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.
A simplified web would be easier to support by more web browser developers.
Since few orgs have the resources to create "modern" web browsers with independent rendering engines 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.
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 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?
Before Netscape: Web browsers of the early 1990s (2011) (arstechnica.com)
W3C and the WHATWG sign agreement to collaborate on single version of HTML, DOM (w3.org)
Jun 4, 2019 HN threads.
Firefox Follows Apple in Blocking Third-Party Cookies Online (bloomberg.com)
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20097708 - 26 comments
Firefox Now Available with Enhanced Tracking Protection by Default (blog.mozilla.org)
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20095039 - 221 comments
When it comes to privacy, default settings matter (blog.mozilla.org)
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20095856 - 126 comments
That's a lot of conversation for a web browser with four percent browser share. Of course, most HN users and readers, like myself, live in a tech bubble or vacuum.
Comments from the first HN thread:
This is great for grandparents, but I'm not trusting Firefox or any browser to block ads/cookies/JS. I don't expect many people who are already using 3rd party addons and extensions to disable that stuff to stop because of this
For years, I have had Chrome set to block third party cookies, and I have never encountered a broken website because of this setting.
My data-point: Every couple of years I try to enable it, but every time there is that website that breaks because it really needs third-party cookies.
Usually they are oldish, unmaintained "third party solutions", a couple of times banks, once the complete university-wide single-sign-on system.
"and it breaks a lot of services."
This alleged issue of broken sites occurring from preventing 3rd party cookies is strange to me. For as long as I can remember using Chrome and Chrome having the setting to block 3rd party cookies, I have used that setting on every Chrome installation on every machine that I have used. I have never knowingly encountered a problem. Obviously, it's not a default setting within Chrome. For new browser installs, I always dig into the advanced settings.
Surprisingly, the second HN thread contained a good bit of discussion about people using Safari. Most of the time, geeks complain about Safari not supporting the latest, greatest features promoted by the complex, bloated web. On my old iPhone that I got in June 2014, I use Safari. Early on, I tried Chrome for a bit, but I deleted it. I'm fine with Safari.
The second HN thread contained 221 comments. Here's an excerpt from the top comment.
2019 me uses Safari for everything except development. Excellent power consumption and UX. Firefox for development. And lastly Chrome for all web apps that only work on Chrome. ( Google Meet etc. ) I feel much much better that I am not dependent on chrome.
That person could be an Apple fan: MacOS and iOS. My only preference is Linux.
It's odd that the person uses Firefox for development. I wonder why with only four percent browser share. Since developers represent a small percentage of the public, then using Firefox only for development does not help improve Firefox's meager browser share.
Another HN comment:
I also completely switched to Safari a few years ago mainly for power consumption (how can you all run chrome on battery??) ...
I've stayed with Safari for all web browsing mainly due to it's fantastic power consumption. Still use Chrome for development, but I find Safari's UX so compelling I'll still have it open for reference.
I only use Chrome on Google. Safari for everything else. Best power usage and better protects privacy. No reason to not let Chrome see me use Google...
From last year's Mozilla announcement about Firefox no longer supporting RSS and Atom feeds.
gHacks recently reported that Mozilla plans to remove support for RSS & Atom related features. Specifically Live Bookmarks and their feed reader.
The reasons cited are the lack of usage. This doesn’t completely surprise me. Both of the features don’t fit that well with modern workflows. There’s not a lot of people using bookmarks actively except through auto-complete, and the reader interface never really was as effective as just looking at a website. Honestly the day that Mozilla didn’t show the feed-discovery button by default in the address bar is the day they killed it.
Naturally, the argument in support of Firefox dropping support for an open web feature is that we can use other feed readers, either as separate apps or web services or even browser extensions.
Well, duh! No kidding. And that's another example of the tech bubble, vacuum, and echo chamber that HN users wallow in.
This decade, Mozilla/Firefox FAILED to promote the open web. They need to admit it. Firefox is meant to be used by some hard core tech geeks and not the general public.
Firefox could have differentiated itself from other browsers by promoting feeds on visited websites and by offering a built-in feed subscribing and feed reading capability. Once new users of feeds want more, then they can use another feed reader.
