I have to say that this article is actually quite terrible, as is the opinion that any option that might ever be confusing to a user is an option that shouldn't ship with the product. The thesis of the article is:
"Well, we have met the enemy, and he is us.* In the currently shipping version, Firefox ships with many options that will render the browser unusable to most people, right in the main settings ui."
The solutions offered? Kill it all with fire. I'm paraphrasing, of course.
Problem: People today change some feature then have a "broken" browser (basically, they forgot to turn it back to the default, or they didn't realize they changed it in the first place).
Solution: reset button, also notification to the user that "this page might not work correctly", some sort of an extension of how Chrome shows you that a popup and/or a cookie was blocked, based on your settings. Don't treat your users like idiots, just provide information that clears up certain odd states by explicitly informing them of something like:
"The webpage you are viewing may not work correctly because the following options differ from their default values:
1. Enable automatic loading of images.
These features of Firefox are essential for most webpages to run properly. If the webpage you are trying to access is behaving strangely or appears to be working incorrectly, <click here> to load the page with the default browser configuration."
Done, and done. No removing useful features from the browser, no treating users like morons, but now I have a new, useful, awesome, self-debugging feature which is user friendly, and doesn't require a pesky IT guru's assistance navigating the sea of 10 trillion options.
This was true 10 years ago. These days, every additional setting the application has is a liability. There is a growing group of people, who are scared to have conversation with their browser and make any informed decisions. They ignore such messages. Other people will change any setting they can find and then forget about it. Then they will be surprised and angry at the application that it is not working.
You are absolutely right that configurability is a sign of laziness, the opposite of hard work. But removing configurability is _not_ the sign of hard work. Hard work means addressing the interests of all parties, and Mozilla did not do that.
Assuming you're correct (which I'm not convinced you are), when you then continue, "I have a checkbox that will make it so they don't track you, but it will also break those sites. Is that ok?" They will also respond "hello no".
Right, because you can easily say that a non-user-triggered window.open() is almost always unwanted. I can't think of any other cases where it's so clear-cut and related to JS, or that disabling a particular facet of JS always would be a net win.
If you're going to claim that there's something like that, provide examples. How do you know people at Mozilla haven't already thought hard about this problem and decided there isn't much more they can do? I bet they have.
-> This overstates the case, because you'd still presumably load the 1x1 tracking png with ?resid=<X>&uid=<Y>.
> "I have a checkbox that will make it so they don't track you, but it will also break those sites. Is that ok?" They will also respond "hello no".
This overstates the case most of the time because doing this generally breaks relatively little for those domains listed, and to the extent it doesn't, making that decision on a domain-by-domain basis seems to work pretty well (ask any Noscript user)
> When you are on Google search and you click on a link it's tracked that you went to that link.
Perhaps, but Mozilla should do it anyways.
Make no mistake: advertisers believe that they have a right to know what links you click and sites you visit across the whole web, and even a right to enlist your browser to aid in informing them. And Mozilla is complicit!
(And why not? Recall who pays Mozilla’s bills.)
As far as blowing off your leg, sometimes you just really hate tennis elbow, you know?
I did read them, and I did consider them. After thinking up a reply as why you think basic client display capability querying mechanisms are inappropriate, I decided you were most likely being sarcastic.
At this point, with your reply taken into consideration, I'm confused. Feel free to elaborate.
> If ... you are doing Internet wrong
Well, my first sentence was actually asking you, since I wasn't sure.
Correct. I'm being completely serious, with the exception of the remark about exploding limbs (obviously).
JS has more features than it deserves for learning about and (critically) sharing information about the host platform. Yes, you can still learn some things as a website operator by watching what browsers load/don't load, and what they put in their requests.
Edit: I should hasten to add that there are other concerns beyond privacy, like accessibility and the fact that a web page has no bloody business deciding that I'm likely running an iPad and therefor I shouldn't have access to X or Y. This is dumb, and contrary to the idea of the open internet. It's the same thing that's wrong with this EME nonsense.
