back to article Firefox 57: Good news? It's nippy. Bad news? It'll also trash your add-ons

Mozilla plans on November 14 to start rolling out Firefox 57, a massive update that just might send many of its users scurrying for the LTS release. First the good news. Firefox 57 is faster, quite noticeably so, thanks to improvements to what Mozilla calls Project Quantum. Quantum encompasses several smaller projects in order …

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Using Firefox Quantum since beta. Really fast. I did some tests, and the only place where Chromium is still faster is javascript on subsequent page loads (probably because they cache JIT compilation results). Call me a fanboi (I am), but browser is great. Although UI is so Chrome-ish that I sometimes confuse those two. Yep, some useful addons don't work. Nope, don't miss them since the time I read how some of them were cooked (hint: sometimes they modify JS source of browser UI functions - imagine the hell of maintaining that)

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I'll confess up front -- increased speed is nice, but not an incredibly compelling thing to me. That said, it doesn't matter if it's the fastest browser in the history of mankind if it has left out critical functionality. Particularly when the UI is subpar (although it is certainly less terrible than it has been).

I'm hoping that it's not missing the stuff that is critical to me. I'm skeptical, although since playing with 57, I'm a little less skeptical.

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Johnfen: there are other Moz based browsers.. :)

Pale moon is a good steady one, with a good forum, latest release is great, still running months old addons... :)

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But you see, this is the bit I struggle to understand. Firefox looks just like Chrome, and uses practically the same extensions as Chrome. So, what's the unique selling point?

Sorry, but I see Firefox as increasingly irrelevant these days because they don't seem to want to be any different from Chrome. I used to use Firefox because it had a powerful and flexible UI, and the best selection of addons. Now, both those advantages are gone.

I still hope Mozilla will do something genuinely interesting and different with Firefox, but right now their design approach seems to just be to mirror what Google is doing.

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Chrome?

@Dave K

So, what's the unique selling point?

How about it doesn't send your entire browser activity to Google?

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Re: Chrome?

How about it doesn't send your entire browser activity to Google?

Does it for me. I use FF Developer more now than I used to, mostly because I hate the Google Inspector 'ads' that flash up.

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Boffin

Yep, some useful addons don't work. Nope, don't miss them since the time I read how some of them were cooked (hint: sometimes they modify JS source of browser UI functions - imagine the hell of maintaining that)

I mostly live with a crappy slow internet connection. Speed of rendering isn't going to improve the rest of the experience unless Mozilla can come up with the equivalent of "sticking instant coffee in a microwave".

But those addons I use to make my life easier? Without them, there's no point in using a browser.

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But you see, this is the bit I struggle to understand. Firefox looks just like Chrome, and uses practically the same extensions as Chrome. So, what's the unique selling point?

I know. A couple of days ago I went into the prefs in FF for the first time in ages. Spent a few minutes wondering how the hell chrome got on my system!

Firefox is pointless now. Used to be so far above everything else.

Hopefully they can act like Oracle and give the source to someone who actually wants to do a decent job on the browser, like Pale Moon for example. (and the funding as well - without FF what point is there Mozilla staying around?)

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Re: Chrome?

So, what's the unique selling point?

How about it doesn't send your entire browser activity to Google?

I use No Script and ad blockers to block out all that google spyware, and it's suggested that No Script is a "legacy" plugin (and thus will be gone?). Once that happens, google will have open-season on all my browsing and will be at least as bad as Chrome.

Hmm.. FF looks like chrome, breaking NS (if that happens) will let it send stuff back to g... Wonder if the g-boys have increased their bribfunding of Mozilla?

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Re: Chrome?

@Pen-y-gors

How about it doesn't send your entire browser activity to Google?

That's not a selling point. It's what anyone deserves already. The batteries at the grocery store sometimes say on the package "100% mercury free" but the food doesn't.

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Just say no to parrotting Google

Personally, I don't know why other browser vendors feel the need to parrot Google. Chrome's UI is nothing to write home about. Especially, the stupid "hamburger menu" which IMHO is user hostile. Personally, I don't see what the problem is with classic menus. At some point apparently a rule was created that you can't just have a menu at the top of an application and are only allowed to have the idiotic hamburger menu or even worse Office ribbon bar train wreck. New is not always better. As far as I'm concerned, the UI creators of the past had it write when they came up with the idea of having menus that are relatively standard across applications. Also, as far as I'm concerned, it seems that they are making things worse from an accessibility standpoint. I'm not even sure you can use keyboard alone with these applications.