Firefox's massive failure with this issue was not introducing people to feeds and the benefits of using feeds.
Lack of usage within Firefox??? No kidding. If the majority of Firefox users are tech geeks who know about using feed readers outside of Firefox, then why would this group of people use Firefox's built-in feed system?
Mozilla built Firefox for users like themselves and not for normal people. I will always view Mozilla's downplaying of feeds over the years as a reason not to use Firefox. It shows that Firefox is not unique and does not support whatever bullshit mission it spews.
I am super disappointed, Mozilla! This is such a slippery slope you've created here. If FF doesn't support RSS anymore then even fewer people will use RSS and RSS will die rather sooner than later. This is such a pity as RSS can really empower users.
You basically infringe your own mission statement:
Our mission is to ensure the Internet is a global public resource, open and accessible to all. An Internet that truly puts people first, where individuals can shape their own experience and are empowered, safe and independent.
Typical tech vacuum response:
I don’t see how removing support for rss infringes on this statement. You can still install a plug-in to shape your own experience. In fact, it could be argued that including their own rss support when most users don’t even know what RSS is was itself infringing on that statement.
This is a great reply and observation, despite the clunky sentencing.
If [Mozilla/Firefox] had promoted and made a feature of explaining RSS instead of downplaying and hiding it. They could have promoted it and put RSS feeds on new tabs instead of advertising and what's popular on Pocket. Most users don't know what RSS is until it is explained to them.
I have no respect for Mozilla for doing this. But Mozilla's dismissal of this major open web feature began long before 2018 as the first article mentioned.
Honestly the day that Mozilla didn’t show the feed-discovery button by default in the address bar is the day they killed it.
The Opera Mini web browser that I installed on an old Blackberry phone supports the open web better than Firefox. The Opera Mini has a built-in feed reader and subscribing feature that's fun to use. It makes the old device more usable, especially when reading bloated garbage websites that either won't display or display awkwardly on the old Blackberry, but those same sites publish the entire content of their articles within their feeds.
Jun 10, 2019
Firefox Premium Coming This Fall (i-programmer.info)
I'd be happy to pay for Firefox, but I have a few points that are important to me. They are probably not very realistic but here they are anyway:
- I want my money to go into Firefox development and nowhere else.
I certainly don't want my money spent on their content business, even if it is used as a leverage to generate more money for Firefox development. I'm torn about Rust development because I certainly would love to see Rust flourish, but if we allow the money go into personally preferred projects it becomes hard to draw the line.
I want a Firefox with absolutely no strings attached.
- No Pocket, not even a trace of it
- No experiments, labs or whatever they call it (see Mr. Robot for an example)
- No network connections to third party hosts as long I haven't explicitly opted in.
- Safe search off by default
- No predefined search engines
- No predefined start page
It’s well within Mozilla’s right to offer a packaged deal that you can either take or leave. If that includes parts you don’t use, you’re stuck with buying or not buying. It’s well within your right to not buy the bundle, but there is no right to get it unbundled.
Yep. I will choose not to fund a browser that failed to support the open web.
Good to have the option to use it as you want. I hope they do the version for you. But I want my version with Pocket. Pocket integration is one of the reasons I use Firefox in the first place.
With only four percent browser share, it appears that Firefox's Pocket integration is not important to most web users. Mozilla built Firefox for geeks and not normal people. That's great. Nothing wrong that. Normal people, however, use Chrome, whatever Microsoft offers, and Safari.
Another Jun 10, 2019 HN thread:
Twitter is rejecting posts containing JSFiddle URLs (github.com)
And this is why most web users will rely on Google's we rendering engine. The web has become too big and complicated for independent web rendering development.
I wish that more web developers, designers, and publishers agreed with Andy's thinking.
Jun 13, 2019
"Introducing a new HTML element – welcome
... we're now living in a web where Google does whatever it wants, adds whatever it wants to Chrome, and the web is at its mercy.
I have been repeating the Chrome is the new IE meme for the last few years. I even had a boss that only cared about our code working on Chrome and would lose it when I was demoing / developing from FireFox.
