More Firefox 3 sucks…

Please note that Firefox is now up to v3.5.2, and the problems here and on other posts relating v3.x are now largely irrelevant except for those who have failed up upgrade.

Yesterday, in The Guardian’s Technology supplement, there was an entirely uncritical review of Firefox 3. I am utterly fed up with the lack of criticism of FF3 – don’t these people inhabit the real world? How can they not know that, for a great many people, it’s a colossal fuck-up? My response is below…


It seems clear that there are two widely differing experiences of Firefox 3 – those who apparently love it and those, like me (and I’m a long-term user of Firefox), who believe it’s an absolute disaster. Both these viewpoints can’t be true.

If the responses to my Firefox 3 sucks blog post are typical, then extrapolation across the whole user base would suggest that FF3 is seriously defective – certainly, for me, it’s utterly unusable, no matter what all those geeks think, and I’ve reverted to v2.0.0.14, which is where I’ll stay until such time as Mozilla produces a version that works for everyone.

I think, though, I may have the answer to these widely differing experiences – we’re not seeing the same thing. I believe that some mirrors are distributing corrupted versions of FF3 – perhaps a result of the system crash on download day. Unfortunately, there’s no way I can test this theory as Mozilla automatically assigns the mirror – one can’t choose an alternate mirror for the download and see what happens. Nor can one actually talk to Mozilla about this – or anything else – they go to great lengths to keep users at arm’s length. And, when I tried to access their knowledge base about the problem with the Organise Bookmarks function – a problem in that it doesn’t actually do anything – it threw up over 4 million entries. Who has the time, or the inclination, to wade through that morass? Certainly not me.

Whatever the answer, a canter through Google clearly shows that there are substantial problems with FF3, and a huge amount of user dissatisfaction. Problems which Mozilla seems content to ignore. Kate Bevan (Technophile, June 26), says “Is it better than IE, Safari or Opera? Yes, I think so, and so do many other geeks. We can’t all be wrong.” Well, sorry Kate, you are wrong. It is not better than any of those for one very good reason – it simply doesn’t work for everybody. Had this been a Microsoft product, the problems a great many users are having would not be ignored, as they are being, except in the blogosphere. On the contrary, Microsoft would have been savagely pilloried. I see no reason why Mozilla should be treated any differently.

Maybe Kate and her fellow geeks are happy to tinker with FF3 until it performs as it should. I, and many others, are not, and I have no problem with admitting that it’s beyond my abilities to do so, because we simply shouldn’t have to. The thing should work perfectly, and for every user, straight out of the box – and it doesn’t.


Ron Graves.

Note: The Guardian has already published a critical email from me regarding FF3 yesterday, so whether they’ll publish this remains to be seen. I have a good strike rate with The Guardian, though, so I’m hopeful, and it would be good if as many other people as possible, who feel the same way, also emailed them. The address is at the foot of the page linked to above – please use the one for the Technology Editor.

Check out this page, too.

19 thoughts on “More Firefox 3 sucks…

  1. Sounds like there’s something in your profile that doesn’t like Firefox 3. That’s the most common issue with people experiencing FF3 issues. The second most common problem is plug-ins — especially the first beta of Silverlight (the newer one, which doesn’t come via automatic update, is better) and Flash (some people are good with earlier 9.x versions and most see 10 beta as a big improvement.)

    The profile contains your bookmarks, history, passwords, cookies, window positions and sizes, and user-set preferences, extensions and themes.

    The easiest way to get to a good state is to just locate your profile and rename it to .bak or something like that. Then start Firefox and it’ll create a new profile. If everything works with a new profile, then copy over your passwords, history, bookmarks, and cookies to the new profile and start Firefox again. If all is working still, you should be in good shape to just continue using that new profile.

    If with the new profile you’re still experiencing problems, then the next most likely culprit is Plug-ins. To test this out, just go to the Firefox Tools menu, Add-ons, and select the Plug-ins tab. Disable each of the listed plug-ins and restart Firefox to test. If everything is good, then selectively re-enable plug-ins until you find the one that was causing the problem.

