You are here

The coming major change (as of FF 48 ?)

10 posts / 0 new
Last post
GDVX_111
Offline
Last seen: 1 year 11 months ago
Joined: 2012-04-26 00:06
The coming major change (as of FF 48 ?)

as it is summarized in this piece I just read:

http://www.zdnet.com/article/new-versions-of-firefox-prepare-for-its-big...

If this is entirely accurate, this may be where I'm forced to get off the FF bus. It sure sounds like a deal-breaker to me. If the use of add-ons I consider critical will be gone, then I'm gone too. Previously, I had thought that the signed extensions thing might become that divide, but there remained an "out", a way around that via a switch in About:Config. No such provision this time, it appears. And I don't care for the other key design changes that were mentioned, either. This is perhaps the biggest failing in software development: when something is just fine the way that it is, they simply cannot leave it be ! In my opinion, there are also UI factors that are more important than so-called browser security, to the extent that that is truly a risk -- which I believe tends to be overstated.

This will presumably apply to Portable FF, as of v. 48 (?) So, I'm wondering what my alternatives may be, other than "locking down" for awhile at 47x or 4601 ? I see that there is an ESR variant of portable FF, so maybe that would buy me an extra couple of version cycles, before it too becomes ruined ? And then there is a portable Pale Moon (which seems to have its own extensions compatibility issues), or possibly some other surviving FF forks that I'm not aware of ?

I'm hoping you will give some announcement re these major changes, on the portable side, before they become a fait accompli, and users may not realize what they are getting into.

Wm ...
Offline
Last seen: 2 years 3 months ago
Joined: 2010-07-17 12:37
Browser market place is all grown up now

The browser market place is all grown up now so if FF isn't doing what you want try Chrome or another engine altogether. In fact, this is the obvious way to go if, as you say, you believe security concerns are overstated.

The thing that made me think twice about FF was the removal of Panorama aka Tab Groups but that gap was filled before the sky fell down, my suggestion is that you let your favourite add-on writer know that you love them and see what they come up with Smile

Wm

John T. Haller
John T. Haller's picture
Online
Last seen: 12 min 47 sec ago
AdminDeveloperModerator
Joined: 2005-11-28 22:21
Old Style Extensions Will Disappear

Quite a few users switched to Chrome because they thought it was more stable. (Those that weren't tricked into switching by Chrome bundleware offers, that is) The biggest reason for Firefox instability? Extensions. It's nearly always extensions. It used to be themes, too, but hardly anyone uses themes anymore. So, extensions are changing to work the same way as Chrome extensions so they can't break the browser. Even with this change, Firefox will still be the most customizable mainstream browser (the only one, really).

A good chunk of Firefox extensions don't work with Pale Moon. And it's doubtful that the Firefox extension developers will continue to develop them for Pale Moon given how few users it has. For context, most extension developers don't even bother to test SeaMonkey let alone Firefox forks and rebrands.

We won't be doing any more announcing than Mozilla is. 40% of Firefox users today don't use a single extension. Of the 60% that do, the majority only use something like an ad blocker, which will have near-exact equivalents within the new system. I even dumped most extensions myself to ensure my browser stays more stable (I used to have a dozen or more, now I have one). It worked. Firefox is rock solid without a bunch of extensions of questionable coding mucking it up.

Unfortunately, folks that use a bunch of extensions to have a super-customized browsing experience are in a very small minority. And supporting them without impacting the vast majority of users is incredibly difficult. And supporting the vast majority to ensure they have access to a free and open internet without using a browsing experience dictated by an ad company or a huge corporation is their mission. Not supporting super-customized add-ons. Remember, the most popular Firefox extension there is, AdBlock Plus, only has 20m regular users. Get to the bottom of the top 10 list... an add-on for AdBlock Plus, and you're only at 1m users.

Sometimes, the impossible can become possible, if you're awesome!

