12 comments

  • pera 5 days ago
    I sometimes feel like Mozilla knows exactly what features I love and then they go one by one and remove them (or make them only accessible through about:config) because "nobody use this anyways", then you see threads with hundreds of other users asking to please put the feature back and finally some bugzilla administrator locking the thread because "it's not the right place for this kind of discussions"...

    I still miss vimperator and a few other XUL era add-ons by the way.

    • kenniskrag 5 days ago
      Maybe too many power user disabled the telemetry :)
      • freeAgent 5 days ago
        I have telemetry disabled, but I would be happy to answer surveys for them. I've done so multiple times in the past. Surveys used to be the standard method for gathering user feedback, but they've fallen out of favor. Now everyone wants to do everything using telemetry and other automated data gathering. I wish surveys were utilized more often these days. Talk to your users!
        • trog 5 days ago
          I think surveys have fallen out of fashion because enough people have used telemetry or analytics now to know that what people tell you is often at complete odds to their actual behaviour :)

          The difference between users self-reporting how they use software and what they actually do when you observe them using it is often massive, even amongst technical users.

        • arkitaip 5 days ago
          Maybe but there are many other methods to figure out user needs and how to implement those needs in the best way.
          • kenniskrag 5 days ago
            Which ones (honest question)? I know gathering data with questionnaires. But asking people is a hard problem. "Do you want a faster browser", "do you want more choice in the UI" will lead to a all yes result. If you ask open questions you need much more time to answer the questionnaire and much more time to interpret the data.
            • falcolas 5 days ago
              Sit down with a user and watch how they use your product. This is a well known method for seeing how the product is being used, and what causes friction. No interpretation of user input required.
              • Vinnl 5 days ago
                Mozilla does do that. It looks like that too doesn't seem to give them reason to preserve compact mode.

                (Though to be fair, UX research like that does indeed highlight what causes friction, not necessarily how many people are strongly attached to features like compact mode.)

              • arkitaip 5 days ago
                Field studies and usability testing are some techniques that can be used when you want to discover novel needs and not just minmax existing implementations. Shit is hard because it takes tons of work and you have to have the organizational maturity to accept difficult changes.
                • rockdoe 5 days ago
                  If we do a field test of browser usage, do we expect the result to leave anything standing that allows typical power user workflows such as HN readers to work?
                  • arkitaip 5 days ago
                    Sure, "just" target power users in your tests and have hypotheses at the right level of abstraction.
                    • rockdoe 5 days ago
                      Yeah, but how do you assign a weighting here if you don't have the telemetry?

                      Maybe Firefox usage is really like 25% power users, but most of those disable Telemetry, causing the priorities to be all screwed up (See the ALSA example!).

                • fsflover 5 days ago
                  Questionnaires?
              • rockdoe 5 days ago
                Reminds me of this: https://chuttenblog.wordpress.com/2020/11/05/data-science-is...

                tl;dr Telemetry indicates ALSA is no longer used. Firefox removes ALSA. Said Firefox version reaches release. Audio completely stops working for all users of some distros...that were yanking out the Telemetry.

                • saurik 5 days ago
                  OMG, even if the telemetry were accurate, 2-3.5% of their users is a non-negligible number of people to use rip audio from... that's ridiculous!
                  • rockdoe 5 days ago
                    2.5%-3% of the Linux users, not of the total ones.

                    From https://data.firefox.com/dashboard/hardware Linux users are about 3% of the userbase, so that's 0.1% of total users.

                    • dotancohen 5 days ago
                      Jews make up about 0.1% of the world's population. If I were to operate a store and deliberately exclude Jews from being able to shop there, would you not defend them? They can choose to adhere to the teachings of a different prophet just like you can install a different distro.
                      • dralley 5 days ago
                        This has got to be the single most ridiculous comparison I've ever seen on this website.
                        • dotancohen 5 days ago
                          I'd love to know why. Mozilla has made a change that has no other effect than excluding 0.1% of their userbase. No end users were benefited by the removal of ALSA support, but "only" 0.1% were excluded. I've put 0.1% into perspective.
                          • dralley 5 days ago
                            >No end users were benefited by the removal of ALSA support

                            Don't be dishonest.

                            Maintaining things requires time and effort. Time and effort are limited resources.

                            * Nobody was maintaining ALSA support

                            * Nobody from the community stepped up and offered to maintain ALSA support to prevent it from being removed

                            * The ALSA backend poked a massive hole in their sandbox, which hurts users. Rewriting the ALSA backend to make it compatible with sandboxing would have required a lot of time and effort for little payoff. That hurts users by wasting developer time that could have been spent more productively.

                            * You cannot compare a Free Software project removing support for something that nobody volunteered to maintain to anti-semitic persecution, don't be ridiculous. If Gentoo (or whoever) wants to keep ALSA support then they can carry the patch to do so.