    If you do have an add-on or plug-in that’s causing the problems, you can often find an updated version or a replacement from a different producer/vendor.

  2. Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll check it out.

    The only Ad-ons I use are the British-English Dictionary and Adblock Plus, neither of which should cause the problems I’m seeing. And, of course, don’t your suggestions sort of confirm that FF3 is defective straight out of the box? Check out the comments on Firefox 3 sucks – my original post.

    The thing should work properly, as did previous versions, with minimal input from the user. We shouldn’t have to force this abomination to perform as intended.

  3. Out of the box, Firefox works great for the overwhelming majority of users. I certainly wouldn’t call it defective and I don’t think there’s anything in my comment here that could rightly be construed as saying that.

    There is not much that Mozilla can do about buggy add-ons and plug-ins. We attempt to protect users by requiring that add-ons be updated by their authors before a new major version of Firefox ships but an author may miss a serious flaw that can cause instability in Firefox and claim compatibility so Firefox will load up that extension.

    You’re also making the (probably) incorrect assumption that large numbers of people are having difficulty with Firefox 3. I’m just not seeing that. We have over 10,000,000 people using the new version every day already and the feedback I’ve seen is overwhelmingly positive.

    With every release we’ve done, a small percentage of people encounter some kind of problem. With over 5,000 3rd party add-ons, which have the capability of making literally any change to Firefox (any change, literally,) and several million of the nearly 200 million Firefox users out there using those add-ons, some people are bound to run into issues with them.

    An, of course, Firefox itself is never without blame. We ship bugs. We ship some bugs in every single release. That’s the nature of complex software. We shipped bugs in Firefox 1.0, Firefox 1.5, and Firefox 2. There are known bugs in Firefox 3.

    I don’t believe, however, that we’ve shipped bugs in Firefox 3 that are significant enough for a large enough group of users that make it worse than Firefox 2 and for the overwhelming majority of users, literally hundreds of millions of people, Firefox 3 is a huge improvement over what they were using before, whether it was Firefox 2 or another browser.

  4. I installed my copy of FF3 on a friend’s new machine – a week old, and she’s never heard of Firefox. The result? Exactly the same.

    Scrambled bookmarks, Organise Bookmarks that does zilch and the rest, with of course, no Profile to be fouled up and renamed. And I have to ask, have you read the comments here
    and elsewhere online? Is everybody wrong? There’s no shortage of people out there with more knowledge than me who can’t make it work – it’s a world away from being just me.

    And that’s my problem, of course; why should there be a need to make it work? It shouldn’t need to be forced. Like previous versions, it should just get on with the job without having to be bullied or cajoled into it.

    And what about my theory than some downloads are corrupted at source? There’s no choice of mirror site when downloading – I’m stuck with – so no way to verify that or prove it wrong.

  5. >And that’s my problem, of course; why should there
    >be a need to make it work? It shouldn’t need to be
    >forced. Like previous versions, it should just get on
    >with the job without having to be bullied or cajoled
    >into it.

    Ahh, I see what you’re saying now. I misunderstood. You want it to be just “Like previous versions.” So what you’re really complaining about is that it behaves differently than previous versions. Yes. Firefox 3 behaves differently than previous versions in many ways and the overwhelming majority of people prefer the new behaviors to the old behaviors.

    If you don’t want new behaviors, then you’ve got about 6 months of security support on the old version or you could go with a browser that only updates once every five or six years and doesn’t change much when it does.

  6. Asa, Asa, Asa, your last comment is almost as buggy as the software you so ardously support.

    “Ahh, I see what you’re saying now. I misunderstood. You want it to be just “Like previous versions.” So what you’re really complaining about is that it behaves differently than previous versions.”

    You are just piling on with unsupported exaggerated nonsense in order to draw a conclusion that you can live with – that it’s his fault since he wants it the old way? I didn’t see where he said that, so point it out ot me.

