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
1 John Hunter

The changes to firefox are annoying. I use chrome and safari, also. I like chrome the most and firefox next. Chrome has auto-update also but seems less prone to breaking stuff – better qc I guess and fewer extensions. Firefox has been much more annoying to use the last 3 months than before.
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2 Binky

I use Firefox, but do find the constant updates a bit annoying, and losing some of the plugins each time doesn’t help. You make some good points. You’d think that the plugins would not have to be updated every time Firefox is updated, unless some key feature of that plugin was changed in the update. They certainly could improve that. In the recent update, they removed the “View page source” item from the menu which bugged me! (Cntrl-U still works)
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3 Will

I just spent a couple of hours setting up a couple of things in Firefox 7.0.1 on a 2nd computer. Some of the most annoying things about the changes I have managed to find ways to handle in 3rd party ways that should survive Firefox updates. For example, I use Roboform Everywhere and instead of relying on Firefox to manage my bookmarks, all 620 of them, I imported them into Roboform. A couple of other things I like the look of and do not want to change have been preserved in similar fashion. So we will see how it goes.

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4 Jan

Not happy about the updates running in the background – I have sometimes not updated because it would cause a plug-in to break and then when the next update comes in it is often not a problem as a fix has been found. I took a long time to move over to Firefox and have been really happy with it up until recently when it began to not open or be slow, I thought it was my computer but maybe it is the updates?
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5 Robin Henderson

I use Firefox and Safari. Safari is corporate; it won’t let you do things that are “bad for business,” like saving sound files, at least without going into a whole page-source hacker dance. (The “Save” function under File is greyed out for actions that might endanger the entire World Capitalist Economy.) But it does have a Flash suppression function that I cherish. If Firefox had that, I’d probably never use it.

I like Firefox for all the reasons you’ve mentioned here; FF actually has a plug-in that lets you download virtually any media file on any page, easily. However, recently FF has begun bombarding me with update prompts, which is all the more annoying because I’m running a past-due OS that the new versions of FF and plug-ins can’t even run on, but it keeps pestering me about the updates, even after I’ve downloaded them once and found them wanting.

Browsers seem to have a utility life span. After awhile, they (that is, their development teams) just burn out. Whether it’s the team’s creativity that gets used up or profit-induced failure of vision, I don’t know, but I’ve been doing this for 16 years now and I’ve had to jump ship several times.

Robin (old Netscaper; look it up, young folk.)

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6 Will

All good points, Robin. I used Netscape also and I’m not too too old! I especially like this phrase, though: “profit-induced failure of vision”. That can certainly explain what happens to a lot of companies.

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7 BIAP

I use Firefox 7.0 1 too, I use now an add-on called compatibility-Reporter, so I can use all my old add-ons, which normally wouldn’t longer run. If you don’t want automatic updates, you can create in windows a new account with restricted rights (installing software is not allowed). Surfing while using that account firefox cannot update automatically.

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8 Tony McGurk

I used Firefox for several years but recently migrated to Google Chrome. I kept having problems with FF locking up on a regular basis & it just annoyed me so much I eventually got rid of it. I have had no problems with Chrome at all.

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9 Felicia

I use Firefox and Chrome. Firefox is my favorite of all the web browsers. I normally wait for a few months before I update to the latest version. I’m using an old version of Firefox because the latest updates typically mess up my add-ons and plugins that I use for work.

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10 Andrew Smith

I’m a firefox fan, I use it since in high school till now. Firefox update very often, and I’m little bit bother with that, for now I still use firefox 3.6 cause feel unfamiliar with new update (firefox 7 or even the latest firefox 8). For other alternative, I’m using google chrome

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