That boss was smarter than the person who made that comment. The boss knew that since hardly anyone used Firefox, then it was a waste of time to support Firefox.
Four percent browser share for Firefox. What percentage of those Firefox users are NOT programmers, designers, and other hard core tech people? Firefox users are so small that maybe that boss considered Firefox users to be an edge case.
More from that HN commenter:
It saddens me that people worship Chrome and yet Firefox has a lot more potential in some areas.
I don't think that "normal" people worship Chrome. They use Chrome because it works well for them.
Hell it was Mozilla and not Google that gave us WebAssembly through asm.js and other awesome efforts.
Yeah, thanks for over-complicating and over-bloating the simple web experience. WebAssembly is nothing to be praised. It's amazing. Back in the 1990s and early aughts, we liked the web because it could be used for useful, lightweight, thin client-server applications. These simple web apps, that used HTML forms and server-side programming that worked against data stores, were deployed when creating a desktop application in Visual Basic or Visual C++ was unnecessarily complex and bloated.
But now creating simple web apps with humble HTML forms and sever-side programming is apparently amateurish. Now we need massively bloated client-side web applications. WTF?
Soon, creating desktop applications that are native to the operating systems (not Electron apps) will be more lightweight than client-side web apps. Computers will need 20 gigabytes of RAM to read a small text article thanks to obnoxiously bloated client-side web programs. The web has lost its thin client-server reputation. It's now bloatware.
And the geeks wonder why we don't have more independent web browser rendering development. That HN commenter was shocked that the boss demanded development to support only Chrome. Stupid shit like WebAssembly has led us down to this road. It's shocking that the HN commenter could not see that in the comment.
I even had a boss that only cared about our code working on Chrome.
Hell it was Mozilla and not Google that gave us WebAssembly.
Cause and effect. Demand a complex, bloated web, and we have Google dominating with its rendering engine. If the geeks had demanded that the web remain small, lightweight, and limited, then today's browser market might have looked a lot differently. The geeks should have demanded that new tech, such as WebAssembly, be used on a separate applications layer protocol, such as bloat://.
Another HN comment from that same thread:
Some software houses who supply the company I work for, are refusing to work with anything but Chrome.
I'm Jack's complete lack of surprise. That's expected. I would be surprised if the boss told developers to ensure that the web app or website worked in Firefox. Four percent browser share for Firefox. For internal corporate web apps (intranet), Firefox's usage is probably microscopic, outside of developers using Firefox.
If a software company is only concerned with building web apps that run within a company where the company can control what programs are used on employees computers, then it's easy to make employees standardize on using Chrome, which makes development easy.
Over complicate the web and we lose web browser independence. Google is not to blame. The rest of the tech world gets the blame for wanting a complicated web.
I try switching from Chrome to Firefox at least once a year, but the UI design keeps me firmly entrenched as a Chrome user.
I agree. Chrome's UI/UX and speed on older computers with slower CPUs is still better than Firefox's.
HN reply to that comment:
Interestingly I try Chrome once every which and go right back to Firefox for exactly the same reason. I find the Chrome UI intolerable. Tiny tabs, inflexible GUI, less interesting extensions, etc.
Huh??? Wow. I don't get that user's comment. But hey, we are all different. Allegedly.
It is probably a quite subjective thing. I use Firefox as main browser but test things in Chrome. Neither UI really bothers me, but I prefer Firefox for ideological reasons. The dev tools in chrome are better though imo.
I oppose Firefox for ideological reasons. Firefox's failure to promote the open web by not making feeds more prominent this decade is my main reason for opposing Firefox.
Firefox embraced the complex, bloated web. Great. But when I'm using the web for banking, checking my health info, and preparing taxes, I'm using Chrome, since it's probable that those services have ensured that their web apps support Chrome because of Chrome's large browser share.
Another HN link that I discovered on Jun 13, 2019.
"How to Design for the Web in 2019 (medium.com)"
That's hilarious. A how-to on web design in 2019, posted at medium.com. Don't design like Medium if the site is meant for readers.
I doubt I would have ever wanted to go into web development if I knew what the web of 2019 would look like without ad-blockers.
