Archive for the ‘Mozilla Firefox’ Category

Thursday, September 1st 2005

Firefox – Cool and Geeky?

I just realized. Few things are as cool and geeky, at the same time, as Firefox is. Can anyone think of any other examples of things that are cool and geeky?

Saturday, August 27th 2005

How I Became a Browser Nerd and a Firefox Addict (And Some Thoughts About the Future)

The Beginning

I guess it all started back in 1998 when we were to make our own websites at school. (I was 15 at the time.) To make them, we had Netscape Composer – version 4 if I remember correctly.

Somehow I got hooked on this whole webpage making thing. I guess I had always enjoyed making nicely laid out documents with word processors, ever since I was a tiny kid. The ability to produce a dynamic document with colours really appealed to me, since any paper documents I made could only be printed on our (black and white) laser.

Naturally, my first website was an incredible strain to the viewers eyes. What, with animated flags and spinning e-mail icons, frantically psychedelic backgrounds, and an over-all colour theme that made your stomach churn. This was presumably making up for all the years of black and white only. Sadly, I can’t seem to find a copy of the old gem. Maybe it’s for the best.

I can’t remember if we were encouraged by the teachers to start poking with the HTML code in notepad or if I just decided to have a look anyway. Anyway – fairly soon I felt more comfortable editing the HTML directly than using Composer. (Which, looking back, maybe wasn’t so strange…)

After about a year or so I made a completely new (personal) website. This time around it was a little more pleasant and usable. Below is a screenshot of the website, as seen with an authentic, 1990’s web browser:

Screenshot of one of my old websites

The Cold War

Obviously, all of this was in the middle of the raging browser wars. Some of my class mates thought Internet Explorer was better, while I for some reason always preferred Netscape. (At this time I had no idea about which browser was most standards compliant – all I knew was that they weren’t compatible, and special tweaking of the code was required to serve both browsers.) I guess I preferred Netscape because I was used to it, and Microsoft was the big bad company. (This impression was mostly because their Word had more or less already out-competed Word Perfect.)

I remember reading in a book at the library, about HTML and suchlike, that the upcoming, version 6 browsers could turn out to be standards compliant – as opposed to all the previous versions. Heh. If only both the version 6 browsers had strived for that goal…

The Long Wait

I saw the Internet Explorer versions come and go. I was waiting for Netscape to release their next version (nr 5, which became nr 6). This turned out to be a very long wait, as we all know. I kept up to date with the browser world by watching browsers.com, a CNet website – back in the days when it actually had some kind of content. (Nowadays it’s barely a collection of links, and a list of the most popular browser downloads.)

Screenshot of Netscape 6.0

Finally Netscape 6.0 was released (November 2000), but to pretty chilly reviews. Buggy and slow was the general verdict. If I remember correctly I waited until version 6.2 before I installed it on my dad’s computer. A year-and-a-half later (in June 2002) I read on browsers.com that Mozilla 1.0 had been released. I hadn’t heard much about Mozilla before this, so I was rather curious. I learnt that this was what Netscape 6 had been built from. I liked the idea of always having the latest and greatest web browser, so I chose Mozilla over Netscape.

Tabs, of course, made for love at first sight – a great feature for someone like me who liked surfing a lot. They were also very handy when on a dial-up modem, which I was at the time – just open the interesting pages in a bunch of new tabs and disconnect before you start reading them.

To begin with, for news on Mozilla, I mostly just checked mozilla.org. With time though, I started reading MozillaZine more and more often to get the nitty gritty details. I faithfully downloaded each release, always checking the What’s New page to see which great features had been added. Here are some of the features I remember being particularly pleased about when they were introduced:

By now I was definately a Mozilla addict. Why should I use anything else? Mozilla was the best. Or was it?

The Skinny Newcomer

MozillaZine was increasingly reporting about this Phoenix thing. At first I didn’t take too much notice. I had become used to the Mozilla Suite and felt comfortable using it. Then when Firebird 0.6 was released in May 2003, I gave it a try. There were some things I liked about it straight away, like the way it handled tabs (slightly differently compared to Mozilla Suite) and the separate search box. Other things that were added later on during the development, such as the Extension and Theme managers, were also very handy.

