Episode 57: Return of the 'Fox
November 13, 2017 7:47 AM   Subscribe

The browser that Mozilla built jumps into a new chapter on November 14th. saying this is pretty big jump as they're giving Firefox release 57 the moniker "Quantum".

First of all, let's answer the burning question, is it faster than Firefox 56? Seems that way [YT]. Is it faster than Chrome or Opera? That depends on the website [YT], you know. And for those of you who use Edge, this speed comparison [YT] has you covered.

The new release marks the end of support for addons that don't use the new WebExtensions technology, and not all extension developers are happy about it. Users need to find alternatives when moving from 56 to 57, though compatible equivalents for every legacy extension may not exist yet.

But when Firefox's usage share is around 6% , are there any reasons why users should care? Perhaps because they can now use an independent browser that's just as fast as Chrome. Maybe because the company making Firefox backs the free and open web. Or because it's not Internet Explorer.

Bonus features:

- Checking out the first release of Firefox [YT], back when it was called Phoenix.

- Checking out the new features of a previous big release, Firefox 4 [YT].

- Previously.
posted by Juso No Thankyou (137 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've always loved FF, and I kinda hate Chrome (Google owns enough of my life already, thank you), and would switch in a second -- except for the Profile Switcher (aka "People"). The ability to have multiple Chrome windows open, each with it's own set of bookmarks, cookies, plugins, etc. makes my online life MUCH simpler.
posted by Frayed Knot at 7:57 AM on November 13 [5 favorites]


I've been using the developer edition of Firefox Quantum on and off for a few months and the only thing that has kept me from switching from Safari is the battery usage. It's not bad on Firefox, really, but Safari is just so much better than all other browsers it's not funny. If I were a Chrome user, though, I'd probably have switched by now, since Chrome's battery usage is the pits. Otherwise, Firefox Quantum is super fast and all of my must-have extensions like 1Password work just great on it.
posted by zsazsa at 7:57 AM on November 13 [2 favorites]


I've been using this for a few days. It's pretty fast (noticeable more responsive than Chrome for me)—but god, is it ugly. It makes no attempt to use or blend in with native controls, either in the browser UI proper or when rendering form elements in web pages. Unsurprisingly, these nonstandard UI elements come with weird focus issues. I'm not sure yet if I'll be able to stick with it.
posted by enn at 8:00 AM on November 13


Frayed Knot: check out FF's new Multi-Account Containers extension if you want multiple profiles at the same time.
posted by zsazsa at 8:01 AM on November 13 [10 favorites]


A nice, I'll give that a whirl, but the fact than "... Firefox can only sync with one Firefox Account" may make it a non-starter. Thanks for the tip, zsazsa!
posted by Frayed Knot at 8:12 AM on November 13 [2 favorites]


I've been using FF for years, but I'm really hesitant about this update.

AdBlockPlus updated their plug-in to be compatible and utterly buggered the thing. Valuable functions are either missing or are deeply buried. For instance, there is now no way for Mac users to see the Blockable Items list anymore. This list is the heart of the damned app and it's now MIA (at least for Mac users. Apparently, there's a way for Windows users to find it, requiring a bit of drilling-down through the Tools menu)

This will also mean finally having to update Ghostery to their execrable web-based settings system.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:19 AM on November 13


I have been using it simply because Chrome/Vivaldi uses almost all the memory on my Macbook Air if I don't watch it closely, while Safari has no way to arrange tabs down the side of the screen, which I have grown dependent on as the only organisation of them that makes sense.
posted by alloneword at 8:21 AM on November 13 [2 favorites]


As a web developer I frequently forget Firefox exists these days. That's probably not a good sign.
posted by Artw at 8:23 AM on November 13 [7 favorites]


I switched from Chrome to Quantum a few weeks ago and love it. It feels faster than Chrome, I think mostly because UI responsiveness is very very fast. I'm surprised how much I liked having an alternative to Google, at least in this one domain. A competitive market is best for users. Firefox is no longer forgettable!

The big win is for people who keep 10s-100s of tabs open all the time, the new architecture should be more efficient on memory and CPU than any other browser. Me I'm an inbox zero kind of guy and a zero tabs guy. But it's still nice.

One thing that bugs me; private browsing windows still load all my addons. (Chrome doesn't). I use private browsing to test websites all the time, it's better for me without addons. Also no addons seems better for privacy. There is a way to launch Firefox with no addons, but it's awkward.
posted by Nelson at 8:23 AM on November 13 [3 favorites]


I would be fine with Firefox if they would just stop screwing around with the interface as if they know what's best for me. I've got a nice little flow going, thank you, and I'd like you to leave everything where I put it. Yes, I want the File/Edit menu. Yes, I want the status bar at the bottom of the screen that shows me where links go. NO, I DO NOT WANT MY TABS ABOVE THE FUCKING ADDRESS BAR.

And so on. Classic Theme Restorer goes a fair distance to fixing all this, but it's not entirely ideal.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 8:26 AM on November 13 [19 favorites]


Add ons that presumably have the potential to be making all kinds of calls home? That would be pretty bad.
posted by Artw at 8:27 AM on November 13 [1 favorite]


Is Classic Theme Restorer compatible with the new Firefox, or do I have to force my copy of Firefox to stop updating so that it remains even vaguely usable?
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:29 AM on November 13


I've been using firefox since forever, and I think what they stand for is important.

Colour me excited about the update. I'm very curious about the new UI, in particular.
posted by Alex404 at 8:29 AM on November 13 [1 favorite]


and what about tab mix plus? here is the answer
posted by robbyrobs at 8:39 AM on November 13 [3 favorites]


I've been using Quantum (pre-release) for ... a while now? It's remarkably faster than the prior version.

μBlock Origin fixes any AdBlock+ issues, Thorzdad. It's a better blocker, hands down, and is way less system intensive in terms of memory issues.

Anecdotal usage issue: I often play Minecraft with the tadpole, and open a browser window in the background to look something up or load up our overworld map for exploration purposes. Old Firefox instantly caused my system fans to kick on into high gear, and the computer would noticeably slow down. Yesterday, with Quantum open, even with multiple tabs, nothing happened - no fans, no lag, it was like I didn't even have anything but Minecraft running. Which is nice.

Did I lose some add-ons? Yes - the one I keep looking for and missing is the Web Developer add-on from Chris Pederick (who claims to be creating a WebExtensions version soon). But, really, do I miss these add-ons? Not really, no, I haven't had any real issues at all - OK, maybe MefiQuote, which I kinda miss. But I don't have that on iOS either, and it hasn't stopped me from using the site, so there's that.
posted by caution live frogs at 8:40 AM on November 13 [5 favorites]


I'll certainly take it for a spin. I've been a K-Meleon user for a long time, back when I was using Windows; eventually, I went with SeaMonkey*. And now that I've switched to Linux, SeaMonkey is still my primary browser, and Pale Moon** is the secondary. As a backup, I have Chromium*** at the ready.

But sure, I'll try the new Firefox when the update arrives.

* great for people who still fondly remember the old Netscape suite
** great for those who love and miss pre-Australis Firefox
*** great for people who would love Chrome if only it weren't for Google
posted by Too-Ticky at 8:42 AM on November 13 [2 favorites]


I've been using using Firefox as my primary browser for over 10 years, since it was called firebird; honestly probably the longest piece of software that I regularly use (with the exception of core linux utilities and ubuntu). It does what it does relatively well, being a non google/MS platform, I wasn't going to be locked in, had cross platform support (running the same extensions and configurations when I was working with 3 OSs), secure, and an extremely robust extensions ecosystem. There's so many extensions out there that I can't remember the last time that I even needed to write one and then greasemonkey lowered the barrier to make scripts to modify the content and display of content in your browser.

I've been using FF57 for a couple weeks ago and its speed and responsiveness is remarkable compared to previous versions. I can have 30 tabs open (and I do) on my 2 yr old thinkpad without any problems.

Admittedly, I haven't read the tech behind to determine whether Mozilla is making a good decision for the users, developers, and and its future (I've honestly always wondered about mozilla's business model) about this change to webextensions; but it's disappointing any time you and I'm afraid that mozilla will have a a small PR disaster when 57 is rolled out and a sector of semi-tech saavy users (ones who know about basic add-ons/extensions and use them on a daily basis but don't write or develop them) will be stunned to find their extensions suddenly don't work and that the developer hasn't migrated to it. I'm not sure if the benefits of the new ecosystem and changes to FF57 will motivate enough developers and users to adapt and rewrite or find new extensions or just give up, ditch it and go to chrome (I'd doubt that they'd fork FF; I've seen so many come and go over the years, and not sure what the business model would be there either).

