Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Mozilla is the new Microsoft

So who here loves Mozilla and their browsers such as Firefox?

I do too, but am I the only one finding Mozilla turning more into Microsoft every day?

To start off, lets point fingers at the memory issue. Notice how Windows' memory requirements have gone through the roof? Yet comparable desktop environments and windowing systems from other sources seem to be just as advanced as Microsoft's latest offering and don't use a fraction of the RAM. I'm told KDE 4 runs comfortably with only 512MB of RAM, and you can even get away with 256MB, while a friend of mine running Vista started with 1.5GB but said he had to add another 512MB so the system didn't get all slugish on him. Does Vista offer anything special that KDE 4 doesn't?

Compare that to Firefox these days. I open up Firefox with two tabs, one in a pretty ordinary text page with a single image on it, and another with some tables and a form, and it uses over 400MB of RAM. When mentioning it to Mozilla, they of course tell you it's a feature not a bug (sound familiar?). What feature exactly needs all that RAM? I'm told some nonsense about how it caches previous pages one went to, so they load quickly when you press back. Considering I just opened the browser, which pages is it caching exactly?

To further compound my bafflement of the issue, I even disabled that feature in about:config, and yet Firefox still eats a ton of RAM when I open it. I used to run Netscape Navigator on a machine with 16MB of RAM, and two whole browser windows opened, and it didn't eat a fraction of the RAM Firefox does now (and this was before Windows had virtual memory). Heck, even other web browsers such as Konqueror and Opera don't use that much.

Well, now you'll tell me, but at least Firefox started the whole standards revolution right? At least it's better than Internet Explorer, right?

While it's true that it's better than IE, I wouldn't even consider IE a browser, as it can't even get basic standards right. If you had a program which edited text files, and you have it open a file, and it comes up with paragraphs out of order, and some not even appearing, would you call it a text editor? Yet I'm starting to see Gecko (the engine powering Firefox and Seamonkey) go the same route. Try setting a background for a radio button with CSS in Firefox, it completely ignores it. Yet even IE, the non-webbrowser, can do CSS backgrounds for radio buttons (albeit it only changes the background color outside the radio button itself within its rendering square).

This gets worse when trying to couple some JavaScript with your pages in Firefox. The onchange event for select boxes only fires in Firefox when changing them with the keyboard when one presses enter. All other browsers fire the event as soon as you can see a change within the box, such as when one presses up or down. Now perhaps you'll tell me that's undefined behavior so Firefox can implement it differently than everyone else (sound like Microsoft any?), but now apply this to how it handles dynamic text. Say you want to take our example above and convert your onchange in a select box to an onkeydown, so it should fire for every up/down request in the box without the user needing to press enter. Firefox again fails completely here, since it won't update text on a page modified by JavaScript till the screen is clicked, or a button is pressed. Meaning if you have your onkeydown event for a select box call a function which changes some text on the page, to say perhaps the contents of that select box. You won't actually see those changes till you press a button, perhaps up or down again, showing you the previous value on your page from the select box, instead of the current one. Sounds like a real stellar browser, doesn't it?

Then there's the issue about how Mozilla is trying to make their browser the only platform out there. Why do most people today still use Windows, even when there's a better OS for the average person? It all boils down to the applications. Anyone who is proposed to switch asks, can I play my favorite games on this other OS? Does my digital camera's photo sorting software work on it? What about all the other applications that I use on a regular basis? As Microsoft's chief primate keeps yelling, it's all about the developers. People will be stuck using whatever runs their favorite apps.

Now of course we know that the internet in many ways is becoming the new platform out there, hence why Microsoft tried to crush it or control it all these years. So as long as your browser is standards compliant, if people develop for it, we should be okay, no?

Unfortunately it's not like that. GMail doesn't work on Konqueror unless Konqueror changes its user agent to report as Gecko. Meaning many sites lock out browsers just because they didn't test with them, not because it doesn't work for any particular reason. A similar problem exists how IIS servers gibberish to browsers reporting themself as Opera. Yet Microsoft only wants to keep it that way.

Recently Microsoft reported that the upcoming IE 8 will only go into standard compliance mode when websites include an IE8 tag in their code. Now most people who discussed this feature have totally missed the main problem. It's not about having to add an extra tag. It's that the default mode for any whacko out there writing a webpage is to render in IE 6 or IE 7 super-bug-filled-non-standards-compliant-mode, so webpages will continue to not become standardized. Of course Microsoft realizes this, they'll do everything they can to make sure the large majority of stuff coming out by the clueless masses only works on their platform.