At this point, waiting for an "app-like" experience for web apps feels a bit like waiting for the year of the linux desktop.
Progressive Web Apps have come far, but they still have a long way to go, particularly in "feeling" like a native app experience. When interruptible animations are introduced, I'll give them another look.
Jeesh. Sigh. Cause and effect. Why the f*ck should the web function like native applications? Web sites/apps function like native apps. Holy crap. This is why the modern web is dominated by one rendering engine. If people want a native app-like experience, then they should build native apps.
Yeah when web apps started to take off, circa 2000 I'd say, the big selling point was the ease of deployment and update and the ability to have a single code base for multiple OS's.
Fast forward 10-15 years later and there's a significant increase in internet traffic but the increase is do to thick clients on mobile devices and now it's the same issues as before; how to package and deploy on multiple platforms and maintain a single code base.
Also thick web apps and websites on all devices. How to package and deploy complex, bloated web apps and websites on multiple platforms? Develop for Google's web rendering engine.
The commenter continued:
And that brings us to present day where mobile development has pretty much ditched web apps but desktop development is still holding on to web apps. And it's rather hilarious to watch the schizophrenic evolution of web app technology over time regarding [how] much of the code to put on the client vs the server.
More from that commenter:
All that to say, I agree; technologies exist to build multi-platform client applications that reach back to servers for data if they need to. And I wish the whole application in a browser thing would just die and browser would return to what they were designed for, displaying hypertext.
That would mean a simpler web, which would lead to more independent web browser development.
Another HN comment:
I want to push back a bit against the "app-ifiction" of the web. I see the web as its own platform, and trying to implement "native" features on it seems counter productive. I do genuinely think that the web platform is different, and should be approached on its own terms, rather than trying to mimic an Android or an iOS app experience.
Seven years too late.
The commenter continued:
On a higher level, as web developers, I think it is worth remembering that we don't have to build these half broken app experiences. We can still build web sites. We can still open a simple index.html file, put in some markup, and voila, it renders on the browser. We can choose not to implement all the trackers, invasive ads, broken "personalisation" algorithms etc.
True. The simplified and useful web can coexist with the complex, bloated, modern web. But I do not need Firefox nor Chrome to use the former.
The fact that these things are implemented on all websites nevertheless is not because of some technical failure of the web platform. I believe it's a human problem of organisational politics, where the business users want these features, and overrule any objections that the developers might have regarding privacy or performance.
Another HN comment:
Browsing the internet today is so exhausting.
I would add one more rule "make sure your user has to perform at least 37 clicks before accessing your ad riddled article"
Another HN comment that discusses the gist of the Medium article.
- Mobile App. The site has to work by itself. Else go PWA
Progressive Web App = the complex, bloated web, which means that it's best to develop for one web rendering engine: Google's.
- Use Notifications. OK, but, see 8 and 9.
Notifications. Another stupid f*cking addition to the modern web. PWA is meant to create web apps/sites that function similar to native apps. Web browser notifications are another native app feature. Dumbshits. I'm fine building crap like this for money, but I would develop for Chrome and that's it.
The whole article is satire, but I can see how one might believe it isn't. It's too real.
Hah! Sadly too real is the point.
Users win when the browser market is competitive.
The modern web browser market is competitive, although most of the browsers are based upon Google's rendering engine. But they are competing with each other. What's the malfunction? This should make web development easier across all of those Chrome-like browsers.
HN comment that was not written by me as satire:
“Users win when the browser market is competitive.”
i’ll get downvoted for this, but i simply don’t agree. i think users lose when there are multiple browsers. my argument relies on a basic fact: one cannot guarantee that a new website will work on all browsers without heavy amounts of testing. as such, the battle of the browsers shouldn’t be around engines, which simply duplicates code into different paradigms, instead it should be around ideas.
imagine a world with a single browser: all websites work perfectly, while implementing new tech would be a fierce competitive battle of ideas.
want newTechX implemented? then you’ll have to convince ms, goog and the rest of the community in order to implement it.
users would get both the competitive advantage and a stable “runs anything environment”, instead of the chaos of yesterday.