I've started to use couple (new-ish to me) open-source systems at work and as a new contributor to them, it's really discouraging to me and other participants to learn and continue to remain involved, and and not healthy for the future of the project when any of the participants when I see a community isn't very welcoming, when the lead companies financing contributions aren't clear about their objectives, and when esteemed long-time contributors are writing profanity-laced blog posts, I can see a community dying right before my eyes.

Thorzdad, I made a move from adblockplus to ublock origin (be sure to get ublock origin, not 'ublock') a couple years ago, and it's lovely.
posted by fizzix at 8:42 AM on November 13 [1 favorite]


It's nice to see this on the blue; it's been a huge effort over the last two years to get here, and it's been a great privilege for me to have played a small part in making it happen.
posted by mhoye at 8:49 AM on November 13 [37 favorites]


I've honestly always wondered about mozilla's business model

The primary source of money for Mozilla is selling the default search engine spot. It's incredibly valuable real estate as long as Firefox has lots of users. For the longest time Google was the default search for Firefox and paid the foundation literally hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Now the default is Yahoo and the deal is worth $375M / year plus bonuses and termination preferences. That one little default is worth a lot of money.

Mozilla is making so much money they have a hard time spending it fast enough to meet their spending obligations as a non-profit. That's why they have so many wonderful experimental projects. Also MDN, a very valuable resource for the whole developer community that as far as I know generates little or no revenue.

Firefox is a one of the few examples of all this Internet wealth going to public good projects. We are very lucky to have this money tree.
posted by Nelson at 8:52 AM on November 13 [50 favorites]


I should add: I'm happy to answer questions MeFites might have.
posted by mhoye at 8:55 AM on November 13 [5 favorites]


Mhoye, what's the internal feeling on rewriting parts of it in rust? Has it been a huge benefit that made certain things possible, or has it been an "oh, we also..."?
posted by fatbird at 8:59 AM on November 13


mhoye: Could you speak to security concerns re addons/extensions running during private browsing mode? Thanks!
posted by jetsetsc at 9:00 AM on November 13


I hope forecast fox and the add on bar get fixed in the new release.
posted by crush at 9:01 AM on November 13


For the longest time Google was the default search for Firefox and paid the foundation literally hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Now the default is Yahoo and the deal is worth $375M / year plus bonuses and termination preferences.

Well, I'm okay with that, I guess. They have to fund the thing somehow, and it just takes a few seconds to change the default browser.

Because otherwise, you're using Yahoo.
posted by Naberius at 9:02 AM on November 13 [6 favorites]


I will add that the extensions change will tick off a lot of users - but, really, this is the same thing Apple dealt with when moving to Intel-only or to 64 bit. You either allow the old stuff to be kept around, slowing down everything and keeping you from moving forward, or you draw a line in the sand and say "this far, but no further" - and drop the legacy cruft.

There are any number of add-ons that caused havoc with Firefox. It had memory issues to begin with, but the add-ons exacerbated this. Moving to WebExtensions is logical both from a usability perspective, and from a userbase perspective - WebExtensions means an add-in that you like for Chrome will likely work in Quantum as well. That makes it easier to transition users.
posted by caution live frogs at 9:08 AM on November 13 [1 favorite]


Also MDN, a very valuable resource for the whole developer community that as far as I know generates little or no revenue.

At least now that everyone is recognizing MDN as the best at what it does, they're chipping in.
posted by Jpfed at 9:10 AM on November 13 [1 favorite]


I will miss TableTools2 and (mefi's own) Make Link as legacy add-ons. They just work, dammit, in the way I expect them to.

I know the codebase is different, but I suspect my Firefox installation has some remnants of a Netscape Navigator setup I had in the late 1990s. I've carefully moved my setup from machine to machine since then.
posted by scruss at 9:12 AM on November 13


Just yesterday I was dismayed to notice that Firefox didn't support <input type="date"> or <input type="time">, so I looked it up and found they'd be supported in a version (57) coming out in just two days. That was nicely fortuitous timing.
posted by one for the books at 9:15 AM on November 13 [1 favorite]


Users need to find alternatives when moving from 56 to 57, though compatible equivalents for every legacy extension may not exist yet.

Or will never exist because Firefox is abandoning its core strength, the very thing that made it different from Internet Explorer (and now Chrome) over all this time.

The ability to manipulate (almost) every aspect of the browser interface and the data the browser sees was the initial impetus for many a browser switch over the years.

Want your tabs on the side? No problem.
Buttons on the bottom? Sure.
Every webpage displayed with a professional pink background? Done.

A lightweight browser you could customize to be whatever you wanted was revolutionary.

But hey, keep on shoving crap (a screenshot tool? Seriously?) into the default build, Mozilla, good luck with that.
I'm sticking with the old versions until they literally won't load a webpage.
posted by madajb at 9:16 AM on November 13 [6 favorites]


Is Classic Theme Restorer compatible with the new Firefox, or do I have to force my copy of Firefox to stop updating so that it remains even vaguely usable?

You'll find that Classic Theme Restorer will stop working completely once you update to FF57. It's a legacy add-on and isn't going to be updated. The developer suggests you switch to using Waterfox.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:20 AM on November 13 [3 favorites]


Frayed Knot:nice, I'll give that a whirl, but the fact than "... Firefox can only sync with one Firefox Account" may make it a non-starter. Thanks for the tip, zsazsa!

If you want full separate profiles with their own bookmarks, cookies, accounts, *everything*, then Firefox has had independent profiles since the year dot. Start Firefox with the -p option to pop up the Profile manager, or go to about:profiles.
posted by pharm at 9:21 AM on November 13 [5 favorites]


I'm sticking with the old versions until they literally won't load a webpage.

Co-signed. I'm typing this from a Firefox 40 window! (This is probably, uh, not ideal from a security standpoint, but there's an extension I am really really not willing to lose.)
posted by aws17576 at 9:23 AM on November 13


Better not fuck with the two most valuable greasemonkey scripts on the planet, Metafilter Deleted Threads and Metafilter MultiFavorited Multiwidth.
posted by Melismata at 9:26 AM on November 13 [3 favorites]


Artw: "As a web developer I frequently forget Firefox exists these days. That's probably not a good sign."

We generally test in Chrome as the primary during development and then IE, iPhone, Android during release testing and then Safari and/or Firefox if we have extra time. (Spoiler: we never have extra time)
posted by octothorpe at 9:29 AM on November 13 [1 favorite]


OSS funding is an interest of mine. It's fairly happenstance how funding is found. I read a book by the Redhat CEO who said the VP who proposed the Fedora/RHEL split and support license business model was roundly criticized and got a bad perf review that year. Relatedly, I've always wondered who came up with the idea of the search bar. Was it something search engines approached netscape about, or did they have to bootstrap the idea? This history suggests a search button was introduced in 1997, but it wasn't until 2005 that Navigator featured a Google branded text area, and I'm pretty sure I never used that button.

AFAICT, the first mention of a search bar is from 2002, in Phoenix 0.2:

Phoenix now contains a handy search bar which lets you find in page or search Google (click the icon to toggle) quickly and easily (use Ctrl+; to focus/select it). But maybe you find it a waste of space, so customize it away.

It's kinda mind blowing to think that Mozilla's funding model may have originated with or was at least substantially improved by a high school student thumbing his nose at the larger engineering and managerial organization by throwing out like 90 percent of the 'bloat.'
posted by pwnguin at 9:30 AM on November 13 [7 favorites]


The browser is one of the biggest attack surfaces that a computer has. It's pretty important to keep it up to date.
If you need certain features that Firefox lacks now, or will lack soon, maybe you'd like to try K-Meleon, SeaMonkey, Vivaldi, Chromium, Pale Moon, SlimJet, Opera, Brave or one of the others?
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:31 AM on November 13 [4 favorites]


Metafilter MultiFavorited Multiwidth.
Preach.
posted by leotrotsky at 9:34 AM on November 13 [1 favorite]


Mhoye, what's the internal feeling on rewriting parts of it in rust?

Rust has proven to be really amazing both in terms of speed and safety for writing free-running multithreaded code, so I'd call the internal feeling "a cautious but confident optimism".

