Firefox developer admits that everybody hates Firefox rapid updates

A Mozilla Firefox developer, Jono DiCarlo, has finally found the need to express his feelings as he posted a lengthy and well-written post which has triggered some quite interesting debates and discussions.

DiCarlo, in his blog post, points out that Firefox got it all wrong by trying to mimic the rapid release cycles of Google Chrome, which resulted in some crest-fallen Firefox users who gradually shifted to other browsers; with many of them going to the Chrome and triggering troubles for Firefox.

In DiCarlo’s own words,

Ironically, by doing rapid releases poorly, we just made Firefox look like an inferior version of Chrome. And by pushing a never-ending stream of updates on people who didn’t want them, we drove a lot of those people to Chrome; exactly what we were trying to prevent.

He said that it is the frequent UI (user interface) changes that caused frustration for a large section of Firefox users. Firefox has been bringing in frequent user interface changes after the fast release cycle started rolling out, often ‘copying’ other browsers like Opera and Chrome. Chrome, on the other hand, stuck to almost the same UI from its first major launch.

DiCarlo states,

After years of aspiring to improve software usability, I’ve come to the extremely humbling realization that the single best thing most companies could do to improve usability is to stop changing the UI so often! Let it remain stable long enough for us to learn it and get good at it. There’s no UI better than one you already know, and no UI worse than one you thought you knew but now have to relearn.

DiCarlo’s post has also triggered well-written comments and discussions on Hacker News. Some users there noted that since Chrome users had been used to frequent silent updates to it from the day it was launched, the uncustomary rapid releases didn’t turn off many people, But Firefox had been a different cookie and forced this new change upon its users after building a considerable user-base. Firefox users had been used to its older release cycles, which had been blown away by the rapid release cycles from Firefox 4. Thus, though some Firefox fans still maintain that Firefox 4 was a major milestone for Firefox, many others found Firefox 4 to have blown the whistle of death for Firefox.

DiCarlo’s website is down as of when I am writing these words and it has been reported by Wired that it has been going up and down throughout (probably due to an spike in traffic). Google’s cache of the page doesn’t also seem to available at the moment. So feel free to express your thoughts on dotTech; don’t forget to share your views on the rapid release cycles of Firefox with us in the comments below.

John DiCarwelpo blog post

[via Wired]

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18 comments

  1. Mik Quoz

    @ Peter
    “…Call it “brain jogging” and be happy :)”

    I feel most people, whose work requires use of the internet, prefer to use tools that they’re accustomed to using. They get enough mental exercise from their work without having to complicate things by having to re-learn a browser interface frequently.

    How would it be if, for example, pilots were faced with a new instrument panel layout every time they set out to fly? Extreme analogy I guess but I’m sure you get my drift. From my experience, most people prefer to stick with the familiar.

    Hands up all those who hate having to re-learn where buttons are on a TV remote controller when they buy a new TV?

  2. Lance

    @Dru:
    I, too, have switched to Chrome, and have found my sites are better rendered than ever. Even better than IE! The speed is nice, too.

    My eyesight is not the best, and the other browsers I’ve tried (IE, FF, Opera) don’t handle/render my increased font size as well as Chrome.

    Lance

  3. mukhi

    @sl0j0n:
    after windows 7, i no longer get this activeX related issue.
    you say that you don’t use IE/chrome because of their watchdog policy; sorry, i would like to remind you when you open the internet, your privacy is immediately gone (no matter which browser you are using, mozilla may be watching less but they still do; if you think they don’t, you are in fool’s paradise) unless you are using VPN or something. net won’t be hacker’s heaven if it would work the way you think.

  4. sl0j0n

    @ mukhi:
    Sorry, nope, no WAY, dude.
    I.E. IS and ALWAYS will be garbage, because M$ will stop using ActiveX, oh, about NEVER!
    I starting using Netscape back in the 90s, because of M$’s ActiveX tech that allowed ‘driveby’ downloads.
    In case you’ve forgotten, all you had to do was *visit* a ‘dirty’ site, and BAM! your computer is ‘infected’.
    Just open the site in I.E., and now here’s a nice ‘present’ for you, a virus, trojan, worm, or whatever.
    That’s the kind of technology that has caused more problems for ‘consumers’ than most can imagine.
    And the only reason M$ uses it is so they can spy on your computer.
    Which, also is why I don’t have any use for Chrome either.
    I still use Firefox because its the only browser that is still ‘loyal’ to its users.
    Yeah, I know that changing the U.I. was—and still is—[stupid] change for the sake of change.
    There was one good ‘feature’ of the U.I. change—it gave us a little more screen area.
    And while it still causes an occasional problem, that’s better than a continuous problem, like I.E.
    As far as I’m concerned, Firefox, and the Pale Moon version, too,
    need to improve memory usage, and reliability.
    That would go farther to help users than anything else I can think of, right now.
    In fact, those two areas are the biggest problems with most of the software I use.
    I’m better off than many, with 12GB of DDR3 1333.
    But I still get ‘memory bottlenecks’, and too frequent crashes.
    I doubt that anyone who could address these issues is going to see this, but that is what is most needed.
    All while maintaining a high level/grade of security, of course.

