218 points by petethomas 4 months ago
As a Mozilla employee, speaking from my own limited perspective, it seems the company as a whole broadly agrees with this analysis even if it isn't vocalized quite this succinctly. Chrome started out being force-installed alongside Flash, and there is no solution to the bundling problem -- the problem is even larger in scale than the article suggests because of Chromebooks affecting desktop. People who use Firefox in the future will increasingly be people who do so consciously, presumably because they view Mozilla as helping them protect their privacy. Chrome is and will continue to be the default.
Eventually, Google will do something that is an abuse of their monopoly power. Either there will eventually be a privacy/creepiness fiasco, or Google will attempt to use Chrome as leverage to squeeze a competitor out of a market.
When that happens, Mozilla will be well-positioned as an alternative. The path forward in this view would look more like Mozilla as a constellation of disaffected companies and users attempting to free themselves from Google. It won't look like Mozilla on the side doing something by itself. We will largely be defined in opposition to Google.
The article correctly points out that a wiser Microsoft could have gotten a head-start on this inevitability by partnering with us early.
Arguably Google is already abusing their monopoly power but in the way that people like. I'm talking about AMP. In the future AMP/regular page boundary will blur and Chrome/GSearch/AMPpages will merge in the ubiquitous googlenet hosted on google servers (because it will work better than regular internet pages). Almost everybody will be happy after this and Mozilla will fall into obscurity.
Basically you can't create a revolution in tech by failing once and then trying harder the second time and it looks like Mozilla failed even while being better. The only way for Mozilla to win is (like linked article suggests) is to dominate somewhere else and then leverage that to push web browser. They won't do this and don't want to really.
PS: maybe they could buy/merge with other privacy oriented players in tech and create end-to-end privacy services that are usable, seemingly secure and integrated and then push this offering. But I can't see a big market today for this offer if it would exist.
PPS: also to add to less known evil moves by Google - their U2F websites refuse to work in Firefox, despite it supporting U2F for a long time.
> Arguably Google is already abusing their monopoly power but in the way that people like. I'm talking about AMP.
Do people actually like AMP?
I hate it and strongly wish I could disable it for all Google search results. It's supposed to make pages load in more quickly, but for some reason they always seem to be slower for me.
Broadly speaking, yes they do. It is faster in the vast majority of cases, and non-techie friends of mine speak enthusiastically about the lightning bolt icon. Of course, they don't understand the implications of it.
> and non-techie friends of mine speak enthusiastically about the lightning bolt icon.
Which makes me think it's just confirmation bias. They expect it to be faster, and so perceive it as faster. Just like when Windows Vista was presented to users as the new Windows 7 (only the branding was changed for the experiment), and they openly stated it was noticeably better/faster than Windows Vista.
I'm not quite so quick to dismiss this out of hand, despite my own (negative) experiences with AMP.
Google is certainly capable of making mistakes, but I find it hard to believe they would invest so much into AMP without strong metrics to indicate that AMP pages load faster overall. And on a theoretical level, the explanations of why AMP should be faster also make sense.
Note the phrasing, that's an important part of what I'm referring to: they're talking about the icon instead of the speed directly.
In my experience it is the google search app that is extremely slow (android on a underpowered nokia 6) I installed duckduckgo search because google hangs my device for a few second every 5-6 keypresses
> PPS: also to add to less known evil moves by Google - their U2F websites refuse to work in Firefox, despite it supporting U2F for a long time.
The one that still sticks in my craw is that they never bothered to add support for Hangouts in Firefox. Hangouts was modified to use WebRTC in Chrome, but relied on a plugin in Firefox--despite Firefox actually implementing the relevant WebRTC features first.
Hmm, I use Hangouts in Firefox...
Hangouts supports WebRTC video in Firefox now, four years after supporting WebRTC in Chrome (2014-2018).
I've maintained a timeline of Hangouts' WebRTC support (as part of my work to track the sunsetting of NPAPI plugins, other than Flash, in Firefox that blocked Win64):
The chat or the video? The video hasn't worked in long time now.
I haven't tried Firefox, but Hangouts with video works in Safari for me.
I had to bookmark a Hangouts room URL though, which I think I opened from within GMail some time ago. If I try to just load hangouts.google.com, it won't work.
Video, although I don't have a camera (the host does, though).
A recent example is how Chrome broke audio on a lot of websites https://www.theverge.com/2018/5/15/17358752/google-chrome-66...
I won't even link to the discussion in Chrome's bugtracker, Chrome team didn't even test the change, apparently.
They also actively build "Chrome-only" websites.
The Chrome audio thing really, really bothers me.
The change broke a ton of neat, interesting games that are never going to be updated. And given Google's aggressive autoupdates, running an older version of Chrome to experience a specific old website is non-trivial.
The change signals a blatant disregard for preserving pieces of art, culture, and shared history.
IMO that's not an abuse of monopoly thing at all. It's not as if removing auto-play audio will push users towards some Google-only product, if anything it would mean fewer users choosing Chrome.
Disagree. It can be a push for web developers and amateur site-buildign-people-that-have-not-that-much-interest-in-the-web-shenanigans to use google-approved APIs.
Not by promoting google as better but by simply promoting a view of google-web and other-web.
> Eventually, Google will do something that is an abuse of their monopoly power.
This is one of Mozilla's problems: they constantly advertise privacy, etc. and while I agree their views in general, most users don't care. If you position yourself as the privacy respecting web browser, you will only ever get the tiny niche of people who care and everyone else who sees your marketing will just roll their eyes and makes jokes about tinfoil hats. That's not to say that Mozilla should do all the anti-competitive things Google does, just that they need to stop advertising themselves this way if they ever want to get any reasonable market share back (unless they want to be a niche browser for people who don't like Google, which is fine if that's all they want to do).
That being said, I don't see how any amount of marketing can fix Mozilla's problem for the same reasons the article pointed out.
During the IE-6 dark ages of the early 2000s, Mozilla's browser (the Mozilla suite, then standalone Firebird, finally renamed to Firefox) was positioned in a similar way: it was the niche browser for people who cared about an open web. It stayed that way for quite a few years, slowly gaining traction by implementing features—tabbed browsing, popup blocking—not found in the dominant IE browser.
I could see a similar approach working again. Mozilla could focus on user-centric features, while Chrome has to also serve the needs of Google's business interests.
> the Mozilla suite, then standalone Firebird, finally renamed to Firefox
I believe it was originally called Phoenix. Though you're right it was then called Firebird and renamed again to Firefox afterwards.
I think each time was due to trademark disputes?
Going to your point though, I hope you're right but I'm a bit more sceptical. Chromium, being open source, means anyone who doesn't like the stagnation of Chrome would just fork Blink and create their own modern browser while still enforcing the Chrome mono-culture.
I'd love to see Gecko take off in the same way kHTML, webkit and blink have done. In fact I'm surprised it hasn't. I don't suppose anyone more familiarity with the code base of these rendering engines are able to offer possible reasons why?
> I'd love to see Gecko take off in the same way kHTML, webkit and blink have done. In fact I'm surprised it hasn't. I don't suppose anyone more familiarity with the code base of these rendering engines are able to offer possible reasons why?
Not familiar with the code base of the engines, but one factor that distinguishes Gecko vs. the other engines is that Mozilla killed the ability to embed Gecko in other applications in 2011. Read about the detailed reasoning in this mailing list thread.  This effectively tied Gecko solely to Firefox, and has made using it with other applications or browser chrome (lowercase, not Chrome the browser) impossible (AFAIK). So it cannot take off like the other engines unless Mozilla puts in work to allow that to happen.
And they already have (at least) one they could use as a starting point: Containers
Which is an excellent feature. Another one is WebVR.
I love containers, and I'm sure webvr is great, but I can't see the majority of people caring at all about either one. Their existing niche of privacy aware people who don't like Chrome and are tech people who like to play with trendy new technology will be happy about both of those, but random people off the street probably won't.
Then don't talk about it from a privacy angle; I use containers so I can be logged in to my home and work accounts at the same time.
For most uses they are a long-lived incognito session.
As a long Firefox user, I did switch to Chrome/Iridium lately.
When Firefox decided to attack the problem of market share with engineering, 2 things were happening (almost) at the same time: 1) the deprecation of the old add-on engine and 2) the introduction of the new Quantum engine.
For the 1), while I understand there are some reasons in doing so (it was not a stable API as it was always breaking the extensions and security-wise), I think these problems could be managed. On the other hand, there were lots of good add-on depended on this API.
Particularly, even when Firefox was behind technically-speaking, that was the main reason I used it. Firefox replaced the old API without offering all the new interfaces with the new API. So, I lost what made Firefox really unique.
For the 2), I think it was a consequence for the 1). Firefox was finally "better" with Quantum. Of course everyone likes a responsible browser, but I actually didn't see that much difference. And there was another browser which was already really good: Chrome.