GDVX_111
Offline
Last seen: 1 year 11 months ago
Joined: 2012-04-26 00:06
very sorry to hear this

Thanks for your reply. I'm running about 15 extensions, after having to disable or remove a few for stability reasons. I rarely run into any stability problems now, nor have I had much occasion to need support. OTOH, I can think of a serious printing bug that has been in the bugtracker for several years now, confirmed by enough very different users that I think you can safely rule out extensions as a cause: that problem is core and integral. (I don't know what the fact that it has never been resolved says . . . . )

Several of the extensions I run are just *hugely* important to my browser usage -- I might even say essential. So, I'm extremely reluctant to give them up. I tried Opera some time ago and did not like it. I also use Chrome for a few certain things that it happens to handle better than FF, but in no way would I consider it a total replacement for FF. The extensions "catalog" for Chrome is generally quite inferior, in my opinion -- both in its breadth and qualitatively. I've also seen a couple instances where malware tried to sneak in with Chrome extensions, an experience I've never had on the Firefox side.

As to Themes, I also use one that tailors layout and appearance much more to my liking. The personal preference malleability of Firefox is what made it great and the standout among browsers.

John T. Haller
John T. Haller's picture
Online
Last seen: 12 min 47 sec ago
AdminDeveloperModerator
Joined: 2005-11-28 22:21
Unfortunately Necessary

Unfortunately, such a change is necessary. The XPCOM and XUL model allows extensions very permissive access to much of the browser. While that makes them powerful, that makes them dangerous. You have to completely trust every extension you install. This is one reason Firefox is still more of a target for adware and spyware than Chrome is despite having a smaller market share. Firefox will be implementing WebExtensions and improving things as time goes on. They've been working with developers of the most popular extensions to ensure that the framework will support their needs within the new model without being so permissive as to be a risk to users. Things like NoScript, Ghostery, Request Policy, uBlock Origin, and others got particular attention a couple months ago and will generally have improved performance within the new model.

It'll be a major change. There will be headaches. Some extensions will go by the wayside. But progress often comes at a price.

As for end users, you can use the Firefox ESR branch alongside the Stable branch so you can track progress of the extensions important to you (or suitable replacements) in stable while continuing to use your legacy extensions in ESR once the time comes. You can even install Firefox Developer Portable 48 to try them out earlier if you'd like. You could even try finding like-minded folks and crowdfunding development of some less popular extensions that may be abandoned or have a developer unwilling to update them to the new model.

That's what I'd recommend. Install Firefox Portable beta and dev (aka alpha) channels and start working with what's available today. Don't get discouraged if everything isn't there yet. There are two full release cycles before 48 hits stable. Even then, Firefox Portable ESR will remain at version 45 with full compatibility with your existing extensions until it gets updated to version 53 in November of this year. So, there's quite a bit of time to both continue using your existing setup unchanged and to get things sorted out in the new system the way you'd like. You can run all 4 versions of Firefox (stable, esr, beta, and dev) as portable versions entirely separate from each other and sync your bookmarks and passwords with Firefox Sync.

I have no control at any level over these changes. I'm only trying to relay the situation as I understand it and offer up suggestions for mitigating the inconvenience to you.

Sometimes, the impossible can become possible, if you're awesome!

GDVX_111
Offline
Last seen: 1 year 11 months ago
Joined: 2012-04-26 00:06
Thanks for that.

Thanks for that.

This at least is responsive, and a workable plan of action. Here is where the portable structure comes in, allowing for concurrent, alternative setups -- both for testing and to retain a fallback position. (The primary fallback being that I keep my existing setup as one of these, to make use of wherever necessary, even in disregard of supposed "consequences.")

When you mention the FireFox Sync, I gather you are not referring to yet another extension, or something like Mozbackup, but to that item we see along the bottom row in the FF Search screen, which goes (from L. to R.) "Downloads" to "Options", with Sync being the next to last ? That seems to be entirely cloud-based, a type of solution I don't usually favor. Is there a good sync option that is local rather than cloud-based, and which does not require setting up a Firefox account ?

