Firefox dev claims rapid release schedule tarnished the browser's rep

By on July 10, 2012, 9:30 AM

There are multiple debates as to why Mozilla’s Firefox browser has seen its user base decline in recent memory. Those against the browser cite everything from memory leaks to frequent Flash player crashes but one developer that worked on the browser thinks he has the answer.

Jono DiCarlo says that the organization’s poor implementation of their rapid release schedule has ultimate led many users switch to Google Chrome as an alternative to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

The developer noted in a recent blog post that Firefox now looks like an inferior version of Google Chrome, partly because they pushed a never-ending stream of updates to users who didn’t want them.

He says that after years of trying to improve software usability, he’s come to the realization that the single best thing to do is to leave the UI unchanged long enough for users to become familiar with it and get good at using it. “There's no UI better than one you already know, and no UI worse than one you thought you knew but now have to relearn,” DiCarlo said.

DiCarlo says that when someone learns that he works for Mozilla, he typically gets an earful with regards to the browser’s constant updates with intrusive dialogue boxes and broken add-ons.

But for what it’s worth, he says that Mozilla has improved the update process but worries that it might be a case of too little, too late. After all, it could be extremely hard to regain users that have already switched to a different browser.

After this story went live, Mozilla sent us the following statement regarding DiCarlo's take on Firefox:

"Jono's analysis is interesting, but outdated. Regular Firefox updates are good news for users and for the Web but only when they don't interrupt what you're doing. Today's Firefox updates are applied in the background with no interruptions; they even keep your Firefox Add-ons compatible between releases. The result is that our users always have a fast, beautiful and secure browsing experience. Regular releases also let us get new features to our users faster than ever before, and we can listen to their feedback to improve things, just as we did with updates in 2011."

Editor's note (Julio): And I tend to agree. Firefox's update mechanism and schedule have been considerably improved. However it also remains true Firefox nearly pulled off "an Internet Explorer" around the time Chrome entered the browser market blazing. Google caught Mozilla offguard touting huge performance improvements while they kept delaying Firefox 4.0 over and over. The somewhat unorganized rapid release schedule came shortly after that, in response to Chrome's growing popularity.




User Comments: 52

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Modena said:

True it is too late, for me at least I'm on chrome now and loving it.

Guest said:

"There's no UI better than one you already know, and no UI worse than one you thought you knew but now have to relearn,"

Microsoft, pay attention.

DanUK DanUK said:

I've been using firefox for years now and generally it serves me fine but have noticed recently that it has more and more of a tendacy to crash as stated in the article. Getting tempted for a chrome switch as everyone seems to rave about it so much.

CryVer CryVer said:

The reason I switched to Chrome 2 years ago was the fact that Mozilla changed the shortcut Ctrl+E from search bar to something else. They changed it back not long ago though, and I'm now back as a Firefox user. What I most dislike about Chrome are the menus. If you go to Options you get some HTML5-styled options screen that inefficient to use compared to Firefox option screen.

Punkid said:

its not late...ive tried google chrome many times. given it many shots. sure its fast and all, but ultimately it just cant do things that firefox addons can...chrome extension just cant compete with firefox addons. plus firefox is ALOT more customizable...

the only thing I'd want firefox to do is improve Sync a little more, and make firefox smooth...its lags like hell on my core 2 duo with 2gb RAM.

peperonikiller peperonikiller said:

I was a very long time Firefox user, switched to Chrome about 6 months ago and have been loving it. I have a lot of new systems I toy with so installing Chrome, logging in and instantly having all my favorites, plugins, and apps back is awesome. Also the android syncing/tab syncing features are sweet.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

The only thing that tarnished its reputation with me was the CONSTANT CRASHES!

I really preferred FF to Chrome, but when your browser crashes every 10 minutes or so, you're going to stop using it and move to an alternate. And then you check every so often to see if fixed, and eventually you stop checking.

'If it ain't broke, don't fix' it is the lesson to be learned here...

treeski treeski said:

I don't think it's too late at all, simply because the browsers are all free and it's very easy to switch from one to the other. There's no reason to be loyal in the browser market... just use whatever is best for you at any given time.