    Have a GREAT day, neighbors!

  5. Dru

    FF was my fav thru 3.x. Starting with 4 I ignored as long as possible (I have the latest version installed). The competitive advantage FF has/had was the add-on community. Rapid Update but an unnecessary and overly difficult burden on developers to keep current with latest release. I think that was the biggest mistake leading to migration away.

    I completely agree with the UI comments. I won’t start on Office ribbon (de-productivizing).

    Tired of IE working so slow and many web sites that wouldn’t work correctly on FF that I tried Opera. (I’m on XP btw; flames welcome, I know I need to upgrade). Opera just didn’t work well. Then I did it, I tried Chrome. I was/am blown away how fast it is. It’s now my default browser. I hate allowing google to increase their profile of me; however, it’s so much faster that I guess I hate slow more than loss of privacy. I still use FF for info organization and IE when pages won’t work correctly, but I’m now working much faster on Chrome, giving up the customization and security I was so fond of in FF.

  6. Zapped Sparky

    I must admit to becoming a bit tired of firefox, like others, the add-ons being broken, thankfully fixed now, changes to the UI with almost every update (seriously, where do I begin?) and of course the apparent constant in your face updates “A security and vulnerability fix has been released” blah blah blah etc… with the inevitable click of the close button just to make it go away (for a while a least).

    So you click update, once the re-starts done (still takes a long time) you then have the add-ons compatibility do it’s check, which more than likely will require ANOTHER re-start (I thought they’d fixed that?). Is this a bi-yearly event? Something that is needed only occasionally? Nope, it’s every six weeks, followed a few days later with another minor update (XX.0.1) to fix something that was broken in the update that’s just been installed.

    Memory usage: currently 862MB, 14hrs uptime, ten tabs open, with just essential add-ons (for watching video, others: Noscript and the like)and I haven’t seen it go over a Gig for a while, so I’d say the memory usage is getting slightly better :)

    [EDIT] I should probably mention I’m running the latest firefox :)[/EDIT]

  7. Josh

    I gave up after FF5. Can not spend so much time on keeping up with the frantic pace and aspirations of others. I’ll just skip the next 345 versions and update every 350 versions thereafter. That way I can occasionally catch up and also give them time to smooth out the bugs and stabilise the add-ons. Big pity about Thunderbird though. Current release should keep me for a while, though and… who knows what the world has to offer by then.

  8. Kay N

    I have had trouble with Flash Player on Firefox since a Firefox update earlier this year–I have to reinstall every time I go back online in order to view video. Have been considering another browser (NOT IE or Chrome) for that reason.

    I am NOT HAPPY to learn that Thunderbird, which I have always considered an integral part of my Mozilla worldwide web connection, will no longer be supported. If in the future I have to use one program for browsing and another program for email, why should I continue with Firefox and have the two lines into the web operate with dissonance?

  9. JonE

    @Ian: “It’s very sad that Mozilla is discontinuing support for Thunderbird, probably the best email client.” Good Point; point well taken. I was flabbergasted (now there’s a word you don’t hear every day), astounded, shocked, and maybe even a bit bewildered when I read that Mozilla will no longer support Thunderbird. And after reading this article maybe even a little more so. Here this guy is admitting that they made tactical mistakes with their rapid releases and just shortly before that Mozilla announces they will no longer develop or support Thunderbird. Perhaps an article about “Thunderbird” is in order. My question is who just takes one of or perhaps their most successful product and just throws it in the trash can? Umm; Microsoft maybe? But I digress; this article is about Firefox (FF).

    I use Firefox for a variety of reasons; first because there is no other browser I’ve found that is more customizable, security to a degree, but along with customization add in the fact that I’ve tried all kinds of other browsers, including some other Mozilla titles, and none of them handled everything across the board; flash, java, and a host of other things as well as Firefox. By that I mean I have little to no problem from site to site and if I trip across something that requires IE I have IE tab installed and it still works great; thankfully.

    I dumped bug infested IE long ago, and like many others refuse to use and have never used, and will likely never use “Chrome”. Although I tripped across a browser titled “RockMelt” which uses the “Chrome” engine that worked quite nicely on “facebook” when I was still a member there. But no browser can make up for all the crappy changes FB has made.

    Personally I could care less whether Mozilla or any other developer releases updates on a daily basis as long as it works and there’s the rub. Mr. DiCarlo states, “Ironically, by doing rapid releases poorly, (we just made Firefox look like an inferior version of Chrome). This, to me, is the key sentence in his whole blog post, and “poorly” is the key word.

