Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Fond Farewell, Firefox

Update: Since writing this I've found out I'm far from being the only person who is bemoaning Firefox's decline. This article that appeared early this morning on Wired informs that a lot of folks have had the same trouble with Firefox as me - especially Mac users. It goes on to discuss how much Firefox has changed from the lightweight open source champ that it once was.

Over the past couple of weeks my frustration with Firefox has been building. It fails to load some webpages correctly, but I can live with that. The real problem is the increasingly persistant crashes I keep getting - tonight it was three in the space of a few hours. When that happened I lost my cool and resolved to ditch my old Mozillian friend for good and switch to a new browser.

Fortunately, I recalled a fairly recent post Paul Stamatiou made about abandoning Firefox himself. I don't know much about the other browsers out there, or at least I didn't, so I used this entry of Paul's as a guide to other popular browsers. I ended up downloading and sampling several, and I thought I'd take this opportunity to talk briefly about each one. Perhaps this can serve as a little guide to anyone who's also considering a change of browsers.

This open source browser is really just a rendering engine for Apple's Safari, and was Paul Stamatiou's choice after switching from Firefox. The look of it is ok for a while, but I find the dark colours a bit depressing. It has some cool features for . sure, but it's not easy to import your data from a previous browser - which is pretty much a make or break factor for me. I love my setup.

This one's kind of neat. Probably the most visually appealing, Flock advertises itself as "the social web browser". It lets you grab a feed from Flickr or Photobucket and have access to it right in your browser UI - not that that feature's very useful, but I guess some would like it. Other than that it's pretty standard, but I found it a little clunky and hard to use.

OmniWeb (Mac Only)
I could see myself getting into this one, but sadly it's not free. That's pretty much a deal breaker right there. I'm not crazy about the interface either. The upside is that it's got lots of customization options - and therefore a steep learning curve.

Shiira (Mac Only)
This is definitely one of my favourites. In fact, probably the main reason I didn't end up choosing Shiira is because it's so different from what I'm used to - and I don't like change that much. Instead of tabs, Shiira employs graphical thumbnails in the "PageDock" at the bottom instead of the top. It's definitely a cool idea, but I find it a lot easier for all that stuff to be in one place...that is, my open tabs and my bookmark toolbar, which I use more than anything else. It also has a fullscreen mode. Why, I don't know. I guess these guys take the notion of browsers being the OS of the future pretty seriously.

Opera is insane. I guess I didn't choose it because I couldn't be bothered to figure it out. This one's even got widgets, and is also highly customizable. Not much else to say about it. I think it's a good browser, but it's not for me - at least, not now.

I have a confession to make. As of this hour, I started writing this post about 24 hours ago, (though I've only been working on it intermitantly of course) and I've lost all interest in writing little browser reviews. I'll just say that the last two I looked at were SeaMonkey and iCab, (Google 'em yourself) but the one I finally decided on was something I had all along: Camino.

Camino is made to be very similar to Firefox with a "more Mac" feel. This is mostly true, although more than anything it reminds me of the Mac version of Messenger - which I hate. After all this exploration and deliberation, I've arrived at the conclusion that Firefox rules. Sadly, it's become very unreliable for me but my hope is that I can find a fix, or that Mozilla will release a new version soon that doesn't have these problems.

Anyway! Enough about browsers already! I have more to say but I think I'll save it for a post of its own. But, while I'm thinking about it, I wanted to mention a neat little web app I found called Fidg't. This service attempts to merge many of your social tools into one. It's something I've been thinking of for a while myself: why run around checking multiple email accounts, Facebook walls and messages, Flickr photos and their comments, blog comments and all the rest if one service could bring them all to a single place? I know I'd use it if it was good. Which is why I'm not using Fidg't - not yet anyway - because it's not compatible with much yet, and frankly, kind of ugly. But one day, who knows? Something like this could change the way people use the web.

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At 9:31 PM, Anonymous Mark Steiner said...

A very nice synopsis.

Although, the browser is relatively new, I personally lean towards the Shiira camp. It isn't completely ready for prime time just yet, but it is certainly making good ground. [ I tend to swap between both the 1.2.x and 2.0 builds ].

I am not sure if you discovered the tab view options in Shiira's preferences, which switches from the new PageDock to traditional tabs? Traditional tabs certainly help make it more 'familiar', although I have found both views have their merits.

With that in mind, I hope you can find some time to revisit Shiira, it is a great alternative to FireFox on the Mac.

At 10:37 PM, Blogger Brillo said...

Thanks Mark!

I didn't find the tab option, but I'll be the first to admit these little synopses are pretty one-sided. I only spent about 10 minutes looking at each browser, and my main concern was importing my current settings from Firefox. If I couldn't get a Firefox-near-replica almost right away, I moved on. So all this is pretty biassed.

That said, I do think Shiira could be really cool and I will definitely make it a point to spend more time trying it out. Thanks for your input!

At 2:40 PM, Anonymous Daniel Goldman said...

I guess I didn't choose it because I couldn't be bothered to figure it out.

What's there to figure out with Opera? It's a pretty straight forward browser.

Not much else to say about it.

Hmm... Have you heard about its speed and low memory footprint? Try it out for yourself. Countless tests have shown our browser to be the fastest browsers.

At 7:58 PM, Blogger Brillo said...

Don't get me wrong Daniel, I think Opera's a great browser, even though I don't know much about it. (I'm sure it's very fast!) What I said about it is just what I got from checking it out briefly. I don't mean to give it a bad review. In fact, I hoped that by writing about these browsers that people would give them a try - Opera included, of course.

At 8:29 PM, Anonymous Pallab said...

I am also a big Opera fan. It's UI is by far the most well thought out. Its different some would take some time to get used to.

At 3:46 PM, Blogger Evan said...

Hey Dave,

Sorry to hear that Flock didn't make the cut. Keep your eyes open for a significantly-improved Flock 0.9 in 6-8 weeks!

Evan Hamilton
Flock Community Ambassador

evan at flock dot com


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