Hey, Firefox: Thanks for forcing me to switch to Chrome!

Well, thanks to the Firefox 6 update I was just asked (nagged) to install, none of my plug-ins work. So much for not breaking users.

At the same time, the Firefox team completely failed to give me any compelling reason to stick with Firefox 6 until plug-in developers get around to fixing their code to work with the new browser. The tagline for the release is, “a new look, super speed, even more awesomeness.” Pheh! Seriously?? “awesomeness”? Who are they trying to market to, skate-punks?

So – I made a decision, nearly immediately, to switch to Chrome, where all my plug-ins work, where I can roam my plug-ins and settings between installations, and where the browser is seemingly as fast as any other at the moment.

I might switch back someday, but getting burned like this leaves a super-bad taste in my mouth, especially since I came of age in the software industry working for Dave Winer. At UserLand, Rule 1 was “No breakage”. Sadly, “no breakage” seems to be a lost religion these days. But at least some users will have this reaction whenever something that used to work, stops after an “upgrade”. It’s as if I took my car in to get a tune-up, and now my aftermarket in-dash GPS doesn’t work anymore.

It’s not rocket-science, guys. The software industry, especially the Web, needs to understand that users justifiably and rightly expect things that work right now to keep on working. And if you must break your users, you’d better give them a good damn reason.

Mozilla could easily have fixed this. They just did their 5.0 release, so it’s not as if users are chomping at the bit for the next big release. If they’d taken some time to do some testing on the most popular plug-ins, and then work with plug-in developers to fix breakage and get compatible before releasing 6.0, I would likely still be a Firefox user. It’s probably even the case that most plug-ins which are “incompatible” are just not verified to work on the latest version, so it’s probably not even a code issue for most developers.

But since they didn’t do this work ahead of time, the work that they did, and whatever value it added to the product is now lost on me, and likely many others. This is not the way to keep, much less gain market-share. This is the way to cede a market to a cadre of powerful competitors by being shortsighted and careless — even perhaps reckless.


  1. Rob Sayre said:

    So, fair enough, but don’t you think it would be more constructive to list which plugins (or extensions) broke? What happened?

    August 18, 2011
  2. Jake Savin said:

    It’s a fair point, but doesn’t change my core argument. As I pointed out in Dave’s comment thread, when it comes to plug-ins, the browser version is part of the API, and a version change is a breaking change.

    I don’t have the list in front of me, and frankly I was frustrated enough at the time not to make a list. I’ll check tonight and will add the list to my post.

    Thanks for the comment.

    August 18, 2011
  3. Rob Sayre said:

    I didn’t read Dave’s comment thread. I clicked on a tweet. Anyway, add-ons hosted on mozilla’s site now have their compatibility bumped automatically in most cases.

    So, are you using add-ons hosted elsewhere? If so, did you install them intentionally? It’s helpful to find the facts, even if it’s too late in your mind.

    August 18, 2011
  4. Jake Savin said:

    Interesting– I didn’t know that add-ons compatibility was updated automatically. (Cool feature.)

    I’ll definitely get the list together, and will let you know…

    August 18, 2011
  5. Jake Savin said:

    So here’s the list:

    Growl/GNTP 1.2.4
    Fission 1.0.9
    Readability 1.6
    Skype extension
    Java Console – multiple versions: 6.0.17, 6.0.21, 6.0.22, 6.0.24, and 6.0.26. (no idea why so many)
    some other add-on that’s at the bottom of the list, but which I can’t see because I cat’t scroll all the way to the bottom. :-

    Of these, Skype and Readability surprise me the most, but Java seems strange as well.

    If it makes any difference, this is on Windows Server 2008 R2 (not SP1) 64-bit.

    August 18, 2011
  6. Rob Sayre said:

    Hmm, this is a little strange. What version were you upgrading from? A couple of those don’t even work with Firefox 4. So, it’s not like the more rapid release cycle changed the story there.

    Now, I completely understand that this isn’t your fault, and Firefox needs to clean up its add-on ecosystem so this stuff doesn’t happen. The Java things are a good example of third-party add-ons creating compatibility problems when the user probably didn’t even want them in the first place. Working on it:

    August 18, 2011
  7. Jake Savin said:

    Pretty sure I was upgrading from 5, but I don’t suppose there’s a way to find out now.

    I’m glad to hear that this is being looked at. Sounds like there’s a need for more testing on upgrades and their effect on add-ons. Upgrades and installation are hard — I know from personal experience going way back to the late 90’s when I used to build installers at Sonic Solutions. Test coverage is tough, and since it’s impossible to test installation until you’re feature-complete, it often is the feature that gets tested the least, in spite of being the one feature every user absolutely must have. ;->

    August 18, 2011
  8. Jeanny House said:

    I switched to Chrome awhile ago because Delicious stopped working with Firefox. I like it, for the most part. I do have trouble with extensions shutting down in Chrome. Then, if I go into extensions and disable everything (one at a time, ugh!) and re-enable them (again, one at a time, ugh!) they seem to work again. I have to do this every couple of days.

    It is faster and cleaner-looking than Firefox, and I really do prefer it now.

    August 20, 2011
  9. Google is unstable. Faster on mainstream sites but when using, say, Photobucket, it continually crashes. Firefox leaves a lot to be desired though. I think they’re trying too hard.

    September 7, 2011

Post a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.