    “Yes. Firefox 3 behaves differently than previous versions in many ways and the overwhelming majority of people prefer the new behaviors to the old behaviors.”

    Where is the evidence to support that? I want an actual link to the 10 million glowing reviews that Mozilla has received on Firefox 3. I want proof that these 10 million people have already gone on-record saying how wonderful Firefox 3 is. That’s what you’re claiming, right?


    “If you don’t want new behaviors, then you’ve got about 6 months of security support on the old version or you could go with a browser that only updates once every five or six years and doesn’t change much when it does.”

    This last paragraph is just insulting everyone’s intelligence and rubbing in all the piling on you did above and in this comment:

    “You’re also making the (probably) incorrect assumption that large numbers of people are having difficulty with Firefox 3. I’m just not seeing that. We have over 10,000,000 people using the new version every day already and the feedback I’ve seen is overwhelmingly positive.”

    Correction Asa – and you know this – I shouldn’t have to say it – nor should anyone else: you have had over 10 million downloads – perhaps that is verifiable. You do not have 10 million users, so your comment is completely wrong.

    I would estimate that at best you have 4-7 million actual users – and that’s a 10-30% fail rate by my estimate. By “fail” I mean this version is so radically inferior to Firefox 2 that that many people either removed it soon after trying it out and rolled back to FF 2 or else went back to using IE or Opera or Safari and called us Firefox users “crazy” for bothering with this browser in the first place.

    On top of being a memory hog, on top of being rushed out with bugs, on top of adding so-called features such as the Awesome Bar and new Bookmarking functionality (let the user decide to add such features, as we always did, by installing our own add-ons for them) you guys add insult to injury for new users by not even having the only good features of all the horrible or not-so-great browsers that they are trying to move away from.

    Take AOL’s browsers, which allow for IM and email integration – Opera, which is a speed demon, low on memory usage, and better at rendering CSS – IE, which has a feature set good enough to use as-is without feeling lost (even a bit of the Awesome bar in there too and years ahead of you guys, wasn’t it?) which also opens and runs light-years faster than Firefox does – and Safari, which has neat options for private browsing, changing font-rendering and is not a memory hog.

    When people who have never used Firefox before install the new version of it they’re going to be missing the things they liked about those other browsers, and they’re going to be unhappy with FF’s much higher RAM usage and confused by new features in Firefox that were not even present in version 2. Version 2 would have been the better – and easier – browser for those people to switch to. I don’t think the people at Mozilla can see that and if you do I don’t think you really care. You claim “We have 10 million users!” and let it go to your heads and ignore the facts: you have 10 million downloads. 10 million downloads, get it? Not 10 million users.

    Now tell me, where is the link to the page that proves how many people actually continue to use Firefox 3 after they download it? It’s not 10 million, Asa – I’ll bet you my arm.

    You’ll have to try harder to prove whatever point you’re trying to make because I’m not buying it.

  7. Asa,

    As far as user feedback is concerned, one thing is verifiable: a Google search of how many websites like Firefox versus how many don’t. On this count I definitely get to I get to keep my arm. Check it out:

    Exact search (in quotes) for “Firefox 3 Sucks” – 14,600 results

    Exact search (in quotes) for “Firefox 3 Rocks” -11,100 results

    Let’s try it again in Google Blog Search:

    Exact search (in quotes) for “Firefox 3 Sucks” – 79 results

    Exact search (in quotes) for “Firefox 3 Rocks” – 66 results

    Hmmm, why aren’t all the fanboys and girls outnumbering those of us with serious complaints about Firefox 3, I wonder?

  8. Marah Marie – very well said.

    Personally, I’d tagged Asa as a patronising oik and decided to ignore him. His mind’s clearly completely closed on the subject.