A lot of that work has come from porting parts of Servo, an all-Rust experimental browser that we've been working on for a while, back into Firefox a bit at a time as they've matured. It was tense at first - that kind of transition is a big bet - but once we had the first few pieces of that effort in place (some image processing, I think? I'd have to check...) it was clear that approach was going to work.
posted by mhoye at 9:35 AM on November 13 [2 favorites]



Melismata and leotrotsky,

not sure about deleted threads, but the multi-favorited is available on FF 57
posted by fizzix at 9:36 AM on November 13 [1 favorite]


Octothoroe - same. Seems like cross browser desktop development is pretty much a solved problem these days* but the time saved on all the testing goes into mobile.

*unless someone goes mad and demands support for old IE versions.
posted by Artw at 9:40 AM on November 13


I've been using Firefox as my main browser for about a decade now. I'm going to avoid this change as long as possible, first by switching to the ESR stream and then to whichever fork seems the best maintained. Old-style add-ons are a huge part of my workflow and making them disappear like this sucks! When they're gone for good, I'll evaluate my options and switch to something else. There's a good chance that it won't be Firefox.

BTW, I'd happily throw a couple of bucks a month at the Patreon (or equivalent) of a person or team that competently maintains a boring security-and-compatibility-only fork of the last Firefox to support classic add-ons.
posted by suetanvil at 9:43 AM on November 13 [3 favorites]


But hey, keep on shoving crap (a screenshot tool? Seriously?) into the default build, Mozilla, good luck with that.
I'm sticking with the old versions until they literally won't load a webpage.


I'm happy to talk at any length you'd like about the decision-making that went into the addons change - I talked about it here... wow, two years ago, and we've learned a lot about that space since. But old versions of software - ours, everyone's AFAIK - tend to have security issues in them, and we address those security issues in our updates. I'd rather people use any reputable browser they can keep up to date than stick to a months-old version of Firefox.
posted by mhoye at 9:46 AM on November 13 [10 favorites]


mhoye: Could you speak to security concerns re addons/extensions running during private browsing mode?

Sort of - from that specific perspective, not much has changed; the new signed-webextensions model means that addons are a lot safer in general than the old-style "do anything to anything whenever" XUL addons but like those XUL addons, whatever they're doing they're still doing that while you're in Private Browsing mode.

We have a bug on file to improve that, but it's a work in progress.
posted by mhoye at 9:58 AM on November 13 [2 favorites]


Can anyone comment on Waterfox vs. Pale Moon as the best browser for those who want to maintain their XUL add-ons? Which one is most similar/compatible to classic Firefox, and which seems most likely to be actively maintained well into the future?
posted by Rhaomi at 10:00 AM on November 13 [1 favorite]


Firefox has been my main browser for a long time (I remember when FF 3-point-something got updated and it threw off all my settings); recently, I've been switching to Chrome because Firefox no longer supports some of the features I want.

Currently I'm on FF 54, because I have auto-updating turned off because I got tired of my settings getting scrambled and plugins no longer working without warning. I would give up a LOT of modern features for Word Count Plus to start working again.

It's probably time to start learning how Opera works. I've used it occasionally but not enough to be comfortable, and it doesn't have the plugin/extension options that Firefox does - but it looks like that may not matter much. FF has been changing fast enough that I've pared down my plugins and gone looking for extraneous software to cover the functions I need.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:04 AM on November 13


I didn't realize Firefox was at 6%, yipes. If you are testing solely based on market share you'd choose Chrome, Safari, then Alibaba's UC Browser and Firefox. Nowadays they all have distinct rendering engines (tho I know nothing about UC Browser except that it transmits info to China.)
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:08 AM on November 13 [1 favorite]


Greasemonkey is now Quantum compatible. Yaaaay

...which means MefiQuote works again for me now. Sweet.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:08 AM on November 13 [5 favorites]


And I recently found one reason to keep using Firefox -- the current version of Chrome crashes on a lot of the asm.js and WebAssembly that I've been playing with.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:09 AM on November 13 [1 favorite]


Yep, well aware of '-p', pharm. But that requires a full browser restart to switch profiles, and that's not what I'm after.
posted by Frayed Knot at 10:13 AM on November 13


I will add that the extensions change will tick off a lot of users - but, really, this is the same thing Apple dealt with when moving to Intel-only or to 64 bit. You either allow the old stuff to be kept around, slowing down everything and keeping you from moving forward, or you draw a line in the sand and say "this far, but no further" - and drop the legacy cruft.

For what it's worth, the Addons team here has done amazing work helping the addons community navigate this transition over the last two years, and they have quietly succeeded beyond anyone's expectations (including their own.)

One byproduct of their work, one good thing among many, is for people stuck - sometimes unknowingly - with unmaintained, ill-performing and sometimes malicious addons, all those things are going away. For them, the switch to 57 is going to be a lot more than just "noticeably faster", and a lot of our users are going to see a tectonic performance improvement in Firefox because of their work.
posted by mhoye at 10:15 AM on November 13 [8 favorites]


Every once in a while one of the designers asks me why I use Firefox instead of Safari. Well, I've been using Firefox as a browser longer than you've been in the workforce is just one of the answers, though maybe not a good one. Never liked Safari's dev tools. Chrome's tools are really good, though I think Firefox is still best at animation tools.

I have heard good things about upcoming grid tools, but so far I've not messed with grid so I can't say.

All I know is about:mozilla better bring up a new chapter in the Book of Mozilla.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:26 AM on November 13 [1 favorite]


All I know is about:mozilla better bring up a new chapter in the Book of Mozilla.

Spoiler: it does.
posted by mhoye at 10:30 AM on November 13 [10 favorites]


I've been using Opera because it is less resource intensive and faster than Chrome on my aging work machine. I try not to think about what Opera's new owners are doing with my personal data.
posted by mecran01 at 10:34 AM on November 13


All I know is about:mozilla better bring up a new chapter in the Book of Mozilla.

OMG
posted by Alex404 at 10:34 AM on November 13 [4 favorites]


> The ability to have multiple Chrome windows open, each with it's own set of bookmarks, cookies, plugins, etc. makes my online life MUCH simpler.

> that requires a full browser restart to switch profiles, and that's not what I'm after.


You *can* launch a new window with a new profile from within about:profiles without restarting or closing the current one. Now if you meant tabs, I don't know if it's possible to fit different profiles in different tabs of the same window, maybe some about:config setting (or extension) can force single-window mode?
posted by Bangaioh at 10:46 AM on November 13


Mozilla's Lin Clark has a short blog post explaining why Quantum is fast (coarse-grained parallelism, and dedicated teams profiling key websites)
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:56 AM on November 13 [3 favorites]


I wonder if theming in Firefox will ever be a thing again or if it is now truly dead in favor of "personas". With so many restrictive changes to Firefox, it seems like much of the whole-browser theme community just gave up (unless they went somewhere else and I don't know where), and with the changes to add-ons in Firefox 57, I have started getting the impression that add-on devs are starting to do the same.
posted by koucha at 10:58 AM on November 13


I thought Firefox was really popular. I had no idea, but then I've never seen Chrome and used iCab for at least a decade. I'm always surprised how many people are all in for Google.
posted by bongo_x at 11:10 AM on November 13 [3 favorites]


Frayed Knot: Yep, well aware of '-p', pharm. But that requires a full browser restart to switch profiles, and that's not what I'm after.

No it doesn't. The whole point is that you can have multiple browser processes running simultaneously, each running in it’s own profile. (Multiple windows and tabs if you want to really go the whole hog - I use different themes for different profiles so I can tell them apart.)

You can spin up a new windows in a separate profile by going to about:profiles and clicking on the "Launch profile in new browser" button, or alternatively do
firefox -p -no-remote
at the command line to open the profile manager in a new process leaving existing Firefox processes untouched.

The new containers setup does most of what I use profiles for by the looks of things, so I’ll probably be switching to that, but the ability to run multiple Firefox processes in different profiles simultaneously has always been there.
posted by pharm at 11:11 AM on November 13 [3 favorites]


I have tons of non-webextensions add-ons, it's just a deal breaker for me right now.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:12 AM on November 13


Pope Guilty: "Is Classic Theme Restorer compatible with the new Firefox"

It is not, and from my understanding, it is not possible for it to be with the new limitations on what webextensions can do.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:15 AM on November 13


I thought Firefox was really popular. I had no idea, but then I've never seen Chrome and used iCab for at least a decade. I'm always surprised how many people are all in for Google.