Suddenly, there was no real advantage in using Firefox anymore. Someone my say privacy. But in some corners of the Internet, it's already impossible to navigate without some privacy-wise add-on/extension, which usually work on both browsers.
Added to these, if you go deep down, security-wise there are some real technical advantages in running Chrome instead of Firefox in some OSs. For instance:
 I'm pretty sure a lot of other things were happening, but I'm in the perspective of the user here.
> Of course everyone likes a responsible browser, but I actually didn't see that much difference.
Same here. The only difference I noticed was startup speed when restoring 200+ tabs; that was indeed far faster in Quantum, but I never noticed any other speed improvements. And it was something I only encountered once every couple of weeks anyway.
what OS though? It seems like only Windows users really saw speed improvements
Ah, I didn't really catch that, but it would make sense. I use Ubuntu.
I said this up-thread, but Firefox Quantum made me switch back to Firefox, after years away. I noticed a marked speed improvement.
For Single Tab instances, Chrome and Safari still wins. For multiple Tabs, Firefox wins hands down.
But the majority of users rarely open more than a few.
Firefox will need to continue iterate, until it is as fast or even faster in every corner.
exactly what i saw - i regularly use over 200 tabs and in Chrome the performance goes to hell above that number (even on i7 6700k - also managing tabs is PITA), while Firefox just keeps chugging without any problems
I use ~1200 tabs. I used to deal with what you and ksec experienced in Chrome by periodically killing all Google Chrome Helper processes, and a few months ago switched to Firefox (less sluggish) from Chrome. Last week I decided to try Chrome again and was pleased to find that (with the same tab set) Chrome 71 is amazingly fast; new tabs open instantly, I can immediately enter a search query or URL, and the browser remains stable over time. So it's back to Chrome for me; it is now only slow when starting for the first time, when it processes the 1200 tabs for a few minutes.
(I do use The Great Discarder, but did so before switching to Firefox, too.)
I got used to tree style tabs so I wouldn't be able to switch, those extra windows which are necessary in chrome were awful
Has Mozilla considered focusing on the emerging federated ecosystem championed by Mastodon. I really think that federated sites are a way forward for the open web. Federated platforms are inherently decentralized, and they avoid the problem of a single company deciding what's right for all the users. Platforms like Mastodon and PeerTube are already able to interoperate via ActivityPub, and it would be great to see this ecosystem keep growing. I can see an ecosystem of federated platforms that fill the same niches as Twitter, Fb, Reddit, and Instagram. All developed independently, and all able to collaborate with one another.
One big aspect of traditional web is searching, and that's where Google built their empire originally. Why not invert that equation and build search and discoverability into federated platforms. Perhaps extend ActivityPub, or create a sister protocol that focuses on searching. This approach would address the problem of discoverability much better than an external search engine. Perhaps Mozilla could help come up with such a standard.
> We will largely be defined in opposition to Google.
Looking at the Financial Report for 2017 https://assets.mozilla.net/annualreport/2017/mozilla-fdn-201...
it seems that the the vast majority of Mozilla revenue is from Royalties ($539M out of $562M). In addition in the report there is a statement to the effect that 93% of Royalties were from search engine deals. We know that Mozilla entered into a search engine deal with Google at the end of 2017.
It looks like that the vast majority of Mozilla's revenue is from Google and will be for the next several years at least. It will be interesting to see Mozilla positioning themselves in opposition to Google when Google provides the vast majority of their revenue.
hi, author of the article checking in.
Thanks for commenting in the open from Mozilla's perspective, even if its just one voice, it's much appreciated.
I agree that Firefox will remain an attraction to the group of people caring about openness, standards, and their privacy. My deepest concern is on how small that group is going to be. Will it settle at the current ~10%, or will it be as low as 5%, which I consider very dangerous grounds to be in.
As for Google's abuse of market power, I strongly believe it has already happened, in plain view. There's no doubt in my mind that dominance in one market has been used to capture another market. We don't have to wait for that "mistake", it has already happened.
These abuses are already under investigation, but I'm afraid it won't change the outcome. They'll pay some fine in a few years, but none of the browsers will be uninstalled.
It won't matter much, but added an update to the top of the article suggesting people to install Firefox.
> Eventually, Google will do something that is an abuse of their monopoly power. Either there will eventually be a privacy/creepiness fiasco, or Google will attempt to use Chrome as leverage to squeeze a competitor out of a market.
> When that happens, Mozilla will be well-positioned as an alternative.
I hope you're right, but my main concern is that this could be a war of attrition: Google has such deep pockets that they can simply play nice, all the while testing the limits of what users will accept, until Mozilla taps out. And once that happens, all bets are off.
I really don't think the general population cares about any of that enough to incite the change you are referring to. People stopped using IE because it was hilariously bad to use compared to Firefox and then Chrome. Until Chrome becomes hilariously worse for an average user to use it'll remain a near monopoly.
You say that Mozilla will be well-positioned as an alternative to Google. That sounds realistic and I hope it will be able to team up with bigger companies which would like to compete with Google (instead of helping it).
However, that made me think about Brave (https://brave.com/). What are your thoughts about it? It's also privacy oriented, but it's actually built on top of Chromium. What is even more interesting, Brave was founded by Brendan Eich (the co-founder of Mozilla).
Brave is rent-seeking the entire Internet and doesn’t deserve serious mention.
I haven't looked into Brave in years, but the original idea I remember was that the trend of having the web be free for the public and funded by advertising (mostly the single entity, Google) was bad for the general public in terms of privacy. Therefore, it would be better if people financially supported the sites they visited and benefit from, so as to extinguish the need to give so much power to the advertising industry. In order to do that, they were modifying an existing browser with a system that would make a payment to the sites you visited that supported accepting such a payment.
Is this what you're against, or has Brave done something else that deserves being dismissive of them?
Advertising isn't fundamentally bad for privacy, otherwise newspapers and movies would be bad for privacy; it's targeted advertising (which requires keeping a profile for each user) that is fundamentally at odds with privacy.
Well, advertisers are going to do their job as well as they can, defined by the amount of money their methods bring. They can't track in newspapers or movies because there's no feasible way to do so. If you want a business to not do something that brings it more money, you'll have to introduce legal liability that makes that something not worthwhile. That's probably GDPR, in a nutshell.
People are bitching and moaning about Mozilla pulling an extension that works around paywalls from addons.mozilla.org, so do you honestly think that people are willing to "financially support the sites they visited"?
Without hitting a paywall that can't be worked around, hell will freeze over before that happens ;-)
People would be willing to if they had a choice that wasn't "Buy a year's subscription to our newspaper to read the one article you want"
I don't think they would on their own, but Brave's efforts to ease that path still seem commendable.
If you use "rent-seeking", you need to know what it means. I do not believe that you do know what it means. Economists use "rent" to denote extraction from existing wealth. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/e/economicrent.asp
Brave adds wealth by pricing users back in from the start (via a genesis block of tokens we give to users and referring creators), and by blocking inefficient, dangerous intermediaries (cut out the middlemen, as Marx said) for a much more efficient market.
Those intermediaries are the _grands rentiers_ today, and yet all but Google, Facebook, Criteo, Amazon, and a few others are dying. Ad/tracker-blocking is a user right but it alone cannot explain the walking death of most intermediaries in the Lumascape.
Rather, too many intermediaries arbitrage and abuse data. This induces not only the ongoing rise of ad/tracker blocking by users -- it cuts off residual revenue to publishers (who make <40% off of programmatic ads in practice, sometimes <20%), who also want fewer hands in the till. Arbitrage always goes away (till next opportunity). The data misuse causes ongoing rifts and scandals. GDPR and laws like it are icing on the cake.
If you are party to the existing Lumascape of ad-tech vendors, your post is projection and I suggest looking honestly in a mirror to see "rent-seeking". If you're calling Brave rent-seeking out of some irrational animus, take a closer look at the product itself, and let's reason together.
I disagree. They have presented an alternative to the current system of surveillance capitalism without forcing anyone into their platform.
I don’t really love the browser and wish the Brave protocol was available for Firefox, but hopefully we can get there sometime in the future.
I really don't know what's better. While it's bad that having a free web has lead to multiple entities doing everything they can to track as much as they can, it's also a great benefit to society to have free access to so much knowledge.
In the end though, I don't think we'll see a shift to people paying for their content. Societal problems arising from lack of privacy is one of those high-impact-low-probability-or-slow-to-come risks that the public is so bad at handling for their greater aggregate benefit.
To really see a change, if Brave has done their part, what'd be missing would be a general public education program that would better inform the public of what the risks are and what can be done about it. Something like Smokey Bear.
> While it's bad that having a free web has lead to multiple entities doing everything they can to track as much as they can, it's also a great benefit to society to have free access to so much knowledge.