    “Exact search (in quotes) for “Firefox 3 Sucks” – 14,600 results”

    When I checked that on June 18 I got, if memory serves, a mere 920 (or it may have been 92, I’ve mislaid my notes) – either way, it’s obvious that dissatisfaction has risen massively since then, and that’s just the few who are vociferous about it – how many millions have quietly returned to FF2, or defected to IE or Opera, I wonder, without a public display of anger and frustration?

    Mozilla have just updated FF v2.0.0.14 to 15, and I’ve seen no sign of the “We’re stopping support very soon” message that I’ve had for Tbird 2.

    Anyone care to guess why…

    And what Asa chooses to ignore is not that I don’t like the way it looks – I don’t like the way it simply doesn’t bloody work!

  9. “Correction Asa – and you know this – I shouldn’t have to say it – nor should anyone else: you have had over 10 million downloads – perhaps that is verifiable. You do not have 10 million users, so your comment is completely wrong.”

    No, Marah, you’re the one that’s wrong. We’ve had over 30 million downloads and have over 10 million daily active users on Firefox 3. We can absolutely measure both downloads and active daily users (via security update pings which happen once a day per browser install)

    “Mozilla have just updated FF v2.0.0.14 to 15, and I’ve seen no sign of the “We’re stopping support very soon” message that I’ve had for Tbird 2.”

    Ron, then you’re not watching closely. Mozilla’s policy (for both Thunderbird and Firefox) is to end support for the previous version 6 months after the current version shipped.

  10. Ron – thanks for the kind words.

    Asa – you have had 30 million downloads yet you can count only 10 million users? What’s up with that? Do people run it once or a few times, see what’s wrong with it or why they don’t like it compared to the last version of Firefox, then remove it from their computers or simply abandon it in favor of another browser? Tell me how high that fail rate is? 1 in 3, Asa – 67% percent of people who download and try it will never actually use Firefox 3. Thanks for the figures; I love it when people are so honest that they make themselves look silly.

  11. “Tell me how high that fail rate is? 1 in 3, Asa – 67% percent of people who download and try it will never actually use Firefox 3.”

    No. It’s not 67%, it’s actually 72% and that’s actually pretty good. But it’s not “download and try and never actually use it.” It’s more like “don’t become active daily users” for several different reasons and at different levels in the process of download, trial, and adoption.

    Marah, you can read all about Mozilla’s adoption funnel. We’re completely open about all of this. And we’re very proud of our success in getting that much adoption and taking 20% maket share away from Microsoft when they had a >95% monopoly on browsers. No one has ever before or since taken that kind of market share from a Microsoft monopoly product. Ever. So, yeah, we’re pretty happy how well Firefox is doing.

    Yes, we get a lot of people who download who do not become regular users. We have about 200 million users today and that’s taken us 4 years and about 600 million downloads to make happen.

    There’s fall-off before install because some people don’t know how to find or start the installer. There’s fall-off at install time because people can’t figure out the installer or get interrupted. There’s fall-off after install but before first launch There’s fall-off after first launch, fall-off after several sessions and then even some fall-off months or years down the line. Finally, there are people who rely on two, or even three browsers and never become active daily users of any one browser.

    It’s actually quite difficult to distribute an alternative product that replaces something that shipped with the system that some large number of users can’t even identify as a discreet product (“Browser? You mean Google? Firefox? Is that a search engine?”) and while competing with the largest software company in the world which has over 70,000 employees and annual revenue of over USD 50 _b_illion. We’re pretty proud 🙂

    Read all about it here:

    You’re the one that looks silly assuming that downloads equals users. If you were the least bit knowledgeable about software distribution this would be quite obvious to you.

    When you’ve built and distributed a product that’s taken a 20% chunk out of Microsoft, and by that point learned a little something about building and distributing software, let’s talk some more.

  12. If you’re going to lose the 20% market share you recently gained against IE it will be over the smug attitude that you and others share at Mozilla. It happened at Netscape, it happened at AOL, and it will happen to you at Mozilla, too. “You have no chance to survive – make your time…”

    So I happened to catch your interview tonight:

    Mozilla’s new top-down management style and lack of concern for making as many users happy as possible is evident in all of your remarks.