Guest said:

I was a long time Mozilla user and advocate and first tried Chrome because of the purported performance. And it was much faster, so I kept using it. People like a faster web and Chrome beats the rest in providing it. Plain and simple. If Mozilla can beat Chrome on performance, they will win back users. Otherwise it will be a sad, long slide downhill.

Recycle said:

I've been running FF since I was old enough to use a computer, and it'd take a lot for me to change. But then again, I've never had as many problems as other people seem to have. It only crashes when I open 150+ tabs (I typically have around 30-40 and it's fine with that). Flash player crashes maybe once a month (but I have flashblock also).

I tried Chrome when it first came out and I missed my add-ons. Even now that there are add-ons, there's still little incentive for me to switch when FF works pretty flawlessly in my experience.

Guest said:

Absolutely the number one reason I stopped using FF was due to the continuous display of untrusted connection warnings and the related resolution process for even the most mainstream and well-known sites. The constant process of reading the tech details, understanding the risks, getting the certificate or adding an exception, confirming the exception, etc., was just way too annoying so I would just rage quit FF and jump to IE of Chrome. Just FYI, my computer time and date are accurate, so this is not a reason for the warning messages. And why is this even a reason to display these warnings and force the user into numerous clicks?

shossofe shossofe said:

I just stopped using firefox because of those constant update reminders. I hear there are automatic updates now but it took them way too long to implement that.

Hey, update now! But, my add-ons.....Hey, update now! ok.......Hey, update now! Wait what? But I just...

Guest said:

I have used FF for longer than I can even remember and have never experienced the crashing or flash problems others speak of. These problems are with your system not FF, I know I fix them all the time for other people. Malware and viruses are ALLWAYS the problem. Keep your system clean and up to date and your problems with FF will go away.

Guest said:

curious how no one considers or gives Opera a chance, but rather hovers between FF and Chrome.

and chrome also has a rapid release schedule...

worker17 said:

I switched to Chrome when Firefox started taking minutes to load each page, which Chrome loaded in seconds. Not sure why, but I got tired of waiting for basic functionality.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I have used FF for longer than I can even remember and have never experienced the crashing or flash problems others speak of. These problems are with your system not FF, I know I fix them all the time for other people. Malware and viruses are ALLWAYS the problem. Keep your system clean and up to date and your problems with FF will go away.

Yep...our system. Run along fanboy.

Guest said:

Just disable flash player and you are safe

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I don't like their rapid releases enacted in pursuit of chrome, but perhaps luckily, I never had any issues/crashes at all except for FF4B4/5 (being beta I guess one can't complain about that any way). I think they would have been better off following MS, which releases a browser and leaves it alone for roughly a year or so, before coming up with next major upgrade. Stability+Continuity is very important, but that is just my personal opinion.

veLa veLa said:

I gave Chrome a chance for a week but I always end up going back to Firefox out of loyalty. I'd rather use a good open source browser than some giant company's browser.

Jay Pfoutz Jay Pfoutz, Malware Helper, said:

Yeah, it's tough consideration. Firefox is awesome, but having to update and deal with add-ons makes the situation all too difficult!

Puiu Puiu said:

I have used FF for longer than I can even remember and have never experienced the crashing or flash problems others speak of. These problems are with your system not FF, I know I fix them all the time for other people. Malware and viruses are ALLWAYS the problem. Keep your system clean and up to date and your problems with FF will go away.

Yep...our system. Run along fanboy.

But he is right and I know this because I had to keep about 150 computers clean and in good working condition where I used to work. Normal people don't have common sense like tech savvy guys have when they surf the net and everyday I had to remove viruses and installed software that ware full of malware.

Everytime I go somebody's house the first thing I notice is that their browser has 10 toolbars because when they install something they only click NEXT NEXT NEXT NEXT FINISH.

PS: as a web developer FF is the only browser that actually helps me when I work on a website. the rest I use only to check compatibility (I hate you microsoft!).

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

But he is right and I know this because I had to keep about 150 computers clean and in good working condition where I used to work. Normal people don't have common sense like tech savvy guys have when they surf the net and everyday I had to remove viruses and installed software that ware full of malware.

Everytime I go somebody's house the first thing I notice is that their browser has 10 toolbars because when they install something they only click NEXT NEXT NEXT NEXT FINISH.