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The unique selling point for Firefox compared to Chrome is that it comes from a more trustworthy company whose job isn't to mine your data.

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Re: Just say no to parrotting Google

Personally, I don't know why other browser vendors feel the need to parrot Google. Chrome's UI is nothing to write home about.

Oh, I can see plenty in it to write home about. That said, if my parents were still around and I tried, they'd probably thrash me to within an inch of my life, ground me for a decade, and half that time I'd have a bar of very strong soap shoved in my mouth.

[walks off to the 'tune' of "I'm forever blowing bubbles"]

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The unique selling point for Firefox compared to Chrome is that it comes from a more trustworthy company whose job isn't to mine your data.

No, they just give it away to 3rd parties for free (3rd party cookie settings), and by breaking addons on a regular basis, including the ones that are there to protect privacy.

Mozilla could approach these addon writers and actually bake some into FF - if they're interested in privacy.

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Facepalm

vive la JavaScrapped

Is there an example of MZ 'baking in' anything ever? Their big thing is to do the opposite, starting with the email client, HTML editor, etc. No matter how interested in privacy they are, the writing on the wall says "remove it, banish it from core, and let the addons fill in the gap any way they see fit." It's kinda sensible when you grant they need to manage their time but kinda nonsense when they do that thing they did. Someone will say "they're the ones who get to decide what moving forward actually means, and here's a new API, live with it" but they cheerfully knocked the teeth out of their browser in the process.

Ignoring bleats is just one of their skills. "You know the score, pal! If you're not dev, you're little people."

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Anonymous Coward

"I'll confess up front -- increased speed is nice, but not an incredibly compelling thing to me."

Edge is faster than Chrome. Doesn't make it any more popular...

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Re: Just say no to parrotting Google

"New is not always better. As far as I'm concerned, the UI creators of the past had it write when they came up with the idea of having menus that are relatively standard across applications."

Exactly write (wink). The menu-bar wasn't just something people used until something better came along... it was and is a very efficient entry point to a menuing system. It doesn't use much vertical space (unlike the unintuitive and confusing ribbon), and it gives a good bit of "information scent" about the options that lie behind each top-level category like File, Edit, View, and the like. Even on a program you have never used, you can tell the kinds of things it can do and where to find such options just by considering the menu-bar options, which are generally in the same order (File, then edit, then view on the left, Help on the right, and the more program specific options in the middle).

For the experienced user, the menu bar is still faster using that system than having to stop what you're working on and use your cognitive abilities to recall where the option you need is hiding. The hamburger menu and its disappearing and inconsistent top level menu creates instead an "out of sight, out of mind" dynamic. Users of phone apps that switched from something resembling the PC menu bar to the more "modern" and space efficient hamburger menu show significantly less user engagement of the options hidden behind the hamburger than in previous versions of the app that had the more traditional UI. That did not change in time as users became accustomed to the new UI; the options in the hamburger remained less used than they had been previously. Of course, that's on phones, where the hamburger is supposedly more accepted and appreciated than on a PC, which doesn't need to accommodate tiny screens that get even tinier when UI big enough to receive taps from fleshy fingers takes up part of them.

Whether or not users of phones really appreciate the hamburger or not, they certainly have come to expect it. That seems to be the rationale for pushing it onto PCs, where it's even less appropriate than on phones. The hamburger is trendy now, so it must be in every program, lest the electronic fashion police think that a given vendor is un-hip and tragically backward stylistically.

Marketers don't deal well with tried and true things that were honed to perfection long ago. They may be the best tool for a given job, but marketers are not in the business of providing tools that work with a minimum of grief. They want something new and flashy that they can declare to be the latest best thing since sliced bread... something that will create "buzz." It doesn't matter whether the thing actually is better; that is for people of the future to figure out at a later date. For now, the goal is to sell, sell, sell, and that means it has to be "new and improved."

