Tag Archives: Firefox

Mobile Firefox Frustrations

I’ve been using Firefox for Android as my main mobile browser for a few weeks now. There are a lot of things I like about it. It works well overall. Unlike Chrome, it supports extensions, so I can install (for instance) Privacy Badger and HTTPS Everywhere. The share menu option includes the two most recent apps instead of just one. Things like that.

But there are a few things that I find incredibly frustrating:

  • PWAs aren’t as stable as Chrome.
  • Auto-fill is inconsistent and interacts badly with scrolling.
  • It’s slower than Chrome, though I’ve found that turning off web fonts helps a lot.
  • Private mode UI differs only by the color of the search bar, so whenever I use it, I have to double-check whether I’m actually in private mode or not.

Plus I miss a few Chrome UI features that just streamline common actions:

  • When clicking on the search bar, if you have a URL in the clipboard, Chrome offers to load that URL. (This is particularly helpful for opening email links in private mode.)
  • Auto-fill an entire address form at once
  • Clear the last X minutes of history

On the PWA front: These are packaged web applications that can be “installed” locally and used offline, powered by whichever web browser you used to install them. When I switched browsers, I also reinstalled the PWAs I was using on my phone and tablet, switching them from Chrome-powered to Firefox-powered. These amount to a couple of Mastodon instances and Twitter. (I don’t want to install the full Twitter app on my phone so I’ll be less tempted to get caught in infinite scroll.)

On Firefox, Mastodon’s PWA frequently logs me out. Every other day at least. Sometimes it stops being able to load any new statuses, and I have to close the app entirely and re-open it to get back to normal. (Fortunately that’s fast.) Twitter…well, it worked for a couple of days, then it got into a redirect loop where it kept switching between the regular UI and the login screen. I considered reinstalling it through Chrome, but finally decided I was better off without Twitter on my phone anyway.

Despite these issues, I’m going to stick with mobile Firefox for now. We’re entering another period of near-monopoly in web browser engines, and it’s important to keep a viable alternative going to ensure that the future of the web isn’t built on a single stakeholder’s goals.

Internet Explorer Goes Chromium

I never thought I’d see Microsoft throw in the towel on their browser engine. Or that, by the time it happened, I’d see that as a bad thing.

But it’s true: like Opera did a few years ago, Microsoft is dropping not only the old Internet Explorer engine, but the newer Edge engine, and will be building Edge on Chromium going forward. That means Edge, Chrome, Opera and Safari are all built on the same codebase. (Chromium split from Apple’s WebKit a while back, but they still have a lot in common.)

Monoculture is still a problem, no matter who runs it. We’re already at the point where webdevs are treating Chrome like the defacto standard, the way they did IE6 back in the day.

Firefox is going to be even more important in the future, ensuring that the web continues to be built on interoperable standards instead of one stakeholder’s goals.

Mozilla is a non-profit organization, and like many, they’re running a year-end donation drive. Now is a good time to contribute to their mission to keep the internet and the web open. (I’ve already made my annual donation to them.)

I think I may want to finally shut down or retool that old Alternative Browser Alliance site I ran during the Second Browser War. The last time I made a significant update to it, Chrome was the new upstart.

Goodbye, Xmarks! (again)

I got an email from LastPass that they’re dropping Xmarks on May 1. Xmarks is a cross-browser bookmark sync service that I’ve used for a long time to keep Chrome, Firefox, IE, and Safari on multiple computers using the same set of bookmarks.

Once it’s gone I can still sync Firefox across devices, Chrome across devices, etc., but that doesn’t help with syncing Firefox, Chrome, etc. with each other.

That said, it’s been a bit flaky for a while:

  • Anytime I came back to a system without using it for a while, it would have trouble syncing and have to re-download everything.
  • Sometimes it gets confused by the different folder layouts.
  • Since Firefox dropped their old extension API, the new extension hasn’t worked well with my scheme that drops all cookies when I close the browser except those on sites I want to stay logged into.

Maybe someone will pick them up again, like when they planned to close down in 2010 but LastPass bought them and took it freemium. On the other hand, I’m not sure I would trust someone who wanted to buy them now. Maybe I should pull my data early.

Whatever the case: If you sync bookmarks across different browsers, what do you use? Would you recommend it?

Can’t Log into Feedly or Pinterest on Firefox 40? Check Ghostery!

I use Feedly to keep up with a lot of sites ranging from tech to entertainment. After upgrading to Firefox 40, I wasn’t able to log in using my Google account. The authentication pop-up would only bring up a plain HTML page saying, “Moved Temporarily The document has moved here.” The same problem occurs with Pinterest and Facebook login, though in that case the authentication pop-up is blank. Pocket also shows the “Moved Temporarily” message, but recovers. I’m having trouble logging into Disqus too. Lots (but not all) of third-party logins seem to be broken now.

Update: Ghostery 5.4.8 fixes the problem!

TL;DR: Use this workaround!

  1. Go into Add-Ons and disable Ghostery.
  2. Log into Feedly / Pinterest / whatever.
  3. Go back into Add-Ons and re-enable Ghostery.

A discussion on Google+ suggested disabling add-ons. I tried it, and was able to log in — great! But I wanted to know which extension was the problem.

After experimenting a bit, I found that disabling Ghostery allowed me to log into Feedly with Google.

Just to make certain, I logged out of Feedly, re-enabled Ghostery, and tried logging back in. Sure enough, I was back to the “Moved Temporarily…” error again. I’ve had Ghostery on this browser for a long time with no problems, and the about page shows that the extension was last updated toward the end of July, so I assume the problem is that something in Firefox 40 changed the way the browser, Ghostery and OAuth interact. I wouldn’t be surprised if it runs into issues with other privacy add-ons like AdBlock or Privacy Badger.

Fortunately, Ghostery can be turned on and off without restarting your browser. And turning it back on after you’re logged in doesn’t seem to interfere with Feedly.

I may go back and try to figure out the specific setting that’s causing the issue, but for now, I’m able to run both Feedly and Ghostery, so I’m not in too much of a hurry.

Update: Ghostery will be releasing a fix to resolve the bug, which turns out to affect quite a few sites. (via Feedly on Google+.) Update: Ghostery 5.4.6.1 is supposed to fix the problem, but it still breaks login on some sites, including Feedly and Pinterest.

Update: Ghostery 5.4.8 fixes the problem!

Don’t Hide Version Numbers

One of the problems with Mozilla’s plan to hide Firefox version numbers is that the replacement of “You’re running the latest version” only succeeds if people have confidence that the check is working. Speaking for myself, the last time I checked About:Firefox, I was convinced that it was broken until I verified that the update I was expecting was Mac-only, which was why it wasn’t showing up on Windows.

The biggest, of course, is breaking deeply ingrained user expectations (where to find the version number) for no real discernible benefit.