Now I'm not talking about Mozilla making the web buggy like Microsoft is trying to (but I bet they'd like that if they could get away with it), but it's that they're trying to get people dependent on their web browser. How so? It's all about the extensions!
Mozilla invented their own language and format and ranted and raved about how everyone should be writing extensions for their browser, and how their browser is the de-facto standard of the free world.

How many of you using Firefox feel they need all kinds of extras that people write for it? How often do you sit down at someone else's Firefox and feel naked about a lack of certain features you tailored your browser back home or at work to?

Now while I could go on and on about all kinds of extensions, everyone has their own tastes, so it'd be pointless to, but I'll point out a couple of examples.

Some of the extensions I use regularly for Firefox, such as auto translations of pages in languages I don't read/speak, or user agent spoofing are built right into Konqueror, many others aren't available anywhere else, or only for certain browsers written specifically for them. I'm talking about the GMail/Yahoo/And whatever else e-mail notifiers that can tell you when you received new e-mail, or ForcastFox which can tell me mostly accurate weather info for the week for just about anywhere in the world.

Now these extensions I just mentioned are perhaps not anything to get addicted to, but what about Ad blocking? Now of course other browsers also have a Mozilla compatible ad block framework installed, how many of them allow you to install something like the "Filterset.G Updater" so you can have your blacklists automatically updated by others to hide all the new types of ads on the internet that come out, such as the "Download Firefox Ad" that appears on the right of this page?

Not only that, we can hardly forget the wide plethora of developer related things one can get for Firefox, such as JavaScript Console, DOM Inspector, and all the extensions such as the Web Developer Toolbar and who knows what else.

Am I the only one who now feels locked into Firefox and can't switch because their special browser software doesn't run elsewhere? Even when we realize what a horrible wreck Firefox is, and terrible on machines with little RAM available?

Furthermore, you know how Microsoft always forces their desires upon you? Take this picture of Bill Gates for example:

Notice how his own personal desktop is the default Windows XP background? Surely a man as technical as Bill Gates can figure out how to change it to something he enjoys, just like everyone else has.
Or perhaps Bill Gates never changed it, since the default Windows XP background was Bill Gates' personal background at the time? Of course leave it to a guy like him to force his personal desires on everyone else.

Now lets see how Mozilla does the exact same thing. Ever wondered where Firefox's logo came from? Who would think that an image of a fox conquering the world is a good logo for a browser?

Check out a picture of Mozilla's former CEO, Mitchell Baker:

Now what do you think came first, the Firefox logo? Or her ridiculous hair cut?
Still don't get what I mean? See this:

If you think you can point out how Mozilla isn't the Microsoft of the internet platform, please let me know, I'd love to hear how you came to your false conclusions.


insane coder said...

People seem to be a bit skeptical about the hair thing.

So to explain better, she only has hair long on the right side of her head, but short on her left.

More images:
1 2 3

Based on that, it should seem obvious her hair and the logo are closely linked, for who knows what reason.

yashar HaKodesh said...

The hair thing is kinda cute, and I'll admit I laughed a bit, but I think it detracted from your main point: extensions (or addons as they are now renamed for some inexplicable reason) create a vendor lock-in. I am not quite sure what Mozilla could do to not create this kind of lock in. Is it practical to make extension that are not browser specific? Alternately is there any technical limitation that prevents other browsers from implementing Firefox extensions?

mudlord said...

insane_coder, I have to agree about the RAM requirements. Whatever happened to optimization these days? It seems with all this new hardware, just gives devs a excuse to not worry about optimization. Which I personally think is insane, as no one should rest on thier laurels when it comes to efficient coding.

Unknown said...

You should test Firefox 3 beta 3 which fixes more than 350 memory leaks and lots of other improvements.

insane coder said...

Yeah the beta for FF3 did fix a bunch of memory leaks, but that's hardly the issue, it's only a minor one.

The FF3 beta still doesn't handle all the CSS properly, they still have their own made up CSS and tags, and they're just doing too much to become the de facto browser with subpar compliance and vendor lock in.

Mackenzie said...

Firefox itself is written in Javascript and CSS. Their own CSS tags are specifically so that they can make the browser look how they want. They have -moz-border-radius so the tabs can have rounded corners. It's named that because it is not necessarily matching the border-radius CSS3 property, since the actual correct implementation of that style in CSS3 has not been finalized.

SecretCode said...

They're not extensions, that's her real hair. (... sorry)

Found a pic of her real hairstyle here. :)

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What do you think of the browser application and the default features that it provides? I have been hacking on Arora (http://code.google.com/p/arora/) and am curious on your thoughts on what a web browser should have/not have.

insane coder said...

Hi Ben.

I like Arora, although I think it does miss out on some useful features.

Perhaps I'll write a post on the ideal web browser, and review what I think are the biggest contenders at the moment (Arora included).

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