                • badsectoracula 5 days ago
                  As they should, telemetry is just an euphemism for spyware, despite what apologists will claim.
                • wott 5 days ago
                  > I sometimes feel like Mozilla knows exactly what features I love and then they go one by one and remove them [...] because "nobody use this anyways"

                  It sounds like the bus network reorganisations in the city where I used to work. They killed my usual route, by shutting down one line; so I had to resort to a backup route, where the travelling conditions on the last part were horrible at peak hour and during holidays. And 2 or 3 years after that, they modified one line of the backup route (the first part), so that the buses of that line also had to go through an horrible motorway interchange which is always locked at peak hour. After the second change, I had to wonder if they wished me harm :-)

                  Perhaps it looks better now on an organisational map. But they have suppressed lines and possibilities of transfers, thus possibilities of choosing a route that suits you, and concentrated the traffic on some main lines which were already heavily loaded. Yeah, there are definitely some common points.

                  • dotancohen 5 days ago
                    I could have written almost this exact same comment. We've probably met on Bugzilla.

                    Do note that Tridactyl is terrific now. I don't even miss viperator anymore.

                  • steinuil 5 days ago
                    Apparently this is in preparation for the new "Proton UI", which is one of those things the design teams in big companies do to justify their existence.

                    I just downloaded Nightly, which already has the Proton UI, and indeed compact mode is hidden behind an about:config option and it's a bit taller than the one featured in the current UI. I really can't fathom why this has to be the case.

                    • ProAm 5 days ago
                      If its anything like they did with the URL bar, it will be in about config for the next release, and then gone the release after that.
                    • 2ion 5 days ago
                      Well you'll be surprised what garbage Nightly surprised me with today [1]. Seemingly the goal is to remove anything that would let users distinguish UI elements based on habit and visual familarity. When did Safari last change how their tab bar works? Mozilla changes it every year now, planless and clueless. Are there no bigger issues to solve in Firefox?

                      I mean, just remove compact mode if you don't want to maintain it, but playing around after removing it invalidates any excuse that has something to do with reducing maintenance burden.

                      Proton, ha.

                      [1] https://0x0.st/-c75.png

                      • coffeefirst 5 days ago
                        I don't care about compact mode, but holy crap, that looks terrible.
                        • lol768 5 days ago
                          It makes it really difficult to tell which tab is selected IME too. It's a shame.
                          • crocodiletears 5 days ago
                            Mozilla had some of the most aesthetically well-designed tabs, and they're throwing it away for… that?
                            • dleslie 5 days ago
                              Edit: forgive my ignorance
                              • dralley 5 days ago
                                "three coloured circles"

                                Uh, I'm pretty sure that's just MacOS

                                • kevincox 5 days ago
                                  Still a questionable design decision. But not Mozilla's questionable design decision.
                            • mhandley 5 days ago
                              I'm a longtime Firefox user, but I only found out about compact mode from the discussion on HN when it was first announced it would be removed. I've been using it since and really like it. Can't help wondering whether many more people would be using it if they knew about it.
                              • freeAgent 5 days ago
                                Given that many screens these days are either 16:9 or 16:10 aspect ratio, it makes sense to try and minimize the amount of vertical space/rows of pixels used up by the user interface. Screens these days have much more horizontal space to spare than vertical space. Compact mode increases the amount of content that can be displayed on the screen. I like that.
                                • Same, just enabled it, love it!
                                • twobitshifter 5 days ago
                                  I use compact mode with tree style tabs and the tab bar completely hidden. I’m already editing the config to get there but it wasn’t hard for me to find the compact mode.

                                  If the argument is that users can’t find it shouldn’t the solution be to make it easier to find? Perhaps that’s not the problem and future UI changes are making managing multiple modes more work for designers.

                                  • rychco 5 days ago
                                    I had read on a previous HN thread that Mozilla intends to remove compact density completely. It’s not functionally unusable, but boy is it irritating to have most of your screen taken up by OS border, window header, Firefox toolbars, the website header/navbar, and some obligatory ads & marketing.
                                    • KozmoNau7 5 days ago
                                      That seems like a really bad decision for all of us using low-resolution displays. 1366x768 laptops are still common, and we need as much vertical space for content as possible.
                                      • rockdoe 5 days ago
                                        It seems like it's just FUD.

                                        According to the bug tracker the plan is to run an experiment (including defaulting Compact mode) and see which combinations are actually retained by users: https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1698171

                                        There's another bug that I can't find right now that talks about defaulting Compact mode on low-res devices. The whole thing seems to be totally unsettled pending more data.

                                        • avian 5 days ago
                                          I wonder if this kind of experimental approach just leads to software slowly getting worse and worse over time, in many small steps.

                                          I feel like human response to changes like this isn't linear: make a thing slightly worse, and most people won't be annoyed enough to do the research, find and change the setting. If it's not a huge step back they'll just live with it, and maybe complain to their IT-savy friend, who will just nod and say "I know".

                                          On the other hand, people doing the experiment will see that most of their test subjects don't switch away from the change - mission accomplished, full steam ahead!

                                          • rockdoe 5 days ago
                                            That seems to be why the experiment outlined is so valuable. It would default both options and look at cross-switching.

                                            A/B testing UX, basically?