Yeah, that user's comment did get downvoted, even though the author is correct. The geeks probably know this to be true, but they downvote such thinking because they wish that it was not true.
- The complex, bloated web leads to one dominant web rendering engine, which makes web development easier, and it also makes life easier for users.
Microsoft has given up maintaining an independent web rendering engine. Microsoft. Mozilla with many years developing Firefox has four percent browser share. Why would handful of hacker friends try to create a web rendering engine that supports the wonderful complex, bloated web?
Here's an excellent HN comment that could also have been written by me and not as satire:
I guess I’m a contrarian, I think “all websites work perfectly” when they are allowed to be web sites instead of “apps”.
“Heavy amounts of testing” comes from trying to use the web as a combination of magazine publishing design style and Flash animation interactivity. If you used hypertext with semantic markup, you’d work in anything including Lynx in a terminal and text readers for the blind. Add a minimalist CSS such as https://milligram.io/, change font, spacing, colors of elements, and be done with it.
If you use the web just a piece of paper to convey information, think Economist or The Atlantic instead of Cosmo or Us magazine, it all pretty much “just works”.
I'll guarantee that The Atlantic, Cosmos, etc. use over-engineered, bloated websites. Hence the reason why Google created Accelerated Mobile Pages.
More from the commenter:
By contrast, if you use the web as a SPA (single page app) engine, you’re gonna have a bad time. For that, test in Safari for iOS, Chrome on Android, so you work in their native embedded engine. Given they’re both originally WebKit / KHTML, you’re not too far apart.
Recognize this is a contrarian view when these days it’s popular to try to shoot for a single experience on every form factor, and easy to forget most content on the web is still not in app form, it’s just stuff to read. HTML 3.2 / 4 with CSS wasn’t a terrible place to live.
Speaking of AMP, I also saw this HN thread on Jun 13, 2019.
"Google AMP Issue: Links to visit the site currently not working (twitter.com)"
It's ironic to me that AMP is a problem we all brought upon ourselves, really. It's almost (jokingly) a Prisoner's dilemma . Had no one ever opted into it, it probably would have just been swept under the rug by Google, and a win-win for us all. But since a competitor of yours (probably) opted into it to get ahead of you, you now have to opt into it also, to compete and get the same SEO "power juice" it gave them. The fact that everyone now adds the code to their site to make it work with AMP is the problem. Google gave us the rope. And then all the SEO managers/marketers/specialists hung us with it.
Google did not create AMP out of thin air for no reason. The media publishes the worst web designs in the world. Google provided media solution on the mobile web, and the media thinks AMP is a great idea. So bizarre. The media could create lightweight websites by default, but the media choose differently.
Another HN comment:
WE don't live in an ideal world and AMP is my only option of getting de-bloated webpages. I would love if managers and directors would do this themselves and AMP wouldn't be needed, but that's just not the case.
I know in an ideal world AMP would be useless, but until we reach that world I'm going to prefer AMP links over normal ones.
That's a great comment. Google pushed for a complex, bloated web, and publishers obliged, along with ads, trackers, and crapware, and then Google created a solution to the bloat: AMP. The complete circle.
That HN thread contained over 200 comments. Here's another one:
AMP is my only option of getting de-bloated webpages
How about de-bloating your webpages instead?
Seriously, people, come on — just put less cruft in your web pages. Don't load 500 trackers. Say no when the marketing guys come over and tell you to add 10 more. Tell your bosses that marketing is incompetent. Push back and tell people that adding cruft is bad.
Please don't bother telling me how it "can't be done". It can, but you might not want to.
I'm actually quite happy about the way this AMP thing is unrolling: the bloated crappy sites will walk into the jaws of AMP and get badly owned by Google eventually, being completely dependent on them.
That happened before AMP came out in 2015.
you can still put your wallet to vote and support outlets that provide a RSS feed, like a proper one with full articles and images
Too bad Firefox did not promote RSS/Atom feeds more, starting about 10 years ago.
It's great to see HN users bitch about AMP and web bloat and offer ways to debloat web pages. But that seems to run counter to PWAs, WebAssembly, and other web bloatware that requires modern web browsers.