PS: as a web developer FF is the only browser that actually helps me when I work on a website. the rest I use only to check compatibility (I hate you microsoft!).

Ah of course...works for me ergo everyone complaining is a n00b.

So if, hypothetically someone managed the herculean task of keeping the system virus, malware and toolbar free, and still experienced frequent crashes and slow loading sites while using FF, any other potential causes?

tengeta tengeta said:

I guess I'm one of the few that went to Opera instead of Chrome. I still use Firefox a lot but I agree the updates have become far too common, literally the only thing that updates more often is Flash.

Guest said:

any other potential causes?

Java, GreaseMonkey scripts (read about a case not too long ago, maybe at mozillazine, a script of few lines ate up near 100 Mb), damaged or corrupted profile, driver (AFAIK, Firefox and the nVidia drivers aren't on friendly terms), cache overload (might slow browsing), and so on.

And of course FF is not perfect, so one of your more visited sites possibly has a code part what triggers the bug and results in crash.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Java, GreaseMonkey scripts (read about a case not too long ago, maybe at mozillazine, a script of few lines ate up near 100 Mb), damaged or corrupted profile, driver (AFAIK, Firefox and the nVidia drivers aren't on friendly terms), cache overload (might slow browsing), and so on.

And of course FF is not perfect, so one of your more visited sites possibly has a code part what triggers the bug and results in crash.

I was being facetious, but thanks. =)

Point being that FF was crashing and I moved to another browser. And unfortunately when you have this crazy rapid release schedule, the plugin and driver developers cannot keep up, so you have to wait to use stuff, or disable it, or not go to certain sites. Eventually it just got annoying.

Guest said:

I think it's more the reason that Google advertises Chrome on Google and they bundle it with everything. Everywhere you go you see Chrome. I'm persuaded as easily as most people, Firefox is still the best browser.

Guest said:

...it should recognize my ip or check for a cookie and let me edit my own post.

I think it's more the reason that Google advertises Chrome on Google and they bundle it with everything. Everywhere you go you see Chrome. I'm _not_ persuaded as easily as most people, Firefox is still the best browser.

Guest said:

IE's UI doesn't change much at all and when it does it's during major releases which only come out years apart. I love IE's UI (I'm using IE9).

Guest said:

Someone mentioned that they prefer FF because it's so customizeable. Guess they haven't tried Opera! No browser is more (and as easily) customizeable as Opera. Opera has been first with just about every new feature found on today's browsers. It's also the most capable. A recent survey of hi-tech geeks shows that most of them prefer Opera. I use about seven different browsers (I design web pages) and have always preferred Opera.

Guest said:

When I got sick of the rapid release schedule, I switched to Pale Moon. They have x86 and x64 versions. I find it to be much smoother than even Waterfox on my 64-bit machine.

Unfortunately, it's only for the Windows folks though.

Another bonus is for AMD users... Unlike Waterfox and Firefox(IIRC), it's not compiled with Intel-geared compiler optimizations that use the slow path on non-Intel CPU's.

Jibberish18 said:

I used Firefox for years on my Mac. For years its performance was noticeably slower than Safari and even other browsers at the time (no Chrome then) and then they started updating it and it got better and better but my laptop also got slower and slower in comparison to the times. Now I'm using Chrome because I figure I can get as much as help as I can use having dated hardware. But to be honest, the smoothest one is probably Opera. Not by benchmarks but by usage. Doesn't take tons of RAM. Doesn't use 6 different task processes. Updates one ever few months. Keep in mind the updates don't bother me at all. I only have one main add one that I can't have broken and that's Flash Block and it's never not worked for me for any reason.

treetops treetops said:

The only reason I stick with FF is because of the multiple tabs closure alert, when I am doing school work it has saved me from closing down while taking tests tons of time and chrome is bugged on yahoo news I can't comment.

FF is slower, buggy, freezes sometimes and thinks 2 are running at once if I close and repopen real quick. Its adblockers are a joke compared to google chrome that has some for specific sites like tbh and yahoo.

Guest said:

Firefox had some minor stability issue for a while - ages ago now and mainly around flash content - but it seems fine again now so I'm back on it. As a web dev the Firebug add-on is fantastic - yes I know Chrome and IE also have dev tools but for me they just doesn't seem to have the features and elegance of Firebug.