Google spent a fortune pushing Chrome on everyone - it’s the default Android browser, they pushed in on TV & with auto installs that they paid for. Every route they could think of. Why? Because controlling the browser gives them end-to-end control over their users and that’s worth an much larger fortune to them. At some point Google is going to run smackbang into an antitrust consent decree, but until the US government grows a spine and decides to charge them they’re going to continue to use their dominance in one area of modern online computing to forcibly extend their moat into as many other areas as they can manage.

I expect Firefox to move in the direction of greater privacy controls as a differentiator between them and the Windows / Google platform browsers. It’s the one thing Google can't do, because it cuts off their revenue flow.
posted by pharm at 11:16 AM on November 13 [12 favorites]


I have tons of non-webextensions add-ons, it's just a deal breaker for me right now.

Unfortunately, every one of them is probably a massive security hole waiting to bite you :(
posted by pharm at 11:18 AM on November 13


(firefox -no-remote should have been the default for -p from the start though. If the user has specified on the command line that they want the Profile manager, why on earth would you pop up another browser window from an existing process? That isn't what the user asked for at all.)
posted by pharm at 11:20 AM on November 13 [2 favorites]


I've been upgrading to new Firefox versions for years, but I just switched to "Never check for updates", because I can't get my favorite RSS reader plugin to work with v55, never mind v57.
posted by martinrebas at 11:22 AM on November 13 [3 favorites]


>...which means MefiQuote works again for me now. Sweet.

I have not been able to get it to work on my install. Greasemonkey and the script install fine, but it doesn't do anything.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 11:23 AM on November 13


Yah, I think the way for Firefox to maintain a viable niche is to corner the market on privacy and security features, in a user friendly way. Maybe most people will attach little value to such features, but there will always be a core market for those who do.

Unfortunately the old extension framework has to be sacrified towards this end, but it seems like a good and necessary step forward.
posted by Alex404 at 11:25 AM on November 13 [2 favorites]


I'm a Firefox user, and I have a early 2011 MBP with 8GB on Yosemite (I tried to upgrade and it Did Not Work, as in "restored from backup" Did Not Work, so I decided that this is where this little laptop wants to stay). Lately (using 56) it had been so terrible with only two windows open -- one just for Metafilter! -- and it was so bad that I'd recently taken to quitting Firefox at least once daily to restore it temporarily to usable. I saw this thread at work and installed Quantum as soon as I got home from work today and ... holeeeee shit y'all, my browser is functional and I can open links and still type and scroll and it's like night and day, in terms of functioning speedily. This is the best thing in weeks. So happy now. Congrats, Firefox team!
posted by sldownard at 12:03 PM on November 13 [4 favorites]


mhoye, can you say more about addons in private browsing mode? Was there a specific decision made to load them in private mode and if so, why? Or is it just that's the way things have always worked in Firefox and you kept the old behavior? You mentioned a bug filed, mind linking it?

The specific privacy threat I'm worried about is one of my addons may be sending personal data back to something somewhere without my knowledge. That's bad in any event but it happens, and from Chrome I got in the habit of using private windows to prevent it. As I said above there's a happy second effect which is private mode is a great test environment for web development because it's pristine.

Totally agree with your point about old addons benefitting from being updated. The sad truth is there's a lot of abandoned addons and some won't make the transition. Sort of a culling, but it will leave the environment better off IMHO.

Congratulations on the launch, I know how much effort went into 57 and it's looking very good.
posted by Nelson at 12:10 PM on November 13


It is not, and from my understanding, it is not possible for it to be with the new limitations on what webextensions can do.

I am so goddamned tired of having Chrome's terrible UI decisions forced on me.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:13 PM on November 13 [8 favorites]


I'm really going to miss Down Them All, and from what the developer says there's unlikely to be a replacement.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:18 PM on November 13 [2 favorites]


robbyrobs: "and what about tab mix plus? here is the answer"

What is this modified version of Firefox 57 that runs legacy extensions that is referenced?
posted by Chrysostom at 12:23 PM on November 13 [1 favorite]


mhoye, can you say more about addons in private browsing mode? Was there a specific decision made to load them in private mode and if so, why?

I'm peripheral to that team, but I can sort of talk about it. In short, the Addons team recognized very early on that WebExtensions was a major undertaking, and that they'd need to pick their battles extremely carefully to be able to bring it home under the wire. As I understand it fixing this issue will take some delicate architectural work and we didn't think we could give it the kind of care it would take to do it right in the time we had. So, not ideal but it's en route.

You can follow the tracking bug here if you like, but it's a bit thin for real data right now.

More generally, if you're interested in figuring out if your favorite extensions are making the leap, are in flight or what, you can look at the Are We WebExtensions Yet? site. There's a fair bit of information there about what's on the way, what's already made the jump, and so on.
posted by mhoye at 12:39 PM on November 13 [5 favorites]


What is this modified version of Firefox 57 that runs legacy extensions that is referenced?

Wow. So, hey, please do not do that. Avoid.

That says it's a prerelease beta (b14) of 57, but XUL-style addons were disabled for the entire 57 beta process, so whatever's in there isn't ours. It's possible it's just a few pre-release prefs flipped, but it's also possible that it's literally anything else, so again: avoid.

Please do not be installing random software calling itself Firefox from third party websites, that is a bad idea, it will end badly for all concerned, and now I need to send a bunch of email.
posted by mhoye at 12:59 PM on November 13 [13 favorites]


I've been using FF since it was Phoenix, and it's also the best browser by far that I've used on Android, because not only can I have adblocking and noscript, but there's also an extension that lets you reflow text. That means that I can zoom to any size and still get all the text to fit the width of the screen, so I don't have to scroll from side to side to read like I do with Chrome.

That said, the developer of that extension is not going to update it for Quantum. Somebody else might, but until then I'm basically stuck with the current version of FF, because for me text size is a real accessibility issue, and just setting a large default text size is not a good solution (because it results in many pages being way too large, among other things - not to mention that in 56.0 there isn't even an option in the Settings to do anything with respect to text size other than tune it to the system font size, which is a whole different use case!)

The thing is, reflow used to be built in to Android FF, some thirty versions ago. (It wasn't perfect, but it worked a hell of a lot better than Reader Mode, which almost always gives me a blank page.) So for me watching the development of FF's mobile version has been really frustrating, because on the one hand it's great and on the other hand it feels like the features that make it most usable on small screens get ignored. And dealing well with text size is critical for a lot of people, and I really wish whoever is making design decisions about it would stop making one-size-fits-all assumptions about what text sizes work for people and instead work to accommodate any zoom level that people choose, whether it's me with eye strain or my grandparents or whatever.

Have I conveyed my frustration? It's really more like desperation. I want to be able to read online on mobile.
posted by trig at 1:01 PM on November 13 [5 favorites]


Have they fixed printing yet? I’m not sure why in the year of our Lord two thousand and seventeen you can’t count on a web browser to print a webpage on a scale that fits the paper size.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 1:05 PM on November 13 [5 favorites]


I've been playing with Firefox 56 for about two months. Even it's better than it used to be. I think 57 is going to keep me from going back to Chrome. Chrome has simply been the best performance for a while and that matters to me, but I've been looking for a reason to step away from giving Google so much of my screen time, and I think this is it.

That said:

I would be fine with Firefox if they would just stop screwing around with the interface as if they know what's best for me. I've got a nice little flow going, thank you, and I'd like you to leave everything where I put it. Yes, I want the File/Edit menu.

Hell. Yes. The industry has a deep and widely pervasive pathology right now around this in that product and UX folks (among others) are motivated by career incentives and considerations like this are pretty far down the list. There needs to be some kind of new job role where someone stands by the office doors of those who are probably most motivated to change the UX and hits them with a bat every time they go through unless they can cite reasonable seeming statistics representing the number of man-years spent on re-learning the interface vs the estimated man-years of productivity to be gained so that it stops being so damned gratuitous.
posted by wildblueyonder at 1:09 PM on November 13 [4 favorites]


Firefox has been my primary browser since ditching Internet Explorer over a decade ago. Once in a while I've tried to use Chrome, but to my dismay usually find that it's worse -- and this is despite Firefox often taking up 2GB+ of RAM on my system after it's been going awhile.
I'm glad that Firefox is back on top again, and am looking forward to having lots of tabs open again.
posted by JHarris at 1:25 PM on November 13


This is unrelated to all software and is instead a linguistic/physics related thing. Quantum transitions and quantum leaps are tiny. Smaller than the wavelength of light. Smaller than the radius of an atom. Smaller than you can imagine. Positively tiny.