This feels like a false dilemma to me. Many, if not most, of the corners of the web that are devoted to disseminating knowledge are funded by means that don't involve tracking ads.
It's the entertainment corner of the web - social media, yes, but I include listicle-oriented versions of journalism here, too - that seems to be the primary engine of all this surveillance capitalism.
It's no coincidence that they also have a tendency to actively exploit the parts of human psychology that make us susceptible to addiction. Which means that, while it's true that they don't charge an up-front fee, their products do still come at a price.
I think you're right. Wikipedia (and other WikiMedia projects), MDN, StackExchange sites, wiki sites like wiki.archlinux.org, wiki.osdev.org, wiki.c2.com, public forums like lambda-the-ultimate.org or news.ycombinator.com would probably still be free. I can't think of any place that I've learned significantly from that provides their content for advertising money. They all seem to be up primarily for altruistic reasons.
EDIT: Thought of one: YouTube. I wonder, though, if the content providers I've learned most from in YouTube would have chosen not to provide if there weren't advertising options. Maybe they activate advertising because it's easy and would have uploaded regardless?
EDIT 2: The real question, though, would be if someone would be willing to make a YouTube alternative and eat the cost of development and maintenance of the site and hosting of those videos for altruistic reasons... It's a lot more costly than hosting a site that serves lightweight text.
Stack Exchange advertises, but, to the best of my knowledge, they don't engage in any tracking-based advertising, so it doesn't really bother me.
I'll even click on those ads if I'm interested (crazy, right?), which is something I scrupulously avoid doing for ads that I suspect are fueled by tracking.
> Stack Exchange advertises
Yeah, but I get the feeling that it didn't start with the purpose of advertising. Haven't really looked into its history to know for sure, though.
> I'm not really opposed to topical advertising. And I'm not even particularly opposed to targeting. Showing ads for Databricks alongside a Stack Overflow question about Apache Spark is fine by me (just so long as it isn't a popup or an auto-playing video). That's no creepier than advertising car stuff in a car magazine.
I wouldn't be opposed to tracking if that's all it ever amounted to, either. In fact, your example doesn't seem to involve tracking. Deciding what to show based on the content of the page doesn't imply using any knowledge of you from other sources.
EDIT: Anyway, what's worrying of tracking is that it makes the buying and selling of personal information a viable and profitable business. It's not worrying if you think that such a business can only be used for showing ads you're interested in everywhere you go. In fact, that's a benefit to anybody, and that's what makes it a good public justification for it by the companies that do this tracking.
However, that's not the only way people can apply your personal information. For example, businesses can also use it to personalize the prices for the products and services they offer based on indicators they bought of your purchasing power. Insurance companies can use a lot more than indicators of your purchasing power to know how to quote you, probably getting their hands on knowledge that by law they probably shouldn't be able to get their hands on to avoid unfair discrimination. There's regulations of what businesses can ask of employee candidates to avoid unfair discrimination, but they won't need to ask anymore if they can just buy the info online.
So is cURL for that matter.
What do you mean?
My understanding was that op felt by blocking trackers, ads, etc. Brave was effectively a free rider on the internet. This has always seemed weird to me since I shouldn't be obliged to run code that gets downloaded. When I use cURL (or block js, etc.) I can download just the content (usually) without all the dependencies. But I don't think this makes me a free rider.
Only a sidenote: did you think any human being can have properly reviewed webkit source code before using it?
If not, how can be anything based on webkit considered to be safe, privacy oriented etc?
Not just webkit's source code. What human being can have properly reviewed the source code of Chrome or Firefox or anything else both open and closed source before using it? How can any program any one of us is using right now be considered safe if we haven't properly reviewed it?
That's true, but at least Firefox born as FOSS so there is a community that potentially see the code growing by the time so while they may have lost something as individuals as a community there is a certain knowledge of the code. Webkit born open (KHtml, Kde's Konqueror html engine) but subsequent evolution happen inside few big companies and sources are release "en mass" so there is essentially "no community" that having at least seen the code grow a commit at a time so to have a sort of "big picture" knowledge...
I'm pretty sure that as far as lineage goes, Chrome was actually born more FOSS (KHtml) than Firefox was (Netscape). Firefox is certainly more FOSS in spirit now than Chrome has ever been, but Mozilla is certainly not immune from the kinds of shenanigans possible for any open source project that is entirely controlled by a single large organization.
Chrome's closed source though. You probably mean Chromium. Still, I'm not sure how much in the spirit of FOSS it is to have an open source version to drive development while marketing the closed source version which might be filled with spyware for all we know.
This is a pretty bad argument, as exactly the same can be said for the Servo/Firefox codebase
See above: it's true, but at least FOSS born and evolved projects may be known by "early" devs that see project evolution during it's time, on contrary when a company release million SLOC no one really know anything...
Anyway, in general my line is that all "modern browsers" must die, because browsers should be browsers, not "platforms" and websites should be hypertext, not application... I really dream a modern Plan9 even if I know nobody with enough competence, time and money to develop something like that exists today. I only can hope that a scandal and a disaster at a time we start to be tired, damaged and threatened enough that we support something like GNU/FSF to a level that produce free software and open hardware can be done by a community for the community itself... Well... A bit utopic...
> See above: it's true, but at least FOSS born and evolved projects may be known by "early" devs that see project evolution during it's time, on contrary when a company release million SLOC no one really know anything...
Do you know the history of Blink? It was forked from Webkit, which was forked from KDE's KHTML and remained open source all the way. So you argument also explains to Blink.
Firefox's current problems go back to around 2011, and you can see this in the trend graphs.
At that time, there was still a hot three-way race between Chrome, Firefox, and IE. But Mozilla made a misstep: they decided that, to compete with Chrome, they would adopt a new "Rapid Release" model. This resulted in a massively pissed-off base of former supporters and articles like "Rapid-release Firefox meets corporate backlash"  and "Understanding the Corporate Impact" . There were multiple discussions with titles like, "Mozilla Executive: We're Not Interested In Enterprise Level Users", and it was still going on a year later with, "Everybody Hates Firefox Updates" .
People have been conditioned now to accept frequent updates, and -- years later -- the browser vendors have mostly stopped reskinning their interface every other release. But that wasn't the situation at the time, and so Firefox gave up their one competitive advantage over Chrome, and leveled the playing field in Chrome's favor.
Mozilla could have instead embraced that big, loyal enterprise base, and found a sane middle road for updates that allowed them to keep a healthy release schedule for DOM, JS, and CSS support. But, they didn't.
So all of that good will that Mozilla had fostered over the years just evaporated, and Mozilla never looked back.
(It didn't help that, just after alienating their enterprise user base, Mozilla also kicked off some drama with a developer .)
This falls into that category of mistakes-that-kill-your-business-years-later, alongside other case studies like Sears and RadioShack.
They did recently. They force signed and associated every user to the Chrome identity, thereby linking everything users do in the web to their Google ID. Nobody seems to have bothered.
>People who use Firefox in the future will increasingly be people who do so consciously, presumably because they view Mozilla as helping them protect their privacy. Chrome is and will continue to be the default.
Honestly, the only reason I use Firefox is because it supports vertical tabs and Chrome doesn't. Maybe you should start advertising features that are more immediately visible than privacy.
How well is Gecko/Servo suitable for embedding in another application as a web browser? Apparently it is very easy with Chrome, why we have 25+ Chrome derivatives.
I can't speak for Servo, but Mozilla pretty firmly gave up on trying to have a good embedding story for Gecko and SpiderMonkey (in the name of being able to rapidly iterate on APIs, which never ended up settling down) somewhere around 2009. I contend that one of Mozilla's big mistakes was to give up on embedding.
RIP Camino, which served as many Mac users’ favored browser for years even after it stopped getting updates.
Add AppleScript support to Firefox and I’ll switch today.
I don’t like Chrome’s dominance either, but what do you want me to do if your browser does not support a feature I use everyday, multiple times a day (and that was there but was removed, back in version 3)? You’re giving me a browser that is useless for my needs, so I can’t use it.
You bet I’m thinking of leaving Chrome behind (and will likely do so once I make a clean install to Mojave, that should happen soon) but my only real alternative is Safari. I’d rather that alternative be Firefox, but it isn’t. I rely on browser AppleScript control so heavily, I’d sooner stop using a web browser than switch to Firefox.
And if you think I’m alone in that, there’s a chunk of the macOS automators community you’re not visiting. We build our tools with support for major browsers (and some minor) but never Firefox, because it can’t do it. We don’t even mention it anymore. If someone asks why our tools don’t work on Firefox, we answer that it’s because you don’t support the necessary feature. The number of people asking is lower every year.
Every time there’s a Firefox thread on HN, you see the same complaints from macOS users: poor performance, missing features (I’ve seen lackluster Keychain support also mentioned).
Give me a browser I can use, and I will.