The same phenomenon can be seen with the "cloud" trend we're enduring right now. Many people have noted that it's very reminiscent of the the mainframe era, where the users utilized terminals that didn't do any of the computation themselves, but were merely a front-end for the centralized mainframe. PCs were the revolution; decentralized computing that didn't depend on a mainframe was the new trend. Once the decentralized computing model stopped being new and trendy and itself became the status quo, the old centralized model looked new and different to the youngsters in marketing departments and in older people with short memories. If it is new and different, it has to be better, right? If you want to get credit for coming up with a revolutionary new idea, it has to be sufficiently different from the status quo to catch people's attention. It doesn't matter if what we have now is better, because you can't very well sell to people that which they already have.

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Re: vive la JavaScrapped

"remove it, banish it from core, and let the addons fill in the gap any way they see fit."

That was the whole point of Firefox. It was to be stripped of all of the heavyweight stuff of the Mozilla Suite, and what was left would be a light, fast core with only the features that nearly everyone would want. The more specialized stuff would be available in the form of powerful addons, so what you ended up with would theoretically be a browser that was as light and quick as possible for whatever particular style of browsing you had in mind.

As such, the powerful addons that can do pretty much anything the program itself can do are at the very core of why Firefox exists, and what it has always been about. Yes, there are negatives associated, including security risks, potential slowdowns, etc., but such is life-- nothing's perfect. If XUL is slow and buggy as Mozilla claims, the most obvious solution would be to fix the bugs and make it faster, not amputate it and replace it with something some other company wrote that doesn't come close to matching the power of what is already there.

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Re: Just say no to parrotting Google

"Chrome's UI is nothing to write home about."

because it STINKS/SUCKS like every OTHER 2D FLATSO FLUGLY TOUCHY-FEELY CRAP interface.

"Especially, the stupid 'hamburger menu' which IMHO is user hostile."

pretty much says it, yeah. MAYBE of limited valuable for touch screens, HIDEOUS and IRRITATING for "the rest of us".

"Personally, I don't see what the problem is with classic menus."

They're not "new, shiny" and "millenial, it's OUR turn now" enough.

"At some point apparently a rule was created that you can't just have a menu at the top of an application and are only allowed to have the idiotic hamburger menu or even worse Office ribbon bar train wreck."

It's all tracking back to THE METRO, actually. Blame THIS person:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larson-Green

Apparently she's leaving Micro-shaft

https://winbuzzer.com/2017/11/01/windows-8-metro-office-ribbons-overseer-julie-larson-green-leaves-microsoft-xcxwbn/

maybe too many saw the connection (I know, _I_ helped spread the word!)

"New is not always better."

THANK! YOU! for saying that!

"As far as I'm concerned, the UI creators of the past had it write when they came up with the idea of having menus that are relatively standard across applications."

Back in the late 80's/early 90's, "the OS/2 days", IBM wrote a book/guide on 'common user interfaces' that was included with the Windows 3.0 SDK. I have a copy somewhere... (along with that old SDK and it's large collection of dead tree manuals, and similar dead-tree manuals on OS/2 1.2 presentation manager programming).

"Also, as far as I'm concerned, it seems that they are making things worse from an accessibility standpoint. I'm not even sure you can use keyboard alone with these applications."

probably not. you're right. It's all fat-finger-friendly, and "SCREW YOU" if you use keyboard+mouse.

time for a REBELLION amongst users.

Big THUMBS UP to @rmullen0 for saying all of that.

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Re: Just say no to parrotting Google

"because it STINKS/SUCKS like every OTHER 2D FLATSO FLUGLY TOUCHY-FEELY CRAP interface."

Welcome to the 21st century. You can get back in your Delorian now!

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Boffin

Re: Just say no to parrotting Google

Users of phone apps that switched from something resembling the PC menu bar to the more "modern" and space efficient hamburger menu show significantly less user engagement of the options hidden behind the hamburger than in previous versions of the app that had the more traditional UI.

I seriously doubt that. How many calls did you field from family/friends about things that could be found in any of the top-level menus? When telling them to go to "File then Save", how often did you have to carefully, with millimetre-by-millimetre mouse directions, tell them how to even find the "File" menu - hidden away up there in plain sight?

