Firefox Turns 15

I thought this would be a good opportunity to talk browsers, their history and how I’ve used them over time. I started using the web pretty heavily probably in the early to mid 90s. The first real use of browsers I can remember was using very early version of Netscape Navigator. I can remember building websites in the 7th or 8th grade, but I cannot remember the browser we were using at the time, but most likely it would have been Navigator or possibly Mosaic. I distinctly remember using Netscape Communicator which was released in 1997 and succeeded Navigator, although that branding did make a return in 2009 when Netscape, now owned by AOL, released Netscape Navigator 9.

Now what I’m not exactly clear on is when I switched to Mozilla, but my best guess would have been not long after it’s initial release in the late 90s which I then used up until 2008 when we all jumped on the Chrome bandwagon. Now, for anyone under the age of 35 you have to understand the context. Back then, Google was the golden child. Search was free, ads were unobtrusive and Google hadn’t killed off 10 Google products that you loved. They could do no wrong. I continued to use Google Chrome until probably 2015-2016 when it became apparently that Google’s behavior in general was becoming a cause for concern. At that point I switched back to Mozilla Firefox and I’ve been a happy user since. I wouldn’t argue that Firefox is faster than Chrome but I’m happy to make a tiny performance tradeoff for a company that does a much better job of protecting privacy online.

So, how do I use Firefox? Well, I use it on Linux as well as on iOS. I’ve found having the ability to sync tabs between devices has really been a killer feature for me. I can easily access tabs I opened on my laptop (Arch) running Firefox from my desktop (Fedora). Or even easily access tabs I had opened on my computer from my phone, which can be really handy, obviously.

I don’t do anything really bizarre with Firefox, I don’t think, just use a few addons, most of which are pretty popular. I could not use the web without ublock origin for ad blocking. On my laptop I also use tree style tabs and a modification to userChrome.css to remove the tabs. This gives me back a little more vertical space, which seems like a good trade off on 16:9 displays. It also allows a hierarchy of tabs which makes managing them easier. Tab Session manager I use to keep track of multiple windows, mainly so if there is a browser crash or some weird issue I don’t lose all my open tabs. I don’t know if I’ve ever had that problem with Firefox, except for instances where I have setup a new installation and not changed the default setting to re-open tabs when restarting the browser.

Video Speed Controller is another addon that everyone who watches video online should use. This allows you to speed up or slow down video. I use this on everything I watch that is instructional. I find that anywhere from 1.5-2x speed is still easy to follow and turning a 20 minute video into a 10 minute video is a great time saver.

Rikaichamp is an addon that will translate Japanese on mouseover. Works wonderfully and you can quickly enable/disable as necessary.

Of course, for anyone who uses reddit, there is Reddit Enhancement Suite which adds too many features to mention. This is just indispensible.

And finally, I use Vimium-FF which is a Firefox addon for vim keybindings. This allows keyboard driven browsing. Not only can you navigate up/down, back/forward, next/previous tabs but also actually click links. By pressing "f" it shows "tags" for each link with some letters. You just type the letters next to the corresponding tag you want to open.

Firefox has had some rough years, but in the last few years they have made huge strides in both the UI and the performance. I have been more than content with Firefox and no desire to change. I am concerned, like a lot of people, about fewer and fewer choices fo browsers on the web. More browsers and especially rendering engines makes for a healthier web where everyone designs towards standards instead of specific browsers. And with Edge switching to Chromium for rendering, we’re down to essentially two options. I would encourage everyone to adopt Firefox and even make a donation to try and keep the web healthy and as vendor neutral as possible.