P.S.: Even if I could code enough to add what I need, it’s not even clear to me from your bug tracker if you’d take the addition. Last I looked, I couldn’t even decipher if AppleScript support is something desirable or not.
What would be the downside of "pulling an Edge" and just making Firefox a Chrome fork with some Mozilla specific features? There's an alternative to Google, Mozilla saves a ton of money/time on duplicated effort, and developers only have to worry about testing against Blink/Webkit.
Servo/Quantum is cool, but it seems to be too late for that. I'm worried that Mozilla is simply in denial about this and when reality sets in course correction will be significantly more painful.
It would give the Chromium dev team a massive amount of leverage in directing web standards.
This matters because, on-the-whole, Mozilla's dev teams tend to be much better at writing standards than Google's are; partially because many of the standards Chromium focuses on are prioritized and developed with the intention of being helpful to Google's long-term strategies. There have been multiple instances (html imports spring to mind) where bad decisions were averted purely because Mozilla had the guts to say, "we're not putting that in Firefox, come back when you have a better proposal."
Yes, Chromium is Open Source, but Open Source isn't magic. It's still very much a Google product, designed to increase Google's overall influence over the direction of the web. Unless Mozilla's plan is to literally fork Blink, then having a primarily for-profit mono-culture in charge of what features get fast-tracked and prioritized for browsers is still incredibly harmful.
There are enough large, interested parties (Samsung, Microsoft, Mozilla) out there that they could literally fork Blink if organizational issues arise and gain a sizable install base.
Sure, but how big would those issues need to be?
You're right that Open Source does allow us to reverse course and fork Blink later if something terrible happens. Remember though, the moment that someone like Mozilla or Microsoft makes a fork, at that point they're back to the same situation that they're in right now -- even worse, because they're stuck using a codebase that wasn't architectured specifically to meet their goals. That provides a big incentive to wait as long as possible before deciding, "heck it, we'll build our own engine."
What I would suggest is that there are at this moment already at least minor organizational issues within Chromium, and there are currently benefits to having multiple browser engines. We could give up those benefits and get them back later if stuff got really bad. But it would mean waiting until things got really bad; and ignoring all of the tiny, daily decisions before that point that go in to setting the direction of the web.
Remember that the web isn't supposed to break backwards compatibility. If you don't get things right the first time, there isn't a second chance to change them.
If Mozilla can't reach enough user now, why would they do with a fork of Blink ? It's not a web engine problem, it's just that Google is too powerful and Chrome is everywhere, so they decide.
And actually it is better for innovation not to use to Blink. WebRender is potentially much more performant than any other engine and it would never had existed if Mozilla were just aligning with Blink
Exactly, people seems to only remember that Mozilla was a little behind Chrome some years back. That by no means the case anymore. Unless you're somehow embedded in the Google ecosystem, there's no reason to prefer Chrome over Firefox.
It's not like the other Blink or Chrome based browsers are doing great, sure Brave and Vivaldi is getting some press, but they have even less users than Firefox.
Sadly Firefox isn't peoples mind anymore when they think browser. It's IE all over again, but with Chrome, Only Chrome is moving forward. I don't know if there's anything Firefox can do, other than marketing. It's currently the best browser out there, but that was the case when IE6 dominated the web as well.
Firefox doesn't need to dominate, but hitting some like 20% market share would be fantastic.
> Exactly, people seems to only remember that Mozilla was a little behind Chrome some years back. That by no means the case anymore.
This isn't directly relevant in the larger context of this thread, but Firefox's sharp drop—even after the introduction of Quantum, which I've found to be a big improvement—is what makes their situation much more scary to me.
They won't, but it'll save money and engineering effort spent on Quantum/Servo.
But there's now no alternative to Blink, and Google can do the IE/Netscape thing of just ignoring the standards process and making up new web technologies that benefit them (and everyone else has to adopt them). The browser UI is the least important thing to compete on.
> Either there will eventually be a privacy/creepiness fiasco, or Google will attempt to use Chrome as leverage to squeeze a competitor out of a market.
Perhaps if it ever comes to that, people will look to an alternative means (than the web) of accessing documents and code.
Firefox for mobile is an excellent browser, and the only one I use. It supports extensions, such as uBlock without rooting the phone. The user interface is good, the browser is responsive and reasonably fast. Honestly, I don't know why people aren't using it.
I think most people just don't care, and just use what the system provides. As Google gets more invasive and evil, I hope that people will start to care, and Firefox and other browsers start to flourish again.
> I don't know why people aren't using it.
Like the article said: no one cares (more or less) about how good the browser is. If you have to go install a new browser, that's more work than just using the builtin one, and Google can force every Android phone to install Chrome out of the box.
Also, though I use Firefox mobile out of a desire to not be a part of the Chrome problem (even though I know it's useless and I'm not actually helping by doing so), it's not fast, and it's not nice to use. It's painfully slow, crashes much more frequently than the other browsers, has confusing settings and constantly promotes garbage like Pocket (which you can disable if you dig through the confusing settings, but you can't actually uninstall it), etc.
Until Mozilla gets the performance problems under control (and they're finally attempting to do this with Quantum et al.) they won't stop the bleeding. Unfortuantely, stopping the bleeding is the easy part: getting new users is the hard part and I tend to agree with the article that they don't have a way to do that on mobile (though I know nothing about marketing, so hopefully I'm wrong and just spouting nonsense here).
Until Mozilla gets the performance problems under control
Performance is 1/2 of the reason that I prefer Mozilla. As one of those people that typically has 50-100 tabs open, the Firefox model for memory management is vastly superior.
The other half of the reason is TreeStyleTab, again because I'm one of those zillion-tab users. Vertically-stacked tabs in a sidebar is the only way to manage that mountain of tabs - horizontal at the top just doesn't work. And Chrome doesn't have any extensions that support this.
That's actually really interesting; I don't tend to have a ton of tabs, but coworkers always told me Firefox did a terrible job with 100+ tabs and that Chrome worked better. This always made sense to me because of the multi-process architecture of Chrome, but I've never seen it myself.
So you're suggesting that Firefox actually performs better now? Maybe all my coworkers complaining about it are just repeating lore that no longer exists?
Many tabs aside though, I still have a lot of performance problems with Firefox (although it's getting better; Quantum was fantastic, I was getting really fed up with Firefox for a while before that).
> This always made sense to me because of the multi-process architecture of Chrome, but I've never seen it myself.
If you have hundreds of tabs in Chrome, you'd have hundreds of processes. In this case, Firefox used to perform much better with lots of tabs because it didn't spin up a process for each one. The downside of this model is that a crash would take down all your tabs in Firefox rather than a single tab in Chrome. Of course, now Firefox is also multi-process.
I can never have hundreds of tabs open in Chrome because the UI just doesn't handle that nicely. In Firefox I use multi-row tabs and can comfortably have 40 tabs open without issue.
I don't understand how anyone can claim FF is faster. I love FF and I switched completely from chrome. But Chrome is far faster. I don't know maybe it is because I have an abundance of RAM (32 GB) and others don't and that's why they think FF is faster.
But for me, it's easy to test. Go to http://addic7ed.com/ and open the (very long, nearly 5k entries)
[Select a TV Show] drop-down. On FF (and IE/Edge FWIW) there is a noticeable delay in opening. I'd say 200-400ms. On Chrome it opens instantly.
Next, have something playing that consumes decent amounts of CPU in a tab. I used twitch. Then go somewhere and rapidly open new links (I middle-clicked around on Wikipedia). After about 10 tabs, FF starts slowing down (opening tabs that look like blank tabs and only starting to load after a delay) and possibly interrupts playback in the background tab. IE/Edge are even worse and will start opening tabs slower than you click and keep opening for a while after you are done. In Chrome on the other hand, everything is instant.
I'm on Windows 10 and everything is up to date. I'd love for someone to tell me that it's different for them.
Interesting. I have pretty much the opposite experience on MacOS; with Chrome, if I open a bunch of tabs (~50), my memory usage quickly goes to 15.9 of my 16 GB, and then my whole system slows to a crawl. In Firefox, the same number of tabs are using less than half of that, and everything is still running smoothly.
I filed https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1513256 to track that drop-down issue, which is quite easily reproducible.
Just did the test with the drop-down menu on Chromium 71.0.3578.80 and Firefox 63.0.3 both running on Ubuntu 18.10. I can confirm the difference in performance, FF takes at least 1s longer to open the menu
I have 8GB RAM. It doesn't matter to me that Chrome would be faster if it could eat 4 times the whole RAM I have - what matters is that it's not.
Also, it's a pretty weird test case to compare performance, probably not related to anything that actually matters. What's more, Firefox tries to style the drop-down to match with the system UI, while Chrome doesn't even bother.
> I have 8GB RAM. It doesn't matter to me that Chrome would be faster if it could eat 4 times the whole RAM I have - what matters is that it's not.