    Most of the version 3 updates just plain worked, and it seemed like they went the extra mile to make sure that, the then, current extension add-ons would work, but my biggest gripe is from version 4 on many of the extension add-ons would no longer work. Mozilla did make some of the extensions obsolete by some of the improvements they made which is a good thing, but many others got left in the dust and to this day some extensions are on longer updated because the developers can’t keep up with the rapid updates, and because they’re extensions will no longer work with the newer version.

    And so I don’t care how many updates a developer makes or how often, as long as they take care to make sure that what worked yesterday is going to work tomorrow and Mozilla as Mr. DiCarlo pointed out has done a very “poor” job of doing that.

    Despite that, I’ve not found a browser that meets my needs better than FF, and I’ve tried quite a few.

    Maybe there are some others like Mr. DiCarlo, still at Mozilla, that do still care, who are listening, and will take what is being said in stride. Only time will tell.

  10. leland

    Even through many of the changes the main elements are still there. The status bar did not go away but did have to be enabled. The menu bar is also available but not enabled by default unless you are upgrading an older version. You can use Status4Evar to make the status bar more like what you were used to. The little fixes and speedups more than make up for the problems. There were some major hickups from version 4 until version 7 but once they hit version 7 I have not had a problem since. BTW, the rapid cycle was happening in the background with the nightly version in the past but it was not noticed by the majority of people. Overall I am now happy with the upgrade cycle though it took quite some time to get used to at first. Most extensions have now been upgraded to be compatible with the new version and some that have not are compatible anyway (Aardvark). So while it was a painful start I am now happy with the updates.

    FF updates have fixed one thing recently that many will like; memory usage. If you read any reviews you will find it uses considerably less memory especially over time even with lots of add-ons installed.

    One thing I think is wrong though is the way Mozilla is handling Thunderbird. I think they should continue to offer updates on at least a yearly basis even if only to upgrade the Gecko rendering engine along with basic security updates. Overall it works so I can see why major changes are not needed though.

    For those who are sad consider that it appears they have not stopped developing SeaMonkey which is along the lines of the old version of Netscape which included the browser and email all in one program. So that might be th best bet going forward.

  11. Darcy

    Hallelujah!

    The only reason I’ve stuck with Firefox this long is the add-ons, and I was forced to upgrade to keep them working. I will never go to Chrome because of their tracking policies and their bloatware practices, but I did install Iron as an alternative, after it’s mention here on Dottech.

  12. Ashraf
    Mr. Boss

    @Ian: I highly doubt that day will ever come because Google itself is facing strong competition in the arena of search. If Google drops FF then its competition will pick up FF. And Google values search over Chrome for obvious reasons.

  13. Ian

    It’s very sad that Mozilla is discontinuing support for Thunderbird, probably the best email client. They need to think carefully about alienating so many users. The more users leave, the stronger the competition for Mozilla becomes … until the day that Google decides it no longer needs Firefox to bring search requests and stops paying Mozilla for that. Then what?

  14. mukhi

    @Mags:
    IE is actually very good now (there is virtually no reason to hate the latest version ^_^), can work better than FF in the sense that many websites work properly only in IE.

    i don’t mind updates since it fixes bugs and fills up security holes anyway. FF has been my fav browser (primarily because of security and add-ons) although i use google chrome mostly now-a-days at home (at work, mostly FF); the reason being increase in security and add-ons (extensions), fastness, user friendliness in chrome. FF (or chrome) does not work for many things at work, therefore, i need to use IE. my home laptop is having IE, FF, chrome, and safari. i like opera for my mobile.

    two things i hate about FF…it consumes too much memory even w/o add-ons. 2ndly, too many updates and those disable the add-ons initially which is frustrating.

    i love how you can see frequently visited sites in boxes in chrome just by opening a new tab. also in chrome, when you type a site in address bar, if you already visited, it comes up and you can enter immediately w/o hitting down-arrow. these two nice features are absent in IE/FF.

    firefox, seamonkey, and safari probably are the only three browsers that let you scale text w/o scaling images! BTW, FF/chrome/seamonkey are having portable versions, too!

  15. kelltic

    I dropped FF for Opera back when they took the status bar away. I still have the last 3.1 version on my system and occasionally fire it up, but I won’t upgrade.

    Are you listening Microsoft? That tyrannical monster of yours, Windows 8, may drive us all to Linux and OSX.

  16. Mags

    “Thus, though some Firefox fans still maintain that Firefox 4 was a major milestone for Firefox, many others found Firefox 4 to have blown the whistle of death for Firefox.”

    I don’t know about others, but for me I’m still a Firefox fan, or I should say a Mozilla fan (since the days of Netscape.) However, having said that (and as mentioned elsewhere on DotTech) I’m still using the last version of Firefox 3. I h8 I.E., don’t like Opera, and refuse to use Chrome (because of Google’s data gathering.)

    What I’d like to see is FF go back to the drawing board and start over with the version they have had the most success with (version 3.)