At first I missed having all the managers which Mozilla Suite had: Cookie Manager, Popup Manager, Form Manager, Image Manager, Password Manager. You name it. (Did I hear someone say control freak?) Pretty soon though, I realized that all those Managers weren’t really necessary. Firebird showed that it was possible to get along without them, thanks to carefully chosen default values of the preferences and smarter handling of, for instance, passwords.

Like most of us, I was pretty (positively) shocked and surprised when Firebird was renamed Firefox, at version 0.8, and given a new logo. They worked great together. Then, at version 0.9, the default (Windows) theme was changed too. While many people didn’t like the new theme, I always thought it was better than Qute (the previous theme), which I realized had some rather inconsistent icons. The new theme was more professional in style, and at the same time remaining colourful and XPish.

Firefox was, by the final release, a great browser for almost everyone. I could (and still can, of course) install it on all my acquaintances computers, and they would hardly have any problems using it even though they hadn’t touched anything other than IE for what – like, 5 years? If ever. Firefox is (obviously) also loads of fun for the more advanced computer user who can install extensions to their hearts content, such as (my favourites) Adblock and Minimize to tray. There is an extension out there for every single purpose you can think of. Is there anything you can’t do with a Firefox extension?

What About Opera?

I was aware of Opera for quite some time – probably since around the time I first started keeping an eye on browsers.com. Since it was shareware, though, it didn’t really interest me. Opera released their first ad-supported version as early as December 2000 (version 5) but the banner put me off completely. (If I even tried it – I don’t remember.) It also had a somwhat awkward look, which I couldn’t quite get used to. The freeness, usability and, in fact, design of Mozilla Suite (and later Firefox), as well as their entirely open development process made me stay in the Mozilla camp.

The Future

Who knows what will happen the coming years. I know I will keep promoting Firefox, wherever I go. This became particularly easy when I was sent one of these, for… eh – I’m not really sure why I got it actually. They said something about me having given feedback. Hmm. Well, I suppose I have posted the odd post over at MozillaZine and Spread Firefox, if that’s what they meant. It can’t be for my bug reporting anyway: In three years I’ve only posted a single bug report. If they sent off a t-shirt for every bug report, they would have had to send out t-shirts worth more than $5,000,000. I know they are getting plenty of money from Google, but at that rate they must be raking in the cash by the ship loads. Anyway, whatever the reason, I’m not complaining. 🙂

I have a vision (like many others, I’m sure) that Firefox (and possibly Opera, if they decide to set it free) will help open up the web for good, and make it equally digestable on all operating systems. This, in turn, will allow more people to give Linux a serious try (myself included). Once Linux gains a nice chunk of the market, it will be very difficult for Microsoft to win people back. The difficulty for people lies in the actual switching. Once that’s done, I imagine sticking with a free operating system won’t exactly be a neck-breaker… Obviously though, Microsoft failing is not the point here. The point of this vision is that more people could (and would) use a large proportion of free software, thus saving heaps of cash – at the same time putting some much needed consumer pressure on Microsoft.

This vision is also why I believe we still can’t trust Microsoft to do the right thing with IE7 and IE8. The right thing – to make IE standards compliant – would only make the OS market slip even faster out of Microsofts control. However, I’m begging that Microsoft actually does decide to do the right thing. Imagine being a web developer in 2009, with almost 93% of the browser market being CSS3 compliant. Ah, the love…

Thursday, August 4th 2005

Mozilla Corporation: Let the Big Cash Come Rolling In

Mozilla Foundation announced yesterday that Mozilla Corporation has been created in order to simplify cashflow into the various Mozilla projects from other corporations. (MozillaZine has an article which explains the reorganization in an understandable way.) This sounds like good news to me. If the Mozilla Foundation has been earning cash at a rate which was problematic to it as a non-profit organization, that can’t not be a good thing.