Ah, I took your position as being able to determine screen size (or have it determined automatically through CSS or some other hands-off mechanism) itself was also unneeded, not just that JS should not have this capability.
I can get behind most of what you say - as long as we are talking about simple, presentation based websites.
Where I think there's a breakdown in this view is when you consider complex web applications, including games. At that point, I believe some level of inspection capabilities are required, if we desire to have complex web apps delivered through the internet. I'm by no means sold that on-demand web delivered code is necessarily a good thing though. There's far too large a surface area to adequately secure while still making it useful, IMHO.
"These days, every additional setting the application has is a liability."
If we follow this thinking too far, we end up with a closed console like device, or Gnome 4 as parodied last April .
Surely there is a case for progressive revealing/enabling of advanced functions?
In the UK, the Blackberry phones are very popular with teenagers because of BBM. This desire to access BBM even extends to students carrying two phones, one an old blackberry handset on wifi and the other an iPhone or whatever. You will find small groups in corners at lunchtime exploring the features of the handsets. Experts will coach those who know less. If I could get that level of peer tutoring going in Maths, I'd have my OBE in the bag quite soon! Users can increase their knowledge provided the unfolding of extra features is managed.
Removing options is NOT the way to go. If anything, there should be more options, until computers understand natural language.
To be most intuitive to use, computers should converse like a human. Humans have LOTS of options, and everyone understands that. E.g. if I ask a human to make a sandwich, I can specify all the ingredients I want, how and when I want it, and so on.
Far future of course, but that is the most intuitive end goal of computers: you ask them what you want in natural language, they understand and provide it.
For now, because the above does not yet work, please provide options. Fortunately Firefox provides many options for those who need them: about:config. I find it really awesome if you can adjust an application to your needs at such fine grained level.
I think your sandwich analogy is spot on in the sense that I can also just ask a human "please make me a sandwich" without specifying anything, and (most) humans could proceed to do so without more details. There should be more options, and a good "default" mode for people who don't want to fiddle with them. To my knowledge this is why most wizards have basic configuration options and a "advanced" button to click for the detailed configuration, and I don't see why Firefox can't just have the same thing.
Because some help desk told them to. The other day chase manhattan was down with a full on 500 server fucked up. Their twitter account responded to me telling me to clear my cache and delete my cookies. Classic.
Sorry to be blunt, but it's clear you have never had to design or support a user-facing product. Anyone who has done either of these things will disagree with your base assumptions, ie. that users care about understanding their software, that they read warning texts, and that they don't mindlessly flip switches when trying to achieve unrelated goals.
That's the point that seems to be missed in the discussion: sure, let Mozilla shuffle options where they want, hopefully with some thought; but don't change the user's configuration. If you feel that it's absolutely necessary to do so, then pop up a big banner saying "We want to change your settings. May we?" To do otherwise is bordering-on-crapware-tactics rude.
I am not planning on implementing that, but let's pretend I want to. When would that dialog come up?
Attempt #3: make that dialog less intrusive; do not require acknowledgment. Result: users get trained to overlook it; users who accidentally enable the mode will never figure out what happened to their browser.
Attempt #4: a whitelist of allowed scripts. Problem: users will disagree about what should make it into the whitelist.
Attempt #5: the JSBlock extension. This may have merit. So, if you want this feature, download it, or write it if it doesn't exist yet. If the API does not allow writing it, bicker Mozilla.
Understand that no dialog is necessary for such an idea to be implemented at all.
The webpage you are viewing may
not work correctly because the following
options differ from their default values:
1. Enable automatic loading of images.
These features of Firefox are essential
for most webpages to run properly. If the
webpage you are trying to access is behaving
strangely or appears to be working incorrectly,
<a href="">click here</a> to load the page
with the default browser configuration.
Also: how is that not a dialog? It presents a message to the user, and waits for a reply.
> Problem: People today change some feature then have a "broken" browser
They forgot what is changed, how to return back, no reset is not a solution.
Solution: Educate users, provide "Undo" and "Redo" buttons, highlight changed controls
> Don't treat your users like idiots