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.
And you made it happen by your choices.
Stuff like AMP was mostly brought throughs search alone.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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?
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).
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.
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.
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.
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).
>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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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).
Does Gecko really need more than 100 people?
There are always comments and complaints. One need to evaluate the quality of this complains to understand their worth.
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.
I also used to use reader mode once in a while...
- 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.
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.
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
I guess both opinions aren't popular :) But that's my reasons to use Firefox despite not being fully happy with it.
I'm not a crypto fan, or of adtech, but BAT is atleast a functional solution to directly supporting sites.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I will try to do it again, thanks.
You can also switch in built in adblocker in Vivaldi. There's no reason to use Firefox.
I'm happily on brave mobile, which does block ads.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thank you for pointing that out!
At least there's a workaround for the bookmark issue. There's no workaround for renamed menu items and changed shortcut keys.
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.
Sheesh, don't you even notice how you're coming off here?
If those are indeed the only other options besides users finding another product, I'd say you answered exactly why Firefox is 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.
(edit to fix typos on mobile)
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.
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.
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.
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?
> 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.
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.
Then why do you keep being so?
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.)
And any firefox update could potentially break your css fix.
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.
> 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.
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.
> 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.
> > 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.
Drag the spacers from the toolbar into the element menu.
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.
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 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
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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?
That said, these days Linux is just more convenient than the alternatives for me personally. Same goes for Firefox (still).
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?