I’ve always been promoting Firefox whenever possible. Mozilla’s support for Internet rights and advocacy has always been something that has inspired me. However, after a year and a half of using Firefox, A lot of little things infuriate me, that, if not for the extension ecosystem or Google’s increasing control of the Web, would have led me to switch browsers a long while ago.
I’ll point out some of the most egregious ones below:
No proper trackpad support
If you are moving from a browser like Chrome or Safari, you’ll have a hard time navigating the web in Firefox. Firefox lacks even the most basic of trackpad gestures, including out of the box pinch to zoom (9 year old bug) and double tap to zoom on sections (another 9 year old bug).
I keep going back from Firefox to Safari because of this missing feature, i prefer an open platform over proprietary software but ****, the zooming in Firefox feels like going back in time 5 years :'(
- Comment by Dapsol, Dec 2014 on the lack of Pinch zoom support.
IMHO it’s crazy that Firefox doesn’t implement this natively. I think “people might leave” Firefox as soon as they realise they can’t easily pinch zoom that image or whatever like they’ve been doing for years on Safari. I think most won’t bother to install an add-on. They’ll just leave.
- Comment by Mark, May 2018 on the same thread.
This has been in development hell for almost a decade now. (Meta bug tracking this can be found here).
There’s an experimental patch for pinch to zoom hidden behind
about:config. This flag is called
apz.allow_zooming and setting it to true will allow trackpad gestures but has troubles with animations and performance while zooming in.
Non-native context menus:
Firefox does not use native context menus on macOS but rolls its own context menus. This bug has been open on Bugzilla for 21 years (?!) now.
As a direct result of this, Firefox doesn’t support Dark mode anywhere (Firefox is still being built against the 10.11 SDK rather than the 10.14 SDK, bug here) on macOS Mojave or later. No window apart from the main browser window is dark themed. This includes windows like the Open/Save dialogs, and the Library, all of which look stupidly out of place on macOS. Naturally, none of the context menus are dark themed either in Mojave and later (specific bug here).
It seems like Firefox Quantum was just a fresh coat of paint for the browser window but not for anything else, making Firefox feel like a half baked application on macOS, because essentially none of the underlying bugs were fixed. In contrast all the other browsers use native right click menus on macOS:
Non-native spell check:
Firefox on macOS does not use native spell checkers provided by macOS. (Bug open for almost 20 years), and thus by extension, no proper Native autocomplete support or auto corrections.
Neither does it support any of the native text substitutions that you configure in System Preferences. (5 year old bug on Bugzilla).
All of these make text navigation a complete mess in Firefox, unless you want to manually correct every single mistake with the custom spellcheck and use their custom context menus that feel completely out-of place on macOS to make corrections.
Essential settings hidden under
Preference discoverability has been a huge problem with Firefox. Some flags enhance browsing by a lot in Firefox, while others improve UX a bit (setting
full-screen-api.macos-native-full-screen does what it says and enables native fullscreen on macOS!). I also mentioned a half-baked fix to pinch-to-zoom hidden behind advanced settings.
No naïve user is going to fiddle around in
about:config and I consider any feature hidden behind such flags to have not been implemented yet. This is in stark contrast to chromium which uses
chrome://flags/ the way it is intended to. It doesn’t wall off features that absolutely should be in the core browser.
Non-Native PiP implementation
You can guess the trend by now— Yes, Firefox has their own PiP interface instead of adopting native APIs provided by macOS. As it logically follows, it doesn’t feel like anything else on macOS.
Firefox is not alone in this, Chromium also rolls its own PiP implementation instead of using the native macOS Picture in Picture player.
Broken Downloads UX
Every time you download a file, you’re presented with a dialog that forces you to choose whether to open with a Helper application or to save to disk. You can choose to remember this on a per extension basis. However, unlike every single other browser, there’s no way to set the default for all extensions, or just force it to save all files to the Downloads folder.
Further exacerbating the issue is the fact that some extensions outright have the “Do this automatically for files like this” grayed out.
This bug has been in development hell for 12 years with the thread completely devolving into developers vs users arguments, even going so far as to be marked as “WONTFIX” 11 years ago and being reopened later.
I’m just a user, so excuse the stupidity, but could someone please tel me why I have to click twice to view a photo? Firefox clearly recognizes that it is a picture, but is ignoring my request to just open the GD thing. Is it a security issue? If yes, why won’t you let me be the judge of my own security? Alternately, why have the box to check? This is not a new annoyance, I’ve just been too lazy to do anything about it before.
- Adam Habig, Dec 2009
In the rare instances where Mozilla did focus on OS specific enhancements, it paid dividends to performance on the Mac. There was a huge jump in performance and battery life when they moved to CoreAnimation. (See this bug, bug for instance that tracked this issue)
Mozilla GFX team wrote an excellent post on this here, which goes in depth into their implementation. This makes me feel really sad that Firefox is leaving so much on the table aiming just for “Good enough” rather than the best possible browser on all platforms.
In a vacuum this would be enough, however with the strides that chromium based browsers are making, users should not be forced to choose between privacy or a good and usable UX. Sadly Mozilla is forcing us to make this call.
In any case, Firefox’s disdain for a good UX is not new. The same thing happened with the launch of the unified Omnibox which to a lot of long time users was
Unless Firefox adapts to platform specific features, it will not feel at home on any platform. A great platform specific UX is imperative to make users feel at home and ensure that any behavior is consistent across platforms.
I have since then switched over to ungoogled-chromium built from source. Yes, it is a chromium based browser that solidifies control of Google over the free web. However, the benefits have begun outweighing the disadvantages for me personally.
“Who cares man, it’s just a browser”
Yes, it is just a browser. However, the web is increasingly being cornered by a small set of Web Engines. With Microsoft Edge moving over from custom EdgeHTML to Chromium, there’s only three major browser engines:
- WebKit (Safari, and all iOS browsers)
- Blink (Chrome and Chromium-based browsers)
- Gecko (Quantum - Firefox)
If Mozilla wants Firefox to be a feature rich competitor to Chromium based browsers and Safari, ignoring platform UX that make it harder for users to switch is not the answer. Giving users Whiplash and forcing them to abandon their learned “mental models” every time they switch apps makes for an extremely subpar user experience.