Hopefully, corporate interest in the Mozilla products will increase even further. Also, I hope we’ll see Firefox and Thunderbird bundled with new computers from one (or more) of the major PC manufacturers in the not so distant future. Maybe this move from the Mozilla Foundation was in order to allow or simplify such a deal? Who knows.

Saturday, July 30th 2005

Many Rendering Bugs Fixed for IE7 Beta 2

Chris Wilson of the IE Team has just posted a list of bugs that have been fixed for Beta 2 of IE7. It’s a list which will greatly reduce the number and severity of headaches within the web developer community. Check it out:

In IE7, we will fix as many of the worst bugs that web developers hit as we can, and we will add the critical most-requested features from the standards as well. Though you won’t see (most of) these until Beta 2, we have already fixed the following bugs from PositionIsEverything and Quirksmode:

  • Peekaboo bug
  • Guillotine bug
  • Duplicate Character bug
  • Border Chaos
  • No Scroll bug
  • 3 Pixel Text Jog
  • Magic Creeping Text bug
  • Bottom Margin bug on Hover
  • Losing the ability to highlight text under the top border
  • IE/Win Line-height bug
  • Double Float Margin Bug
  • Quirky Percentages in IE
  • Duplicate indent
  • Moving viewport scrollbar outside HTML borders
  • 1 px border style
  • Disappearing List-background
  • Fix width:auto

In addition we’ve added support for the following

  • HTML 4.01 ABBR tag
  • Improved (though not yet perfect) <object> fallback
  • CSS 2.1 Selector support (child, adjacent, attribute, first-child etc.)
  • CSS 2.1 Fixed positioning
  • Alpha channel in PNG images
  • Fix :hover on all elements
  • Background-attachment: fixed on all elements not just body

I’m looking forward to seeing how IE7 will render my web gallery, which makes use of floats and fixed-position divs.

I’m also very much looking forward to the day when we can make websites from scratch and see our CSS code just work in all the major browsers… And the following may sound strange coming for a Firefox addict and advocate, but I truly hope that Microsoft puts a huge marketing campaign behind IE7 once it has shipped so it as quickly as possible replaces IE6 (where still in use) on Windows XP. Firefox will have the older Windows versions for lunch, and through continuous innovation it will probably keep growing on the XP & Vista versions too.

Update: Now if only Gecko would get support for soft hyphens, I would be a truly happy geek…

Thursday, July 28th 2005

Firefox Above 10% on the Western Continents

XiTi’s latest Firefox stats report shows that the best browser now has more than 10% in the US, Europe and Australia. (11.78%, 14.11% and 14.41% respectively.) It’s interesting to see that the less developed continents have a lower proportion of Firefox usage. One would almost expect the opposite.

In Europe, Finland is still way ahead with 31%. Impressive. I wonder why Finland are so much better at adopting Firefox than for instance Sweden, their next-door neighbour? Here, Firefox is only about half as popular.

Thursday, July 28th 2005

A Few Words on IE7 Beta 1

If you didn’t already know, Microsoft has just shipped beta 1 of IE7. In fact, I’ve already had a visitor here using IE7. Being a website developer (although an amateur) I have been hoping that they would improve their severely broken CSS support. Back in February, when the planned update to IE was announced, it was unclear to what extent the rendering engine was going to be improved. Sadly, it now seems all too clear.

Reading the official what’s-new page, it seems us web-devs will just have to hope for a speedy release of IE8 with some real improvements:

CSS Updates – Internet Explorer 7 includes fixes for issues with the Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) feature. Both the peekaboo and guillotine bugs have been addressed, and work on other issues is under way to provide web developers with reliable and robust CSS functionality.

Oh, so both the peekabo and the guillotine bugs have been fixed? Well, that really is good news. But it also makes it quite clear what the prime objective for IE7 is: to stem the flood of people moving to Firefox. They’ve thrown in some tabs and a search box, hoping that doing so will be enough to plug the never-ending leakage of IE’s market share. In fact, IE7 Beta 1 is, at least on the surface, pretty much a Firefox clone.