    Here’s a sample:

    [the IW author writes] “The AwesomeBar is controversial. I love it, but many people don’t…Despite the complaints, has no plans to remove the AwesomeBar — or even build in an easy-to-use way of disabling it, like a checkbox in the Preference pane, said Asa Dotzler, spokesmodel and storyteller (yes, that’s his actual title) for Instead, users will adapt to the AwesomeBar, and will adapt the AwesomeBar based on user feedback to make it easier to use, he said.”

    So me and so many others who are confused, annoyed, and even a bit angered by the Awesome Bar (it basically won’t let you type an URL anymore) will simply adjust to it, eh?

    I’m typing this in Firefox 2 – how’s that for adjusting?

    I host two downloads to Firefox on my blog, that’s how much I failed to adjust – and failed to force others to adjust. The Awesome Bar was one of my biggest gripes. It isn’t a necessary feature like tabbed browsing, which actually makes sense for most users to get the hang of – it’s a search algorithm added to the address bar with some unpleasant side effects for those of us who fail to see what the big deal is, or why it must be such a big deal as it tumbles down our web pages. Why not at least give Firefox 3 users an option to disable it?

    IW also discusses anecdotal evidence of higher memory usage in Firefox 3 than there was in Firefox 2:

    “We talked a bit about Firefox 3’s memory usage. asserts that the memory-leak problems that plagued Firefox 2 are solved, but I’ve noticed if I leave Firefox 3 running overnight with many tabs open, I often come in in the morning to find it using 120+ MBytes of memory or more, and find it slow and unresponsive….Norm…says Firefox 3 is actually more of a memory hog than Firefox 2: “FF3 constantly consumes 20%-40% of the CPU when nothing is going on. FF2 displaying the exact same pages consumes 5%-15%.”…Sougent Harrop [said]: “I’m seeing 95%+ CPU usage, this last time when I did an Image Save As, had to kill it in process explorer. Other times, it just happens even when I’m not even doing anything in FF, like when in [Second Life], though usually it’s responsive then.

    But Dotzler stands by’s claims that Firefox 3 is lean and mean. He said that’s own tests, and independent third-party measurements show that Firefox 3 uses less memory when viewing the same pages as Microsoft Internet Explorer, Safari, and Opera.”

    So how did you conduct these tests? On what sort of web pages? On how many pages at a time in each browser? Leaving the browser open for how long? Leaving open how many tabs?

    What is the link to Mozilla’s test results so I can look them over myself?

    My average RAM consumption in Firefox 3 (I forced myself to use it for one week even though I hated it just to write about it on my blog) veered between 195,000k and 385,000k. I saw a screen shot from a Digg user tonight showing his XP Task Manager pegging Firefox’s RAM usage at 795,000k. I have a few blog comment attesting to the same problem – sky-high RAM usage in Firefox 3- and there are perhaps thousands more such stories easily found on the Web.

    How is it “lean and mean”? How could the so-called “memory leak” have been solved if so many users claim otherwise? How is this better than Firefox 2’s RAM usage, when for so many of us the RAM usage is actually much higher? I don’t buy it. (I don’t buy that many downloads and users either, but I can argue about that another time).

    Mozilla was better when it was an upstart, when it had almost no market share at all, when the developers working with Mozilla were as important as the developers working on Mozilla. Having next to nothing kept the foundation honest and user-friendly. If just this tiny bit of success could go to your heads so fast, make you spout lies and refuse to give consumers what they want (mainly, lower RAM usage, an optional Awesome Bar and optional Bookmark management changes) then it’s only going to get worse from here.

    It’s exactly that “we know what’s best for you and your software – now simply adjust to it” mentality that has made Microsoft hated around the world, that has made AOL one of the biggest tech laughingstocks of all time, that has made Netscape extinct – please, keep it up, and check back in two or three years…you’ll either be getting the world domination that you want so badly but true techs will laugh at you just like they laughed at AOL, or IE will come from behind and kick you in the butts – and so will every other major player out there (Opera is on its way, think about it).

