Firefox – Or Another Browser?

by updated 2011/10/08

Until recently this is a question I would not even think about as I have happily used Firefox for years. Even with the recent changes to Internet Explorer, I still do not like or trust it. And that used to be the choice, IE or Firefox. Firefox has now adopted a new operating philosophy with regard to new versions and user control. The Firefox developers have decided to release new updates incrementally, every few weeks, rather than once or twice a year. If these new updates were only bug fixes and security patches, that would be fine. But the release also usually include interface and function changes also and therein lays the problem. One of the big pluses of Firefox is the ability to customize how things work and to use plugins and addons to increase functionality. With so many and frequent releases of Firefox versions, users have to spend way too much time recreating their customizations and toolbars. Also plugin developers have a hard time keeping up with the rapid changes so a new release of Firefox often breaks many plugins.

The Firefox developers are also making the browser work in a more default manner, removing control from the users. One example is the update method. Starting in short while, updates to Firefox will be automatic and run in the background. Once that happens customizations will be lost without warning, plugins will break without you knowing about the possibility in advance, and those of us that like to know what is being installed on our computers ahead of time will be frustrated.

If I am happy with how Firefox is working, I always wait several versions, (a time frame that used to me months or a year), before updating. That way I only infrequently had to deal with the slog of work involved to get things back working the way I liked and the way I was used to. This method also allowed the tech wizards time to program fixes to counteract some of the Firefox changes people did not like. As an example, apparently a recent update of Firefox contained a url box/field that would only display a few characters. These short urls were a major annoyance to those of us that do some web development and are frequently viewing, copying, etc. from that box. Thinking this was a development mistake, users complained and waited for a fix. When a new release came out without a fix, it was realized that the awful “bug” was intended. This led someone to discover a way to configure Firefox to “get the full url back“.  By waiting a while to update Firefox you get the benefit of people solving problems and posting their solutions online by the time you need them.  If Firefox updates automatically and immediately, you are thrown into the fire without the benefit of solutions.

The latest version right now is 7.0.1 with 8.0 due out in a month or so.  Shortly after that Firefox 9 will be released introducing a very different looking user-interface.  I can’t wait.   Because the developers need to work on a shorter schedule, the rapid release of new versions inevitably means that there will be more bugs and problems that get pushed on to users.  All this is sort of frustrating, but there is not much that can be done.  I briefly tried Google Chrome this morning and do not really like the lack of customizable toolbars, addons, and plugins.  Chrome is a fast browser, but both Firefox and IE have made strides in that department also.  I will not use IE, so I guess I am staying for now with Firefox.  I will grit my teeth and update to 7.0.1 and then spend a few hours trying to get things working as I want them.  Wish me luck.

What browser to you use?  If you use Firefox, do you have a lot of customizations and plugins?  What version are you on?  Does the new “update every weeks bother you?

Will Sig

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