A Dear John Letter to Firefox

April 9th, 2012 by Mike Wilcox

Dear Firefox Letter
Dear Firefox,

We met when you were 1.5, and started dating when you were 2.0. We enjoyed making fun of my clueless ex, Internet Explorer. IE seemed great at the time, but you showed me the error of my ways. IE was selfish and wanted to do everything its own way. You truly believed in collaboration and gratefully accepted suggestions. When you brought Firebug to the party, I became deeply committed to our relationship. Before Firebug I had no idea how difficult my life was, or the abuse of “error on line 0 character 0”; or blank, failed, pages and the silent treatment. You were very up-front with my errors, and kept life spicy with tabs, smart bookmarks, and an Awesome Bar that was truly awesome. Sure you didn’t load pages as fast as the other browsers, but I’m not greedy and the most important thing in my life was never… “cache”. Life was never boring, and at the nearest hint that it was, you would whisper in my ear, “I have a new AddOn…” And boy oh boy, I’ll never forget the first night with that Greasemonkey.

browsersSoon after, other browsers began vying for attention. Safari spawned Webkit, Opera was talking about an HTML5 thing, and Chrome had a hot V8 engine. I honor my commitments, and planned to spend the rest of my career with you. I know the grass is always greener, and it’s important to love the one you’re with, and many more cliches, songs and metaphors.

But relationships are a two way street.

At first, I thought the fact that you didn’t play well with Flash was funny. I mean, you and I are all about HTML5, right? You put Flash in a (sand) box, kneed it in the groin, and we laaaaaa-ughed!

However, I work with video a lot. I understood your attraction to Ogg Vorbis, I really did. But nobody else wanted to play with your hippy friend. Later, I was as excited as you when your rich Uncle Google introduced WebM to everybody. WebM was so charming and intelligent — all the developers were swooning. But WebM had skeletons in the closet and just didn’t make good on its promises. Then WebM was stood up by none other than… Flash. You know you’ve hit rock bottom when the town drunk stands you up.

Kitten In MicrowaveI’m glad to see you are opening up to the idea of H264. Your ideals were great, but we can’t live on a commune eating tofu forever. Don’t get me wrong, no love is lost on H264, or as I call it, H666, that patent troll who comes to every party claiming someone stole its idea for chip dip. Thanks to you and your rich uncle, H264 was afraid nobody would play, and so agreed to never charge admission. It’s time to help the web move on and think about other things. H264 may be evil, but it’s not kittens in the microwave.

Firefox, I can overlook all those things. You’ve been making it tough, but that’s okay — life is tough. But something serious has come up. I noticed you had memory problems since 3.0. I thought it might get better over time, but you’re 11 now. Your memory is starting to interfere with our relationship.

Which leads to a confession I have to make. A developer has needs. I’ve been seeing your cousin Chrome on the side.

My wandering eye started with video. Choppy, stuttering, almost unwatchable video. Yes, it was in large part due it playing through that mentally challenged plugin, but you didn’t leave much option, did you? Oh sure, you use HTML5 to play WebM and Ogg beautifully… but you know what pages use WebM and Ogg? NONE OF THEM!

Recently at a party when you were chatting with your highfalutin W3C friends about whether video should have a fullscreen API, or whether images should be allowed in canvas cross domain, Chrome cornered me in the bathroom. With trembling fingers, I began opening webpages that had videos. And guess what?

I liked it.

I never meant for it to happen. It was just one of those things. I became witness to a new world where a video would play from beginning to end without a stutter. Even more exciting, I discovered that I could actually smoothly scroll pages again. Don’t pretend to be shocked Firefox, you know what I’m talking about! How you give me the cold shoulder and freeze everything while you battle your memory-management Tourette’s Syndrome as I try and scroll a page that is still loading. Which as mentioned, you take your sweet time to do.

Sorry. I didn’t mean to get angry. I tried looking the other way. I tried reading email while you were busy being busy. But it’s gotten so bad that people are starting to blame my code for being slow. I hate to say this, but Firefox, it’s not me… it’s you.

We’ve had some good times. I never thought of myself as the type who needed a trophy wife, but Firefox, I deserve better. Chrome is hot, available, and every time I look, I see her heaving that ample bosom.

But don’t worry — we’ll continue to see each other since we share 20% custody of users.

By the way, there is someone named MP3 I’d like you to talk to…


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7 Responses to “A Dear John Letter to Firefox”

  1. dimumurray says:

    My favorite line in this article: “Chrome cornered me in the bathroom…”. That’s some steamy stuff man. Maybe you need to take up a side-job with Penthouse. ;) All joking aside, great article. Chrome has had me under her seductive wiles for a while now.

  2. Francis says:

    I wonder when a dear John letter will be written to Chrome?

  3. Mike Wilcox says:

    @Francis, hopefully someday there will be one. If not, that means competition has stifled and we are dealing with another IE6 scenario.

  4. Very interesting letter ! You nailed it so well man .

    Now I’m become a fan of Chrome too

  5. Justin Scott says:

    Very entertaining letter :)

    I have a suggestion that might help with the Firefox problems. Since you’ve been a user for so long, especially with add-ons, it’s common for your Firefox profile to get built up with years of gunk. Try creating a new profile ( http://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/Managing-profiles ) and browsing around with videos and the other activities that usually cause problems in that new profile. It’s like starting over with a brand new Firefox, and for many people the difference is night and day.

    If things are better, you can then copy your bookmarks and history over (using Sync for example) and maybe copy your add-ons one by one to make sure they haven’t been causing problems as well.

    Full disclosure: I work for Mozilla.

  6. Mike Wilcox says:

    Hi Justin,

    Thank you for your response and your good humor on the subject!

    I tried your suggestion, and it did in fact make Firefox feel lighter and faster. However, the Flash bug remains, which is unfortunately is wildly inconsistent. When I download my Flash video player, it takes as long as 30 seconds to load – in Chrome it was right away. Checking YouTube, their player loaded instantly in Firefox. I came into work this morning expecting to do some serious debugging, and the player is loading without pause now. While it seems that it may have been a network issue with my company’s server, that doesn’t explain why it worked fine in Chrome. I also know it’s not just me, because it happens with ads all the time.

    I had already spent numerous weeks fixing another Firefox Flash bug not too long ago, so the prospect of searching for another fix to make a plugin work properly is not appealing.

    I know, as my blog says, that Flash is the town drunk – but its necessary to work with it until FF supports H264. I also hate H264, but see no way around that. My company hosts 90TB of video, and it’s a large order to double the capacity and encode WebM.

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