Over at the IE Blog, someone has now posted a screenshot of how IE7 fares with the Acid2 test. Not surprisingly, by now, it sucks just as hard as IE6 does.

Back in March, Chris Wilson said:

Additionally, with every subsequent major release of IE, we have expanded and improved our implementation of web standards, particularly CSS and HTML.

Well. I don’t claim to know every detail of the IE version history, but my feeling is that the improvements made to the IE7 rendering engine (so far, at least) makes it one of the IE releases which made the smallest improvement over the previous version.

Quite obviously, Microsoft woke up far too late to be able to make any real improvements to IE. When they finally got started, there just wasn’t time to address such nonessential things as standards support. At least, this is the interpretation I make of the comments made by the IE developers. They’re always mentioning a lack of resources and making there’s only so much we can do-type of statements.

However, there may still be some improvements before the final release though. A quote from the Internet Explorer 7 Beta 1 Technical Overview gives us at least some hope:

The final release of Internet Explorer 7 will focus on improving the developer experience by reducing the time needed for developing and testing on different browsers.

If there’s any truth in that statement, Microsoft are going to make pretty serious changes to the rendering engine before shipping the final. Also, if they deliver on that promise, it would get them in line with their new Microsoft does (almost) no evil policy. (I’m talking about fully documented & open XML document formats in the next Office, improved standards compatibility of Microsoft.com, MSN Virtual Earth being virtually cross-browser and with open API’s, etc.) Well, we’ll have to wait and see. But, I tell you this – if they make the final IE7 fully CSS 2.1 compliant then I won’t say another negative thing about Microsoft here for at least six months a whole year. And that’s a promise.

Update: Just remembered another good thing Microsoft has done recently. They remade msn.com, in a strive for total standards compliance! XHTMLstrict, baby, strict! Of course, there are still some errors – but they have been narrowed down to seven in all. Not bad for such a large website front page!

Monday, July 25th 2005

First Look at MSN Virtual Earth

Microsoft just launched its Virtual Earth map service. It’s pretty useful, at least for the US. Parts of the US (no idea how large a part) are zoomable to a much higher degree than with Google Maps. Also, the coolness factor is way higher for Microsoft’s service, thanks to the use of semitransparent boxes on top of the map, scroll-wheel zooming and a nifty little compass which can be used for auto-scroll type scrolling.

I did notice today though, while playing around, that Google Maps automatically resizes the map area to fit the browser window. This has maybe been the case for a long time, but I hadn’t noticed until today. Nifty.

The main advantages I see with MSN Virtual Earth over Google Maps are these:

  1. Easier navigation: Mouse-wheel scrolling and double-click center & zoom. Having to reach for the zoom-slider with Google Maps (or moving one hand to + and – on the keyboard) feels clunky. I’m simply presuming Google will be adding these features in the not-too-distant future.
  2. More intuitive local search: If you zoom in on an area with Google Maps, then do a local search for, say, Internet cafes, it will first zoom out one notch before showing you the results. I’m sure this is supposed to be helpful in some way, but I mostly find it annoying. Secondly, if you then scroll away from your search results, Google won’t automatically give you the corresponding results for the new area you’re looking at. Virtual Earth does just that, which to me seems like the more intuitive (& useful) thing to do.
  3. Full screen map: Having the whole screen width filled with the map is sleek, and makes maximum use of the users pixels. It looks good too.

Google’s hybrid mode is (IMO) a little clearer than Virtual Earth’s labeled aerial photos. Also, when zooming in on the UK, London still isn’t visible at this level. Rather strange, seeing that places such as Weymouth (never even heard of it) are.

Another minor slipup is that the blue search area at the top isn’t semi-transparent when using Firefox. (It is in IE.) Checking the source code, it seems like all they would have to add to fix this is opacity: 0.90 for the ID #search_bg. This is the current CSS for the search box area:

#search_bg {position: absolute; height: 73px; top: 0px; left: 0px; width: 100%; background: rgb(39,101,171) url(i/header_bg.png) repeat-y center; overflow: hidden; filter: alpha(opacity=90); z-index:31; border-bottom: solid 1px black;}

All in all, though, Microsoft have produced a pretty good mapping service, and when it covers a larger part of the world, maybe even us Swedes can have some real use for it.