I've given up. If the people at Mozilla, an institution I figured would be staffed with science nerds make this kind of mistake, the language has changed and physicists will have to retitled everything. If a quantum leap is a huge thing, well, we have to rename quantum mechanics.

Suggestions?

/Pedant

(Also, as long as this keeps allowing me to run my paranoid combination of ghostery, noscript and ublock origin, I see no reason for me not to switch, other than the compulsive twitching I'll have until they fix the name.)
posted by Hactar at 1:32 PM on November 13 [1 favorite]


If we're playing pedant, the significant thing about a quantum transition is not that it's tiny or large or whatever, but that it has a discrete well-defined size. You can move continuously between the orbits if two planets, that's not a quantum transition, not because it's large but because it's continuous. Electrons cannot move to any arbitrary energy level between two defined energy levels in an atom; that's a quantum transition—you either get one of a series of steps, from one discrete level to another, or no transition. It's not possible for that elevator to stop between floors.

So when I read "Quantum," I gather "well-defined noticeable change from the previous."

(Because we're keeping things simple, please to be ignoring energy level splitting and all of solid state physics. Citation: I've taught solid-state physics.)
posted by seyirci at 1:45 PM on November 13 [12 favorites]


I’m a fan of Firefox Focus. Superfast, one sip at a time from the firehose.
posted by chavenet at 1:49 PM on November 13 [1 favorite]


I've always preferred Firefox because I care a little bit about privacy, but I'll hold off a month or two for some updates on this one, I think. It's just too much change at once, though I really do hope it takes off and gets some traction back.

Safari's probably almost as good, privacy-wise, but that's only if you trust Apple to do as they promise and keep your private info private.

Explorer/Edge and Chrome are non-starters for me. You can be as fast as you want, Chrome, but I won't be trusting Google with any more info, thanks! And I don't trust Microsoft to do anything other than not ruin Excel anytime soon, please.
posted by rokusan at 2:08 PM on November 13 [2 favorites]


Google spent a fortune pushing Chrome on everyone

They also, you know, built a great browser that was miles faster than previous FF versions.

I didn't realize Firefox was at 6%, yipes. If you are testing solely based on market share you'd choose Chrome, Safari

In particular you'd pick mobile Safari. On the desktop Firefox still has higher use in all the numbers I've seen, but everyone is going mobile.
posted by markr at 2:29 PM on November 13 [1 favorite]


mhoye: "For what it's worth, the Addons team here has done amazing work helping the addons community navigate this transition over the last two years, and they have quietly succeeded beyond anyone's expectations (including their own.)"

TBH I'm surprised (pleasantly) at how long some of the existing extensions have been supported - and how few of the ones I cared about dropped off the compatibility list.

Have been even more excited about the number of extensions I don't even need any more, because it's built into the browser (don't let the door hit you on the ass on the way out, Acrobat plugin!)

Lately I have been annoyed because my wife is using Chrome on her work computer... I didn't realize it bothered me that much, but it does; I've been playing around with Fx since ... what, 1997? When it was Phoenix, pre-release, barely usable, just the Gecko engine and nothing else? Fit on a 1.44 mb floppy. Dumped Navigator once Fx was mature enough for regular use. Haven't looked back. The only reason I use anything different is if I have to... although on mobile I use Safari, because I would rather use native tools on mobile - it's the path of least resistance and generally the least painful option. Desktop? Firefox all the way.
posted by caution live frogs at 2:37 PM on November 13 [2 favorites]


In particular you'd pick mobile Safari [for compatibility testing]

It's been years since I have cared professionally, but in my hobby plinking I've been pleasantly surprised at how similar mobile and desktop Safari rendering can be. They're much more similar than desktop vs mobile Chrome, for example.
posted by rokusan at 2:44 PM on November 13


MHoye, I'd appreciate any insight you have into the general theme of what Mozilla is seeing as Firefox's destination, journey, character arc, etc. None of what follows is meant as a personal attack.

To me and many others, I see what Mozilla is doing to Firefox as more and more eliminating what was its core advantage: its extreme configurability. It used to be that you could set up Firefox your way so that it fit like a glove to what you expected.

Then, the tabs got moved, and the preference eliminated. Then, the stop and reset were combined, and that preference eliminated, and various configurations for the browser window disappeared and were consolidated and such as Australis was created and enforced. Now, the Extension Apocalypse is next up.

More and more, options and choices and abilities are being taken away from the end user -- and it feels like Mozilla has been entirely unresponsive to and uninterested in the vociferous complaints, because it wants to basically turn Firefox into a Chrome clone so as to recapture some of the lost market share -- right down to the UI choices it forced that even make it look like Chrome.

I used to love Firefox -- I could do some pretty cool automation with Keyconfig, and the robust, diverse extensions ecosystem did everything but wash my dishes. I controlled the Web; it didn't control me. It was amazing, and Firefox was an incredible tool for it.

Now ... now, to me, Firefox feels like nothing. Honestly, it feels pathetic. It feels like a horse that needs to get shot to be put out of its misery, it feels like a power drill with a lot of sentimental value that I've been eking out those last little tiny drops of juice before sadly giving up on it.

And what blows my mind is that it wasn't a natural process of decay -- it was a vision gone awry. This was purposefully done to it.

I suppose what I'm (rather wordily) saying is that I just don't understand why the hell Mozilla would go the route it has with all this. And if there's anyone who can articulate any inspiring vision that Mozilla has for Firefox, I'd love to hear it. So would a lot of other very disappointed former Firefox power users/loyalists who are wondering what the hell is going through people's minds over there. Firefox has not articulated its vision on why it's necessary to force all of this down people's throats very well.
posted by WCityMike at 3:09 PM on November 13 [13 favorites]


As a Firefox power user of umpteen years, I say: keep bringing on the changes. Compared to most any other point in FF history, the current versions are fast, stable, secure, and compliant. I will miss some of those bits of gelled cruft but I bid the rest of it a warm farewell.
posted by introp at 3:26 PM on November 13 [6 favorites]


I echo the frustration that a few others have already expressed about the (a) move away from customizability and (b) continued development and integration of tools that are unrelated to web browsing (e.g., screenshot tool). I wish the developers the best of luck but I have been very unhappy with their decisions for quite a while. If this update breaks most of the addons that I currently use then I'll have no reason to continue using Firefox instead of just switching to Chrome or Pale Moon.
posted by ElKevbo at 3:56 PM on November 13 [3 favorites]


look at the Are We WebExtensions Yet? site

Thanks, from there I learned about Web Scrapbook, the most promising webext replacement for MAF I know of thus far.

Now, if only someone at Mozilla could look at this bug so that mouse gestures would work properly I'd be golden... *wink wink nudge nudge*
posted by Bangaioh at 4:25 PM on November 13


Eponysterical.
posted by runcifex at 5:19 PM on November 13


We generally test in Chrome as the primary during development and then IE, iPhone, Android during release testing and then Safari and/or Firefox if we have extra time. (Spoiler: we never have extra time)

Personally, I test everything on Chrome and FF. If it works on both, I figure I can't be abusing the standards too much. And the nice thing about reasonably simple layouts is that mobile browsers do the right thing pretty much automatically.
posted by wierdo at 5:22 PM on November 13 [1 favorite]



The industry has a deep and widely pervasive pathology right now around this in that product and UX folks (among others) are motivated by career incentives


Quoted for truth.

One of the biggest drivers for me quitting my job at another browser making company, where I did not work on the browser to be clear, is that over the years the focus went from "think of the user" to "think of your promotion".

I used to love observing user studies and instrumenting the applications to find out what actual real world flows are important for the users. I would work with UX people in fixing the difficult flows and making the common flows easier. This was a tight loop, users could expect improvements every 6 weeks or so.

And the thing is that we used to be rewarded based on this. On possitive user feedback, on having a slick and solid application backed by clean code.

But we started getting passed over for promotions. It usually boiled down to "what new features or redesigns have you launched this year?". Improving existing flows or cleaning the code... not a new feature.

So we started redesigning all the time, and launching half thought new features. And that gets promotions.

