Firefox is a titan of free software. I would consider Firefox to be right at the top of the free software heirarchy next to the Linux kernel and the GNU Project, these three are huge projects that broke through and became popular in proprietary software circles aswell. I know many users of Windows who use Firefox, or have a GNU/Linux PC installed, or use it in a server. Even Windows has GNU/Linux subsystems in their proprietary operating system. I love Firefox the web browser, I use it and some derivatives like Tor Browser and I have no regrets in doing so…yet.
I have been using Firefox since 2011. I went through 4 different UIs (Versions 4-28, 29-56, 57-89, 89-present) and I also relied a lot on the old XUR extensions, which meant I switched to Pale Moon for about 6 months because of the removal of XUR. I learned to live with the UI of Quantum after a while, but during 29-56 I used an add-on that made the version 4 UI come back so that was probably why I was so aggressive against the newer UI. To say I had an attachment to this program is an understatement.
With every new PC I install, I have to reinstall Firefox and reconfigure it which means I have to see what the raw browser looks like. If I saw the browser looked like how it is now when I installed it for the first time, I say regretfully that I don’t think I’d have kept it installed or thought about using it again. Until people I knew found out what you could do with the browser or it’s forks from people who knew how to configure it, they started to use it aswell. Firefox is simply just unattractive for many reasons. But first, I should talk about why I love and use Firefox out of respect for the decade I have used the browser.
Why I love Firefox
In general, Firefox is the only serious competitor to Chrome that is independent of the Chromium codebase, and the only major free and open source web browser1. Firefox is also an old browser and has constantly persisted against the test of time again and again without being bought out or replaced. I consider Opera a failure, with most of the ownership being three Chinese companies and it just becoming another Chrome with shit tier privacy features. I love Firefox for being the black sheep of the web browser market.
I also recognise the commitment for Firefox to support new web technologies as soon as possible, although it is not as fast or committed like Chrome is. Compared to lower place engines like the former EdgeHTML, Firefox and Chrome keep commitment and do not have a massive gap between one another in terms of the most important additions to be added. Apple’s WebKit is also very updated, however it’s adoption is pretty much limited to the Apple ecosystem therefore I won’t mention it. The main reason I consider Firefox to be slightly under the Chromium engine is because Google promote and sometimes develop these additions such as QUIC, so they will always implement it first.
When it comes to privacy, a configured build of Firefox is incomparable. When you use a configuration like Arkenfox or a build like LibreWolf, you have a browser with no telemetry, no phoning home, no extra bullshit. Firefox is also the base for Tor Browser which is a huge privacy project used by a lot of groups of people, most importantly governments. There is a lot of problems with the default configuration that I will voice in the next section.
Why I hate Firefox
The Mozilla ecosystem is constantly promoted in the core Firefox browser, with Pocket being built into the browser and the Monitor service being advertised in the startup page. The Mozilla VPN is the latest product in their ecosystem, which just feels a little bit like a grift considering the whole VPN market boom with products like NordVPN and ExpressVPN2 getting a ton of attention. I will not use the Mozilla ecosystem outside of Firefox because most of their ‘services’ are just rebrandings of already existing services, but with LESS than what the real services actually offer.
- Firefox VPN: Reseller of Mullvad VPN which uses a Firefox account. Firefox accounts include information, location, email and IP address. The real Mullvad service is sold by giving the user an anonymous token, and accepts cryptocurrency payments and even cash-in-mail. It is easier to just buy it straight from Mullvad themselves, and more private.
- They also have some Firefox FPN aswell which is just some sort of browser proxy which is only for US customers. I thought these were the same thing for the longest time, I guess not. But, even worse, it’s using Cloudflare as a proxy instead…
- Firefox Monitor: Provider of database alerts which uses a limited Have I Been Pwned database. Mozilla says they can’t access some breaches because HIBP wont provide them to people as some are too sensitive, I usually would just use the normal service instead.
- Pocket is pretty much a cloud-based Reading Mode for websites that is multi-platform, I never really saw a use for this service and in my personal opinion, Pocket is the first thing I turned off.
For a browser with tons of configurations and preferences the default configuration is really, really bad… The browser is also FILLED with tons of connections on startup, which cannot seem to be disabled without opening the program first. (source). These can be disabled via special configs which often sacrifice other features to do so. Firefox also asks if you want to route connections to a Cloudflare DNS over HTTPS service before Many extensions also can act as sufficient replacements for the random services built in.
I use Firefox because it is free and open source software, extensible and friendly to developers. But when you go to the front page of Mozilla or Firefox Browser’s page, ‘Open Source’, ‘Free Software’ and ‘FOSS’ don’t show up at all when you press CTRL+F on the front pages of either site. I actually found it very difficult to find even a mention of this… even the ‘Make Firefox your own’ section doesn’t say anything. The front page also mentioning support for Google services shows where most of the audience is now…
Mozilla can advertise their browser however they want, but when I look at how their increased promotion of privacy I can’t help but feel like they are grifters. Firefox is much more than a privacy browser even if I consider them the best in the market in that aspect. I use Firefox because it is free and open source software, extensible and friendly to developers. But when you go to the front page of Mozilla or Firefox Browser’s page, ‘Open Source’, ‘Free Software’ and ‘FOSS’ don’t show up at all when you press CTRL+F on the front pages of either site. I actually found it very difficult to find even a mention of this… even the ‘Make Firefox your own’ section doesn’t say anything. The front page also mentioning support for Google services shows where most of the audience is now…
Firefox also does not have anything that stands out compared to other browsers. It feels a lot like Chromium with a different UI, Gecko rendering engine and using their own extensions these days. I want Firefox to have something that other browsers don’t have, like Vivaldi compared to Opera, and Brave compared to Chrome. Firefox being open source does make this idea difficult but you can still show you do it better than others.
It’s a shame that all the things I love about this browser are simply brushed off by Mozilla but at the end of the day, I can’t judge them or do anything about it…
Browsers I also like
Some people I have met are anti-Mozilla whether it is for personal or political reasons. If you just don’t like Firefox there is always Ungoogled Chromium, I recommend it if you need to use it for web development or you want a Chrome alternative.
Google Chrome is based on a free and open-source web browser they also maintain called Chromium. However, Google Chrome is licensed as proprietary freeware. Firefox is completely free software but their license just forbids distribution using the Firefox brand. ↩︎
I should mention that me writing these two down is not a recommendation or endorsement by any means, I hate their advertising as much as you probably do. ↩︎