I want to love Firefox, but….

I made the jump from IE to Firefox as soon as I was told about it and I have never regretted it for a moment. The experience was faster, slicker, more accurate and altogether more enjoyable. This was when tabbed browsing had just been introduced and so that was welcome as well.

Over the years Firefox has grown up. As the market share continues to increase more and more developers are bringing out really cool and useful tools and plugins that make Firefox very powerful, especially for the web designer/developer. I would actually go so far as to say Firefox is now an essential part of my workflow as a designer.

Tools such as Firebug for HTML/CSS debugging, Colorzilla for grabbing a particular colour off screen, and SearchStatus for SEO information are just 3 examples of tools that I would really struggle to do without.

It is not all good news though. The more advanced Firefox has got the more problems it seems to have, especially on the Mac platform. It seems to have got progressively more sluggish and often consumes complete cores of CPU for no apparent reason (albeit more often than not it is Flash related). Stability is not what it used to be, and while all this is going on the competition are reigning it in and in certain areas overtaking it.

If you judge the browsers on a performance basis only then Google Chrome blows Firefox away, mainly in the javascript execution area but also arguably in stability. Firefox doesn’t even come second!

Unfortunately Firefox seems to have cornered the market in terms of plugins in the same way IE forced itself in the market based on being bundled with the most popular Operating System in the world. I say unfortunately because we are now in a situation where one of the best browsers available has a lot of people using it that have nowhere to go and no other alternative. This situation is never good for the end user.

The ideal situation is either one of the other smaller competitors will introduce a versatile plugin system to rival Firefox’s offering, or someone new will enter the fray with another, probably webkit based, browser which will force Firefox to pull its finger out and tidy up its core product.

7 replies
  1. Rarst
    Rarst says:

    Does everything absolutely has to be a plugin?.. That’s what I don’t get about Firefox. There are some things that make sense like Firebug.

    But for each of that there are tons of plugins like screenshot grabbers, database managers and FTP clients that have nothing to do with browsing at all.

    Opera has powerful set of features and good tweaking and extension (more tricky than Firefox but still) potential. But when I need something not completely related I look for fitting tool, not a way to screw one more function to Opera. 🙂

  2. Jim
    Jim says:

    I agree, things like FTP clients do not belong in a browser. I might say that a screen (or rather full vertically scrolled webpage) capture facility might do though. DB managers, absolutely not. The colorzilla tool is very lightweight and could arguably be part of Bugzilla, so that’s v.useful.

    I know what you are saying, and there are a LOT of tools that should not be in there, but at the same time there are quite a few that are very useful to have within the browser interface.

    If only there was such a thing as cross-browser plugins

  3. Jim
    Jim says:

    @Rarst: Btw, I have just downloaded PC Opera and that issue with the ads on the side doesn’t seem to be happening to me. Can you confirm it looks ok on your installation now too? Cheers

  4. Rarst
    Rarst says:


    Ops, my bad… I’ve re-checked and it seems one of my content-blocking rules was at fault. 🙂 I have different sets at home and work so it was quite a coincidence that it got broken same way in both places.

  5. Paul
    Paul says:

    Have you tried disabling your extensions and seeing if FireFox feels faster? I’ve tried disabling ones that I don’t use on a regular basis so that I don’t have too many active ones at once (I just enable them when I need them).

    I do agree that Chrome feels a bit more zippy, but I’m so accustomed to my extensions that switching would just not leave me satisfied. If Chrome has useful extensions that still allow it to remain fast, I’d definitely give it more of a chance.

  6. Jim
    Jim says:

    @Paul: That’s a good idea, although I don’t really have many extensions that I could do without on my mac. I will give it a go and see if it helps though. I must say that a lot of the time it seems to be Flash to blame though, wish that damn product was never invented (ok, apart from flash games, some of those are cool 😉 )


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