And when the users are up in arms and the metrics start tanking, only then you set up meetings and more user studies and come up with a new redesign and shiny new features for next year.

We went from a 6 week loop to an 18 month loop. But people get promoted, so all is good.

I really hope that being one of the smaller players Firefox can do better.
posted by Index Librorum Prohibitorum at 6:06 PM on November 13 [9 favorites]


Man do I have mixed feelings about the WebExtensions migration. I have an extension written in the Add-on SDK that I maintain in my spare time and boy it would've been nice to have a middle-road migration path that would've allowed me to keep using the Add-on SDK, but with the old XUL-specific bits removed or something. I know that there was some mechanism for running WebExtensions inside older add-ons, but if my experience with other extensions was any indication, it would've been more trouble than it's worth to go that direction.

At some point I'll get off my lazy butt and rewrite the thing using the WebExtension API (it could really stand a rewrite anyway, and I know some of my users want Chrome compat), but probably won't in time for FF 57.
posted by Aleyn at 6:33 PM on November 13


MHoye, I'd appreciate any insight you have into the general theme of what Mozilla is seeing as Firefox's destination, journey, character arc, etc.

I don't think it's really meant for this wide an audience, but a week or two back I gave a talk at my local Linux User Group about The State Of Mozilla that sort of covers the arc of the last two and a half years. The sound's not great, but I think that this is what you're looking for.

In addition to that, I should be clear that we've long understood how much people are invested in Firefox because of its customizability, but we've also had to balance that against the frankly ridiculous number of miscreants who've been willing to leverage that customizability for their own ends, to the great detriment of our users' experiences of the Web (as well as their privacy and occasionally their bank accounts).

Ultimately what we had to figure out there is a way to balance your freedom _to_ do whatever you like with your computer with our obligation to keep users free _from_ the invasive harassment of Web's many bad actors. It was a hard call to make, but we made it knowing that while it would probably cost us some users - maybe a lot of users - that if we didn't it would block or stall most or all of the advances we knew we needed to build into the product to stay competitive.

But at this point I'm very confident that we've not only made the right bets here, but that we've succeeded. That we've got not only a dramatically better product overall as a result but that this product will be vastly more secure and robust in the face of future malfeasance than it could ever have been if we'd stuck it out with the legacy stuff.

Put differently: holding onto the past would have resulted in a long, slow erosion of our performance, security and ultimately our users' trust and confidence, and it really wasn't an option. Instead, that decision to break with the past - well, that decision plus a ton of work, really - has let us ship a wildly better, dramatically re-architected product. Firefox is multiprocess now, we have dramatically improved content sandboxing, the Photon redesign has been built out of fast SVG primitives and informed by extensive user testing, and maybe most importantly, we're not even done. Nobody here considers this a high water mark; this is just our new baseline for performance and usability, and it looks like we've suddenly got a lot of headroom. We've got some work in the pipe like WebRender and Binary-AST that promise to do even better.

So, yeah. I sincerely think we've got the best browser in the world now. Most (though admittedly, not all) of what you're expecting you'll miss there is still going to be available, either through WebExtensions or the new (and pretty great) customization tools, and as the Web Extensions API matures and that ecosystem cooks for a bit, I expect it will improve.

And it's all just ridiculously fast, I may have mentioned that.
posted by mhoye at 7:12 PM on November 13 [12 favorites]


As a longtime user on the desktop, predating the Firefox name, I'm awaiting 57 with a mix of anticipation (yay, better performance) and fear (losing some longtime valuable extensions). I think I'll hold off a bit and let y'all do some more beta testing first. (That's my philosophy with any software updates, frankly. I jumped too quickly on iOS 11 a few weeks ago and it's killing my phone's battery.)

Trying to put past frustration with Mozilla behind me:
  • The exasperating UI changes resulting from Chrome Envy
  • Hiding the customizations by moving them from options to having to hack the config file
  • Having a PR guy who would repeatedly say in as many words "we don't care about commercial users"
  • Chasing out a smart CEO because people didn't like his personal politics -- I didn't really agree with them either, but I think he was entitled to his opinion so long as he wasn't discriminating at work or using organization resources to promote his agenda (and I never read any evidence of either)
I've lasted this long, so I hope 57 succeeds. For privacy's sake, if nothing else. Google and others already know too much about me, and you couldn't pay me enough to join Facebook.
posted by pmurray63 at 8:37 PM on November 13


Mr. Bad Example: "Yes, I want the File/Edit menu. Yes, I want the status bar at the bottom of the screen that shows me where links go. NO, I DO NOT WANT MY TABS ABOVE THE FUCKING ADDRESS BAR. "

I can live with and hate the rest but please don't tell me the menu bar is going to be unavailable.
posted by Mitheral at 8:37 PM on November 13 [3 favorites]


Menu bar is still there in 57 and 58. Clicky Customize, clicky Menu Bar on or off depending on your preference. Same as you've been able to do with the Bookmarks toolbar for ages. Also, even if you turn it off pressing Alt (or the local equivalent) brings it up.
posted by introp at 8:57 PM on November 13 [1 favorite]


NO, I DO NOT WANT MY TABS ABOVE THE FUCKING ADDRESS BAR.

I thought that was so weird when I first switched to FireFox and changed it, but then I realized on a Mac it makes much more sense, so that's what I'm used to now.
posted by bongo_x at 9:00 PM on November 13


Did a detailed review of my extensions. I think I'm going to wait for 58 at least.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:43 PM on November 13


Ugh. The only reason I use Firefox at all is for a handful of add-ons that are essential to my quality of life online. This news has me sick with anxiety.
posted by Ian A.T. at 10:01 PM on November 13 [1 favorite]


But old versions of software - ours, everyone's AFAIK - tend to have security issues in them, and we address those security issues in our updates. I'd rather people use any reputable browser they can keep up to date than stick to a months-old version of Firefox.

Here's the thing. I don't like change. I realize that's nothing to be proud of, but it's a fact. Like some others who have commented, I am set in my computer-using ways and I get ornery as hell when my interface is rearranged and features I like are deprecated. I used to let my web browser update itself, but the constant little changes (and sometimes irreversible big ones) got under my skin. It exhausts me to contemplate that months-old could mean dangerously obsolete.

Look, when I got a new MacBook for work a couple of years ago, the first things I did were to turn off all forms of auto-correct and reverse the scrolling on the trackpad back to how it worked before touchscreenization. That's what you're dealing with.

And I'm sure someone will tell me why this is impossible, but if I'm going to opt into security updates, they need to be separated from feature changes and cosmetic changes -- ideally invisible. Maybe not forever -- maybe there's a time when there are just too many versions to support, and the whole foundation of the older ones is rotted away and can't be saved any longer. I could take a deep breath once in a long while and accept a new workflow. But when every security update has the potential to zap my preferences and eliminate features I value, the only option that keeps me sane is to board up the windows.

At least I run NoScript.
posted by aws17576 at 10:04 PM on November 13 [1 favorite]


And it's all just ridiculously fast, I may have mentioned that.

Boy howdy, you are not kidding. I've been looking for a reason to take my browsing data away from Google for a while, but I've tried and failed a few times (on desktop and mobile) to make the switch to FF, and it's never stuck. There's always just a couple of things that I'm annoyed with, and Chrome is so weirdly comfortable.

Anyway, I just downloaded 57 and loaded up the two most recent political threads - jumping around those is impressively quick and easy. Thanks for hanging out in this thread and letting us know what's up.
posted by god hates math at 10:16 PM on November 13 [1 favorite]


Everyone who is saying 'Yes, Chrome... but ugh, Google, so no' really needs to take a look at Chromium. It's like taking the Google out of Chrome. (You can still use the Google search engine if you want.)
posted by Too-Ticky at 10:48 PM on November 13


So running the beta, no multi line tab bars. How do people with a 100 tabs open manage them now?
posted by Mitheral at 11:12 PM on November 13 [1 favorite]


I find it interesting that browser vendors can break websites wholesale by literally rewriting how (standardised) functions work and we all expect website makers to be vigilant and up-to-date just so our favourite websites do not break, but when those vendors update their own proprietary extension support they get blamed. At least that seems to be the general feeling I get, also from reading the comments on this post.

I apologise for sounding a bit off in the following paragraphs. I totally get that people do not like change, but I feel the need to stand up for certain fellow developers.

