Goodbye, EdgeHTML

This article is a repost promoting content originally published elsewhere. See more things Dan's reposted.

Microsoft is officially giving up on an independent shared platform for the internet. By adopting Chromium, Microsoft hands over control of even more of online life to Google.

This may sound melodramatic, but it’s not. The “browser engines” — Chromium from Google and Gecko Quantum from Mozilla — are “inside baseball” pieces of software that actually determine a great deal of what each of us can do online. They determine core capabilities such as which content we as consumers can see, how secure we are when we watch content, and how much control we have over what websites and services can do to us. Microsoft’s decision gives Google more ability to single-handedly decide what possibilities are available to each one of us.

From a business point of view Microsoft’s decision may well make sense. Google is so close to almost complete control of the infrastructure of our online lives that it may not be profitable to continue to fight this. The interests of Microsoft’s shareholders may well be served by giving up on the freedom and choice that the internet once offered us. Google is a fierce competitor with highly talented employees and a monopolistic hold on unique assets. Google’s dominance across search, advertising, smartphones, and data capture creates a vastly tilted playing field that works against the rest of us.

From a social, civic and individual empowerment perspective ceding control of fundamental online infrastructure to a single company is terrible. This is why Mozilla exists. We compete with Google not because it’s a good business opportunity. We compete with Google because the health of the internet and online life depend on competition and choice. They depend on consumers being able to decide we want something better and to take action.

Will Microsoft’s decision make it harder for Firefox to prosper? It could. Making Google more powerful is risky on many fronts. And a big part of the answer depends on what the web developers and businesses who create services and websites do. If one product like Chromium has enough market share, then it becomes easier for web developers and businesses to decide not to worry if their services and sites work with anything other than Chromium. That’s what happened when Microsoft had a monopoly on browsers in the early 2000s before Firefox was released. And it could happen again.

If you care about what’s happening with online life today, take another look at Firefox. It’s radically better than it was 18 months ago — Firefox once again holds its own when it comes to speed and performance. Try Firefox as your default browser for a week and then decide. Making Firefox stronger won’t solve all the problems of online life — browsers are only one part of the equation. But if you find Firefox is a good product for you, then your use makes Firefox stronger. Your use helps web developers and businesses think beyond Chrome. And this helps Firefox and Mozilla make overall life on the internet better — more choice, more security options, more competition.

Scathing but well-deserved dig at Microsoft by Mozilla, following on from the Edge-switch-to-Chromium I’ve been going on about. Chris is right: more people should try Firefox (it’s been my general-purpose browser on desktop and mobile ever since Opera threw in the towel and joined the Chromium hivemind in 2013, and on-and-off plenty before then) – not just because it’s a great browser (and it is!) but also now because it’s important for the diversity and health of the Web.

(Reprinted in full under a creative commons license.)

Your RSS is grass: Mozilla euthanizes feed reader, Atom code in Firefox browser, claims it’s old and unloved

This article is a repost promoting content originally published elsewhere. See more things Dan's reposted.

When Firefox 64 arrives in December, support for RSS, the once celebrated content syndication scheme, and its sibling, Atom, will be missing.

“After considering the maintenance, performance and security costs of the feed preview and subscription features in Firefox, we’ve concluded that it is no longer sustainable to keep feed support in the core of the product,” said Gijs Kruitbosch, a software engineer who works on Firefox at Mozilla, in a blog post on Thursday.

Not a great sign, but understandable. Live Bookmarks was never strong enough to be a full-featured RSS reader, and I don’t know about you but I haven’t really made use of bookmarks for a good few years, let alone “live” bookmarks, but the media are likely to see this (as El Reg does, in the article) as another nail in the coffin of one of the best syndication mechanisms the Web ever came up with.

Favourite Firefox Four Feature FAIL!

I’ve been playing about with the beta of Firefox 4 for a little while now, and I wanted to tell you about a feature that I thought was absolutely amazing, until it turned out that it was a bug and they “fixed” it. This feature is made possible by a handful of other new tools that are coming into Firefox in this new version:

  1. App tabs. You’re now able to turn tabs into small tabs which sit at the left-hand side.
  2. Tab groups. You can “group” your tabs and display only a subset of them at once.

I run with a lot of tabs open most of the time. Not so many as Ruth, but a good number. These can be divided into three major categories: those related to my work with SmartData, those related to my work with Three Rings, and those related to my freelance work and my personal websurfing. Since an early beta of Firefox 4, I discovered that I could do this:

  1. Group all of my SmartData/Three Rings/personal tabs into tab groups, accordingly.
  2. This includes the webmail tab for each of them, which is kept as an App Tab – so my SmartData webmail is an app tab which is in the SmartData tab group, for example.
  3. Then – and here’s the awesome bit – a can switch between my tab groups just be clicking on the relevant app tab!

Time to do some SmartData work? I just click the SmartData webmail app tab and there’s my e-mail, and the rest of the non-app tabs transform magically into my work-related tabs: development versions of the sites I’m working on, relevant APIs, and so on. Time to clock off for lunch? I click on the personal webmail tab, look at my e-mail, and magically all of the other tabs are my personal ones – my RSS feeds, the forum threads I’m following, and so on. Doing some Three Rings work in the evening? I can click the Three Rings webmail tab and check my mail, and simultaneously the browser presents me with the Three Rings related tabs I was working on last, too. It was fabulous.

