Here’s a date you probably won’t remember. November 9th, 2004. That’s the day that the Mozilla Foundation unleashed Firefox 1.0 to the world. Sure, there were more than two years of releases before that which were affectionally labeled as “beta releases”. Don’t blame Mozilla for that. Google’s the one that made it fashionable to do so with their ridiculously long “beta” products.
At the time, Firefox was a great browser. Sure, it had its problems as all browsers do. In fact, all major software has problems. Yes, even software written by NASA that’s gone through 300 bazillion code reviews per line. Remember that itsy bitsy little crash? If you don’t, I’m sure that at a pricetag of $125 million, NASA does.
Regardless of little bugs here and there, Firefox was a dandy little browser for a time. Then things started to go wrong. Way wrong.
Wikipedia, the source of “all that is true” on the Internet, points out as one of the reasons for the creation of Firefox as the following:
“The Firefox project began as an experimental branch of the Mozilla project by Dave Hyatt, Joe Hewitt and Blake Ross. They believed the commercial requirements of Netscape’s sponsorship and developer-driven feature creep compromised the utility of the Mozilla browser. To combat what they saw as the Mozilla Suite’s software bloat, they created a stand-alone browser, with which they intended to replace the Mozilla Suite. On April 3, 2003, the Mozilla Organization announced that they planned to change their focus from the Mozilla Suite to Firefox and Thunderbird.”
Well, it worked out pretty well initially. Today, Firefox sports a market share of between 20%-30% of the market, which isn’t all that bad considering how dominant Internet Explorer had been. Remember IE? Of course you do. It shipped on pretty much every computer on the planet for the last 14 years. Sure, those Linux fans wiped their fancy Dell computers and installed Linux. And of course there was a Mac version of IE out there for a while.
But let’s call a spade a spade here. Internet Explorer has sucked for oh… I don’t know. 8 years now? Is that right? Probably not exactly, but nobody really cares. IE sucks. It’s on the Internet, so it must be true. It started out decent, and then it became a memory hog. It became bloated and slow. Then with those damned ActiveX controls, it became the transportation delivery device of choice for every cockroach on the Internet, aka: viruses, malware, spyware, popup maker, etc.
So the bottom line is that Firefox didn’t really need to be that great in order to be better than IE. It just needed to be average. However when you’re average in a field of suckiness, you look like a start. Yay Firefox!
But Firefox started to suck quickly… and I mean REALLY suck and REALLY quickly. Even back in 2005, which is 5 years ago and a lifetime in Internet time, I pointed out glaring performance shortcomings of Firefox. It was getting bad then, and it’s gone to hell in a handbasket since. And I wasn’t the only one to notice back in 2005… or in 2006… or in 2007… or in 2008… or in 2009… do you see a trend here?
When did Firefox become the new IE?
That’s a crappy way to label any browser. It’s like calling your boss the PHB, even if he is. Unfortunately the answer is just as obvious as the question. It happened between 2004 and 2005. Yes, less than 12 months from the release of version 1.0.
How did it happen?
I’m not really sure to be honest. Wikipedia isn’t much help here I’m afraid. But that’s not really the point of this long winded rambling of an old programming codger.
What is your point you old programming codger?
The real point is this. If you’re fed up with crappy browsers, you don’t have to live with it. I did, and you can do it too. Here’s how.
I ran a 24 hour experiment about 3 weeks ago. I’d had Firefox crash my machine one time too many and I just got fed up, subsequently venting my frustrations on Facebook. One of my old evil minions piped up and told me to try Google Chrome. I had. It sucked. He assured me things had changed a lot and I should try it again.
Well, what did I have to lose other than about a days’ worth of work and an Internet Explorer-esque browser. So to give it a fair shake, I deleted my Firefox shortcut, replaced it with Google Chrome and gave it a whirl.
I had it installed in all of 2 minutes, including the download. That’s not just because the download is small, mind you. The 25Mbps fiber optic connection certainly doesn’t hurt. But it installed painlessly and I fired it up right away. Immediately it asked me if I wanted to import all of my cookies and passwords from Firefox.
I really had expected this part of the transition to be a painful one. Anyone who has used a browser for long enough just saves passwords to the browser left and right to make surfing the net a lot easier. I figured what the heck and did the import.
… and it worked. The only “flaw” (if you could call it that) was that every page I normally visited asked me for my password again. But with the cookie import, all the passwords were already entered and all I needed to do was click the checkbox to save it for the future. Then off I went as if nothing was different.
After a mere 24 hours on my desktop, I stopped using Firefox entirely. It’s been nearly a month and I haven’t looked back. Even my virtual assistant has given it a whirl based on the recommendation I made on my podcast.
What about your Bookmarks?
For all my bookmarks, I’ve been using the Firefox plug-in called XMarks for several years, which is a cross browser, cross platform book mark synchronization software. This plug in has been one of the primary reasons that this transition was so simple and painless because XMarks is available for IE, Firefox, Chrome and Safari.
To be fair, I never gave Opera an honest shot. But at this point, I don’t feel like I need to. Opera may very well be a great browser. Kudos to them for doing such a great job of creating rabid fans. But until I get fed up with Google Chrome, I’m not about to go looking again. The experience of switching to Chrome was such a profound improvement that I really can’t even begin to adequately describe how it has affected my productivity.
For all of you who thought that the choice between Internet Explorer and Firefox was a choice between the lesser of two evils, there’s hope. If you’re fed up and irritated with the speed, memory usage, crappiness, bad rendering, poor experience, (insert profanity here) browser, give one of the two below a try. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.