Firefox and the failed clone wars

I think I've mentioned before how I hate Firefox. If I had the choice between IE and Firefox, I'd obviously choose Firefox, but just because its better than IE doesn't make it good. I use Opera on a day to day basis and find that it does almost everything better than Firefox. Firefox has been trying really hard to catch up to opera, as is really obvious with version 3.0 release, and while they have implemented a lot of features, they aren't always well implemented. My only gripe about Opera is that sites aren't normally built for it, but often enough you can disguise Opera as Firefox and get away with more stuff, like the Google Labs features in GMail.

So what do I mean about not implementing the ideas properly?

Well again, Firefox 3 is slower than Opera 9.5, even though a lot of benchmarks seem to show loading time to be quicker, its not just about loading time. Response time on the interface matters a lot, and Opera is lightning fast.

Firefox is fat!! I use both browsers on the Asus EEE. My wife keeps Firefox for work ( and she likes it for some reason, even though it randomly crashes on GMail ). And I use Opera. She even uses opera for a lot of searching although won't normally admit that its nicer for searching than Firefox. Anyway, having only a 4GB harddisk, its really difficult to maintain free space ( especially using a big distro like openSUSE, with both KDE 3.5 and 4.1 installed ). So we install Firefox 3 ( go through the complicated process that is the upgrade, involving downloading a tar.gz file and extracting it to /usr/local, as per site instructions ). A week or two later, the 200mb free on the /home partition is gone. How? Why? I spend a few days searching and notice that Firefox has a massive ( 180mb ) folder with a really random name in .mozilla/firefox called u0o9g2w7.default ( said it was random ).  So I think, well that must be the cache, since no one is stupid enough to store anything important in a randomly named folder ( except maybe a virus or Windows ). Which is a valid thought too, cause any developer who thinks its a good idea to store important stuff in a folder called u0o9g2w7.default shouldn't work on a project with me or any of my previous software managers and colleagues. So I delete the folder, open FF again to find all of my wife's extentions and bookmarks are gone. By this time she's pretty pissed. Luckily it wasn't too long after we first installed it, so there wasn't much there. After a 3 days this time, /home partition is full. This time, I'm more careful... luckily for Linux and ls -lRS ( list all files recursively ordered by size ), I find the culprit. Its the url histroy sqlite db file. After 3 days, its already 50mb. WTF???? Seriously, how? My wife is a writer, and has to do a lot of research for the stuff she writes, so I expect her to browse a lot, but how can Firefox allow this to happen. Its claim for mobility and being able to run on anything is invalidated by stuff like this. Out of the box Firefox is great for looking at HTML+CSS sites for 1 day, but thereafter it degrades rapidly.

They seem to have a fast dial addon which sucks. Opera's speed dial is 10x better, and syncs with myOpera/Opera Link. Which brings me to another point. There is no decent equivalent to Opera Link. I understand why to some extent. If FF adds it, it detracts from the plugin creators, since they can't add a custom synchronize, but honestly all you need is a simple server sync of some thngs. And note that I say some things, not ONE thing. I like the fact that Opera Link takes care of Speed Dial and Bookmarks, and this was acctually one way we recovered some of my wife's lost bookmarks. Before we left South Africa she used Opera a lot, and her bookmarks were accessible from my.opera.com. In fact if someone made a Firefox plugin for bookmark sync with my.opera.com, she'd probably use it for her bookmarks.

Session management in FF3 is epic fail. Yes when you exit FF it asks to save the session, and yes this works. As long as you exit FF. This is inherently an issue. What if it crashes ( and it does, a lot ). So what does Firefox do in this case. It loses the session you were working on. But you say, this is expected no? NO. If you are used to Opera, you get used to a session choosing dialog that has a "Continue from last time" option, along with listing your other previously saved sessions, and the default session. This means that when you're looking for a site for 3 hours, find it and the browser crashes, you don't need to look again ( yes I have a bad memory, I won't remember the URL ).

So again, while Firefox is better than IE, I have arrived at the conclusion that the latest Konqueror with session management that works is better than Firefox, and I'll only use it as a last resort. Opera is way ahead, and I really want people to realise this. I have introduced many people to Opera, most of them can never go back to Firefox anymore. For the sake of tehnological advancement, try Opera today!

1 comment:

  1. I don't have any problems with your preferences of using Opera over Firefox but there are a few assumptions you are making that are very unfair or wrong.

    First, if Firefox crashes it does save your session. I don't know what is wrong with your install if it doesn't but around version 2 I started explicitly killing the process so it would save my session (since it did on a crash but there was no UI option until version 3).

    Second, Firefox 3 now uses sqlite as you pointed out so it saves a lot more information to support features like the "Awesome bar" and to store 90 days of your browsing history instead of just a few days worth as before. That takes space but that is not a problem with Firefox. You can always change that time frame to something else. You can also configure it to cache less data to save disk space.

    You may say it should be set to use less disk space by default but you are not running a default installation. Hard drives in the hundreds of GB sizes are dirt cheap and you are running on a 4GB drive. No software can be everything to everyone without a little tweaking by the user. So change Firefox to cache less data.

    One more thing, there is a UI to clear the cache. Developers don't expect or want you to just delete files you think the browser doesn't need so don't be so surprised when things break after you delete random files.