I think some places have tucked the menu away not because of screen real-estate, but for many it's it's not used and a waste of effort making it :)

I prefer generally to hide the menus, knowing generally I can get them back just by pressing "ALT" or at worst "ALT-F" - not everyone thinks like that and at least with FF there is still an option to turn the menus on under View -> Toolbars -> Menu bar. Personally, if I could move it to the sides of the screen (and still have the words readable) where 50% of the space is wasted rather than long the top (where 90% of the space is precious!) I'd be more inclined to leave it visible.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Just say no to parrotting Google

Your 21st century car is build to last only 2 years while that Delorean still drives on.

Perhaps not that Delorean but you get my drift. As it has been said before: newer != better

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Re: Just say no to parrotting Google

"Hamburger Menus and Hidden Navigation Hurt UX Metrics"

https://www.nngroup.com/articles/hamburger-menus/

Why You Need to Replace Your Website Hamburger Menu, and How

https://www.imrcorp.com/innovative-marketing-blog/why-the-hamburger-menu-is-terrible-and-how-to-replace-it-with-a-better-alternative

The hamburger menu doesn’t work

It’s a beautiful, elegant solution that gets it all wrong, and it’s time to move on

http://jamesarcher.me/hamburger-menu

Why the hamburger menu is killing your business

https://blog.themeskingdom.com/why-the-hamburger-menu-is-killing-your-business/

Death by Hamburger

Why three little lines are hurting your UX

https://uxdesign.cc/death-by-hamburger-2d1db115352a

Mobile Menus: Hold the Hamburger?

http://www.getelastic.com/mobile-menus-hold-the-hamburger/

Why and How to Avoid Hamburger Menus

https://lmjabreu.com/post/why-and-how-to-avoid-hamburger-menus/

There are tons more, but you get the idea. The issue is well-known in the UX industry, but damned if it ain't trendy. It's demonstrably worse than what came before it, with quantitative studies of the amount of engagement with features behind the menus before and after UI changes to and from the 'burger to back it up, but everyone has to be trendy, so here we are.

The last article on that list was the one that was my introduction to this; before that, I had taken the 'burger as a necessary evil on limited-space mobiles, but one that had no place on PCs (the latter part I still endorse wholeheartedly). Now I realize that the 'burger is so counterintuitive that it has no real place anywhere (but especially on desktops). It's like "one UI to rule them all" in Unity, GNOME 3, and Windows 10... it seemed like a good idea at one time, but hindsight has shown that it was actually a poor idea, and we'd be better off if UI designers would simply drop them and revert to things that did work.

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Re: Chrome?

@Pen-y-gors

sure, so the browser doesn't but nearly every site you go to does, with its cookies, its adwords, its ties to everything else google, so that the browser itself only does the fetching, but its fetching everything from google (yes, not literally but figuratively with so many others pulling bits and pieces from google).

I'm in the camp that says Firefox ESR 45.9 was my last version and looking to migrate to forks.

why? In the early days we taught users "look at the address / url bar" .. "look at the status bar" .. these are areas that will hold valuable information.

Ever since Chrome appeared, and had its agenda of dumb-ing it down, things have gotten worse for the conscious user.

I have the statusbar visible .. why? because I can get an instant status without mouse over (which too many of those bs web-apps require. I look down I see what level of encryption this site uses, I see the current weather cloud, I see my ABP & Scriptish icons, unobtrusively off to the sides of said status bar.. they aren't squeezing the address bar, and yet they are instantly visible with simple tap if needing to disable stomething quickly. I see that Forecast Fox (fix edition) just updated from cloud to cloud with rain .. seeing that *now* could hover over the radar for more information .. but I don't have to and I valuable information without the hovers and clicks..

Would love the speed of the new browser .. but I'd rather fit and functionality and lose some peed .speed

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Edge is weird; for the first few versions of Windows 10, it was a fast and competent rendering engine, that someone forgot to build a UI for. Looks better now, but it just kinda sits there, ignored.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Just say no to parrotting Google

Then tell us. If the Hamburger menu is SO bad you could measure quantitative productivity loss, why does Chrome, THE dominant Web browser, still dominates? IOW, if it's SO bad, why isn't it a turn-off?

