Firefox 29 Debuts, With Mozilla In Turmoil - InformationWeek

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Firefox 29 Debuts, With Mozilla In Turmoil

Mozilla has delivered a solid, customizable Firefox update, but the company must now restore its relevance.

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On the heels of the controversial ouster of CEO Brendan Eich, Mozilla on Tuesday released Firefox 29, a major revision of its besieged browser. In July 2010, Firefox had a global market share of about 34%, according to StatCounter, an Internet metrics firm. That was more or less its high-water mark in a campaign that began years earlier, when Microsoft Internet Explorer had more than 90% global market share.

Today, with mobile devices generating more Internet traffic than desktop devices in the US and Mozilla's refusal to challenge Apple platform rules that keep Firefox off iOS devices, Firefox's global market share is about 18%. That figure is half of Google Chrome (37%), more or less the same as Microsoft Internet Explorer (18%), and slightly more than Apple's Safari (17%).

Firefox 29 arrives at a time of turmoil for Mozilla. Beyond cutthroat competition from its largest source of funds, Google, not to mention all the other mobile platform players, Mozilla must contend with a leadership vacuum. Last week it appointed Andreas Gal to be the company's new CTO. Eich occupied that position previously, before his tumultuous 11-day reign as CEO ended following the outcry over his 2008 campaign donation to oppose gay marriage.

Mozilla is being run by interim CEO Chris Beard, elevated to the job following Eich's departure. He will have his hands full making Firefox OS, the company's recently launched Web-based mobile operating system, capable and desirable enough to hold its own against the competition.

Mozilla, as a corporation run for the benefit of the public rather than purely for profit, does have one advantage: It serves one master, its users. Its competitors balance the desires of users against other considerations, such as pleasing advertisers and content providers or hobbling the Web to protect business interests. As a consequence, it can offer customization and privacy options that have made more commercially-minded competitors balk. For example, Firefox was the first browser to introduce Do Not Track, a privacy scheme that Google initially resisted because it made advertising less efficient.

Firefox 29 focuses on customization and interface improvements. Previous versions were customizable too, but users seldom availed themselves of the possibilities. Firefox 29 adds a new Firefox Menu that centralizes popular tools for browser control. It also makes customization controls more prominent, to encourage usage.

Firefox Sync has been improved, allowing those who set up Firefox Accounts to sync bookmarks, saved passwords, forms data, open tabs, and browsing histories more easily across multiple devices. Firefox Share simplifies the process of connecting to social networking services. There's also a new Add-ons Manager. Bookmark creation and management has also been improved.

Version 29 of Firefox delivers potent development technology, including WebRTC, CSS Flexbox integration, more Web APIs, asm.js, and Emscripten, to enhance performance for gaming and other computationally demanding applications.

Mozilla has opted to maintain separate input boxes for URLs and search terms, unlike Google Chrome with its unified omnibox. Forcing users to choose which box to type into may a bit of a cognitive burden, but it's a design decision that promotes privacy: Chrome users tell Google every keystroke they enter into their omnibox, unless they're not using auto-completion. Firefox users pass search queries to Google (or another search engine), but not URLs (though Google may still find out if the destination website relies on Google Analytics).

Some issues remain: Firefox 29 still seems to use too much memory, though this is a problem for other browsers too. It still doesn't run tabs as separate processes, which would make it more resistant to crashes.

As a browser, Firefox 29 is very good. It's elegant, fast, flexible, and open. Whether that's enough to woo users who defected to Chrome over the past six years is another matter. Chances are it isn't enough, because the battle has moved beyond browsers. To remain relevant, Mozilla has to make the Web a more profitable ecosystem for developers than native desktop and mobile platforms. In addition to renovating its browser, Mozilla needs focus on Firefox OS, Firefox Marketplace, online identity, online payments, and development tools.

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Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

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User Rank: Strategist
7/6/2014 | 11:25:19 PM
I'm done with firefox
I've just been FED UP with FF because of all of the memory leaks, etc. I've been running v16 forever because whenever I've tried to upgrade to newer versions, they'd all pretty much just crash after 30 minutes of heavy use, and not a single version of FF that I've ever used has ever fixed the memory leak problems. Not a single one.

I actually installed a tiny batch file on quicklaunch so I could quickly kill FF at the point it's consumed all of my RAM so I could then start over with "Restore Session" to automatically reload all of my previous tabs. After trying every "solution" to the leak problem, that's the only one that ever did me any good. Apparently the arrogant tards at mozilla would rather tweak the UI to death rather than make a browser that actually works. They're worse than even Microsoft because Microsoft has to listen to their customers sooner or later or go broke, whereas nonprofits can just drift along forever.

