Mozilla: Not Hostile, Not So Friendly Either – Linux Liaison

Mozilla: Not Hostile, Not So Friendly Either

If you’ve been a Firefox user for any extended period of time in the last 2 years you might have noticed that the versions are rolling out, aplenty. With each version, new features are introduced, things are changed, but it seems like Mozilla is taking an aggressive approach to development. I’m all for moving forward and adding features, but I question the implementation and I worry that this rapid development with fatigue users.

In version 50 of Firefox, Mozilla introduced a feature that would allow someone to make the default Ctrl+Tab (switching tabs) behaviour to switch through the most recently used tabs. This is best when you have two tabs that you’re going back and forth between because you only have to press Ctrl+Tab rather than switching between Ctrl+Tab and Ctrl+Shift+Tab. The feature is not my quarrel here, it’s the change in default behaviour for a fresh install of Firefox version 63.  Now the default behaviour is that this “most-recent tab switching” is enabled. I imagine there were at least a few users requesting this but why introduce the feature in one version as an about:config setting, disabled, and then in a later version make it formally part of the end-user facing settings, enabled?

Another change in existing behaviour is related to Firefox’s Content Blocking feature. When originally introduced in version 63 Content Blocking was either on, off, or only on in Private Browsing mode. When higher levels of configurability were introduced in version 65, however, my Content Blocking was straight up disabled. I had set it to always on, and without notification, this level of protection that I was employing was disabled completely, rendering me naked to the various (plethoric levels of) trackers that exist solely to extract every penny a company can out of each website visitor. This includes Google Analytics and the Facebook Pixel. I didn’t mind so much that the setting had been reset, it was that it was done without notifying me explicitly.

Yes, I realize that with each update, there’s a changelog that’s displayed upon restarting the browser. But this second thing is a security level (at least in my mind) change that would potentially allow trackers to extract more data than I want to give them. It’s an invasion of privacy when these trackers are “on my back” and isn’t invasion of privacy a crime in some contexts?

Speaking of, this whole Addon Recommendation thing is kind of annoying and a little creepy. Any time I visit YouTube or some other popular website, Firefox will recommend a specific addon that relates to the website. For YouTube, I get a recommendation to install an addon called Enhancer for YouTube which, although the addon is useful, is not something I would like to do. It’s not enough that the addon recommendation is shown in the URL bar, it also apparently merits a popup. See the screenshot below for an example:

I feel like this kind of feature is something that creates an unfair playing field for addons and might even stifle some competition. There’s little money involved in creating addons, though I’m sure the more popular addon’s developers receive a sizeable amount of donations. I dislike when the platforms that host content lift up those who don’t need one.

What actually inspired this post, the last straw, was when Firefox 67 came out and a new button presented itself in my toolbar. When I restarted my browser, a little profile-picture was there and clicking on it, revealed it to be none other than Firefox Sync! Firefox Sync was initially introduced back in 2007 and was originally branded Firefox Weave. It doesn’t behave the same as it did back then (times change, right?) but the concept is at least similar. Why, however, did Mozilla think it necessary to, all of a sudden, introduce this button into my customized toolbar without even asking me if I think this change is okay. It’s almost as if they’re desperately trying to push Firefox Sync for some reason.

Conclusion time: I’m going to continue using Firefox, but I’m becoming more and more weary of Mozilla as a company. Between secretly installing an extension and forgetting to update SSL certificates, they’re not looking so good compared to the competition. I considered using Firefox ESR to get more stability but I think that the moment a juicy feature is released, I’ll probably jump right back on Firefox current release. I will, however, be paying much closer attention to the Firefox changelogs now.

2 Comments Posted

    • It seems like I would fall into the same problem as using Firefox ESR where the features are lagging behind. Does waterfox even use the quantum engine that was introduced in version 57 of Firefox?

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