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Re: Just say no to parrotting Google

@Updraft102 Well said. I agree with what you said about cloud also.

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MJI
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Re: Just say no to parrotting Google

Google Chrome is popular because users are pushed into it by every time they visit a Google site.

Also because a lot of users have been conditioned to use search rather than the address.

Sorry but this irks me, you KNOW you are going to site X, type in the address rather than search for it.

Gong www.bbc.co.uk is quicker than searching for it and clicking to it.

Personally I just go Bookmarks and there it is right at the top. So much easier.

But then I do know someone who uses a sat nav every trip, including work to home (1/4 mile)

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Re: Johnfen: there are other Moz based browsers.. :)

Indeed. I'm using Waterfox as my daily driver right now. If/when 57 meets my needs, I'll switch back. Otherwise, I'll stay put.

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Re: Just say no to parrotting Google

" If the Hamburger menu is SO bad you could measure quantitative productivity loss, why does Chrome, THE dominant Web browser, still dominates?"

That's a specious line of thought. Popularity does not imply that every aspect of a given item is perfect. You seem to be suggesting that any product with a lot of market share must be perfect. Once IE6 dominated... if it was so bad, how did it have 95% market share at one point? That's more even than Chrome has, or has ever had. (And it had no hamburger menu!)

You could just as easily have asked, "If violating user privacy is so bad, why does Android, THE dominant mobile OS, still dominate?"

"If malware is so bad, why does WIndows, THE dominant PC OS, still dominate?"

I don't know about you, but I still think tossing the user's privacy to the wind is bad, and malware is definitely bad. There are all kinds of examples where the most popular item in any given category has serious flaws. Chrome has a ton of them... lack of customization, Google spying, bad UI, weak addons, to name a few.

What choice do regular people perceive that they have with regards to the hamburger? It's everywhere. It's on their phone apps, their favorite web sites, and on all of the major currently-developed browsers. Edge has it (though the icon is three dots, not the classic hamburger), and so does Firefox. What would clue them in that there's another choice? It's the norm, even if it's a crappy norm.

The same dynamic can be seen in the proliferation of flat UIs. They're demonstrably and quantifiably worse than skeuomorphic UIs, as reported by an article here on the Reg a few months ago, yet they're everywhere too. It turns out that UI designers are often more concerned with aesthetics than they are with utility or usability. How this obsession with aesthetics led to the development of the most ugly UIs ever (UWP, for one) is another subject completely, though of course opinions will vary about what's ugly or not.

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Seriously? Just change the 3rd party cookie settings if you like. Even better, use an addon like Cookie Autodelete to be better protected then any default setting.

More importantly, Firefox (along with the Tor team) is the *only* browser improving fingerprint resistance.

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Anonymous Coward

Differences from chrome:

- does not send tons of data to google by default

- similar, *but more powerful*, webextension addon system, ex: NoScript will be webextension soon

- fingerprint resistance, no one else is working on this

- square tabs

- rust components, like stylo and webrender (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0hYIRQRiws)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Chrome?

NoScript is migrating to webextensions:

https://blog.mozilla.org/addons/2017/08/01/noscripts-migration-to-webextensions-apis/

So dont worry, it will still be more powerful. Although, it might not quite make the v57 release date. I would suggest delaying your update for a week or two to give NoScript the time to update. Or get the NoScript beta

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Chrome?

Guess I shouldn't even try to avoid Mercury then

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Boffin

Re: Just say no to parrotting Google

Google Chrome is popular because users are pushed into it by every time they visit a Google site.

Don't forget the number of programs that have hidden (under "advanced options") "install google chrome" and "make chrome my default browser" pre-ticked checkboxes.

Some users won't notice. Some will think it's better. Many won't want to go through the perceived effort of ringing someone and asking for help of changing it back (and a lot of us don't exactly help their perception when we do the #rolleyes and "wtf have you broken now" comments with exasperation and sarcasm flooding from our voices).

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Seriously? Just change the 3rd party cookie settings if you like. Even better, use an addon like Cookie Autodelete to be better protected then any default setting.