Edit: I never thought I would be giving Microsoft free PR on my blog, but I guess the times are a-changing.

Friday, July 22nd 2005

Firefox 1.5’s Sanitize Needs a New Name

One of the new features in Firefox 1.5 (Deer Park) will be what has so far been known as the Sanitize feature. It basically consists of a menuitem which brings up a dialog, with which you can wipe all or parts of the personal data that the web browser has gathered during web surfing – i.e. cookies, web addresses, etc. The only problem is the name of this feature. The word sanitize somehow gives the wrong associations… Thankfully, this is being worked on. I agree with Ben Basson that Clear Tracks would be a much better label for this functionality. Mainly because it describes what is being done, without making me think of toilets. 😉

Update (2005-08-22): The feature in question has now been named Clear Private Data, which is even better than Clear Tracks if you ask me.

Wednesday, June 22nd 2005

Some More AJAX, Anyone?

Just found a rather nice JavaScript application, so I thought, since everyone else is hyping JavaScript/AJAX/DHTML/whatever right now – why can’t I?

The website in question is a Swedish website where you can find phone numbers to basically anything (in Sweden). It seems to be specifically the private phone numbers part which has a slick JavaScript hack: After searching for a name (try Pettersson, that should give you a few hits to play with) you can click any entry, and you will immediately get a map showing where the person in question lives:

Click again to minimize the entry again. Well, I guess it’s not all that advanced, but it’s definately handy. And, believe it or not, it actually works in IE, Firefox and Opera. I think I’ll have to send them a short thank-you-letter. 🙂

Tuesday, June 7th 2005

Drag 'n' Drop Tabs in Firefox

The support for dragging and dropping tabs in Firefox has just been checked in for version 1.1. This is something I’ve looked forward to be able to do, right out of the box – i.e. without extensions.

On a related note, the new patching system is making its way into the code, too. Ben Goodger (Firefox lead developer), has a blog post with a screenshot of the new update UI.

Wednesday, June 1st 2005

Opera Moving Towards Acid2 Compatibility

It looks like the Opera devs are pretty close to passing the Acid2 test. Just a few more bugfixes and they will be done! Hopefully they will release a version with all the fixes too, in a not too distant future.

Firefox has got left in the backwater of Safari and Opera here. The current nightlies of v1.1 still display the face like this:

Slightly broken Acid2 face.

Hopefully we will see the Acid2 fixes for Firefox after v1.1 is released this autumn. (Don’t expect that release any sooner…)

I also sincerely hope the IE Trident developers (Chris Wilson & co) are working towards passing the Acid2 test. If there isn’t time before shipping v7.0, then maybe at least for a version such as 7.1 or 7.5.

Tuesday, May 24th 2005

Blake Ross to Start Posting Videos

I just read (among other things) over at Wired that Blake Ross is planning on making some videos of stunts to spread Firefox, in order to inspire the Spread Firefox community:

What is clear is that video is set to become a greater part of the strategy, with Blake Ross, Firefox’s lead architect, due to start publishing a weekly video diary of his own awareness drive.

It’s going to be much more shaky-camera, home-video quality than professional style, said Stanford University student Ross, 19. We’ve got a couple of humorous and edgy ideas planned — one has us making the rounds on the Stanford campus and spreading Firefox in a less-than-traditional way.

We want to inspire people to do the kinds of activities we’re going to film. Actually, I want to get into the film industry when I’m done with all this computer stuff, so I’ve done a fair amount of video production and editing over the last couple of years. I’m looking forward to it. It should be hilarious.

Cool. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes of this!

Monday, May 9th 2005

Is Bill Gates Not Getting It?

In an analysis by Tim Weber over at BBC News, regarding the competition Microsoft is currently having to deal with, Bill Gates is quoted: (on the subject of Firefox)

“I played around with it a bit, but it’s just another browser, and IE [Microsoft’s Internet Explorer] is better,” Mr Gates told me, and challenged my assertion that Firefox’s ‘market share’ is growing rapidly.