Having said that, I use the big-3 PC browsers (FF/Chrome/IE9/10) loads and don't really have any major issue with any of them. JS execution has been optimised down so much now that page-loads are blindingly fast on all of them and rendering of most normal websites is 95% network fetch and 5% page render. They also seem to have converged so much on useability that at times I have to stare at the toolbar for a while to remember which one I'm using, So I don't really understand why people feel the need to evangelize about one and pour scorn on anybody who dares to prefer another.

R3DP3NGUIN R3DP3NGUIN said:

I use Srware Iron over Google chrome, still same browser just with less privacy and tracking crap that's in Googles. But I still use Firefox too.

gplayersv said:

I always loved Firefox, but coincidence or not, since the rapid releases it started loading pages really slow. Chrome was just several clicks and 2 minutes away. I resisted as much as I could, since I was loyal to my one browser, but I'm not stupid. Eventually I gave in and tried Chrome. It's simple and it does the job. Everything that firefox was one day. Too bad.

Ofc now I love Chrome, so Chrome would have to mess things up for me to switch. I don't think they will... but then again, I didn't think firefox will either.

Guest said:

I never liked Firefox, but coincidence or not, since the rapid releases it started loading pages really fast. Chrome was not several clicks and 2 minutes away. I resisted as little as I could, since I was disloyal to my seven browsers, but I'm stupid. Eventually I gave in and tried everything that firefox was one day. Too bad.

Ofc now I loathe Chrome, so Chrome would have to mess things down for me to switch. I think they will... but then again, I didn't think.

1 person liked this | gplayersv said:

I never liked Firefox, but coincidence or not, since the rapid releases it started loading pages really fast. Chrome was not several clicks and 2 minutes away. I resisted as little as I could, since I was disloyal to my seven browsers, but I'm stupid. Eventually I gave in and tried everything that firefox was one day. Too bad.

Ofc now I loathe Chrome, so Chrome would have to mess things down for me to switch. I think they will... but then again, I didn't think.

U mad?

Pretty funny to see the negation though )

Guest said:

The biggest problem with Firefox is the glitch that keeps spiking your GPU usage. Just check for yourself on any GPU monitoring program (eg GPU-Z), your gpu is idle in normal desktop use and all other software use, but run Firefox and every few seconds your GPU will spike up to full load and run @ full specs while just browsing with Firefox (no flash or any graphically demanding software playing). Then it'll suddenly drop back to normal and keep repeating. That can't possibly be good for your GPU!

Guest said:

I've been a devoted firefox user for many years now, and for me the thing the broke the camel's back was the often crashes and slow running of the program, which became unbearable !

I love firefox! it's bookmarks management is second to non but it's really a case of usability and responsiveness which in the end chrome triumphant...

DAOWAce DAOWAce said:

I've been saying this ever since they changed from releasing those .# updates, aka after Firefox 4.

There was NOTHING wrong with releasing Firefox 4.1, 4.2, or even 4.2.3. We were all used to it. Firefox 3.6 hit 3.6.28 before Mozilla stopped supporting it.

That, coupled with the overbearing UI changes essentially made me stay at version 3.6 until I couldn't take the lack of new internet standards, like HTML5, which happened to be about a week before Mozilla would force update everyone using 3.6 to version 12 (if they had auto updates enabled).

I went through days of research and troubleshooting trying to get Firefox 4+'s UI the same as 3.6, and after tweaking options, installing a menu editing addon and finding Stylish scripts, I managed it.(although the addons page is still the new dumbed down one, the general UI while I'm normally using the browser is enough like 3.6 to be comfortable using 12. Yes, including the stupid tab groups link on the 'list all tabs' button AND the delayed tab sliding when closing one, which was ripped right from Chrome by a suggestion Mozilla listened to. Those two things alone caused me immense trouble trying to navigate my tabs.)

Couple these issues with the widely known flash issues we're having, and Firefox really took a step down in a hard way. (I started having pink screen lockups after upgrading to Firefox 12. On 3.6 my display driver would crash, never lock up my system. Eventually fixed in the 11.3 flash update, which then introduced the freezing issue.. which appears to be fixed now, but with the latest update I'm now experiencing desync when watching flash videos!)

