Chad Perrin: SOB

19 August 2008

Has Firefox jumped the shark?

Filed under: Geek,Mezilla — apotheon @ 07:01

A while back, I got frustrated with the lack of search functionality in the Firefox “Exceptions – Cookies” dialog. See, I have my cookie handling preferences set to “Accept cookies from sites” and “Keep until: ask me every time” because I like to know what cookies are being saved on my computer (and have the option to say “Hell no, I don’t want any cookies from!”). Unfortunately, if for some reason I need to allow a cookie that I had previously denied, it’s a severe pain in the behind to find that cookie.

I mean, sure, it’d be easy in the “Exceptions – Cookies” dialog to change the setting for the specific cookie whose setting I need to change, if I had the domains of every cookie in the exceptions list memorized. I don’t, though. Thus, if for instance a cookie for got denied and I need to allow it so I can view something in Google Docs, but I don’t remember that domain — I just figure I must have accidentally denied a cookie with “google” in it somewhere — I have to scroll through the whole list parsing it by eye to find the one I need. With almost 1000 cookie policy exceptions in the list, that gets really tedious really quickly.

. . . and of course, the people at Mozilla seem to be entirely incapable of realizing someone might want a useful search feature for this dialog. Well, I decided to solve the problem myself. I wrote a program in ruby I call fxception — a command line utility that just does a quick text search and spits out the exception status of each cookie source domain in the list.

So, the Mozilla project released Firefox 3.0. It has all kinds of new features. They also changed something about the way cookie policies are managed.

Did they add in some useful search functionality? No, of course not.

They put the cookie exception policies into a damned binary database file, thus ensuring that there’s no quick and easy way to write your own search tool, since the Mozilla project won’t give us a search tool.

. . . and I can’t figure out a good reason to have put the cookie exception policies into a binary database file. I’m really far outside the average, and I still only have about a thousand exceptions. A flat file can handle that just fine. Using binary file formats is a great way to just make interoperation between tools more difficult — which is suspiciously like the way Microsoft seems to operate. How badly has Mozilla lost the plot?

Argh. If you ask me, the apparently steady and inexorable march toward greater bloat, more unnecessary binary format files (there’s at least a handful of new *.sqlite files to replace old *.txt files), and more generated files you’re not “allowed” to touch (making portable bookmarks, for instance, very difficult to arrange without using a third-party service), looks suspiciously like a sign Firefox may have jumped the shark.

Mozilla is still the browser I dislike least, but every time I turn around, the benefit to using Firefox over other browsers gets less and less compelling. In fact, “compelling” isn’t even a word I’d use any longer. It has gotten to the point now where the benefit is small enough that, if I was using something lame and broken like Galeon or Konqueror, there wouldn’t be motivation enough to make the switch to Firefox any longer.

It has gotten to the point where all the major browsers are pretty much equally crap. In purely technical terms, Firefox isn’t even much better than IE any longer. The only thing it has going for it, aside from being distributed under an open source license (and a few of the benefits that go along with that), is its extensibility.

All original content Copyright Chad Perrin: Distributed under the terms of the Open Works License