Do We have a Moral Obligation to Use the Firefox Web Browser?

created Apr 9, 2019 - updated Apr 19, 2019

My answer is, "No."

This is another long, rambling post that covers many topics. Originally, this post contained a little over 10,000 words with an estimated reading time of 58 minutes.

I have decided to break this post up into multiple posts. In the sections where I swerved off onto a tangent, I created separate posts for those rants that will be linked from this page.

Unsurprisingly, I use these posts to rail against needless bloated web design. (I've been diagnosed with Yelling-at-Cloud disorder.)

And I make the comparison between designing with progressive enhancement and supporting Firefox.

I don't know who gets to define "negligible" and "insignificant" regarding the number of users, but if we have a moral obligation to use Firefox, then web developers also have a moral obligation to use progressive enhancement.


These TL;DR points could contain some sarcasm, but that sarcasm is based upon reality.

Mmm, my TL;DR section has now become nearly too long to read. Originally, this was a smallish list of bullet points, but obviously, that has changed.

The web is about business.

Businesses create complex functions that users want to occur over the web.

The complex, bloated web requires a simple solution: one rendering engine.

One rendering engine makes web development easier, especially with auto-updating web browsers.

The simplified web would not need JavaScript. It would not need to support every damn complex feature that has been stuffed into CSS and HTML. The front-end would not need to be dynamic, like native apps. Pages could be dynamically generated via round-trips to the server.

A simplified web would be easier to support by more web browser developers.

Since few orgs have the resources to create huge web browser applications that support the complex web, then it makes sense that the world's most popular web browser is aligned with one of the biggest tech companies in the world.

Today's web developers prefer to use client-side JavaScript to display text and images to readers.

Today's web developers believe that progressive enhancement is unnecessary because the number of users who access the web with old web browsers, slow internet connections, or with JavaScript disabled is so small that it's a waste of time to support them.

Also today, the number of Firefox users is so small and out of the mainstream that it's a waste of web development time to ensure that bloated apps and websites run properly in Firefox.

The overuse and misuse of client-side JavaScript has created a world where most web users will rely on Google's rendering engine.

A separate application layer protocol should have been created at least 15 years ago to support the complex, bloated web. The bloat:// protocol would support JavaScript and all things big and complicated. We saw the complex, bloated web coming with Java Applets in the 1990s and Flash in the early aughts and the overuse of PDF files.

The simplified web browsers would not support client-side JavaScript, nor Web Assembly, Progressive Web Apps, Web Components, etc.

The simplified web would become a prettier version of Gopher that would be difficult to exploit by ad tech and other nefarious actors.

But the reality is that the simplified web exists today and may continue to exist in the future, alongside the complex, bloated web, but we don't need Firefox nor Chrome to access the simplified web.

Designing without progressive enhancement while encouraging people to use Firefox is hypocritical. User-friendly web designers who use progressive enhancement and encourage people to use Firefox make sense to me.

I use the NetSurf, Lynx, and links2 -g web browses to READ the simplified web, and all of those web browsers use their own rendering engines.

I can use a bloated web browser, such as Chrome or Firefox to complete my taxes online this week.

Since it's a tax prep process, I will use Chrome because I want to ensure that I don't run into any browser issues in case the tax prep site does not support Firefox fully.

Why should the tax prep website support Firefox when the number of Firefox users is so small?