I specifically said that I can see it being a problem in low ram cases.
> Also, it's a pretty weird test case to compare performance, probably not related to anything that actually matters.
This is not some random benchmarks. Both of these problems are things that I regularly encounter on actual websites. And it's great that FF styles it, but I'd rather have performance than system appropriate dropdowns.
The only reason 8GB RAM can be considered "low" instead of "appropriate for most workloads" is Chrome.
I don't even run Chrome outside of testing compatibility. I do run Visual Studio, often multiple instances. Right now I don't, only FF, a few apps and Stellaris (which only uses around 500 MB), yet I'm still at nearly 16GB of Memory usage. 8GB might be enough for many (most?) people, but not for me, and it has nothing to do with Chrome.
I also sometimes long for more RAM, but those situations definitely aren't what can be sanely considered "most workloads".
Chrome has separate processes for each tab, as well as for each extension. In my Windows install I right now have only 3 tabs open, but it's using 24 processes. And in my experience, those processes all carry a goodly amount of overhead: even a simple page seems to consume 10s of MB, as does even a simple extension with no UI. I just created a HelloWorld page with nothing but that text, and it alone is consuming one process with 22.9MB.
In contrast, Firefox pools those processes. I currently have 56 tabs open, but only 6 Firefox processes running, consuming a total of 1.7GB. So for example, there is (AIUI) just one single process that's responsible for all rendering behavior. I don't have the same detailed information about how much resources that HelloWorld page is taking, but it feels more efficient to me.
The Quantum change introduced multi-process to Firefox too. With a proper adblocker, hundreds of tabs are not a problem in my experience ( Chrome needs one too: in hundreds of random pages it's just too likely some crazy ads stress the system by playing video, constantly loading data, ...).
Quantum did a bunch to speed up rendering, and Electrolysis added a multi-process architecture that makes more sense than Chrome, IMO. You essentially have a main process and multiple content processes. The number of content processes is limited to some sane amount, instead of 1/tab.
I have 1450 tabs open and Firefox is fine, Chrome would be an unusable mess.
I use ~1200 tabs. I used to deal with Chrome stalling by periodically killing all Google Chrome Helper processes, and a few months ago switched to Firefox (less sluggish) from Chrome. Last week I decided to try Chrome again and was pleased to find that (with the same tab set) Chrome 71 is amazingly fast; new tabs open instantly, I can immediately enter a search query or URL, and the browser remains stable over time. Firefox, by contrast, is noticeably slow (but better than older Chrome) when opening new tabs or handling queries. So it's back to Chrome for me; it is now only slow when starting for the first time, when it processes the 1200 tabs for a few minutes.
Not true in my experience.
I liked firefox on mobile for ability to use addons. But with some update it started being totally unresponsive and crashing my phone, so I switched back to chrome which happily displays ":)" with 100+ tabs open.
On mac firefox is eating battery faster than chrome.
I would like some alternative for phone - so I will maybe try vivaldi or brave or test firefox once again.
> On mac firefox is eating battery faster than chrome.
If you're on a Mac and want better battery life when web browsing, Safari will do better than both Firefox and Chrome in most cases.
That's why the only time I ever use Safari on my MBP is when I'm away from a power source. Which isn't very often.
Uh, crashing??? I, like, never actually switched to Chrome in the first place (only using it sometimes for sites that "only work in IE^H^HChrome"), am using Firefox on multiple computers on Linux and Windows, and absolutely don't remember it crashing, for years at least!
(edit: tweaked to clarify)
edit 2: using Firefox on mobile (Android) too, for ~2 years now (i.e., since I have a smartphone), cannot recall a single crash over that timeframe either.
Chrome or Firefox? I meant that Firefox mobile crashes more frequently than the others (in fact, specific sites make it crash consistently and have done for years; I could probably dig some up, but I gave up reporting them since none of the bugs have been fixed for years to my knowledge).
For the most part it's still not a frequent occurrence I suppose, but it only has to happen once or twice on a popular website to make someone switch away.
Would be curious about the websites indeed!
Me too. I've been using Firefox for quite a while now (on a Fairphone 2, which is rather slow) and it performs fine and never crashes.
I particularly love the possibility of opening multiple links at once in the background, and buffering them until I switch to the Firefox app.
> The user interface is good, the browser is responsive and reasonably fast.
Ever used chrome or some other browser on android? The droidfox is quite infamous for it's slowness and backward interface.
I used Chrome and Samsung one and Firefox. There is no perceptible difference in speed of the browser, only in speed of mobile internet. I switched to FF a year ago as a main mobile browser and it works just fine.
> There is no perceptible difference in speed of the browser
No difference that maybe you can perceive, but I for one find the scrolling a lot more sluggish on FF than on Chrome, and that's on a SD 845 device, which is the latest and supposedly greatest Qualcomm chip. I just can't use FF on Android, and that's a shame because the desktop version is very good.
Tumblr was the site that got me to switch away from Firefox on Android to Brave. Firefox scrolling was like watching a slideshow, the animations would happen 5 or so seconds after you tap but Chrome/Brave was as smooth as the native app.
Yes. Yes, actually, I have. It's neither slow, nor do I find its interface bad. Actually, I think it's way better than Chrome on Android, because I like the way the new tab functionality works (and I sometimes keep around 20-30 tabs open on mobile.)
My phone isn't even some flagship. It's an OP3T, and it copes very well with FF.
It also syncs nicely with the desktop version sharing tabs and passwords and whatnot. Even if Chrom* was as good as firefox there, the mobile aspect would make the difference
Sadly, the sync functionality is gated behind an insecure authentication system, so one really shouldn't use it. This is a pity, because Chrome's sync is even less secure.
Compounding the pity, Firefox used to have a more secure auth system, which they threw away. I'm still appalled by that.
While I really liked the old sync system, it was never going to be user-friendly because it entrusted key management/safety to users. People just aren't ready for that and Mozilla maintaining two systems would compound the user issues.
I would accept running my own server for Sync as a solution and I believe this was even possible with the old system? Then power users could have that extra layer of security if they desired but regular users don't have to worry so much.
If they would simply get rid of all HTML submissions pages where users may enter their passwords, then the system would probably acceptable. If the Firefox Account UI were entirely browser-managed, it'd be okay. I'd still prefer a system in which it's impossible for users to accidentally leak their secure data through use of a poor password, but that's life.
As an aside, I don't see that user key management was really an issue. The UI of the old system was perfectly fine, and one could have added a QR code or similar if one really wanted to. The number of folks doing TOTP auth these days prove that it works.
I have tried using Firefox mobile on Android, but didn't enjoy it - it suffered from sluggish UI interaction. If it was technically on a par with Chrome I would consider going to make the effort to migrate.
Firefox has never been bundled with a mainstream OS, mobile or desktop, as far as I know, it's always been something that people sought out. I think since you can install it on Android, if it's any good it has a chance of success.
Amazing read! Very insightful and open at the same time. I've literally highlighted every other sentence in it. Thank you, Ferdy!
I basically went through the same thinking process myself. I'm a moderate idealist and would like Firefox to succeed because it's important for the web that there's no monopoly. However, my realist soul tells me that Firefox is losing badly and it's hard to tell where it's going to end. It's a pity that Microsoft didn't choose Gecko – I wonder if they even seriously considered it.
With Microsoft joining Chromium, we're slowly entering a duopoly of WebKit and Chromium. It's still a much better situation than the dark IE6 times. However, it's hard to tell whether WebKit (AFAIU, supported mainly by Apple and Samsung) will keep up with Chromium (Google and Microsoft) in a long term. I'm afraid that it will look like a Cold War's arms race – one of the parties will invest so much that the other will just lose economically (not being able to afford that many developers). Such economical wars make developers happy, because the web progresses very fast, but I think it actually leads to a monopoly.
Anyway, I'm still keeping my fingers crossed for Gecko. They do a great job there and perhaps will be able to partner with a big enough company to keep its pace and market share.
> I'm afraid that it will look like a Cold War's arms race – one of the parties will invest so much that the other will just lose economically (not being able to afford that many developers).
Given all the "Safari is the new IE6" posts that have been here over the past few years, that seems to be already happening.
Apple is lagging behind quite a bit with implementing newer web standards, especially in areas where they have anticompetitive interest in doing so (PWAs cannibalising native apps). Of course, they're the only game in town on iOS, so that ensures them some captive market.
I'm not sure how long they can keep doing so. At what point it may affect iOS's reception in general?
From my own experience, making the app I'm working on (CKEditor 5 - a web based rich-text editor) compatible with mobile Safari is right now impossible. None of the RTEs work well in mobile Safari because of its quirks and bugs.