For what % of users is that a reasonable option? How many users have a "fear" of any settings/options menus? How many have been taught, probably thanks to the IE toolbars issues, to avoid addons like the plague unless someone they know installs them for them?

More importantly, Firefox (along with the Tor team) is the *only* browser improving fingerprint resistance.

Odd behaviour though don't you think? More importantly, why does Mozilla think that having such a bad-for-privacy (and even worse for "fingerprint resistance") setting turned on by default is helpful to their goal of stopping browsers being fingerprinted? They could block every mechanism by which Facebook can see my browser details, screen resolution, installed plugins etc - and yet all this is defeated by letting FB set/access their own cookies on my machine when I visit El Reg, or Tentmaker, or the motorbike restoration sites etc.

It's like putting in a 60' high walls, a wide moat with not just man but boat-eating sharks (with frikkin lasers on their heads), a $billion anti-aircraft system, $million/hr armed bouncers on the front door; and having a well-signposted 6-lane tunnel under the moat that leads straight into the main vault.

I appreciate Moz's work towards privacy, but this one setting makes their efforts rather wasted. Easy for you and me to change, but lets see you tell your grandmother to "just change the setting" eh?

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arh

Re: Johnfen: there are other Moz based browsers.. :)

Waterfox is another good option. All legacy add-ons are supported. Although the question is if this fork of Firefox can eventually survive.

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Anonymous Coward

"Looks better now, but it just kinda sits there, ignored."

Not by me. Now that Ghostery and uBlock Origin are available as addins it's a practical and much faster browser than Chrome.

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"does not send tons of data to google by default"

No, it sends it to Mozilla by default now.

"similar, *but more powerful*, webextension addon system"

More powerful? I suppose if you're comparing to Chrome, but it's much less powerful than the old system. This is a point where FF has become *more* like Chrome, not a point of differentiation.

"fingerprint resistance, no one else is working on this"

This is very nice!

"rust components"

Why does this matter? It may be a point of differentiation, but how is it a meaningful differentiation?

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Sil

Re: Chrome?

Google is again the default browser though.

And the security service against malware and phishing is the service from Google.

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NoScript ?

Looks like noscript is a "legacy" add-on - I wonder if it will survive this?

Realistically, Firefox is a web browser - "faster" is not a big deal because everything is still bottle-necked at the pipe. Does faster just mean that we can all be pawned by some script run by an advert on YouTube faster now?

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Re: NoScript ?

If by faster they mean it will load up quicker, then this is certainly a very welcome improvement.

Firefox up until a couple of years ago used to load up almost instantly, now even on fast computers it is still like trying to load Windows on a 386.

If it's something else, then yeah, never noticed it slowing me down when browsing.

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FAIL

Re: NoScript ?

Looks like uBlock Origin is working, but noScript isn't (yet). That's a deal breaker.

--> Icon for Firefox, not for the noScript developers.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: NoScript ?

uBLock Origin might still be blocked by a bug according to the WebExtensions list

Ghostery has a clean bill of health - but apparently Greasemonkey has blocking bugs.

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Re: NoScript ?

https://blog.mozilla.org/addons/2017/08/01/noscripts-migration-to-webextensions-apis/

It's in hand.

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Re: NoScript ?

You mean Youtube runs faster? My hanging browser would beg to differ... that is unless of course I tell it I'm using IE6 - in which case the site loads the way it should (ie it actually loads, instead of hanging the browser for 20 minutes with just the Youtube logo).

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Re: NoScript ?

Until NoScript is updated, my installation of Firefox won't be. I find the internet practically unusable now without NoScript. I'd rather have slow Firefox with NoScript than be bombarded with the crap I see when I have to use IE at work. (Privacy Badger looks ok too)

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GoE

Re: NoScript ?

uBlock Origin was ported to WebExt a while ago.

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/ublock-origin/

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Re: NoScript ?

Noscript already has a webex extension which works with the nightly/developer builds. it will be released to stable channel when 57 is released on the 14th. anyone with it currently as a legacy addon and disabled should get the webex version at the same time according to the developer.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: NoScript ?

Glad to here the migration is moving along. Maybe it's time for an extra donation to help grease the wheels.

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