?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Firefox: This is Where You Will Go Today

« previous entry | next entry »
Dec. 20th, 2013 | 01:11 am

Sweet Celestia, why is Firefox trying so hard to break extensions with more or less every single update they roll out?

One of the latest casualties is Download Statusbar, which ceased working in Firefox 26. A supposed fix does nothing, as its reviews note (and if you take a glance at what the XPI file actually contains, you'll see why; it contains pretty much nothing at all, which coincidentally makes you wonder about the level of quality control on AMO), and the confusingly similar-named extension that still works with Firefox 26 is a poor replacement at best.

So why does Mozilla keep doing this? I can understand the desire to keep APIs clean, but users actually use extensions to do things they otherwise couldn't do (easily, or at all); breaking compatibility should only be done when unavoidable, after careful consideration.

Can you imagine having an OS that updates to new versions nine times a year, breaking random programs every time by changing its ABI, unless these programs happen to pay close attention and update every time they're affected by an ABI change? Of course not; the very thought is preposterous. It should be preposterous with Firefox, too.

And that's doubly true considering that not only are extendability and customizability part of Firefox's unique selling proposition, but the Mozilla team has also taken the stance that all sorts of functionality needn't be implemented in the core browser because someone can write an extension for it instead. Fair enough; but then don't go around breaking extensions, either.

Naturally, Firefox will neither warn you of an extension not being compatible before an update nor inform you afterwards, BTW. But that hardly matters, since you're expected to always use the latest version, anyway; older versions don't get fixes, even for security issues. (Granted, there's an ESR release if you know where to look; that one may buy you a year, if you're lucky.)

I'm actually tempted to switch to the Firefox 24 ESR release just to be able to keep using this extension; it's an invaluable part of my browsing. Alternatively, maybe someone'll fix it for good so it'll continue working with newer Firefox versions, but I'm not counting on it.

It might be a good idea, anyway, since it won't be long until there'll be another UI redesign (dubbed "Australis"). I'm skeptical about this one — it looks like another attempt to make the easy things "easier" for the elusive "braindead noob" user that may or may not actually exist, while making the hard things impossible for the power user that definitely does (and I'm putting the word "easier" in quotes on purpose, since I'm far from convinced it would actually be anything of that sort in practice), and I have little doubt it'll break all sorts of extensions again, especially UI-related ones.

Really, guys. You apparently consider "doing good" to be "part of your code", but maybe in addition to "doing good", you should also think about whether you're doing right. Because as far as extensions go, you've got quite some room for improvement.
Tags: ,

Link | Leave a comment | Share

Comments {4}

Rabs Whitetail

(no subject)

from: whitetail
date: Dec. 20th, 2013 12:12 pm (UTC)
Link

I turned off automatic updates years ago. And I'm sticking with Ff 22 as long as my crucial websites support it. Everything since then has been dumbed-down, function-hobbled garbage, IMHO.

Reply | Thread

Schneelocke

(no subject)

from: schnee
date: Dec. 20th, 2013 01:42 pm (UTC)
Link

I'd consider that, except for the fact it's not getting any security fixes anymore. That's perhaps the most annoying thing about these nine-times-a-year, rapid-fire updates: once one's one, older versions immediately become unsupported (except for the current extended support release). I can understand this, too, to an extent; they have limited manpower available, and they want to focus their efforts narrowly, but I think it's hardly fair to not support any legacy versions at all.

Outside of that — I actually appreciate many of the things newer versions bring, and often take a look at the beta and aurora release notes to see what's coming up. But I'm usually more excited about "under the hood" changes than forcible updates to the UI.

The removal of the status bar in Firefox 4 was one great example of such an unwelcome change; fortunately there's an extension to restore it, but IIRC, it took a bit of time for it to appear, and thanks to the apparently ever-changing extension API, it'll need its developer's continued dedication to keeping it updated to keep working. What if whoever's developing this extension falls ill, or dies in an accident? Heck, what if they simply lose interest? The Download Statusbar extension that stopped working now shows what you can expect then.

The upcoming UI redesign, "Australis", is going to be like that, only much worse. People will eventually write extensions to restore a decent, usable UI, but it'll take time, it'll be prone to breaking whenever Firefox updates (and again, with a target of nine major releases per year, that's pretty much "all the time"), and it'll be fragile, depending on a few developers' continued work, and interest.

And there's not even a good reason for it. Firefox has been attempting to emulate Chrome for quite a while onw, but as I said to a friend last night: if I wanted Chrome, I'd use Chrome; the original, not a knock-off. Mozilla'd be better advised to focus on Firefox's unique strengths instead: take the good things that Chrome has to offer as inspiration, sure, but don't blindly copy things just because Chrome does them differently, and don't introduce change for the sake of change, just because some "user experience specialist" thinks it's a good idea.

Again, the focus should be on making the easy things easy and the hard things possible — and on allowing users to do it "their way" instead of forcing them to do it the one true way, be it deliberately (UI redesigns) or out of a lack of care (extensions breaking because nobody cared about a stable extension API, or realized that by publishing a certain API for people to use, you're reasonably committing to actually keeping it usable).

Reply | Parent | Thread

Rabs Whitetail

(no subject)

from: whitetail
date: Dec. 20th, 2013 03:58 pm (UTC)
Link

Your criticisms are well-stated, and widely shared among Firefox users, but for quite some time now, it's been clear to me at least that Mozilla doesn't CARE what users want. They want Firefox to be what THEY want, and everyone else be damned.

As for security updates, as a Mac user, these are of less concern to me. Considering I used Ff 3 for five years with nary a single security problem, I daresay a version that's yet only 6 months old will serve me more than adequately for the foreseeable future.

Reply | Parent | Thread

Schneelocke

(no subject)

from: schnee
date: Dec. 20th, 2013 04:19 pm (UTC)
Link

A good point — as a Mac user, you're probably indeed less vulnerable. Still, I feel it's better to be safe than sorry, myself.

Reply | Parent | Thread