A Final Word on the Firefox Fiasco

So the Mozilla develpers – particularly the Firefox ones – appear to have adopted this stance:

We are going to bring the XML/RSS easy-subscribe feature to a new, wider group who isn’t demanding it yet, with no planned course of action for the people who are currently using it and came to rely upon it. Furthermore, we will leave them with no official way to reproduce the behavior which has been present now in our brower for years.

In short, when the Mozilla team mankes a decison, it’s final, and it appears that they are looking to expand their userbase, even at the expense of the most dedicated users now. So if you choose to have the search engine of your website return RSS for external apps but styled XML for a browser, turns out — you can’t.

It’s been days since I posted on this site about this; the goal was to make sure my new post was not overly dramatic. But here goes: I am now going to be suggesting that Windows users I support use IE7.

Why? Because IE7 is a nice upgrade. It supports most of the features that I think are necessary in a browser. Most people will never use AdBlock or any extensions at all, so that who construct is a non-starter. And it’s much more secure. Firefox, however, has notable memory leaks. IE7 uses far less memory when open for a long period. This is a FIREFOX issue, as you can see, Camino doesn’t have the same problems:

task manager
Firefox, open for ~8 hours

activity monitor
Camino, open for ~38 hours

Lastly, the IE team has done an AMAZING job at responding to their users. I’ve watched the IE blog, and I am really impressed with the level of communication and immersion the devs have. They are patient and appear to take an interested in their users.

The Firefox team, while mostly even tempered and polite, has pretty much given me the push off by suggesting that they know better than I do about how RSS is used in the real world, and therefore, decided that my website should work the way that /they/ want. In fact, they are SO sure of themselves, they won’t even provide me — the webmaster — a way to do what I used to do, even with extra steps. No, consistency is key – my wishes are second to a consistent web experience for someone who is new to the web (and likely won’t even know the term “RSS” until about 2009). Furthermore, the leader of the project himself, Asa Dotzler, posted a “slam” against me in the Firefox newsgroup that perfectly illustrates the point – the developers are missing the idea completely.

They are so focused on catering to the end user that they have decided that that the tech-savvy people, people who made Firefox successful in the first place, are no longer important. So unimportant that when they complain that the browser has changed its behaviors and things no longer work as they have for years, their only responses are “we aim for consistency and ease of use for the end user.”

If Firefox devs can *decide* one day that the trends of use are different than current use or even different than intended when a standard was written, and will make decisions that change the ways the browser behaves with very little notice or upgrade path, how can we invest ourselves in them by using the browser full time? Knowing they could pull the rug out from under us?

To address those who say that IE7 does the same thing, I have two responses:

1. IE /adds/ functionality to RSS. It’s less insulting when I can do things manipulate the data I couldn’t do before. It’s not my preference, but it’s at least a decent response.
2. Much more importantly, IE7 *IS* an aggregator. It will save posts, mark them read, allow you to filter them, track multiple feeds, etc. IE7 is a full feature RSS reader, and a full featured RSS reader can remove style. Firefox just wants to style a feed its own way.

So, am I blowing off Firefox completely? I’m not sure. No doubt I am invested in FF, from both a data standpoint (all my cookies, usernames, passwords, etc) , but also from a user standpoint. I’ve been using it for over 5 years, and it’s home to me. But it certainly looks like the day of switching (probably to Opera) is coming soon.

8 Replies to “A Final Word on the Firefox Fiasco”

  1. RSS is overrated anyway, and I sincerely doubt it will withstand the test of time in webbrowsers. You see, RSS is only *really* useful, in my experience, for limited devices such as phones and PDAs, for which RSS is a method of getting news using less data than when visiting the complete website. However, I just don’t see why someone would want to visit a web feed through a webbrowser, when you can just visit the webstie… In that same webbrowser. Seriously, what’s the point? It feels like putting a videocamera in front of a television, and then watch TV through the camera’s viewfinder. It’s just doesn’t make sense.

  2. Um.. Thom, this is truly spoken like someone who simply DOESN’T KNOW a better way to use it. Just because YOU don’t know of ways RSS is useful doesn’t mean there aren’t any.

    We have a web service that returns search results as styled XML. If you run it in your browser, it looks like a web page. If you run it via a remote web service, it returns as XML which can be parsed. This doesn’t work in FF2. I supposed we could changed it to non-RSS XML, but then everyone who uses it will have to change their parser.

    Anyway, who cares? Even if this were a hypothetical, this is exactly how the people who wrote standards desc ribed it: hey, use XML, and then use XSLT to transform and style it. That is, until Firefox came a long and decided that they know better and this one kind of XML is exempt from the standard, even if it’s just the de facto standard.

    I’m sorry you don’t see a better use for RSS, but some of us do, some of us have been using it for some time, and Firefox has just borked it.

  3. Hey I was indeed speaking for myself, if other people see uses for RSS, great, it’s not like it is in my way or anything.

    However, I still believe it won’t withstand the test of time, with which I mean that it won’t expand into every-day use as webbrowsing or emailing has. Of course it will not disappear or anything, I just don’t think it will see a sudden explosion in use among non-technical users.

    I don’t think any of my friends know the term ‘RSS’.

  4. Well, in that case, you’re dead on! That’s why the decision is all the more crazy. It’s an egregious interruption of service for technical folks who DO use it to cater to people who DON’T use it, and furthermore, as we both agree, probably WON’T EVER use it.

    In the meantime, my stuff is broken.

  5. Hey don’t use IE yet! There’s another option! There’s a good chance the devs working on the Flock web browser could be much more sympathetic to your cause! Why not give them a shout?

    Flock – the social web browser
    “Flock is an amazing new web browser that makes it easier to share media and connect to other people online. Share photos, automatically stay up-to-date with new content from your favorite sites, and search the Web with the most advanced Search Toolbar available today.”

    Available for Win32, Linux and OSX (coming soon if not already!).

    On the other hand, I’m really glad to see that Google Reader appears to have none of these issues you point out. google.com

    In my opinion I would still choose to use Firefox with Google Reader a long time before going over to IE.

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