Saturday, October 1, 2011

Why Firefox? Why??

Today I am going to talk about some of Firefox's strange design decisions. Don't get me wrong - Firefox is a damn good piece of software, I use it everyday. Also what I will talk about can easily be fixed or ignored - it does not affect anything in the browser critically. While these decisions may not be outright controversial, they are definitely weird. Having said that, here are the strange design decisions -

1. Removal of the RSS Icon
Not so long ago, I think back in the days of Firefox 3.5, you used to get an icon when you were reading a blog or a news channel, indicating that you can subscribe to it. It was placed very conveniently in the addressbar, and it used to show up only for posts which had an RSS or atom feed. It looked something like below -

Then they decided to remove it from there, and place it in a button, which would be turned off by default. You can customize the toolbar, and bring it back from the list of available buttons. If you do that, now (since Firefox 4 till Firefox 7 at the time of writing) it looks like -
Which is good, except it takes up more space, and it does not disappear if the URL does not have a feed. It just turns gray instead, and it is much harder than the previous implementation to determine if the site has a feed or not. The good news is Firefox being extensible, allows you to bring it back, you just need to use this addon.

2. Integration of Personas
On 2009, Firefox decided to integrate Personas - a plugin that allows you to skin the browser by painting images in in the background of UI elements like menus. When it happened, there were 10s if not hundreeds of equally if not more (and I would actually argue more) useful plugins. For example, Greasemonkey, Tab Mix Plus, Download Statusbar, Shareaholic, FoxMarks (XMarks now, and they did integrate a different build of it though not with so many features - while XMarks almost died - but that's a long story). Why would you choose to include Personas in the codebase? Wouldn't these other plugins deserve the same? I understand everyone will not need to use these plugins. Well, not everyone needs Personas as well - I tried some of the skins and they look ugly anyway. Well, the good news is if you don't want to use it, it's then just an unnecessary bloat in the code (however small), and you can choose to just ignore it.

But why Firefox? Why??


  1. This blog post has one Mozilla developer's thoughts on the disappearance of this feature:

  2. Nice blog... Very interesting. I really like this post..