Is Firefox 2.0 a dud?

Is Firefox 2.0 a dud?

Summary: Is Firefox 2.0 a dud? Are users better avoiding it and waiting until a future build? Are too many of the new features buggy and incomplete and is the browser overall more unstable that previous versions? What about Firefox on Vista?

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TOPICS: Browser
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Is Firefox 2.0 a dud?  Are users better avoiding it and waiting until a future build?  Are too many of the new features buggy and incomplete and is the browser overall more unstable that previous versions?  What about Firefox on Vista? 

The future for Firefox has to be that it (and Opera) must all run in protected mode, but for now Firefox doesn't Having used Firefox 2.0 for a few days I believe that some of these claims are quite justified, while others are highly exaggerated or based on user preferences.  But if someone tells you that it's a bad idea to use Firefox on Windows Vista, do yourself a favor and listen to them because they are telling the truth.

 

 


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Firefox 2.0 has been out for a week and the download counter is already well past 2 million.  But a vocal group of Firefox users have generated quite a long list of gripes and grievances regarding this latest release.  Some are even saying that upgrading to 2.0 might not be a good idea.

So what's behind all this?  Here's a quick short list of the most popular Firefox 2.0 gripes:

  • Random freezes
  • Poor antiphishing technology
  • Confused Options dialog box
  • Bulky, inconsistent theme
  • Incompatibility with extensions
  • Memory leaks
  • CSS issues
  • Buggy history bar

Firefox 2.0

I have to admit that I wasn't all that jazzed about Firefox 2.0 when it was released.  IE7 had just been released and that was such a huge evolutionary step for Internet Explorer that it almost completely filled my requirements for what a browser should be.  However, that didn't stop me downloading Firefox 2.0 and taking a look.

Some of these gripes come down to a matter of taste.  Personally, I don't think that the new Firefox theme is all that bad but then I'm not all that fussed about how my browser looks - it's a window onto the Internet, not a piece of art.  If people don't like the default shipped theme, there are plenty of others to choose from.  I can't see how the Mozilla team is going to be able to please everyone all the time.  I also don't find the Options dialog box too bad, although it is suffering from the developers trying to cram too much in.  Despite this, it remains quite usable.  As far as CSS goes, I think the problem people are seeing are sites built for Internet Explorer that aren't happy being displayed in Firefox.

I've not noticed a problem with the history bar, but it's possible that I've simply not looked closely enough.

However, some of the complaints are very valid indeed.  The random freeze issue is apparent to me on two systems (both where Firefox 1.5 had previously been installed and behaved well).  Session restore helps to save the day, but that's no excuse.  The crashing is such a problem that it's just easier for me to use IE7.

Memory leaks are also present, and actually seem worse under Firefox 2.0 than under 1.x.  I was hoping to find these fixed and I'm disappointed to find they aren't.

On a more serious note, complaints that the antiphishing filter  is weak seem justified.  I've thrown a number of dodgy phishing sites at Firefox 2.0 and its detect rate is appallingly low.  Some people claim that any antiphishing filter is better than no antiphishing filter, but I disagree - at best this feature seems to offer users little more than false hope and at worst a false sense of security.  By comparison, the antiphishing filter in IE7 seems a lot better and was able to flag as suspicious all the phishing sites I tested it with.

The claim that Firefox 2.0 is incompatible with a lot of popular extensions also seems true, though it has to be remembered that the Mozilla team have nothing to do with most of the extensions out there.  They are third-party applications and require the developer to offer support for newer versions.  However, extensions are one of Firefox's most compelling features and seeing a whole raft of disabled extensions, especially those that are well-used and loved, is going to put off a lot of existing users from upgrading.

Do I believe that current Firefox users should not upgrade to the latest version?  No way.  If you stick with 1.5.x then you're going to be at risk from unpatched vulnerabilities.  The only way to go is up to 2.0 and keep downloading updates as they become available. 

So what's my issue with running Firefox on Windows Vista?  It's that it runs in standard user mode and has full access to the system.  Internet Explorer 7 on the other hand runs in protected mode.  Under this mode, Internet Explorer, along with ActiveX controls and add-ons such as toolbars, have only limited access to the file system and the registry and it's very difficult for a code to leverage a vulnerability and allow takeover of the system.  Compare this to a vulnerability in Firefox which would give an attacker full access to the system.  The future for Firefox has to be that it (and Opera) must all run in protected mode, but for now Firefox doesn't, and that represents a serious risk to users who use Windows Vista.

I can't help but feel that Firefox is a victim of its own success.  The more users they have, the more masters they have to satisfy.  More and more Firefox users see it as just another browser and feel that they are owed something.  Too many of them don't see the work that goes into the product behind the scenes and instead choose to nitpick and exaggerate each small issue.  That's the price of success when success is measured by the number of users.  However, the Mozilla team also have some challenges which need to be overcome.  Memory leaks and random crashes won't win any friends, and the antiphishing filter either needs a serious overhaul or it needs to be pulled from the browser until it is fit for purpose.

