Mozilla makes rough notes on Firefox 3.6
For those about to Namoroka
Mozilla is instructing developers to go back to school in readiness for the changes that will come in Firefox 3.6, and helpfully it’s published a new guide detailing the latest tweaks.
Meanwhile, we at Vulture Towers have been patiently sitting on our hands waiting to see what Firefox 5.0, 6.0, 7.0, 8.0 and later versions will look like.
Alas, we’re still waiting for that memo. In the meantime 3.6’s guide offers developers an insight into the Mozilla hive mind.
It's added support for hiding the menu bar automatically, in a move that clearly pre-empts the look and feel of versions 3.7 and 4.0. These both show starker designs that some have grumbled make the browser appear increasingly like a Google Chrome imitator.
Web app developers will be able to use a feature for adding notification sounds to alert users about a new email or instant message, say.
Firefox 3.6, which is code-named Namoroka and based on Gecko 1.9.2., isn’t due out until the first half of next year. So this document should be considered a work-in-progress rather than a definitive guide to what the new browser will or won’t feature. ®
UIs should be stable
Imagine that software designers made cars. This year, you steer with a wheel, the clutch is on the left, the accellerator is on the right, the brakes are in the middle. (Car 6.1, since the 1960s - almost no-one living can remember versions 1 through 5. Car 6.0 was the same except you had to do double-declutching. 6.1 really WAS an improvement - a small UI change requiring much tricky re-engineering inside the gearbox, where no-one except a serious techie ever sees the details.)
Next year, they swap the brake and the accellerator. (Car 7.0)
The year after, they decide wheels and pedals are so old-fashioned, and "everyone" is used to driving computer games, so they put a game controller in the cockpit and remove the wheel and the pedals. (Car 8.0 a.k.a. "Panarama")
Of course, it couldn't happen. There would be far too many fatalities.But with software there aren't many fatalities. (I'm sure there are a few: heart attacks and the odd employee going postal, but none of those can be pinned on the software vendor for certain). So they keep screwing with the UI and annoying the hell out of us.
I happen to like Firefox precisely because the UI developments from FF2 to FF3 to FF3.5 have been incremental improvements that never annoyed me. Please keep it that way. If FF4 abandons the interface I'm used to, there will be no reason for me to stick with it and quite a lot of reason not to (i.e. you've pissed me off, so sod you). I'm aware of Opera, Seamonkey, Chrome, Safari, but am not interested in spending time leaning to use them without thinking about it. Don't give me a reason to become better-acquainted, or I will do just that.
The best UI is the one that uncounted millions of users are used to, unless it is so terrible that at least half of them are crying out for something - anything - different. A good UI fades into the background once you've learned it, just like the details of how to ride a bicycle, while the human brain gets on with processing the information in the window (i.e. on the other side of the interface). "Improvements" should be incremental - something that can be ignored until or unless one discovers the need for them. Menus are a very good way of accomplishing this, because a new item in a menu doesn't get in the way of the familiar ones. So are plug-ins, because if you don't need them, you don't plug them in.
Change is Bad
How DARE they change the way things look! Change frightens and confuses me.
In 1996 we had a browser that supported .gifs, and that's it. And we LIKED it like that. Divergence from that is bloatware.
PS: Isn't it creative how I combined "bloat" and "software"? Congratulate me!
Another noisy program
Hopefully you'll be able to disable any sound making functionality. I need the volume on my speakers set a a level that I can hear when hardware events occur so I can do my job. One of the reasons I use Flashblock is so those annoying adds that want to play automatically at the highest volume level when you visit a site don't. Hopefully as they move towards making it have those massive frames like new MS programs and VIsta have you'll be able to turn it off so that you can have the minimal windows of the "Classic" mode.