John T. Haller
John T. Haller's picture
Online
Last seen: 12 min 47 sec ago
AdminDeveloperModerator
Joined: 2005-11-28 22:21
Mozilla's Official Solution

Firefox Sync is Mozilla's official cloud-based solution. I'm not aware of any local solutions as MozBackup was abandoned a few years back. You could use Firefox Sync and just sync your non-sensitive data (bookmarks, for example). You could also skip sync as, of more import, is testing your environment on the different browsers and that's more a matter of ensuring you can get certain extensions and customizations working rather than having your current set of bookmarks and passwords included. Just keep all your main data on your primary Firefox install and use the others to test the upcoming stuff.

You can also copy your FirefoxPortable\Data folder from one install of Firefox Portable to another, including to FirefoxPortableESR, FirefoxPortableTest (aka Beta), FirefoxPortableDeveloper (aka Alpha), etc. One note of caution here, moving data from one version of Firefox to a later version (stable 47 to Developer 49 for example) should work ok, but moving from a later version to an earlier one can cause issues.

That should give you a good head start on sorting things for your setup and keeping track of extension development. Perhaps I should look into fully documenting this as a how-to for similarly-minded Firefox power users so they can be prepared.

Sometimes, the impossible can become possible, if you're awesome!

GDVX_111
Offline
Last seen: 1 year 11 months ago
Joined: 2012-04-26 00:06
good idea

Yes, that (middle paragraph) method is how I've always updated FF portable manually, and would be applicable here.

I'm sure that documentation would be most welcome.

It looks like the wealth of available extensions are still being officially touted as a major selling point, judging from this legend on the search box page of FF 47: "It's easy to customize your Firefox exactly the way you want it. Choose from thousands of add-ons." But most users probably have no clue that a major shake up is in the works.

GDVX_111
Offline
Last seen: 1 year 11 months ago
Joined: 2012-04-26 00:06
Update: checking in on this, a few months later

Hi John,

O.K., so for the sake of tracking and comparison I am concurrently running my last, relatively stable 4701 portable, the ESR 4540 portable (most recently), and the regular 4902 portable -- all in the effort to see which of my substantial roster of Extensions fall out, and where. I am a bit surprised at the results, thus far. Based on what you had indicated, my expectation was that there would be many casualties among them, perhaps even the majority. Have we still not yet crossed that big point of change, in the FF development ?

With some high profile extensions like Greasemonkey and DownThemAll, I thought that they would likely manage to adapt themselves to the new design. Despite some gripes and warnings by various Extension developers, so far (as of 4902) I have only lost two extensions: CacheViewer2 1721 signed, and IEtab2. The former now has another version that is compatible with the current FF Portable edition, apparently from the same developer, but I have not yet found any replacement for the latter. There was a Chinese-made alternate, but it was last updated in 2013, and their contact page now goes 404.

One other thing: a Mozilla article on extensions mentioned that the "xpinstall.signatures.required = false" option in About:Config does not return until ESR 45. Are any other of the xpinstall statements -- such as the Whitelist -- also relevant in governing our ability to continue using extensions of our choosing, in these FF builds ?

To restate, while I would not rank all of my extensions as essential, most of them perform some important or very useful function. I'll be curious to see how the rest of this change shakes out.

BeaBonobo
Offline
Last seen: 2 years 5 months ago
Joined: 2015-10-19 15:41
Firefox & Extensions & the Future

I have been testing Firefox in E10s mode to see the compatibility of the many extensions I use. Its less harrowing than previous discussions indicated it might be.

Of the 18 extensions I use, 12 are already compliant. 2 replaceable. 2 I can lose. 2 are essential and non-compliant and I need to assert to their developers how important they are.

I like Firefox precisely because its "messy" in a good way. Meaning its had brilliant (though often poorly designed) add-ons that have given it enormous utility. That is still of good value. And I hope that will continue. And it looks like it may well and with better memory handling & better security.

Regards, Josiah

Log in or register to post comments