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  • Excellant Article

    I agree that FireFox 2 is not a dud, I personally like it, but it is nice to read an article that is not written by a FireFox fanboy who writes off every FireFox problem as a feature or something they can easily live with. I ran into one Slashdot person who actually justified the random crashes with "Thats why they added Session Restore".

    Great article, IE7 is a great pieace of software from the user perspective, but it is still short when it comes to following web standards. FireFox does a good job in most areas for the developer but clearly certain aspects need to be improved.

    Great article, and very intelligent argument
    xximjasonxx
    • I do not like the IE 7 GUI

      I am not impressed with the new GUI. The tabs lack useful functionality found in all other tabbed browsers (opening multiple tabs from the favorites/bookmarks bar), the tabs are huge, and the tab bar should not have the new buttons on it. Also, I do not care for the new location for the refresh and stop buttons (why do they have to be two buttons?). I also do not like the fact that the menu bar has to be added for all functionality. Why did they skip some options in the new buttons?

      IE 6 had a more simple GUI and I think that they have moved to far from that interface. Our help desk is having to be trained for use of IE 7 so that we will be prepared to help our user base of over 20,000 users.
      jdawgnoonan
      • I do not like it, Sam-I-Am.

        (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
        Joel R
      • I love IE7. FF 2 is alright as well.

        I have been using IE7 from its first initial release and while the first betas were a little quirky at times the final version is outstanding and the immediately previous version was pretty darn close to outstanding.

        The thing is that IE7 works pretty flawlessly and certainly appears to have sufficient security measures built in. I can understand why people who have had some negative experiences with IE in the past might have moved to FF to get access to what was once superior security. My basic security practices, for many years now, have made most of the social engineering exploits ineffective on IE for a long time now and the free security applications I use have been very effective at keeping my machine pretty clear of viruses/spyware etc. so although I have FF installed I seldom see the need to use it.

        I find the FF bookmarks a little more annoying to work with, but admittedly thats bound to be the fact I am very comfortable with years of regular IE use. I havnt had any significant security related problems for a couple of years now so I find no particular comfort in any security edge FF may or may not provide.

        Bottom line is that while I have a few browsers installed, and I think they are all quite fine in general, IE is so convenient and easy to use with all the features I need, so justifying the bother to use the others with any regularity just isnt there.
        Cayble
        • IE7 Betas

          I was psyched when I heard about IE7, but both the betas I used crashed on me every time I opened them, and I lost all faith in the new release.

          I run a web development company, and I needed to be able to use it, so I downloaded it when it released, and lo and behold, it worked! That helps.

          FF2, I feel like I've been let down to some extent. It crashes on me at least once a day, and I've seriously considered a rollback, and wondered where the updates are, and when they're going to fix the bugs. I can't use a browser that crashes all the time, I simply don't have expendable time for that. Restore session is nice, but I don't want to have to use it.

          I'm not going to switch to IE as my main browser, but I am going to use FF1.5 again until 2.0 is fixed.

          ~A!
          anthony@...
    • Only dud is who wrote the article

      And those who agree with it, this is written in Firefox 2.0 None of the cited problems exists. On the other hand IE 7.0 is not part of my system anymore.
      Uralbas
      • Firefox 2.0 a dud?

        A dud?? Works for me ... no crashes ... no freezes. IEX has not been part of my system ever and won't be!!!
        morph000
        • News Flash

          If you are running Windows, IE is definitely part of your system and always will be.

          If it virtually impossible to uninstall from Windows.
          rkuhn040172@...
          • bah...

            welp, it seems a bit obvious that he isn't running Firefox on a windows system!

            So, I will finish the proof:

            "Hence, you are not running a windows system!"
            xiaodre
    • ff2 vs ie7

      That's excellent no 'a'. piece not pieace again no 'a' I make my share of typo's, i try to correct them, too.

      As for th ebrowser 'wars' I can't use IE 7 at work, because we still use W2K, and 7 doen't work on anything lessa than XP. I loaded it at home and like some of the new features, I haven't tried FF at home at all. I loaded it here at work, but found it doesn't handle an important web application so went back to IE6 for it. I am so used to IE, any other browser such as Firefox or Netscape is extra. It would have to be spectacular to get me to switch primary programs. To me it is a "so what" for a new one to come out.
      dhays
      • Very Sad !

        I use Seamonkey but I know others who use FF2 and have heard of no problems with it.