    Whichever way it turns out, you’re losing a large portion of the tech and web development communities that appreciate how much leaner and meaner Firefox 2 is compared to Firefox 3. Bloating the latest version with features that a large amount of people don’t want, increasing the memory usage and then lying about it to say it’s been greatly reduced and the memory leak solved, and gloating over your still-quite-lousy 20% market share do not make for a great browser, those facts simply make for a great deal of disgruntled users. Remember: it didn’t cost us anything to download and use it, and it won”t cost us anything to leave for greener (and friendlier, more responsive ) browsers – meanwhile, bad word-of-mouth travels everywhere and will hurt you guys immeasurably.

  13. Storyteller? Hmm…

    The “this is what WE want, and screw you if you don’t like it” attitude is absolutely staggering.

    I’m happy with FF2.0.0.15, but I’m sorely tempted to switch to Opera on principle.

  14. Ha! Just installed Opera, and already it can do something FF3 can’t do – import my Bookmarks without making a total fubar of them.

    There’s a moral there…

  15. Opera is wicked cool, is it not? I have an Opera page (I’m at; maybe someday I’ll do an evangelical post there about why people should switch away from Firefox 3 to Opera (and I’ll hurt Mozilla when I do it – I never, never, never play to lose).

    Opera is fast-loading, uses just a tiny bit of memory, includes Speed Dial and Paste-and-Go, neither of which I can live without, loads pages at lightning-speed, and scrolls faster than any browser I’ve ever seen. Not to mention it seems to render CSS a tad better than Firefox does. Plus the widgets (most popular are at could give Firefox Add-ons a run for their money any day.

    What’s the point of using an open-source browser if Mozilla no longer listens to complaints about it and even lies about RAM usage to make it sound better than it is? I have evangelized for open-source for years because open source browsers and OSs *normally* allow for user input, user bug reports and user-suggested improvements. Mozilla is moving away from that stance with this version of Firefox, so I am moving away from supporting Mozilla. I think that’s only fair.

    I’ll support a good closed-source browser over a sham of an open-source one any day.

  16. My blog is running a tad below the WordPress average hit rate (but hey, it’s still under 3 months old), and my FF3 Sucks page has had 403 hits to date. Extrapolated across all the other sites/blogs with that title (or its variants), that’s a hell of a lot of dissatisfied people. And they’re just the ones who are making their presence felt – how many have just said “Sod it!” (or your expletive of choice), and binned FF3 quietly? I have a feeling that, if this could be quantified, it’d put a sizeable dent in Mozilla’s smugness. A shame we’ll never know…

  17. Well, I’ve made the switch to Opera and, for some reason the WordPress Dashboard has a minor glitch – the stats box won’t show the current day. Very odd, but as I normally go to the Stats page for more comprehensive info in re my blog, that’s not a problem. So far, so impressed.

    A Mozilla-free zone until they mend their ways – though I doubt they will…

    If the techie users had binned it as it deserved, instead of spending days, even weeks, making the bugger work properly (see Firefox 3 sucks comments), maybe Mozilla would have paid more heed?

  18. Ron,

    While i am using Firefox 3 without any troubles, i am completely with you on this one.

    However, it’s not perfect. I’ve experienced many random lockups with Firefox 3, even when just clicking a link. However we need to understand, though, that Firefox 3 is still new and Mozilla are no doubt working to fix the issues we are writing about.

    It is silly though, Mozilla are going through the “clean tunnel”, whereas, like you mentioned, should Microsoft have produced such a release, they’d be called every name under the sun, and given plenty of shit that it sucked. Who knows why Mozilla have to be treated differently.

  19. Pingback: Firefox 3 sucks follow-up… « Ron’s Rants…

Comments are closed.