Firefox 3: a giant leap backward?

A few days ago, I upgraded to Firefox 3 and almost immediately regretted it. I don’t know what kind of usability testing folks at Mozilla do, but assuming they did some, I must be in the minority of Web users.

So what was so bad about Firefox 3? First, let’s take a look at the navigation in Firefox 3:


and in Firefox 2:


Why was it necessary to create the elaborate multi-colored control instead of tried and true Back and Forward buttons, each with its own list of pages visited?

More importantly, why is the “smart” (in reality, incredibly annoying) location bar necessary? In Firefox 2, having visited once, I could type “yah” into the location bar, hit a down arrow and Enter, and be taken to In Firefox 3, the same sequence of actions yields an unpredictable outcome based on which Yahoo! service (,, or site that has “yah” anywhere in its domain name or title tag (!) I visited last and/or most often.

Another small, but annoying “innovation” is the download window, which for whatever reason no longer has the Open control. So you downloaded an image and want to look at it? Sure, just open Windows Explorer and navigate to your download location… (Just because Firefox downloads to desktop by default doesn’t mean nobody ever changes this setting; I know I did, but then again, I might be in the minority…)

A small, but also annoying inconsistency: most alert messages in Firefox 3 are pop-ups, just as they were in Firefox 2, but the “Do you want Firefox to remember this password” alert somehow became a nearly invisible toolbar-like thing.

The end result of this acquaintance: I am back to running Firefox 2.0.16. Speaking of which, there was a very minor issue in the downgrade process that you normally don’t experience in an upgrade. Bookmarks, browsing history, etc. were preserved, but some of the settings weren’t. For example, the “You are requesting an encrypted page” and “You are leaving an encrypted page” dialogs, both of which I had turned off long ago, were shown after the downgrade even though they wouldn’t normally appear after upgrade.

1 thought on “Firefox 3: a giant leap backward?

  1. Isaac

    I agree with you on the back/forward buttons, but I personally like the awesomebar (not a good name though); the open option is still available in the downloads window, you just double-click or right-click and select open

    For me, the best bit of the new version is, ironically, the “Do you want Firefox to remember this password?” bar. Before, page loading was halted until you clicked remember/never/not now. In Firefox 3, you can just ignore the bar if you don’t want the password remembered.

    One of my favourite additions is that the default theme integrates well with the OS theme! I used to get very annoyed trying to find the theme that *exactly* matches one windows theme or another, but I no longer have to worry 🙂


    PS. Glad to see you using the BBC! the Best Broadcasting Corporation 😉

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