Excitement! Adventure! Really wild things! Firefox 3.5 is officially released today!
I’m quite excited about this new release – this is, quite frankly, a really big release for Firefox that includes a lot of really cool, neat things, including (but not limited to):
Support for the HTML5 <video> and <audio> tags (including native support for Ogg Theora encoded video and Vorbis encoded audio) – this means Firefox 3.5 can display video and audio natively in the browser, without the need for plugins like Flash or Quicktime. (Sweet!)
Private browsing mode
Location-aware browsing (handy for searching for things “nearby”)
Faster rendering of web pages (always nice)
Web worker threads (use that fancy dual-core CPU to make your browsing experience faster than ever!)
A whole bunch of new support for web technologies like downloadable fonts, CSS media queries, and a whole bunch more
UPDATE: I’ve already gotten a very thoughtful reply to this post – check it out in the comments below.
Lately I’ve been having some trouble with Firefox 3 – basically, when you click a link in some 3rd party program (that is, not in Firefox itself) and it tries to launch Firefox (because it’s not currently open), it hangs. Apparently, it’s hanging while trying to show the profile manager.
I use the Firefox Profile Manager to keep multiple profiles – I have one for when I’m working, one for me (personally), and one for Amanda – it’s nice because it keeps saved passwords, bookmarks, and so forth all separate, without all the hassle of full-blown Windows user profile switching. This way, I can exit the browser, get up, and Amanda can sit down and load her profile and her sites quickly.
I filed a bug on this, only to find out that it had already been reported (under a totally different description that no one in their right mind would have found without inside knowledge, but that’s neither here nor there) and fortunately it had been fixed and would be available in the next version of Firefox (3.1). The next version was not going to be released for a while yet, though, so I did some more digging on the issue.
After doing some digging and searching, I came across some disturbing comments:
Do not reopen this bug. Public opinion doesn’t really matter, it’s a design decision that has been made. (Comment 12)
Yikes. That’s really harsh – and not at all what I’d expect from an Open-Source project as high-profile as Firefox. In fact, it reeks of the same sort of developer arrogance that infected the Pidgin project not too long ago – and that ultimately caused a fork in the codebase over one very simple, minor UI change – but one that the user base and developers had very, very, very strongly held opinions on.
For windows XP and linux users, the typical users will presumably use XP login accounts to separate individuals.
Which, as I (and many other people) have pointed out, is a very narrow and incorrect view. Switching profiles in the browser takes a second. Switching user profiles in the OS can take much, much, much longer. And when all you want to do is separate browser profiles (not whole user profiles), why should you be forced to use the larger, more cumbersome method – especially when the more precise, quicker, easier one already exists?
Now, being incorrect is one thing – but a narrow view like this is bad, bad, bad. It’s this sort of thinking that results in UI disasters (having recently readThe Design of Everyday Things has made me very cognisent of this sort of thing). When developers try to second-guess their users, they often get it (badly) wrong.
I don’t want to see this happen to Firefox. It’s not just about the profile manager – that’s just how it got started. I don’t want to see this sort of mentality infect the project, turning developers against their users (and vice versa). I agree with Jeff Atwood on the idea of “Strong Opinions, Weakly Held.” I can totally understand the technical reasons why the developers of Firefox would want to abandon the profile manager entirely – but being technically difficult isn’t an excuse that goes over well with users, who don’t care how complex something is on the inside – they just see how it works. And in this case, they’ve seen it work, used it, and like it. So there’s no excuse for trying to get rid of it, just because it has some difficult problems. Figure it out! Do something crazy! Re-work the entire profile system from scratch! After all, that was done with bookmarks in Firefox 3 – why can’t it be done with profiles?
Unfortunately I’m just a lowly user – I have no power within the Mozilla Firefox project (surprising, I know, for a community-driven, open-source project). I can only voice my opinion.
Which is just what I’ve done. Now, I just hope that the Firefox developers are still capable of listening…
UPDATE: In case anyone thinks I’m bashing Firefox or the developers here – I’m not. I’m just being… questioning… as part of keeping people on their toes. Sort of like how you should occasionally question your leaders. And if that doesn’t satisfy you, let me offer you this:
I wasn’t sure I would like all the changes – some of them are a bit radical. But still, I love it.
Let me count the ways:
Love the new look of the toolbars. When I first saw them, I said: “sweeeeeeet!”
The new bookmark system (now a database not just a flat file) is soooo nice. I love new ways to organize my stuff!
The location bar (a.k.a. address bar, a.k.a. “awesome bar”) is very nice. I wasn’t sure if I would like it – it will take some getting used to – but I think it and I are going to be best friends!
That new “zoom” feature is unreal. That’s the way zoom should have always worked!
Starts up soooo much faster – not that I close Firefox very often during my day, but still…
That’s just a small sample of what I love about Firefox 3. Why don’t you download it yourself today and find out what you love about it? Trust me – it’s worth it!
Firefox 3 was released today – and of course I encourage everyone to go and grab it! It’s really worth it – the new version not only looks nicer, but has thousands of little improvements – and those little things really add up.