If Apple will overdo this (just like Microsoft did with IE6), that may affect iOS's usefulness. Sure, right now you can't build a business without your presence there, but there may be a breaking point. It's hard to imagine and I kinda doubt it will happen (I rather agree with the author of this article that Apple will invest enough to keep Safari alive), but it's a possibility. Microsoft screwed it up once, so can Apple.
If you care about iOS, you don't build a web application you build a native one (perhaps using web technologies). This ultimately benefits users and Apple so there is no incentive to improve this.
Probably they are doing it on purpose, cripling web-based apps/PWA experience forces user to install app from AppStore.
If it had been introduced today, would PNaCl have been rejected which ultimately lead to a better solution (WASM), or would it have been broadly accepted since it had sufficient market reach though Chrome?
Ouch, that's an excellent question, and a perfect example of why the state of web browsers is pretty bleak. Likewise, we could wonder what we will see when it comes to AMP.
Five years on, asm.js/wasm has been completely rewritten, has almost no adoption from developers, and lacks many of the features from PNaCl ... it may turn out well eventually but I don't think it's a great success story for web standards.
PNaCl didn't have adoption either, and the entire foundation was flawed. Starting with LLVM may have made it easy to add features quickly, but the only reason to do that would have been to get early adoption at the expense of long-term engineering benefits. That bet failed.
We're getting to the point where browsers are worthy of the decades old criticism Emacs has received. They have eventually become an OS with many fine features - simply lacking a good web browser.
It's a large, sprawling project to make a good OS. Especially when the language of choice to run on it changes with such haste.
Hopefully this nth re-imagining of dumb terminals dies off over the next few years and applications go back to the OS where they belong. Otherwise thing are going to get rough.
Browsers to me are amazing. I can run untrusted code in my computer from all over the world and at least with Chrome the odds of my machine getting pwned are pretty low. The Chromium team fixes security issues quickly. For that I get this amazing environment where I can see things as incredible as Google Maps 3D, games, music apps, etc all sandboxed incredibly well.
The whole thing is far far more secure than running native apps on Windows, MacOS, or Linux, they're arguably far more secure than Android and maybe more secure than iOS.
In other words, they aren't just an OS, they're a secure OS. Something most OSes don't give me.
This is getting worse and worse though as browsers expose more and more of their host operating system's functionality. The benefits of using a website instead of a native app are quickly disappearing, while the drawbacks have only been somewhat mitigated. And this leads back to my original post.
Additionally, it promotes the software as a service milking of fees and online only access. It prevents end users from ever being able to tell what code is going to be run on this computer since it changes on a whim. No hash checking of binaries is going to help you here.
There's no doubt browsers are supremely complex, amazing things. But that isn't good.
Well to each there own. For me I'd prefer everything in the browser. I hate having to trust native software. Native software can read/upload my entire home folder, all files, .ssh keys, browser history, password database, photos, videos, etc... Websites can't. Native apps have access to every open exploit on my machine. Webapps don't. Native apps can scan my network for other exploitable devices. Webapps can't. So, more webapps for me please.
Web apps that use electron (for example, Discord's desktop client) have full filesystem access and can do just what you say. Many people think it's safe because it's 'web'. It isn't. It's worse because of the misperception.
They can just add something like require('fs').readFileSync(process.env.HOME + '/.ssh/id_rsa').toString() and send this to their servers, and you won't even notice that (since it doesn't require an update on client because the client is just a browser with full permissions that loads obfuscated code from their servers every time you launch it).
And with both remaining big browsers dev group announcing they'll be adding greatly expanded filesystem access to browsers for normal websites this will likely apply there too.
Electron is a native app. so agree, don't like it, prefer web app
It always amazes me how - even on HN - some people like to depreciate and underestimate browsers in their current state. It's like they are stuck with mindset in 90s and forgot to notice that browser are pretty advanced OS nowadays.
I feel sad that through so many years of progress we ended up with multicore CPUs, obscene amounts of RAM, graphics cards that can heat a house... all to power one or more web browser engines.
I bet someone will say now RAM is cheap. :D
I agree with you.
While running our software in someone's else computer.
Hey, install this _native!_ application powered by Electron!
What about the good qualities that websites have, like the ability to link (and deep link) people to specific parts of it?
The re-trending of the local application is a step back in this regard. And "when will this internet fad die off so we can return to native applications" throws a lot of baby out.
I'm a developer and a Firefox user. I'm always a little sad when I pair with another developer, and they ask why I'm not using Chrome.
Mozilla is one of the few tech companies that care about the well-being of its users. In my opinion that is very special.
> I'm a developer and a Firefox user.
By developer, do you mean web developer?
I tried to use Chrome dev tools, and they were incredibly easy to pick up; however whenever I try to use Firefox dev tools, they feel embarrassingly awkward. Perhaps it's just the familiarity with the tools (and if so, I am very curious to hear whether you prefer Firefox dev tools over Chrome's), but have a nagging feeling that it's just an inferior developer tool.
Both have their pluses and minuses.
It was delightful when auditing the experiences from a potential new client in Firefox Dev Tools the other day, and realizing that I could see, inline to the target DOM element, JS events tied to them while looking through the source. Saved me a good amount of time.
When I'm looking for pure-play performance auditing, Lighthouse integrated into Chrome's Dev Tools are an obvious win.
So yeah, each have their strengths and weaknesses.
Also, finally they made the whole web console into an editable area, like in Chrome dev tools. I used to be so frustrated that you had only one line where to write code.
> It was delightful when auditing the experiences from a potential new client in Firefox Dev Tools the other day, and realizing that I could see, inline to the target DOM element, JS events tied to them while looking through the source. Saved me a good amount of time.
Just tried that, and wow, that's really cool!
I don't prefer one over the other. They both serve my purposes well enough. Generally, I've found that people who don't like Firefox's dev tools just haven't used them much.
The quality of the developer tools is subjective. Chrome dev tools are pretty much unusable to me, the are as you say awkward and weird, but then again I always used the Firefox tools, so I think they wonderful.
The Mozilla Corporation is a 100% subsidiary of the legally non-profit Mozilla Foundation. They can't pay out their profit to their stake holders. So, the only profit motive comes from Mozilla employees wanting to keep their jobs.
Reading this on FireFox mobile, I think it's the best mobile browser out there (I've tried a lot of different browsers).
Sad to see it not gaining market share. That being said, there is a way for it to pick up steam. It would just require a new platform to come a long (probably competing with Google) to use FireFox
That was precisely the point of FirefoxOS. Mozilla knew years ago that the browser wars would come to hinge upon platform defaults. If you want to have a dominant browser these days, you also need to ship hardware yourself, and you then need to convince people to use it.
I keep trying firefox mobile every few months, and it feels really sluggish on my phone compared to chrome.
I really want to like it; firefox has for a decade been my browser of choice on the desktop because of add-on support (which unfortunately got much worse with WebExtensions).
That's been tried so many times I've lost count; none of them ever gain any traction. I'm not really sure why, but at a guess I suspect it comes down to Google being able to outspend and already having deals with every major phone manufacturer and mobile provider.
This article's assessment of Safari is way off. It's an excellent browser, and my default browser as a web designer and application developer. The interface is night and day superior to Chrome, it's very very fast on macOS and iOS, and it's often been at the forefront of design-related improvements to the web.
The one area it's historically been behind on (progressive web apps) is the reason it gets knocked by people who care primarily about progressive web apps. Personally I'm more interested in the web primarily as a visual interface communications medium, and so in that sense, I'm actually against a number of decisions Google has made in its development of Chromium over the past few years (because Google has also prioritized PWA over other use cases for the web).
Anyway, if you don't care for Safari, that's your jam, but to state objectively that Safari is mediocre and Chrome is much better is simply unjustifiable and reveals the bias of the author.
I haven't seen a single sober argument in favor of Safari. Even now, before writing this comment, I did a small side-by-side comparison and I can't find a single place Safari really stands out as better.
I'm not saying you're wrong - opinions about usability have some subjectivity - but the opinion that Safari is an `excellent` browser are a small minority.
> I haven't seen a single sober argument in favor of Safari. Even now, before writing this comment, I did a small side-by-side comparison and I can't find a single place Safari really stands out as better.
I'm not a Safari user, but for owners of Apple laptops battery life should be a big one. It's my impression that Safari is significantly more efficient when it comes to energy consumption.
>> "For developers, it’s one less browser engine to worry about"
>> "For the open web: it’s complicated. If I were to put on the hat of a pragmatic developer, I fail to see the big gain in having competing browser engines."
The author does not understand web standards and probably doesn't remember IExplorer's monopoly and the era of "works best in IExplorer" websites. And what fewer and fewer people remember is that IExplorer 5 was the best browser of its generation, the Chrome of its days.
And actually I fail to see what this article is doing on HN. Surely there must be better rants around.
This is not a rant, it's a long well thought and insightful blog post, you might disagree, or he might be completely wrong but it's no rant.
