Linked by Kroc Camen on Mon 9th Nov 2009 14:20 UTC
Editorial Hands up if you use Firefox. Have used it? Know about it? Heard of it? 'Sites up and down the World Wide Web today will be celebrating five years of Firefox. When I sat down to write this I worried about having to list the history of its features and landmark events and the news of the past five years. Other sites will be comprehensively doing that, there is nothing I can add to that list that Google can't surmise. Instead I will be telling you what Google does not know, my story of Firefox and what Firefox has meant to all of us.
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FF Plus, FF Minus
by deathshadow on Tue 10th Nov 2009 06:41 UTC
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Firefox gets props from me for being the first legitimate threat to the IE monopoly on the browser since the original browser wars ended. Just five years ago the ONLY question that mattered to the majority of developers was "Does it work in IE6 and IE 5.2 Mac?"

The bit about falling out of love with it, well.. I've been doing standards compliant code with separation of presentation from markup longer, meaning I've encountered the unfixed bugs a lot sooner, and until version 3.5 Firefox was completely unstable for me regardless of hardware or OS I used it on. The ranting and raving of the rabid FLOSS fanboys did nothing more than alienate me from it - the whole "it's not a memory leak" bullshit meant nothing when with 4 gigs of RAM the system reported 256 megs in use, but 0 memory free on XP and 100% cpu activity with the only page being open being Google alienated a lot of potential users. (Who mostly landed on Opera or today Chrome)

In a number of ways the system by which Firefox and other mozilla projects are maintained is a weakness not a strength. The attitude of the people maintaining/updated bugzilla can be outright offensive at times - being volunteers they have no incentive to fake being nice... On a commercial venture no matter how useless the support person is for your problem, at least they are nice about it. Being useless AND acting like a total jackass - well... Errors being marked as "we could give a ****" or major holes being left unresolved for over a decade don't exactly inspire confidence. Someone I know has in his signature "IE8, only 11 years behind the standards" to which I responded "As opposed to Firefox, only ten years behind".

You mention the nine year old bug of it downloading all stylesheets whether they are needed or not - that's NOTHING compared to Bugzilla 915, a hole in the HTML4 and CSS2 implementation going back ELEVEN YEARS - a bug that effectively means you have to slap a class on every TD to apply styling to a column, or use sibling selectors which ends up so much code you might as well just use the classes.

It's what pisses me off about Mozilla and many open source projects - If it's not fun to work on, 100% mission critical, or trendy, nobody with the knowledge to fix it will pick it up and fix it. It's why their implementing HTML5 and CSS3 bullshit when they don't even have decade old HTML4/CSS2 working right really torques my nuts. It's also why I applaud Microsoft for NOT adding CSS3 and HTML5 bullshit to IE8 - get the decade old standard working BEFORE you start tacking on more crap!

Even so, even with the gaping flaws it finally got developers to start thinking to something other than IE and talking about things like valid markup and standards compliance, and for that we all should give a vote of thanks. Unfortunately it started this bullshit mantra "Design for FF, hack for IE" you'll often hear which is just as flawed as "Write for IE, **** the rest" we had five years ago. Right now I say you should test each section in each browser AS YOU WRITE IT - I can't count how many times you see people with fully coded layouts going "Why is my page broken in IE" after having written an entire page... When they should have noticed that problem some 20k of code SOONER.

Too bad even with Firefox on the landscape few if any developers take the time to learn what semantic markup is, how to use it, or to embrace web development techniques like separation of presentation from content. The people who six years ago were churning out IE only endless nested tables now just churn out endless nested div's with more classes than brains, or shoot themselves in the foot with methodologies and not ready for primetime technologies like HTML5/CSS3. Which are fun to play with to see what we might be able to use SOMEDAY, but have no business on a production website

Most developers are still sleazing along decade old coding techniques and wondering why it's biting them in the ass on investment in development, maintennance, and hosting. Even sites that can afford good developers like google still sleaze out half-assed code that has little if any graceful degradation for when their gee aint it neat AJAX bullshit doesn't work, and burns 20 to 1 ratio of code to content... or that so many sites still deploy in tranny and use HTML tags and attributes that have NO ***** PLACE on a modern website.

For example, log onto google and look at your igoogle page. 107k of markup to deliver 1.7k of content... That's pure ineptitude! Much of that is inlined CSS (meaning they aren't making use of caching models AND are making their CGI parse **** it shouldn't have to) Then they use some AJAX bull to 'save bandwidth' which actually wouldn't even break even until the same user does some 500 page loads within the cache expire limit.

The newest Hotmail is a stellar example of this asshattery, where their 100% ajax interface now brings your firstload up to about a megabyte, breaks conventional navigation, and is still knee-deep in presentational markup... and frankly, I'm willing to bet the old static HTML interface they were running back in 1998 would be faster and use less bandwidth - it certainly was more useful than the crap they have now.

It's kind of sad - so many developers sleazing shit out any old way because it's "Faster" or "Easier" when all they are actually doing is making more work for themselves, making the guy writing checks have to pay more for less in terms of hosting, and screwing whatever poor bastard has to maintain their rubbish bloated code next. "Oh just throw more bandwidth and hardware at it" IS NOT A GOOD ANSWER!

When you could fix all that and make life easier by just learning Semantics, HTML and CSS - and taking out a few days to learn to do things RIGHT. LEARNING - AAAAHHH!!!

Developers being forced into to supporting Firefox was a good start, now if we could just get them to stop thinking "IE and Firefox" and start thinking "Valid sementic minimalist HTML with separation of presentation (CSS) from content (HTML) and graceful degradation for 'Gee ain't it neat' technologies" so ALL browsers are supported with ease - things would go a hell of a smoother all-around.

But again, that would require effort, thought and learning... god forbid

Edited 2009-11-10 06:41 UTC

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