At any rate, I just finished installing PM, including importing everything from FF with their little importer program, and everything went flawlessly, including all settings and the plethora of add-ons I use. The only difficulty was getting roboform attached, which I can't live without. I did finally dumb around and got the roboform taskbar program to attach roboform to PM, which then worked flawlessly. It is, however, necessary for the roboform taskbar program to run all the time for roboform to continue to work on PM, but this is a very small price to pay to ditch FF forever.

I've used PM for a week now, opening/closing/keeping hundreds of tabs a day, and I've been stunned at how much faster PM is than FF, as well as the VERY small memory footprint occupied by PM vs FF. Even after a week's HEAVY usage, PM has not grown beyond 1 GB, and even better, when I close tabs, ALL of the RAM is given back.

Basically, PM is what FF ought to be. Even better, the genius behind Pale Moon, Mark Straver, has committed to keeping the PM UI fundamentally unmolested. I'll be installing PM instead of FF on all of my client's computers in the future as well!

(BTW, ALL of the "recommended fixes" for the firefox memory leak problems are a sick joke. Not one of them works. And plugins DO NOT cause the memory leaks! Firefox does! How do I know? Because I switched to Pale Moon, importing everything EXACTLY like it was in Firefox and guess what? No memory leaks in Pale Moon! Oh, and I use Adblock Plus, Flash, Java, DoNotTrackMe, BetterPrivacy CookieCuller, DownloadHelper, Element Hiding Helper, IE View, ViewAbout, Visited, and roboform. So NONE of those is causing the firefox memory leak problems!)
User Rank: Ninja
5/1/2014 | 7:24:27 PM
Waiting for version 30
OK, FF29 is here and it leaks as much memory as all the other versions before even with just a few tabs open to ultimately crash. At least Firefox has decent crash recovery. Rather than plug the memory leaks and add stability we yet again get a hiddeous UI that makes incredibly bad use of the available space. Not sure why the status bar gt killed and everything is crammed into the tool bar.

And then the Mozillas wonder why they lose market share. OK, I explain it to you again! STOP MUCKING WITH THE UI AND FINALLY FIX THE MEMORY LEAKS!!!!! Geez, sorry, but the FF UI as it was before was the least problem anyone had with FF. Does the FF development team only consist of mainly UI designers and a few mediocre coders?

I would go with Chrome, but I do like some UI with my browser (yes, more than one button that has everything hidden behind it) and I do not want to share everything with Google. Although, the mobile device emulator in Chrome is pretty neat (Press F12 and then Esc, select Emulation tab).
User Rank: Ninja
4/30/2014 | 1:16:49 PM
Yeah, I said it. 

I used to use Firefox because it was faster and, in part, because it wasn't Internet Explorer. I liked the Add-ons available, which added a lot of geek functionality to support my work. Now though, it just seems slow and painful, so I moved to Chrome and haven't looked back. My "new machine" installation list begins with antivirus and is followed immediately by Chrome. Firefox isn't doesn't make that list at any point.

Before Firefox was the new cool, people used to use Opera because it was fast and light, and in comparison to the other browsers it was pretty amazing. And then Opera got bloated and slow, and we moved to Firefox. Based on that history, I fully expect Chrome to get bloaty and useless, and I'll have to reconsider what to use. For some reason, Safari never quite gets a look in on my Windows computers (though it and Chrome run on my Macs).
User Rank: Ninja
4/30/2014 | 11:32:38 AM
Mozilla Turmoil as Firefox 29 Debuts
After witnessing the self-appointed "thought police" ouster their former CEO for having a traditional opinon of his own, I switched to Google Chrome, and won't be looking back. In fact, Chrome loads pages faster, and is nice, clean, and lean.
Drew Conry-Murray
Drew Conry-Murray,
User Rank: Ninja
4/30/2014 | 10:58:37 AM
Hoping 29 Is Stable
I've been frustrated with Firefox lately because it would crash once or twice a day, forcing me to log in to all the Web apps I use for work. I downloaded 29 last night in hopes of a better experience. I was worried that all the customization options would make it harder to get up and going--I'm not big on customizing.

So far I've been pleased: no dramatic changes that have put features in a new place, and no crashes (but it's still early).

I really want Mozilla to succeed because I don't want Google to own the world. We need alternatives.
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