I’ve come to dread when new Firefox updates roll around. Besides the problem of add-ons and themes giving me trouble, it’s largely because the UI team is constantly on the lookout for new ways to make things worse.
To qualify that statement, I know that any time a program or Website changes, users are going to complain and want things back the old way. Sometimes that’s not feasible, and I accept this. I’ve been on the receiving end of those complaints myself, and I get it. But Firefox’s UI team has a history of making changes for spurious or even outright stupid reasons, and they’re almost never good changes.
Newer versions have screwed with add-on compatibility in unexpected ways. I use the Qute 3++ theme, which is what Qute used to look like before the author went berserk and frelled it up to make it look like Firefox 4’s horrendous default theme. When I went to Firefox 15 I head to reinstall it because I couldn’t get Firefox to reenable it; they have no convenient way to force-enable it, and the Add-On Compatibility Reporter extension lost its ability to force the issue. Now on Firefox 17, the only way to get it back was to install a new add-on that would basically do what the compatibility reporter used to. And the frustrating thing is, I couldn’t simply edit the theme’s settings because the file says internally that it’s compatible with versions up to 30. Whatever metric Mozilla is using to track compatibility, it must go beyond that now; but the theme still works, and they shouldn’t just keep disabling crap willy-nilly.
In truth, Firefox’s add-on compatibility handling has always been terrible. The problem has merely become exacerbated with the new rapid release schedule. They do have some smart people there, so I hope someone sooner or later comes up with a solution.
Meanwhile I’m still POed at the UI team for other reasons. Back in Firefox 14 they removed site icons from the location bar, because they thought there might be a security risk from a malicious Website putting a padlock icon up there. This was of course moronic: Not only were they color-coding the icon area before so you could see if it was a secure site that way, but who’s stupid enough to fall for that and why is it my problem? So they made the change, and it required a new add-on to bring icons back, and a separate icon to bring the color-coding back. A whole bunch of “helpful” people said the lack of icon shouldn’t matter because you have the site icon on the tab, but that’s kind of meaningless if you hide tabs when you’re not using more than one of them, isn’t it?
In Firefox 17, I suddenly had to contend with the results in the Awesomebar being ridiculously spaced. It looked horrible, and they did it for no reason. I was expecting a problem because I read a page saying they’d made changes to this part of the program, which is why I put off the upgrade in the first place. This change required me to fire up the DOM Inspector, create a temporary stylesheet in Stylish (this is a great extension, although I have to use a variant of it since the original stopped working right a few versions back), and play around with styles till something worked. This is nothing I hadn’t anticipated having to do, but it’s the kind of crap I hate being right about.
So far I haven’t run into any other issues—yet. But I am waiting for the other shoe to drop.
One comment I get a lot whenever I complain about Firefox’s upgrade woes is that I should switch to Chrome. That will not happen. Chrome is difficult to impossible to customize. Some kinds of extensions flat-out won’t work, like something that can download a YouTube video. If there’s a way to turn http:// back on in the URL bar or fix similar annoyances, it’s news to me. The minimalist interface bugs me on a visceral level. In spite of standards junkies yapping about how Chrome is oh-so-compliant with CSS standards, last I checked it still had a horrendous bug leftover from Safari where vertical-align is inherited from a parent element, which has caused me no end of professional grief. Google’s auto-updater is also the work of the devil, making itself nearly impossible to disable.
No, Firefox will remain my browser of choice for the foreseeable future. It has made great strides, particularly with the excellent work of the MemShrink project. Just because the UI team screws up everything they touch doesn’t mean the rest of the project is doomed. But it does mean update day is an unwarranted hassle.