WebExtensions have been available in Nightly releases for years now. Any extension developer who checks the Beta / Developer / Nightly builds would have been able to get their extension updated. Not to mention that the previous stable Fx 56 also had WebExtensions enabled across all platforms.

We should all be talking with our extension developers, rather than saying we are never going to update from an old Fx ESR version. If you can’t talk with the developer because the extension hasn’t had support for several years, guess what, maybe that is the problem.

Look at those extensions as if they were websites. If the webmaster had disappeared months ago and your browser would gradually render the website worse and worse, would you look for an alternative website with up-to-date content? If they answer is yes, it might also be time to look for newer extensions.

(If the answer is no, and you are petitioning Fx to not deprecate old extensions, could you please help the internet out and also petition Google for not rewriting DOM features? At least don’t be a hypocrite.)
Everyone who is saying 'Yes, Chrome... but ugh, Google, so no' really needs to take a look at Chromium. ??
Before going all Chromium to take “the Google out of Chrome”, note that people are still applying a long list of patches to Chromium to really take Google out of it. Not as straightforward as some people may think.
posted by Martijn at 12:47 AM on November 14 [6 favorites]


mhoye, could you talk a little about how Mozilla thinks about ergonomics and accessibility: how many people work on this, what's the road map, and what concerns inform design decisions?

As I wrote above, my main concern on mobile is truly customizable text size, along with the text reflow ability that makes large text actually usable. (Scrolling side to side to read lines of text is not usable.) I'm sorry to harp on the point, but I've been waiting for years for this to be addressed. During these years what's happened instead is a reduction in the already very limited UI for even basic text size adjustment, and of course the removal years ago of the "experimental" reflow capability that used to be built in.

I usually have "infinity" tabs open on mobile (i.e., over 99) and use equipment that's neither new nor top of the line, and even so the speed of FF has generally been fine for me. Even on the political threads! But not being able to read comfortably - what good is a fast browser if it can't allow me that?

So I'd really like to hear how Mozilla thinks about accessibility and what steps it's planning to improve it.
posted by trig at 1:46 AM on November 14 [1 favorite]


Okay, so Classic Theme Restorer no longer works, but its developer has put together some CSS stuff that will let you customize Firefox 57's appearance a bit. Basically, download the ZIP file from GitHub, follow these instructions, and you're in business. It's a little fiddly to deal with--you have to edit userChrome.css to change things instead of using a neat menu--but it's worth it. I've got my tabs back where they belong and the URL bar is behaving the way it should. Check it out.

Of course, now that I've pointed this out, I fully expect to be punished by Mozilla completely disabling custom CSS, then setting the text display to green-on-orange and making the blink and marquee tags mandatory.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 2:07 AM on November 14 [4 favorites]


Martijn, the developer of Down Them All says that the WebExtensions API just won't accommodate the access he needs to rewrite it. It's a shame, because I use it for all sorts of things, from regular (but faster) downloads to "grab all the PDFs on this page".
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:25 AM on November 14 [2 favorites]


Martijn: Before going all Chromium to take “the Google out of Chrome”, note that people are still applying a long list of patches to Chromium to really take Google out of it.

*investigates*
That is good to know. Thanks!
*installs Iridium*
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:38 AM on November 14


Really appreciate mhoye contributing so much here! Thanks!

Getting the latest release of FF in Debian involves a little extra work right now, because of the dependency on Rust, but it's definitely been worth the effort running with the beta for a few weeks. I was extremely sceptical that I'd be happy without a few extensions, but almost everything I used before had already been updated. That was impressive!

I'm waiting on a method for hiding the titlebar (in Linux, running XFCE) that doesn't involve hiding the titlebar of every single window, ever. Without the Classic Theme Restorer and some addons/tweakery, the bookmarks sidebar is a royal mess of unnecessary cruft right now but I have no doubt that somehow the customisation options will return, and I don't think it'll be long either.

The good news: IMHO, time to promote the heck out of this browser once again!
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 5:41 AM on November 14


I've never been a heavy user of extensions, but I've been loyal to FF for one reason for years now. The Floating Cows browser theme. Sometimes, when reading the most recent infuriating political news or celebrity sex abuse news, just taking a moment to stop and gaze at the adorable spherical bovines adorning my tabs/bars lowers my blood pressure.

If I can't have them anymore, I would be very very sad.
posted by sharp pointy objects at 5:51 AM on November 14 [1 favorite]


Martijn: "WebExtensions have been available in Nightly releases for years now. Any extension developer who checks the Beta / Developer / Nightly builds would have been able to get their extension updated. "

Well, I'm not a dev, but what I've heard from from extension developers is that - assuming WebExtensions permit what you want to do at all - the APIs were poorly documented and available rather later than you would like. I know that the Greasemonkey dev has complained about this at length. I believe Tab Mix Plus dev team has said this as well. I see Saved Password Editor's dev has been told that the API he needs will be available at some point, but not in 57.

So, I think the impression you are giving - that it is lack of effort on the part of extension devs - is part of the story at best.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:09 AM on November 14 [1 favorite]


.... and there it is. We've shipped.

My friend Sean Martell has has some art he would like to share with you all.
posted by mhoye at 6:12 AM on November 14 [3 favorites]


Installed.
My cows survived! All is right with the world =)
posted by sharp pointy objects at 6:27 AM on November 14 [2 favorites]


Just tried the new beta and the performance is indeed impressive. It's very snappy.

Mozilla has a long history of struggling with software bloat and performance. I remember when, twenty years ago, Netscape 4.04 was the only usable web browser on *nix platforms and they open-sourced it as the Mozilla project. The old codebase was widely considered to be too crufty and too bloated, so the Mozilla project undertook several really extensive re-writes. That might have been necessary, but it set them back years. I remember when jwz decided to leave Netscape, because he felt the Mozilla project failed to deliver. In the years that followed Mozilla made fumbling progress. While some of the technology was great in theory, perhaps, the execution was certainly lacking, and the end product was slow and buggy. That became painfully obvious when Apple decided to base Safari not on FOSS-darling Mozilla, but on the (quite niche!) KHTML.

Then Mozilla launched Firefox, which (like Mozilla originally) was supposed to get rid of bloat and deliver a lean-and-mean, no-cruft browser, with a layout engine that would just be the fastest and the most standards compliant layout engine ever. And on *nix platforms, it was, because there was little else. On Windows and OS X though, Firefox always seemed to lag a little behind the competition. And then Google came along and in the space of just a few short years just crushed everyone in terms of performance, features and usability with Chrome (which is also, indirectly, based on KHTML).

So now there is Quantum, which is (again) supposed to focus Mozilla on performance and usability. It looks to be a major improvement and I will definitely try it, because it would feel good to go back to Firefox. After all that's the thing: Firefox isn't just about the browser, it's also about the politics of choice, privacy, and access. Firefox is a political piece of software. Now many years ago, I figured that with Mozilla's evangelism and marketing, especially towards web developers, that codebase would, one way or the other, exert major influence, even if it would take long to mature. But what happened instead is that the politically anodyne KHTML project went much further: it became the basis of WebKit and the foundation of both Safari and Chrome. I suppose there is some lesson about idealism versus realism and worse-is-better in there. I'm just not quite sure what it is, because the story never really ends. Go Quantum...
posted by dmh at 6:28 AM on November 14 [2 favorites]


Well, it might be faster overall, but the lastpass extension developers have many leagues to go before they deliver a usable product.
posted by mattamatic at 6:37 AM on November 14


So, I think the impression you are giving - that it is lack of effort on the part of extension devs - is part of the story at best.

Yeah, I think any "lazy devs" argument there would be deeply unfair. The fact that we knew we had to make these changes for the long-term viability of Firefox should not be construed at all to imply we didn't know how much work it would be for developers to move across, particularly considering the APIs themselves were a negotiation-in-progress (and continue to be). Some developers who had built parallel extensions for Chrome got to re-use a lot of that work, but that is not at all the same thing as "devs are lazy".

Straight up, this has been hard for everyone. But there's no question it needed to be done, and the Addons team has done heroic work helping the community make the transition.
posted by mhoye at 6:41 AM on November 14 [5 favorites]


Hmm. I've been using LastPass on FF Developer Edition for 57 and now 58. Other than a brief period where early de57 didn't show the LastPass toolbar button (exciting) and a current problem where de58 requires my YubiKey login once per session (instead of remembering this computer for 30 days) it's been working fine. I'm now concerned there are bugs hiding in the woodwork.
posted by introp at 6:42 AM on November 14


The only thing I absolutely cannot do without is the ability to stack tabs vertically and put them on the right, which made it impossible for me to migrate to Chrome. I was relieved to discover that Tree Style Tab has been ported.