I've tried Chrome and I hate it because of how uncustomizable it is, but I keep it installed in the off chance Firefox doesn't work properly somewhere (or I want a whole new session for something on a relatively speedy browser, despite it opening tons of processess and using a lot of memory, the latter Firefox is notorious for).

So yes, Mozilla shot themselves in the foot by changing their focus like EVERY company seems to have been doing as of late..

Guest said:

I like firefox and I am still using it. But I am more disappointed with the recent releases because they freeze often especially if u are watching video online. Also they removed the feature I liked most like "Save tabs and close". The next time you start the browser, all the tabs open by themselves.

I am not interested in faster releases, rather in stable release that is free of bugs that I can use for 3-4 years without worrying about downloading new version.

julianignacio said:

I had been using FF for a long time but have switched to Chrome...got tired of the "This is embarrasing..." screens after multiple and frequent crashes. Checked everything in my system in order to keep using it but it wouldn't improve. Never looked back after using Chrome for about 6 months.

So long, old friend!!

Guest said:

I gave up on FF for Chrome precisely b/c of the constant updates, which wreaked havoc on the plug-ins I use most. Also, it became more and more unstable. It seems like they are implementing change for change's sake. Chrome has been working fine for me, and I won't be heading back to FF anytime soon. They blew it.

Guest said:

I have been a long time user of Firefox but am extremely unhappy with the decision to do rapid update. I like my interface to be the same one that I know. I have only update Firefox when I wanted to, now with 13 I have lost that ability.

I am looking at other browser because of this decision.

Jillxz said:

Yes , I have started using Pale Moon also. it is faster than Firefox and not as buggy. Can use the add-ons and extensions that Firefox

Guest said:

Chrome released yesterday... the previous release was on the 9th, the one before that in the 26th of last month, the one before that on the 15th of May... seems quite frequent...? In fact it seems like a "rapid release schedule"...

[link]

Over the next few months, we are going to be rolling out a new release process to accelerate the pace at which Google Chrome stable releases become available. Running under ideal conditions, we will be looking to release a new stable version about once every six weeks, roughly twice as often as we do today.

Firefox release very six weeks, chrome release roughly every six weeks... why would you desert Firefox due to "too many updates" for a browser which also has "too many updates"...

NTAPRO NTAPRO said:

>_> Well people could always disable updates and their notifications if they don't like updating that much :P

alphaa10 said:

Having tried all major browsers, I settled on Firefox because of its more intuitive interface, and that same ease is why I plan to remain with Firefox for the foreseeable future. Chrome may be faster, but that counts for little when its awkward UI means I must lose time "discovering" where its controls have been placed.

Firefox is vastly superior to rivals for its Add-ons feature, under which almost any FF behavior can be customized radically. For example, when I tired of limiting my open tabs to the number which fit across the top of the screen, I was delighted to find the FF Add-on "Tree Style Tabs", which routinely lets me keep up to 100 or more "open" tabs in a narrow, vertical stack to the left of my browser screen. TST also left my browser screen with more headroom, as a result. For research involving many open tabs, TST has become so valuable, I would not think of running FF without it.

Firefox beta channel releases briefly became an annoyance when one of my Add-ons broke, and I had to find a version that worked. Failing that, I retrograded to the previous version of FF, and waited for the developer of the Add-on involved to catch up. To his credit, it was not long before I was back in operation with the latest beta version.

If a FF user wants to leave the beta channel, all that is required is to install the current FF release over the existing beta release. For those who like to tinker, the very accessible configuration page for FF (enter "about :config" in the location bar) allows control over most operational aspects of Firefox. about :config gives tremendous power over FF, but the user must understand fully what he is about to do by editing the configuration page. Suggest reading from the Mozilla FF forums, first-- followed by a backup. If things do go wrong, FF can be reinstalled over itself to restore the browser in its default settings.)

alphaa10 said:

1. This forum needs to allow the original poster to edit the post, afterward, instead of replying to that post.

2. There is an apparent problem with rendering colons. Instead of about[colon]config, the forum renders the colon with a black diamond background and a question mark.

NTAPRO NTAPRO said:

What do you mean? I'm able to edit my posts.

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