am on Mac and this just messes with my muscle memory too much. (It used to be that the buttons where on the right side, which is to say the left side.)

However, other than that I see a lot of UI love in both the macOs and iOS Ff interfaces. One can feel the team works from their hearts.

I wish they would use their brains more. Painful irony.

EDIT: Anybody an idea why this got downvoted?


Perhaps people think that basing your choice of browser on a minor point like the arbitrary location of tab close buttons is questionable. On second thought, that is a very HN type of reasoning so… I can’t explain it.




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