“So much software gets downloaded all the time, but do people actually use it?” he argued.

Just another browser, eh? IE is better is it? How come then that almost ten percent of the Internet’s users already ditched IE, counting only from the beginning of November? When (ex-) IE users realize how easy and efficient web surfing actually can be if you’re only using the right software, in my experience, they seldom look back.

The lowest Firefox usage figure at the moment is 5.69%. That figure, though, is now close to three months old, so we can easily reckon on Firefox being at a minimum figure of around 7% now. (We’ll soon find out – Web Side Story are due to release a new lot of numbers during this week.)

Update: It seems the page i linked to at WebSideStory has been removed. Maybe this is because of the imminent update.

Update 2: WebSideStory have now released the update, giving Firefox 6.75% of the US usage.

Friday, May 6th 2005

Funny

These. I’d say they are the first high-quality Firefox flash ads I’ve seen so far. Nothing previously has had that professional touch.

Tuesday, May 3rd 2005

Firefox Downloads Without the Updates

Many people have lately pointed out that the Firefox download figure is inflated by people who download Firefox updates manually. (As opposed to updating from the options dialog within Firefox.)

Scott Kveton recently produced some rather sleek graphs which show the Firefox download progress since its launch back in November. This one in particular makes it possible to (fairly accurately) estimate the size of this claimed figure bloat: We simply compare the total area of the peaks around the dates of the 1.0.x releases with the area of the continuous flow of downloads prior to these releases. This estimation builds on one main assumption:

  • Firefox downloads would have continued at an unchanged rate if no-one had updated manually.

Looking at the download graph, this assumption doesn’t seem completely unrealistic, since the dl rate was pretty stable from the beginning of December until 1.0.1 was released in late February.

So, here are the results of my pixel counting:

1029 pixels were above the stable dl rate after 1.0.1 was released, and 2871 pixels can be considered legit downloads. This means that 26.4% or about 13,500,000 of the now 51,150,000 dls most likely were updates. That leaves 37,650,000 dls that basically can be considered “new people giving Firefox a try”.

Update: Asa D points out that Scott has in fact included the Firefox update downloads in these graphs. That means the numbers should be more like (1-0.264)x66,000,000, which is 48,6 million – pretty close to the 50 M number. That’s almost weird if you ask me – I’d have thought that more than 2-3 million people updated manually. Well, well…

Monday, May 2nd 2005

Wohooo! Binary Patching for Firefox 1.1! (?)

One of the main complaints about Firefox 1.0 has been that “you have to download the full installation when upgrading”. This has simply been due to the fact that Firefox had no system for such incremental patches. Well, it looks like Ben Goodger & co (Darin Fisher, specifically) have worked out a way to get incremental binary patching into Firefox for 1.1.

This is sweet music to my ears. I really hope they manage to make the update manager simple, intuitive and 100% functional. That way, I will have much less work keeping all my friends’ Firefoxes up-to-date. 🙂

Edit: Ben has also made some mockups of what the update manager will (should?) look like.

Friday, April 29th 2005

Halfway (almost)

… to a nice, round 100 million Firefox downloads:

Friday, April 29th 2005

SVG in Firefox 1.1?

It looks like Firefox 1.1 could get pretty solid support for SVG. This is good news, since there are some pretty cool things you can do with SVG.

Opera 8 already has support for SVG Tiny, but as I understand it, the support that has been checked into Firefox goes far beyond that. I may be wrong though, since I haven’t studied this very thoroughly.

Tuesday, April 26th 2005

Seriously Cool Firefox Theme

If you haven’t yet tried the Abstract PC theme for Firefox, do so right away. It looks really professional and cool, both as in hot and low temperature.

Tuesday, April 26th 2005

Firefox 1.1 Gets Lightning Fast Back & Forward?

Opera has long had blazingly fast back and forward performance. Now it looks like we might get this in the upcoming v1.1 of Firefox too, judging from the amount of activity in bug 274784.