I also heavily rely on middle-mouse-button gestures, and there's a FireGestures replacement as well.

My visceral reaction to the add-on API change is all caps nerd rage, but rationally I understand that the Wild West of the old API is probably responsible for the slowness and memory leaks, so as long as all my critical desert island features are available I am happy to experience some teething problems in exchange for being able to have thirty tabs open at once without having to kill the browser every half an hour. Like I could do in the Olden Times.
posted by confluency at 7:06 AM on November 14


The extension I'd most miss (assuming that NoScript and UBlock Origin make it across) would be FireTitle, which allows one to rename browser window/tab titles. (It's very useful for, say, finding one's dedicated Bandcamp window amongst the opened StackOverflow searches, interesting articles and other miscellanea. That and Xmarks' tab/bookmark sync.

FireTitle is back as Crappy FireTitle, which just allows the prepending of arbitrary text, as that's all the API allows. It remains to be seen whether it's fit for purpose.
posted by acb at 7:06 AM on November 14


It's remarkable how personal these changes are for some of you. Both the add-on API changes and the UI changes. I shouldn't be surprised by that, I feel strongly about some of my software too. As I get older I start to care less though, or maybe I've finally been worn down and accept that my software isn't always going to be exactly like I want. FWIW as a relative newcomer back to Firefox (been 5+ years) it all seems fine to me. I like the UI. I could find all the add-ons I needed. But then I'm admittedly easy to please now, not something I'd ever say about myself for software in the past.

Congratulations on the release today mhoye, and thanks for taking all the questions!
posted by Nelson at 7:14 AM on November 14 [3 favorites]


Yeah, mhoye, I really do appreciate you coming in here and participating in the discussion (and will check out that link you provided). I obviously am not particularly enthused about the changes to Firefox, but I really appreciate the context you placed those changes in, and of anything I've read, it's helped place that into perspective. If only Mozilla had said something like that as clearly in the beginning! Plus, it's not always fun to jump into the lion's den. :)
posted by WCityMike at 7:24 AM on November 14 [2 favorites]


Plus, it's not always fun to jump into the lion's den. :)

This is all good; this place is home, and I'm happy to talk about all this work we've done. It's good to feel like the work you're doing matters, that it makes the world better, and I'm deeply grateful to have been a part of it.
posted by mhoye at 8:35 AM on November 14 [5 favorites]


For people interested in the Rust programming language, we just published a post with a few more details about how Rust helped build Firefox Quantum. I’m on the Servo team at Mozilla, and helped out with the Stylo project (integrating Servo’s CSS engine into Firefox). Happy to answer any questions about Servo/Stylo/Rust.
posted by mbrubeck at 8:39 AM on November 14 [1 favorite]


The Markdown for MeFi extension is now compatible with Firefox Quantum. You can add it to Firefox here.

And kudos to the addons team for eliminating the multi-week review process. The new version appeared minutes after I submitted it, and it's kind of blowing my mind that it was approved so fast.
posted by evand at 8:39 AM on November 14


Trip report so far: feels a touch faster. I like the new icon. Still don't care about Pocket.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 9:52 AM on November 14


Under WebExtensions, is it possible to make it look more like 56 did? Via an extension or a userstyle or a theme or userChrome.css? I don't like the new tab styles, etc.

I know some of the stuff Classic Theme Restorer did is out the window, but wondering what is possible.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:17 AM on November 14


I’m on the Servo team at Mozilla, and helped out with the Stylo project (integrating Servo’s CSS engine into Firefox). Happy to answer any questions about Servo/Stylo/Rust.

Let's say I'm a developer who had a few years experience being terrible at C, a few years of cranking out average Java code, and a decade+ of experience with various dynamic scripting languages. If I wanted to learn Rust well enough to make some kind of contribution to something like Servo / Stylo, after doing something reasonable like making my way through a book, what might some good initial exercises and targets might be?
posted by wildblueyonder at 10:43 AM on November 14 [1 favorite]


wildblueyonder, if you'd like to jump straight a big project, we have starter bugs for new Servo contributors, each with instructions to get started and a mentor who can answer questions. This Week in Rust has a list of similar "help wanted" bugs from various other projects, and if you want to contribute to Rust itself, there’s a place for that too!

If you prefer small projects you can work on by yourself, some good options are to write a parser or decoder for a simple file format, or contribute to the simple command-line utilities at the uutils project. Or you can build a toy browser engine (self-link). Numerical programs that you can optimize and parallelize are also fun, like generating fractals (fairly simple) or writing a ray tracer (may require learning a fair amount of math if you haven’t done it before).
posted by mbrubeck at 11:03 AM on November 14 [3 favorites]


Any idea when the 57 release build for Android is going to be available on the Play Store? Fx has always been dog slow on my phone, so I've been living with Android Chrome's intentionally hobbled experience.

Fx sure was nice on my Nokia N900, though. There's something to be said for having a legit Debian-derivative GNU/Linux distribution running on your phone.

Anyway, I'd very much like to have both speed and browser extensions on my phone, so hopefully it will be landing soon?
posted by wierdo at 11:46 AM on November 14


Under WebExtensions, is it possible to make it look more like 56 did? Via an extension or a userstyle or a theme or userChrome.css? I don't like the new tab styles, etc.

Photon Australis is a userChrome.css style that puts rounded corners on the tabs. There's a missing pixel or something on top, but it mostly makes me feel better.


Regarding previous discussion, Firefox 57 also saw Google back as the default search engine, with a few per-country exceptions for Yandex and Baidu.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 12:07 PM on November 14 [1 favorite]


As I get older I start to care less though, or maybe I've finally been worn down and accept that my software isn't always going to be exactly like I want.

Yes. I used to be so into the march of technology, but the last few years seems like a series of lateral moves to me. New software brings some marginally interesting things, and kills off old useful things.
posted by bongo_x at 12:38 PM on November 14 [1 favorite]


Any idea when the 57 release build for Android is going to be available on the Play Store?

It's rollling out incrementally this week, as of this morning.
posted by mhoye at 12:47 PM on November 14


If I wanted to learn Rust well enough to make some kind of contribution to something like Servo / Stylo, after doing something reasonable like making my way through a book, what might some good initial exercises and targets might be?

The Rust community is one of the most welcoming, friendly communities in tech. They've done so many things right, and have been since day 1. Awesome but true: the first commit to the Rust codebase isn't code at all. It's the Rust community code of conduct.

The Rust Community page should help you get started - that site has a decent set of references and a few ways to get in touch with the community, find some good references and starter exercises, and just generally get spun up on how to use Rust and become a part of the community.

(Update: jinx. I see mbrubeck got to that one first. Thanks, mbrubeck! Everything I said about the Rust community being awesome stands though.)
posted by mhoye at 1:09 PM on November 14 [1 favorite]


This is a little confusing because my old extensions quit working with version 56. Some of them I really liked, but mostly I decided I didn't need that many extensions and would rather have security. The unknown of the extensions was always weird to me.
posted by bongo_x at 2:42 PM on November 14


Firefox 57 also saw Google back as the default search engine

Wow, really? That's new; the 57 beta I installed just a week ago was still shilling Yahoo. And it's early, the Yahoo! deal was supposed to last until 2019. Techcrunch has more on the business story, including a Mozilla statement
We exercised our contractual right to terminate our agreement with Yahoo! based on a number of factors including doing what’s best for our brand, our effort to provide quality web search, and the broader content experience for our users.
I imagine a big fat stack of US currency from Google was one of those factors. Also maybe the fact that Yahoo! is now basically dead as a company.
posted by Nelson at 3:38 PM on November 14


Welp, I'm a bit worried. I've used a feed reader named Sage for years, since about 2004, when Harbi Xenu didn't update for a new version of Firefox. Looks like Feedbro will provide at least something usable, but I really don't like the interface being in its own tab instead of a sidebar. (Or are extensions not able to use sidebars anymore?)

There is a version of DownThemAll! coming out after all. The person who maintains Sage is still issuing updates, so if that is updated to Firefox 57 then the only extension I lose is something to do Rot13 from the right click menu, which really isn't the end of the world, just means I'll move to browsing certain websites in Chrome.
posted by Canageek at 11:50 PM on November 14


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