I’ve been using Firefox for Android as my main mobile browser for a few weeks now. There are a lot of things I like about it. It works well overall. Unlike Chrome, it supports extensions, so I can install (for instance) Privacy Badger and HTTPS Everywhere. The share menu option includes the two most recent apps instead of just one. Things like that.
But there are a few things that I find incredibly frustrating:
Auto-fill is inconsistent and interacts badly with scrolling.
It’s slower than Chrome, though I’ve found that turning off web fonts helps a lot.
Private mode UI differs only by the color of the search bar, so whenever I use it, I have to double-check whether I’m actually in private mode or not.
Plus I miss a few Chrome UI features that just streamline common actions:
When clicking on the search bar, if you have a URL in the clipboard, Chrome offers to load that URL. (This is particularly helpful for opening email links in private mode.)
Auto-fill an entire address form at once
Clear the last X minutes of history
On the PWA front: These are packaged web applications that can be “installed” locally and used offline, powered by whichever web browser you used to install them. When I switched browsers, I also reinstalled the PWAs I was using on my phone and tablet, switching them from Chrome-powered to Firefox-powered. These amount to a couple of Mastodon instances and Twitter. (I don’t want to install the full Twitter app on my phone so I’ll be less tempted to get caught in infinite scroll.)
On Firefox, Mastodon’s PWA frequently logs me out. Every other day at least. Sometimes it stops being able to load any new statuses, and I have to close the app entirely and re-open it to get back to normal. (Fortunately that’s fast.) Twitter…well, it worked for a couple of days, then it got into a redirect loop where it kept switching between the regular UI and the login screen. I considered reinstalling it through Chrome, but finally decided I was better off without Twitter on my phone anyway.
But it’s true: like Opera did a few years ago, Microsoft is dropping not only the old Internet Explorer engine, but the newer Edge engine, and will be building Edge on Chromium going forward. That means Edge, Chrome, Opera and Safari are all built on the same codebase. (Chromium split from Apple’s WebKit a while back, but they still have a lot in common.)
I think I may want to finally shut down or retool that old Alternative Browser Alliance site I ran during the Second Browser War. The last time I made a significant update to it, Chrome was the new upstart.
I got an email from LastPass that they’re dropping Xmarks on May 1. Xmarks is a cross-browser bookmark sync service that I’ve used for a long time to keep Chrome, Firefox, IE, and Safari on multiple computers using the same set of bookmarks.
Once it’s gone I can still sync Firefox across devices, Chrome across devices, etc., but that doesn’t help with syncing Firefox, Chrome, etc. with each other.
That said, it’s been a bit flaky for a while:
Anytime I came back to a system without using it for a while, it would have trouble syncing and have to re-download everything.
Sometimes it gets confused by the different folder layouts.
Since Firefox dropped their old extension API, the new extension hasn’t worked well with my scheme that drops all cookies when I close the browser except those on sites I want to stay logged into.
Maybe someone will pick them up again, like when they planned to close down in 2010 but LastPass bought them and took it freemium. On the other hand, I’m not sure I would trust someone who wanted to buy them now. Maybe I should pull my data early.
Whatever the case: If you sync bookmarks across different browsers, what do you use? Would you recommend it?
One of the problems with Mozilla’s plan to hide Firefox version numbers is that the replacement of “You’re running the latest version” only succeeds if people have confidence that the check is working. Speaking for myself, the last time I checked About:Firefox, I was convinced that it was broken until I verified that the update I was expecting was Mac-only, which was why it wasn’t showing up on Windows.
The biggest, of course, is breaking deeply ingrained user expectations (where to find the version number) for no real discernible benefit.
If you’ve been following the Firefox 4 betas, you’ve probably noticed that they’re dumping the status bar. OK, a lot of people didn’t use it, but here’s the thing:
When you hover over a link, the status bar tells you where it will take you.
This is important (especially for security) — important enough that they’ve moved the functionality elsewhere…but in a broken manner. They’ve put it into the location bar — you know, the field where you type in a URL, or look to see where you are.
The problem is that there isn’t room in the location bar to show the full URL of a hovered link except for very short links. The status bar has the entire width of the browser. The location bar has to share that space with the navigation buttons, the search box, the feedback button (during the beta), any custom toolbar buttons, the site name on secure websites, etc.
Just about every link I hover over ends up with critical information cut off in the “…” between the start of the hostname and the parameters at the end. That’s almost useless. (Almost, because at least the hostname is visibla, but it would help to see the page name as well.)
Displaying the target URL in some way is core functionality for a web browser, and you shouldn’t remove or break core functionality. In some ways this is worse than the proposal a few years ago to remove “View Source,” because that at least isn’t core functionality for a browser (though it is core functionality for the web, because it encourages people to explore and tinker and learn how to make their own websites — which is exactly why that was put back in). It’s crazy that I need to install an add-on to get back something as basic as a working preview for links.