Besides, the main point is that the UGLY reality is that the only relevant browser/engine is Chrome.
Downvoted because this is quoted entirely out of context. The author makes it abundantly clear that he is not actually holding this position.
The author says "Microsoft had a browser that sucked (IE6)." This is not true. Microsoft had the best browser -- fastest, most stable, and friendliest for development. They created many of the standards we now take for granted. IE was literally the Chrome of the day -- the best browser installed by default on the biggest operating system.
Then they decided to stop improving IE6 (outside security updates) because they (correctly) realized that the web was a threat to the company. IE7 was released 5 years later, literally due to the pressure of other browsers on web standards support.
That's when IE 6 sucked, and we all had to live with that suckiness for years on end because of microsofts insane backwards compatibility policies keeping deprecated software alive on life support.
Even Microsoft has a IE6 countdown timer now https://developer.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-edge/ie6coun...
IE6 was an unfathomably damaging disaster for the web.
You're both right. At the beginning of it's reign in 2001 IE6 was way better than alternatives. In 2011 IE6 still had a 5% market share and was the bane of every developer's existence.
"fastest" doesn't mean "fast", "friendliest" doesn't mean "friendly".
Suffocating progress with monopoly abuse is not a good platform for claiming to have the "best" browser...
Personally I see the bigger issue right now as Apple. Apple basically has all their iOS users hostage to WebKit. Maybe we'll get lucky and Apple will lose the current app store case and another store will be able to allow other browser engines on iOS and hopefully that will light a fire under their butts so they start implementing all the missing APIs.
As a dev there are so many features missing from iOS WebKit and because iOS has such a huge market share I'm basically forced to design without those features.
I don't personally see the issue with one browser engine. It can be skinned differently and different features can be enabled or disabled. More people from more companies can contribute to the same basic engine. Kind of like so many Linux distros contribute to the same basic kernel.
Again: How do I get Chromium to accept our Rust code, in the world where it's the only browser engine?
There is a different way to interpret this: Firefox is irrelevant on mobile, but not on Desktop. Will mobile kill desktop? No, these are two different markets/use-cases/applications. Just like video didn't kill the radio*.
Firefox will stay relevant on desktop a.k.a. in work environments.
Firefox has some catches that make it not as easy to use in a work environment though and I honestly think will hurt their market share over time, mainly the fact that it doesn't use the OS cert store. This causes issues with most corporate web proxies that do SSL inspection since IT departments will push the proxy CA cert into OS cert stores through whatever endpoint management solution they have.
People can disagree all they want about SSL interception in a corporate environment (for good reason), but it's here to stay. When a corporate user downloads Firefox, tries to simply go to Google and gets a cert error page, they're just going to go back to Chrome because the process of exporting your company's CA cert and then importing it into Firefox so you can use the browser is just simply not feasible for most users.
Interestingly enough, a previous customer only allowed for FF ESR and IE, while considering a security breach having anyone to try to install Chrome.
Interesting, is that just because of the privacy implications of using chrome?
My experience has been that most desktop IT teams don't have the resources to fine-tune browser configs on endpoints around things like corporate web filtering proxies so they just jam the cert in the OS store and call it a day. You can use Chrome, IE, or Firefox if you know how to get and import the cert (which most users do not). Sometimes users would submit tickets saying they wanted to use Firefox but couldn't get to any web pages, to which the IT team would reply "We don't support Firefox, use Chrome or IE" and that was that.
> Firefox is irrelevant on mobile
That's pretty sad, considering the fact it's the only mobile browser not only with the support of extensions, but the same extensions as the desktop version.
Future might not be that grim for mobile Firefox actually, with more and more modern Android smartphones and tablets support more and more RAM, and 4GB is pretty much standard.
What's cool is if you have Firefox sync, your extensions come over automatically. I use Firefox on my tablet because it has all the extensions I use on my desktop.
Mobile Firefox didn't support all extensions last I checked. It at least has uBlock Origin on Android, but almost everything else I looked for wasn't available. Firefox on iOS doesn't support them at all.
I think most of extensions that are not listed as compatible with Android version of Firefox is due the developer's lazyness to test it on Android and check the additional checkbox submitting it to the store. There are some differences in API, but they are minor https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Mozilla/Add-ons/Web...
It's a shame that Firefox is so rarely used on mobile. As far as I'm aware, it's the only mobile browser with extension support. I know that you can use system-wide host-based ad blocking, but I tend to find that uBO does a better job.
i want to use Firefox mobile but the scrolling experience is terrible. not sure if they use the os's compositor.
Web developers "building for Chromium" is a travesty. It's every mistake made when IE was dominant, repeated. Just do a find and replace from Microsoft to Google. If you are a web developer, please don't do it, and don't try to convince yourselves that it's OK. It's not OK. It wasn't OK before, it's not OK now, and it won't be OK down the road. I don't care that it's expedient; like your reliance on third party tracking scripts it shows you don't respect me.
Microsoft has done us no favors today.
> At least those browsers are compatible with the web. Websites will work in them because websites are built to work in Chromium.
That is a poorly drawn conclusion. Edge is compatible with the web. Developers are solely developing for Chrome and not caring for cross browser testing. As a Firefox user I sometimes encounter this myself.
hi, I'm the author. Agree with your point when you read it like that, so I'll clarify what I meant.
"Compatible with the web" in the context of this article means compatible with the web that is primarily built to work on Chromium/Webkit. Because at this point of time, the web is Chromium.
You're right that Edge is compatible with web standards, albeit that they are lagging a bit behind in implementing newer standards. By that logic, IE11 is also compatible with web standards.
Developers are solely developing for Chrome and not caring for cross browser testing.
The true spirit of Internet Explorer lives on!
May be I am in the extreme minority. I don't have problems with Safari. ( Judging from the 170 Comments so far and not a single supporter of Safari, I really think I am )
Instead of implementing every single iteration of Web Standard that Google dished out, kill it and rework much like all of their products, Safari decide to pick it up once everything has been stabilise.
Instead of trying to turn everything on the Web as Web App and give everything on the computer a Web API, they have been perfecting the Web Pages. ( Which in terms of publishing standard is still far from perfect )
Even if some web sites don't care about cross-browser adoption, it seems like the browser vendors do, including people at Chrome who propose new standards?
As long as this is the case, the web standards process is still working much as it always has. Apple and Firefox still have a veto.
Our power to influence standards is linked to our marketshare.
At Mozilla we say that we have a different reason to strive for marketshare than most companies in the world. We need it to have a seat at the table.
As far as I can tell, people at Chrome have _very_ strong incentives to propose new standards and ship implementations of them in the browser. Incentives around then responding to feedback on those standards and getting them into a state where anyone else would implement them are much weaker. Incentives to not ship until this process has happened are nonexistent; in fact lack of interest from anyone else is very explicitly never a reason to not ship something for Chrome, as far as I can tell.
Disclaimer: I work on Firefox, but read the blink-dev list fairly regularly; the last sentence above is repeated pretty often on that list.
Hmm, what do you think of Blink's feature launch process? 
(I'm no expert, but to me it seems impressively bureaucratic.)
I think it's a lot better than not having a process, for sure! The hearts of most of the people involved are in the right place, as far as I can tell, and they do listen to feedback some of the time. That said, they feel that if they think something is a good idea then that means they should do it even if others disagree. Which is understandable, of course.
IMO the actual state of web browsers is: "there is NO browsers.", we have labeled as browsers awful monsters that are a sort of OS-cancer that try to reduce OS itself as a mere kernel and basic userland needed to run that monster.
Actual size of those project is so big that practically no one, their devs included, can know the entire big picture, there are so any day new critical security vulnerabilities and a constant refrain, repeated following the nazi Goebbels principles of "repeat a lie enough and it became reality", that desktop is dead and the sole possible evolution are those monsters and, of course, "the cloud", because "we need integration and the sole really integrated platforms are cloud and mobile" and other classic marketing phrases.
Unfortunately, as with physical cancers, he are in the process of succumb. And even worse there are many people happy with that, like few crazy individual happy to have AIDS "so they know that they can get nothing worse STM and they feel free"... Or like south Koreans that pay a "prison hotel" to "free them for daily life"...
I think a ~60g rifle cartridge charged with salt and a small forest can be a good playground, only I fear we may run out of salt...
Which is part of the reason for Microsoft switch. To bring new life to the desktop via vastly better electron performance.
Which can be seen as the best and worst of both world at the same time. For sure we live in interesting times.
I want to switch to Firefox.
The few things preventing me seems small, but have made the transition unfriendly and/or tedious.
1. Chromium "Multiple Users" feature allows me to separate business and personal life very conveniently. Now that I have this feature, I cannot give it up. It seems Firefox has this functionality, but it's difficult to use without additional extensions and "Import from Chrome" doesn't support it.