Firefox 4 app tabs

The other day, Firefox 4 beta 7 was released, and this functionality didn’t work any more. Now app tabs aren’t associated with particular tab groups any longer: they’re associated with all tab groups. This means:

  • I can’t use the app tabs to switch tab group, because they don’t belong to tab groups any more, and
  • I can’t fix this by making them into regular tabs, because then they won’t all be shown.

I’m painfully familiar about what happens when people treat a bug as a feature. Some years ago, a University Nightline were using a bug in Three Rings  as a feature, and were outraged when we “fixed” it. Eventually, we had to provide a workaround so that they could continue to use the buggy behaviour that they’d come to depend upon.

So please, Mozilla – help me out here and at least make an about:config option that I can switch on to make app tabs belong to specific tab groups again (but still be always visible). It was such an awesome feature, and it saddens me that you made it by mistake.

My Firefox Window

It didn’t occur to me until somebody looked over my shoulder and commented on it, today, that I actually have an at-least slightly unusual layout for my Firefox window. I thought I’d share with you all the thinking behind the particular collection of add-ons and tweaks that go into my day-to-day web browsing:

I’m a big fan of maximising the amount of screen real estate available for browsing, minimising the chrome that surrounds it. That’s why I use the LittleFox theme. It’s not the prettiest theme around, but it’s tiny, simplistic, and works with every version of Firefox I’ve ever thrown it at. It saves space by reducing the size of icons and excess space around tabs and buttons, and it does a great job of it.

To save even more precious vertical space (and because I’m generally running at high screen resolutions, and can spare the horizontal screen space), I combine my menu bar, toolbar, address bar and search boxes into a single toolbar. You can do this by right-clicking on the menu bar and clicking “Customize…” I drop the refresh, stop, and home buttons. I never pressed refresh nor stop anyway, always using the shortcut keys (F5 or CTRL-R, and ESC, respectively), and I my homepage is about:blank. On computers running at lower screen resolutions I’ve previously used the Searchbar Autosizer add-on to tuck-away the search box when I’m not using it, but nowadays I rarely bother.

I frequently find myself with dozens of tabs open, and I loathe it when tabbed applications force me to “scroll” left and right through my tabs (I’d rather my tabs just got narrower and narrower, until only the favicon remains), so I use about:config to change the browser.tabs.tabMinWidth setting to 0, which, after you’ve restarted your browser, changes this behaviour.

In addition to the add-ons that can be seen in my status bar – ColorZilla (in the bottom-left, so not visible in the screenshot above), Adblock Plus, FireGPG, Firebug (and a few extensions), Google Reader Watcher, Greasemonkey, HTML Validator, NoScript (with noscript.firstRunRedirection set to false, to stop it’s nagging), and ShowIP, I use one further add-on to tidy up my “bookmarks toolbar”.

The Status Buttons add-on gives you the capability to drag-drop any other user interface component into the right-hand side of the status bar: I use this to move the entire contents of the Bookmarks Toolbar down into the status bar, tucked out of the way. I remove the titles from most of the bookmarks (I can identify these, my most-frequently-used sites, by their favicons), adding them only where there’d otherwise be ambiguity as to the purpose of the icon.

All of these tweaks give me a huge browsing space that works the way that I want it to. I’m a heavy user of keyboard shortcuts – I pretty much only use the mouse to click hyperlinks and the buttons in the status bar – so this kind of layout suits me very well. One of the great things about Firefox is it’s flexibility: that you can make these kinds of tweaks so easily. And hopefully if you’re a similar kind of power user you’ll take some of these tips and be able to make use of them, too.

The Latest Stupidity From The Internet Explorer Team

Have you seen the latest stupidity that the Windows Internet Explorer team have come up with? Ten Grand Is Buried Here.

The idea is that they encourage you to give up whatever browser you’re using (assuming it’s not Internet Explorer 8), calling it names (like “old Firefox” if you’re using Firefox, “boring Safari” if you’re using Safari, “tarnished Chrome” if you’re using Chrome, and… “that browser” if you’re using Opera) and upgrade to Internet Explorer 8, and they’ll be giving out clues on their Twitter feed about some secret website that’ll only work in IE8 at which you can register and win $10,000AUS (yes, this is an Australian competition).

After looking at the site in Firefox, Safari, Chrome, and Opera, I thought I’d give it a go in Internet Explorer 8. But it didn’t work – it mis-detected my installation of IE8 as being IE7 (no, I didn’t have Compatability Mode on).

In the end, though, I just used User Agent Switcher to make my copy of Firefox pretend to be Internet Explorer 8. Then it worked. So basically, all that I’ve learned is that Firefox does a better job of everything that Internet Explorer does, including viewing websites designed to only work in Internet Explorer. Good work, Microsoft. Have a slow clap.

Firefox 3 “Download Day”

Download Day 2008

Downloaded your copy of Mozilla Firefox 3 yet to help them make the world record? I’ve been using Firefox 3 since the early betas and I’ve got no qualms about recommending it wholeheartedly. The awsomebar is simply that: awesome, the speed and memory usage have become far better than the previous version, and the care and attention that have gone into the little things – like the fact that it now asks you if you want to save passwords after you’ve seen if they were correct, not before – really do make this the best web browser I’ve ever used.

Go download it already.