An ode to Firefox

by / Filed under Web

Ah Firefox. You did bestride the world like a colossus, since the time you were called Phoenix 0.4 and I sneaked you onto a work computer under the watchful gaze of the IDT IT department. Back then in, oooohhhh, 2003(?) the IT department meant the Microsoft department.

It’s hard to underestimate the importance of Firefox, and the debt we owe it. Before Firefox there was Internet Explorer, Opera (with an advertising bar and 3500 options and features) and something called Neo Planet. The browser wars were won by this cute, free newcomer, and Microsoft hasn’t recovered since. Firefox showed us that you didn’t have to use ‘enterprise’ software. Free could be so much better.

Firefox made Microsoft update IE. CSS beat tables. We won.

And Firefox has continued to be great since then. Extensions (Adblock! Web Developer Toolbar! Colorzilla! Stylish!), themes, the awesome bar, regular updates; I remained loyal for 6 years or so. On the internet that is some going.

And then came Chrome.

And gradually, day by browsing day, my dear, you seemed… clunky. Fussy. Gawky. You lost your elan. A bit naff compared to slick, sexy, Google–engineered Chrome (see those tabs sliiiiide). At first I dabbled; the odd hour here and there, sometimes a day just to see what it was like. And then — somehow, don’t ask me how — Chrome became my browser. Just saying those words is still difficult.

How to deal with something we once loved. It doesn’t deserve our apathy, but that’s what it gets. Firefox’s problem is that it’s become unfashionable, rather than technologically outdated or evil. It’s trying hard (perhaps too hard) not to be unfashionable and it is still unarguably a good thing. But for me, despite its time–honoured willingness to nick features from its competitors, it just feels like yesterday’s browser.

I could be wrong. I’d love to be wrong. Perhaps Firefox 4 will do it for me again. Have you remained faithful?