2. 1Password and other extensions I use on a daily basis have inconvenient drawbacks on Firefox. For example, 1Password dropdown does not show in form fields like it does in Chromium.
3. Firefox UX still feels... meh. The ugly dotted focus ring around any link I click stands as a good example. I don't see any preference to turn it off. Menu navigation... there's no submenu peeking-- you have to click in then click back. The whole browser feels jerky compared to Chrome.
It's easier and more pleasant for me to ignore Chrome's lack of privacy and forget about Firefox.
I think Mozilla should give some serious thought and focus on making it incredibly easy and smooth to switch to Firefox.
Comparing default Chrome vs default FireFox it's easy to think they're similar, and say "Chrome is ok."
But FireFox-with-blockers is in a class by itself in terms of speed and usability on both desktop and mobile.
Most of the things that work on Chrome but not Firefox end up being blocked and I don't even notice they're gone.
The recent change to make tracker blocking default in FireFox gives me hope.
I really don't find this insightful, just repeating what everyone thinks : "people don't care about privacy", "Chrome is successful because it is installed by default", etc. thx captain obvious
Discussion question - what incentives need to change to make Apple invest more in Safari? They've always been invested in native apps first and foremost, because that's where they make their money - the app stores.
The other place they make their money is hardware. And it's hard to say you buy a MacBook or iPhone because of safari. You don't.
So I just don't know what it will take for Apple to make significant investments in the web. Whereas Google makes all their money on the web.
I’m not sure that Apple specifically avoids investing in Safari… I think it’s more that their vision of the web differs significantly from Google’s. They still see Safari as a web browser while Google sees Chrome as a platform akin to an operating system.
Apple also just prioritizes different things in WebKit than Google does with Blink. Where Apple implements energy saver and privacy protection features, Google implements whizz-bang bells and whistles to keep the attention of front end web developers.
hi, author here, and thanks.
I have a straightforward answer. Build incredible PWAs that users will miss out on on iOS, because it has partial support at best. You'd still serve 80% of the market.
I'll admit its a theoretical answer, as most commercial organization would not risk losing out on iOS users. They're not the biggest group of users, yet some of the most valuable groups of users, commercially speaking.
Priorities change unfortunately. Read this article if you have time. It highlights the importance and passion that was given to safari at a time. I am sure most engineers working on safari are still having great ideas for the product but management will not be on the same page as them.
Great read, although I thought it wasn't quite cynical enough about the bad things Chrome can do with Blink (is that their rendering engine? Whatever it's called, I forget, but it doesn't really matter) dominance: the article suggested that the way forward is to ensure that the standards process has equal representation, and I agree with that, but once all the other browsers are using your rendering engine you don't have to care about the standards process. Just like IE back in the day, or Netscape before that, you can introduce a blink tag and everyone else has to do it or it gets to be standardized later to be compatible with what you've done. The standards process becomes more or less useless every single time we get into this situation. Google's already doing this to a certain degree, see also SPDY and QUIC, or any of the various Chrome-only CSS things that everyone else adopts. For SPDY/QUIC they're still working within the process, but they basically get to force their baseline without any competition even so. Later they won't even have to pretend to work within the process.
I stopped reading the article after the statement about Edge and FF, that a lot of sites do not work in them. I am yet to see any of those websites outside of google.com. And the author did not name any examples. That made me think the author does not know what he is talking about.
As a publisher, most of us do not care about Firefox either. They have done us no good. So we don't even bother to test on it.
Their so called "Tracking Protection" is nothing more then a gimmick. It can be bypassed easily using methods other then cookies. All it did was reduce the revenue from ads because of no cookies (the legitimate way to track id's). It did an insignificant harm to Google. But it reduced the revenue from Firefox users by a huge percentage for publishers.
Firefox is losing because it favors the wrong demographics. Firefox offers nothing much exclusive to users and neither to developers. Most people using ad blockers, use Firefox on mobile.
Sad to see it the way it is. Safari did the same. But the market share is still relevant, but it is declining as well. Once it reaches a certain point, no one will bother to test for it either.
DNT was a shit show. DNT should have always required manual user intervention to be respected.
Google's interests apart from their AMP project aligns with the publishers. If we win, they win.
So Firefox's Do Not Track is harming the way you track people through advertising?
I'd say it's working perfectly, then. Maybe it is your business that is broken.
Businesses that make their money on ads have no reason to ensure their product works on a segment of the browser market that almost entirely blocks ads.
Thanks for the excellent reminder of reasons to not use Google products.
> DNT was a shit show. DNT should have always required manual user intervention to be respected. It doesn't mater if it's on by default or not.
Sorry but that is nonsense. You should respect the DNT just because you're are receiving it and so being asked not to track.
It's perfectly possible to serve content aware adverts using BATs without the creepy surveillance. You don't need to track so if you're asked to stop, just stop.
The tracking protection using DNT and the like is indeed a gimmick.
It is an ineffectual and passive way to hinder tracking.
Better ways are to be more active: to reject third-party cookies, disallow sites from storing anything, uninstall Flash and such, run AdBlock Plus, run uBlock Origin and so on.
I mean, if I visit a random site which is full of non-original content and/or simple regurgitation of press releases, why should I care about its business model and ability to monetize through tracking me? Sorry, show me value from the get-go and I might come back and let you "monetize" through whitelisting or something.
The purpose of DNT is not to stop tracking. It's to tell websites explicitly that you don't want to be tracked.
No one receiving a DNT header can say we didn't know people coming to the site didn't want to be tracked because they hadn't logged in.
It doesn't mater if it's on by default. It should still be respected.
That's different job to blocking trackers or ads.
That a site is ignoring DNT is just a sign that they are run by bad actors. It's no different to logging in to a site, opting out of tracking and the site ignoring that and tracking you secretly anyway.
...or putting some dark pattern UI in front of that option so that it's hard to tell if you've opted out or not.
> DNT should have always required manual user intervention to be respected.
What sane person would agree to be tracked?
I don't understand why people don't use Firefox for Android. It's easily the best mobile browser: allows addons (like uBlock Origin) and connects with the desktop browser (share tabs etc).
An on point article and excellent read, but I felt deflated by the end.
This is the end of days for the open web I'm afraid, and this article lays out the path travelled and road ahead.
As good a place as any to ask something I've been wondering about: Is a Chromebook a complete computing environment now that WebAssembly is getting adoption?
Depends on your definition of "complete" -- ChromeOS now has Android and Linux container support, so you've got options for command-line apps. Ironically, you have to run Electron apps (based on Chromium) in a Linux VM.
Interesting, thank you. I could see Electron apps replaced with WebAssembly apps eventually.
The author of this article hand-waves away the speed advantages of one browser engine over another.
I'd be inclined to agree, except, am I the only one who has seen a marked speed advantage in Firefox Quantum over other browsers? I'm reminded of how I felt about Chrome in the early days. Everything just seems to load in ever-so-slightly more quickly.
I still use Safari on macOS due to Apple's nice touchpad gestures, but on Windows I'm now Firefox all the way. Not just because I like what Firefox represents, but because I find the experience markedly superior.
hi, author checking in.
Just doubling down on my statement. I've seen hundreds of discussions and flame wars on browser performance, RAM usage, the ability to keep open 200 tabs.
I mean it when I say that I cannot reproduce any of these differences. Perhaps I could if I would actively measure things, but in terms of just experiencing the speed of all major browsers, I really do not see a meaningful difference.
It could be device related, but I'm on a 6 year old PC (a pretty sizable one though), not having any issues on my mediocre work laptop either.
Doesn't mean it doesn't matter in absolute terms, I'm just saying I don't see it. The more important point though is non-technologist do not tend to pick browsers in such rational ways.
I'm sad that there's nothing about Brave browser in this
This blog post was tough to read! Seems to have capped out at a 6th grade level.
Re: the topic, the author shows clear bias toward Firefox. It might be better to just acknowledge this: the best browser wins on each platform. Period.
Safari is up there because it runs the best/fastest/with least trouble on iPhones and iPads.
20/20 means PERFECT vision. Above that is ‘abnormally good’.
In other words, the author has a clearly biased view, tries to figure out the obvious, and doesn’t ‘agree’ with definitions for words. Right!
hi, author here.
"This blog post was tough to read! Seems to have capped out at a 6th grade level."
I'm not a native speaker, and this is the best I can do. I was expecting less than 6th grade, so thanks!
"Re: the topic, the author shows clear bias toward Firefox"
Yes, the article literally says I am biased towards Firefox success. You didn't discover a secret plot or anything.
"It might be better to just acknowledge this: the best browser wins on each platform."
No, the one shipped to user's home screens wins. Even crappy ones.
"20/20 means PERFECT vision. Above that is ‘abnormally good’."
If it would mean perfect, there would not be a level above it. I do agree the statement isn't as clever as I planned it to be.