Thursday, December 15, 2011

Why Firefox is losing my loyalty

The folks at Mozilla know Firefox has gone from being an upstart challenger industry to becoming firmly entrenched in some production processes. Knowing and understanding, however, are two different things.

Yet another update appeared this week on my various machines, and again, the pre-install message was the same: This or that plug-in is incompatible and so deactivate it.

Nope, screw the update (thankfully, only a minor one, 8.01, instead of the major version changes that have been flooding out in recent months). I need that plug-in, one that automatically refreshes websites, to work on the digital signs in the newsroom that display those sites.

And I don't need to get messages from the CMSes, digital signs and other back ends I work with telling me my browser is no longer compatible (I usually can ignore those, but the nag factor is a pain).

And then there's the added annoyance that on some Macs, FF8 won't properly integrate with the Quicktime 7 plug-in, prompting the "Quicktime needs another component" message (it doesn't) and won't play MP3 files inline. (No problem with FF3, which is why it stays on my machine.)

Firefox's great vitality is its stable of plug-ins. But that will also be its downfall, if it iwn't careful. You can't offer a buffet of useful plug-ins by third parties, encourage people to use them and integrate them into workflows, and then break them with numerous updates.

I can see the response now - these are important updates and if those third-party developers can't keep up, too bad. (I also largely agree that sites that sniff for specific browser versions, for instance, instead of core engines are bad and stupid.)

But that misses the point. That was OK when you were an upstart. When plug-ins were new toys and discoveries that had a large cool factor. But now they have a large embedded-in-workflows factor. Constant breakage is not just a trifling annoyance, it's a major pain in the arse.

I'm not particularly voting for Big Browser here.  But it's time for Mozilla to get some of this crap out of the way, get more judicious about updates, and figure out a way to get major plug-ins and other sites in line before releasing all but the most serious security updates.

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At 12/19/11, 12:14 AM, Blogger Ted King said...

It is not just firefox, I seem to be living in an update epidemic. Maybe it is just because I work on a Mac . . .


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