        "It would have to be spectacular" well frankly SM and FF is spectacular, why anyone deliberately uses ie is beyond me, consider how one can personalise these two browsers with the awesome add-ons, and your still using M$, cant understand it.
        judgesinel@...
    • MInor regrets

      I sorta wished I hadn't switched. I had the previous version configured to open bookmarks in a new tab. Unfortunately 2.0 won't seem to do that (without right-clicking).

      Doug
      DrDoug018
      • Easily done

        If you have a 3-button mouse, middle-click on a bookmark or other link to open it in a new tab, or you can use Ctrl+click.
        Greenknight_z
        • Thanks

          But unfortunately, my mouse only has two buttons and a scroll wheel. Clicking the scroll wheel works, but that's kinda awkward.

          I'm hopeful that the add-on that solved my problem (Tab Mix Plus) will be upgraded to work with 2.0.

          But again, thanks for the helpful advice. Renews my faith that I'm not completely wasting my time reading these blogs and news articles.

          Doug
          DrDoug018
  • Glad it works for you!

    Do you have any extensions? Did you install it over the top of an oldewr version?
    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
    • I'm having no problems with FF2

      Personally I've had no problems with Firefox 2.0. I installed it over existing installs of Firefox 1.5 on four different machines (three WinXP Pro and one WinXP Home). Each machine had a different set of Firefox extensions and themes installed. A few extensions were disabled, but most were not. In some instances I simply uninstalled the extensions because they were no longer needed due to new features in Firefox.

      Many times extensions are disabled not because they were incompatible with Firefox 2.0, but because the developer set a maximum Firefox version the extension could run on below Firefox 2.0. Extension developers are only supposed to set the maximum version of Firefox their extension is compatible with to the maximum version they tested their extension against. This is supposed to help reduce conflicts between the browser and extensions. Since Firefox 2.0 did not exist until a week ago (it was technically v2.0b) developers couldn't certify that their extensions were compatible with Firefox 2.0. If one uses lots of extensions, one should simply plan on waiting a week or two before installing major version updates to give the independent extension developers time to check out their extensions and upload updates.

      In regards to Firefox freezing; often this is caused by issues unrelated to Firefox. For instance, a couple of weeks ago I was having a terrible problem with Firefox freezing on two of my computers whose profiles were stored on a network drive. The problem turned out to be that the network drive was 95% full and was having a terrible time reading and writing files. As soon as I freed up some disk space, Firefox's problems went completely away on both computers. Other times Firefox's freezing and stability issues can be traced to multiple extensions that are conflicting with each other. The easiest way to isolate out if extensions are causing the problem is to disable and/or uninstall extensions to see if the problem goes away.

      As far as memory issues go, thus far Firefox is doing much better on this than it has in the past. I normally keep at least a dozen tabs open at any one time and Firefox 1.5 consistently ate up 100,000K to 150,000K of memory. Currently with twelve tabs open Firefox is only using 60,000K. It remains to be seen how Firefox does after it has been running for several days (after one day it is still good).

      Compatibility issues with websites are a red herring. It is very rare today to come across a website that has issues working correctly in Firefox and 100% of the time the problem is caused by flawed programming in the website. Many of these same websites are now discovering they have major compatibility problems with IE7 as well because of Microsoft's efforts to bring Internet Explorer into tighter compliance with W3C specifications (e.g. render more like Firefox).

      The complaint about Firefox not running in a protected space is also a red herring. Firefox does not support Active-X controls or other scripting features that have direct access to core system API's. Yes Firefox has security flaws that get turned up from time to time; however, these issues do not compromise the OS kernel they way Internet Explorer flaws so often do. IE needs to run in protected space because it is part of the core OS kernel. Firefox is a separate application and does not need this protection.
      KLBP
      • You're forgetting about ...

        ... vulerabilities from Shockwave/Flash players and plugins and the like.
        Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
        • If this protected mode is so important

          If this protected mode in Vista is so important to Internet applications other than MSIE, then Microsoft needs to make it an API that can be used by all applications (e.g. Outlook, Firefox, etc.). The fact is that this is an OS level feature and if it is important like you seem to claim it is the responsibility of Microsoft to make it available to software other than just MSIE. Since Vista is in release candidate stage, I find it highly unlikely that it will be made more broadly available in the near future. This seems to indicate that it is designed to address issues that make MSIE more vulnerable to being exploited than other applications including Outlook (which also can't benefit from this feature).

          The fact is that MSIE has been a very soft very big target. We do not see drive by downloads being the same kind of issue in Firefox that we do in MSIE. Voluntary plug-ins that work for all browsers (e.g. Flash) have never posed the kind of serious security problems that the drive-by installs MSIE picks up have been.
          KLBP
          • It is available as part of the standard Vista ...

            ... APIs.
            ShadeTree
        • Gee.. take that

          So, having second thoughts about your article, if so (and you should) some sort of follow up would be good!.
          judgesinel@...