Referencing my earlier post about the huge and problematic scale back in its plans to thoroughly update the Mozilla Firefox 3 user experience (UX) and turn this browser into what was going to be the ultimate Vista application, I'm sad to say that I'm pretty close to just giving up on Firefox for good.
Understand that I've been a long-time Firefox supporter and advocate, and I've been using the browser full-time since it was a little Mozilla side project called Phoenix. (Check out my Wakoopa statistics: Firefox was until recentlyh my most-frequently-used application.)
So what's happened? Putting aside the lackluster Firefox 2.0 upgrade, which was really just Firefox 1.6 with a different name, I was looking forward to the many changes that would come in Firefox 3. And I've always appreciated the things that made Firefox special, and better than IE: It was fast and small, lightweight and powerful. It was easily extensible. It offered features that, at least previous to IE 7, weren't available in Microsoft's browser.
A number of factors have contributed to making those advantages less advantageous or, at least, less true today than they were a few years ago. Specifically:
Firefox is no longer fast or small, and it's certainly not lightweight. If you leave this browser running on your system, it will eat up RAM faster than any application I've ever seen. Leave it on overnight at your own risk. IE 7 does not do this. In fact, IE 7 starts up instantaneously and runs quick nimbly.
Firefox is still very extensible and this remains a key advantage of the platform, assuming you care to take the time and effort to find the extensions you want, choose between overlapping extensions that duplicate some, but not all, of each other's functionality, and can put up with the resource sapping that many of these extensions will bring. My attitude has changed a lot in the past year when it comes to extensions: Because I must reinstall and reinstall systems due to my day job, my goal is to minimize the amount of stuff I have to do every time I bring a system up. Keeping track of these extensions is painful. More to the point, it's not something "normal" people will do. I feel this is a wash, and would argue that keeping Firefox small and light is a more pressing concern.
Firefox still offers a few features (inline search for example) that IE 7 lacks. Again, I don't feel this is a huge concern for regular people: IE 7 is Good Enough, as Jerry Pournelle would say. Heck, its better than Good Enough. IE 7 is great. The funny thing is, if Mozilla had gone through with their original plan to make Firefox 3 the ultimate Vista Web browser, they would have eliminated one of IE 7's biggest pluses (it's just there on the system), because let's face it, IE 7 is NOT a great Vista application: It has a bizarre and non-standard UX that takes time to learn. This is something Mozilla could have taken advantage of.
So what does Firefox 3 bring to the table, and how would this affect my day-to-day existence?
Looking over the list of new features I published yesterday in this blog, not much. Vista with any AV client is already secure and protects me from malicious Web sites. The "native" look and feel stinks, and why the heck would you move a navigational button (Home) off the Navigation toolbar and onto the Bookmarks toolbar? If it's going to be there by default, put it where it belongs. I don't care about download "managers": I just want to click on something occasionally and download it. I don't store bookmarks locally (or in the cloud), preferring instead to maintain a single Web page that includes all the links I use locally: That's just another thing to manage. And while I welcome your reported speed and memory usage improvements, let's face it: They were quite necessary, and I suspect more needs to be done. I don't have performance or memory issues with IE 7.
Mozilla, I'm sorry, but you're losing me. My data is in the cloud, so I don't care about local calendars (Sunbird) or email clients (Thunderbird), and don't think anyone else will in a few years either. Your browser is yet another thing to install and manage, and it offers no real advantages over what's already in Windows. (And is there even a way for corporations to centrally manage Firefox across their desktops?)
Since wiping out my main desktop and installing Vista with SP1, I've been using IE 7 and it works fine. Explain to me why I or anyone else should go to the effort of installing and managing Firefox 3. What's the value proposition exactly? Increasingly, I just don't get it.