Will Firefox changes win back users and developers?

In today's open source roundup: Big changes are in the works for Firefox. Plus: Android malware increases significantly. And one million new lines of code added to Linux kernel in 4.2 rc1


Will Firefox changes win back users and developers?

Firefox has gone through a rough time over the last couple of years, with increased competition from Chrome and other browsers. Now the browser's developers are planning big changes to Firefox. Will these changes win back users and developers who have abandoned Firefox?

Sebastian Anthony reports for Ars Technica:

Firefox is about to undergo some dramatic changes, according to Mozilla. In an e-mail to the firefox-dev mailing list, Dave Camp, Firefox's director of engineering, has outlined what he calls the Three Pillars of the new Firefox: Uncompromised Quality, Best Of The Web, and Uniquely Firefox. Let's take them in order.

Uncompromised Quality will aim to strip out Firefox's half-baked ideas, or to carry them through to completion so that they're "polished, functional, and a joy to use." This program is internally dubbed "Great or Dead"—as in, if the Firefox devs can't make a feature great, it should be killed off. Camp says in the email that Electrolysis (e10s)—Firefox's massively overdue implementation of per-tab processes—is one of the first features that needs to be focused on, "to get the kind of snappy experience we need to make Firefox feel great."

Best Of The Web is a slightly more nebulous pillar that will concern itself with the add-ons community, and partnerships with third parties like Telefonica. "We intend to spend some significant effort making addons even more awesome by improving security and performance for users and a building a better API that increases x-platform compatibility for addon authors and partners," Camp says in the email.

Uniquely Firefox is all about actually attracting new users to Firefox, by "focus[ing] on the reasons users choose us in the first place." The only specific example given is an improved Private Browsing mode, which Camp says will "land shortly."

More at Ars Technica

Linux redditors reacted to the news with some skepticism:

Altiris28048: "I'm completely lost with what they are trying to do, lots of buzz and marketing words (I hate that..., if you don't have exact information yet don't send out a damn message). Why are trying to do things like integrate Pocket, some Web chat thing, etc.

I've been waiting probably a year to be able to play 1080p and 60fps videos on Firefox with HTML5. Can I do this already or its not implemented for some reason (is it drm related)?"

Steamruler: "What's the purpose of splitting the browser into multiple processes now again? Is there any significant advantage over running each tab as a thread instead? If anything, the presence of a process per tab just makes killing and identifying tasks harder."

D5Njv: "I can't count the number of times when I see firefox mysteriously pegging my CPU at 100% and having to guess which tab is responsible. By isolating each tab in its own process, it would be trivial to find the offending tab using top or one's favorite task manager."

Lions: "Maybe it's time to admit that users don't care about dogmatic adherence to free software. Go out and get Netflix working. Find a way to make sure Hulu doesn't tear so badly. Same with YouTube. I don't care if everything else works far better, those three things count for the majority of my web usage, if they don't work I'm sticking with chrome."

Formegadrivers: "This worries me. A lot, given existing precedents[1] . "Unpolished", according to who? "Not very useful", according to who? Many useful extensions will die in the process, I'm sure. Oh, great. Just what we wanted. More "partnerships" :/ ...repelling us old users, which have been with Firefox since it was called Phoenix, it seems. The reasons I chose Phoenix back then... I can't see them in the current Firefox anymore :( How about complex extensions like Vimperator[2] and Pentadactyl[3] , alternative browsers like Conkeror[4] and Seamonkey[5] , or Mozilla's own Thunderbird[6] ? What will happen to them?"

Pogey: "...if they just don't have the manpower to do all of these things, it's better that something goes- even if it was something that I liked. I bet tab groups will be one thing to go and I'll miss it."

Kumpel: "I certainly hope they keep userstyles for the UI because that's pretty much the only reason I'd chose Firefox over chrome right now; the customizability. But chrome removed it because it "unfinished" and not user-friendly (IIRC). If Mozilla thinks the same, I don't see where this feature of "help[ing] them shape and control that personal experience" for users is if they can only color things like in chrome."

36878: "What I don't understand is why browsers use so much memory these days? Is it possible to forget about closed tabs after say the last 6-7 that were closed? (Ie. just store the last 6-7 closed tabs)."

Wooly: "Really hoping that splitting processes means splitting them in a way that doesn't significantly raise/alter Firefox's total memory usage. Currently using Firefox on my c720 (only 2gb) because the memory usage is about half of what I get with same tabs open in Chrome."

Adamnew: "My understanding of the idea is that, should one of your tabs run amok (either because a plugin died, or you hit a browser bug), the others (and the browser UI) aren't torn down with it. I think you're also supposed to see less UI lag, since a page using bad Javascript doesn't block the browser's UI."

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