                                          • jfk13 5 days ago
                                            > According to the bug tracker the plan is to run an experiment

                                            There's a bug on file suggesting an experiment. Whether there is a plan to actually run one is another matter. (I don't know the answer; just wanted to point out that issues in bugzilla are not by themselves evidence of product plans.)

                                          • nabilhat 5 days ago
                                            > the plan is to run an experiment (including defaulting Compact mode) and see which combinations are actually retained by users

                                            Moving the compact mode setting into the same space as the telemetry switches not included in about:preferences#privacy seems like a great way to cook the statistics.

                                            Hanlon's Razor only stretches so far. It's become an established pattern of hiding a feature over next to the telemetry switches, explaining that they'd measure the results with lazy load telemetry - gently defining an unspoken void that's shaped a lot like "well if they wanted the feature maybe they shouldn't have turned off telemetry?".

                                          • e3bc54b2 5 days ago
                                            I wish your first paragraph turns out to be correct.

                                            I'm personally not hopeful after Mozilla's track record in recent history. But then again, there is no alternative...

                                          • badsectoracula 5 days ago
                                            It isn't just "still common", depending on the stats you find it is either the first or the second most popular for desktops and laptops with 1920x1080 the next most common - and the next few resolutions that follow are actually lower than 1920x1080 (eg. 1440x900). The next higher desktop resolution, 2560x1440, is rarely above single low digits (~3%), assuming it even registers.
                                          • superkuh 5 days ago
                                            Mozilla has been removing features from Firefox to "protect" their users from themselves since version 37.
                                            • andrepd 5 days ago
                                              Why 37?
                                              • superkuh 5 days ago
                                                That was when they first started requiring all extensions/add-ons to be signed by Mozilla before allowing them to be used in your browser. From that point on users couldn't edit their installed extensions or use extensions from outside the pool of Moz approved ones.

                                                And yes, I know that some linux Distros that believe in software freedom have negotiated to be able to provide Firefox without this lock-down (ie, Debian), and that if you use the well hidden unbranded builds available in no repos it's possible too.

                                                But 37 was when Moz decided that users shouldn't get a choice and it's been downhill ever since.

                                                • Wowfunhappy 5 days ago
                                                  > and that if you use the well hidden unbranded builds available in no repos it's possible too.

                                                  Except those builds don’t have an updater, which is kind of a major QOL problem in a web browser.

                                                  • moron4hire 5 days ago
                                                    Moz is a different company
                                                    • rockdoe 5 days ago
                                                      if you use the well hidden unbranded builds available in no repos it's possible too

                                                      This is a very weak argument given that it works in the Developer version.

                                                      • superkuh 5 days ago
                                                        It is not acceptable to suggest using an alpha/beta as a main daily driver. You may not encounter bugs but they certainly do exist. There's a reason that the developer edition is not the release edition. And yes, developer edition is an alpha/beta. Specifically it's the renamed aurora channel which was the renamed alpha. But these days it functions as more of a beta.
                                                        • badsectoracula 5 days ago
                                                          FWIW i've been using developer edition for a long while now so that i can run my own extensions without having to ask for Mozilla's permission and never had any issues. The main annoyance is that it wants to update every other day but that is a minor thing.
                                                          • superkuh 4 days ago
                                                            I'm curious, what operating system do you use? Because I have run into a lot of developer edition crashes on linux over the years re: webgl and all that fancy stuff that isn't normally enabled in release.
                                                            • badsectoracula 4 days ago
                                                              Windows 10. TBH i very rarely visit any site with WebGL (that i know of), though it does seem to work by visiting some shadertoy pages.
                                                          • rockdoe 5 days ago
                                                            I think it's quite reasonable to suggest power users to use such a specific version. Especially as the signing is presumably to prevent non-power users from getting malicious ones, which is a real problem. As you admit, the Developer edition is very stable and from the name targeted at exactly the kind of people that want to run their custom extensions. It's not like Minefield nightlies back in the day!
                                                          • vetinari 5 days ago
                                                            Developer edition is unstable, somewhere between nightly and beta; there is no stable build provided by Mozilla. Only Debian (ESR) and Fedora (stable).
                                                    • LocalH 5 days ago
                                                      After the huge community backlash, they still push forward with this? Why is modern software development so increasingly user-hostile?
                                                      • juusto 5 days ago
                                                        I will take it.

                                                        Better than just yank it out of existence.

                                                        • marcinzm 5 days ago
                                                          They'll yank it out in the future after proudly claiming that one one uses it anymore (omitting the fact that they can't find it anymore).
                                                          • ProAm 5 days ago
                                                            Wait one more release cycle. This is how they remove things.
                                                          • Hard_Space 4 days ago
                                                            I posted this piece with the usual outrage (I feel strongly about compact mode), but today I installed it in Windows Sandbox and can see very little difference, to be honest, between compact mode and normal mode.

                                                            That said I agree with comments in this thread to the effect that the option will be removed from about:config in short order, and so don't know what my solution to the problem will be.

                                                            • flyingchipmann 5 days ago
                                                              On 40 inch+ 4k tv monitor or laptop, even compact mode might not be small enough. There is no justification for wasting so much space.