European Browser Choice (With Screenshots)

[sound track] Woke up this morning, don’t believe what I saw… :P

Note: I’ve received the update only on my HTPC (Windows Vista Ultimate English with Italian language pack), still nothing on my notebook (Windows 7 Ultimate Italian). I suppose the original language of the OS is the discriminant.

Update KB976002 is finally available.

Nothing happens after installing. If you reboot the system, you’ll see the Choice Screen (note also the new icon on the desktop).

First layer browsers in pseudo-random order.

Some “WTF moments”:

  • The “Learn More” link opens in a new Internet Explorer window, not inside the Choice Screen as I expected.
  • After downloading and installing Firefox as default browser, the “Browser Choice” icon is not removed.

P.S. There’s also a Belorussian version of this article

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Followers Or Leaders?

This is a sort of guest post, since it’s the English translation of an article originally published in Italian by Giacomo Magnini (prometeo), a long time contributor to the Italian Mozilla community. Even if I don’t agree with him on some points, I share the overall feeling that comes from his considerations and I thought it could be worth sharing this article with other Mozillians.

I would like to share some not really positive gut feelings about the Mozilla project as a whole. I’m very puzzled about two ongoing trends within the project that frankly I don’t like at all:

  1. Cloning Chrome
  2. Focus on marketing

For the first point, I’d say it started with separate processes for plugins (and the ultimate goal is separating each window or tab of Firefox in its own process, just like Chrome) and is proceeding in a similar manner with graphical appearance. And this happens while many people are complaining about the removal of support for Mac OS X 10.4, the incentive to use Jetpack (once finalized, because for now it is on the high seas) over real extensions and the implementation of not very useful features (and I would say even questionable) like Personas.

It really seems that we are rapidly losing sight of the technological superiority to chase ghosts and competitors, instead of presenting new features. And when you also have to recover architectural holes that you’ve been putting off for years (separate processes, limitations in Gecko, browser’s startup time, old fashioned JavaScript interpreter, etc.), this situation becomes much more difficult.

On one hand it is true that Firefox has achieved very good market share, albeit somewhat uneven overall, but on the other hand the arrival of new very aggressive competitors has found MoCo/Mofo rather unprepared (to say the least). And the heat of competition is pushing the project to throw everything possible in the field: all the available technology, even if not ready, as well as technologies possibly taken/cloned from others, complete rewrites of large parts of the software to eliminate structural weaknesses, etc.

In addition to this, and passing onto the second point, there is this new push in the marketing field, hoping to reach new promised lands where the verb has not yet arrived (without even glancing at the pastures of enterprise installations, as usual), where new recruits should increase market share or at least compensate for the more “geek” ones who have already left or are moving to other shores. So we get the hive of activity of social marketing, viral marketing, guerrilla marketing and so many “cool” or “modern” terms. The problem is that Mozilla launches itself into such operation against three competitors who can rely on unlimited resources and who’ve been in that field for decades: Google, Apple and Microsoft (not to be underestimated, never). And the other problem is that without a better and different (from the others) product, marketing is what it is, i.e. very little.

Mozilla as a platform/embedding software has died, rightly ousted by WebKit: after losing Gnome, few products are still standing, perhaps not for long. The promise of stable long-term releases supported for years has been made to disappear. Instead of having to manage twenty different development branches, and their own releases, Mozilla has introduced a ploy to bring out new and invasive features as a “minor update”, reducing support for older versions to only 6 months. We’ll see if even this commitment holds since there’s a run-up to Chrome in action.

Mobile Firefox has some space only through MeeGo, though it is already light years better than the situation until the last week with only Maemo… The market share of WinMobile is disappearing like snow in Rome: the version 7 will have to sweat a lot and be damn good. Android, iPhone, RIM and webOS are closed. The version for Symbian exists only in its epitaph.

I deliberately did not comment on Thunderbird: let’s say I gave it the benefit of the doubt, given the huge technological gap that it had to fill in a short time. I’ll just note that Postbox has some very positive press and it seems to be moving beyond TB abilities. And do not tell me that email clients have had their day: there is no gmail-like thing, not even in picture, which holds its own compared to a well done specific client.

I hear the frame creaking, and I do not like it.

Bad Localization Example (Java on OS X)

This is the dialog window that appears when you try to run a Java Applet on Mac OS X 10.5.7 with the last Java update (I’m running Java 1.5.0_19 according to this test).

java_firefox

Take a look at the checkbox:

  • In Italian it’s “l’accesso” (definite article+noun), not “laccesso”. The same error appears in the first label, so I suppose they have some difficulties dealing with apostrophes. This problem was already there before the Java update.
  • Applet’s name and author are gone, replaced by {0} and {1} (this started with the last Java update).

Here’s my questions:

  • Who is to blame for this window? Sun (as I suppose) or Apple? Sure it’s not Mozilla’s fault, since the same thing happens with Safari 4.
  • Is this happening only with the Italian localization of OS X? Are other locales affected as well?
  • How can we try to fix that, since someone will think for sure that this is our (Mozilla localizers) fault?

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I Hate Accesskeys

As usual, before the final release we’re doing a lot of QA work on our localized Firefox builds, and this includes a careful check on accesskeys. There are two different issues with accesskeys:

  • use of a character not available in the label. For example: using “F” as accesskey for “Shiretoko” creates a label “Shiretoko (F)”. This can easily happen if you update the label and forget to correct the corresponding accesskey.
  • duplicated accesskeys (two or more labels with the same scope share the same accesskey).

In the last 24 hours we found two duplicated accesskeys in the Italian build: the first one is quite hidden (you have to check for updates in the Extension manager and then click on the “More information” button), while the second one is located in the main window (Toolbar search). This last issue affects the en-US build (see bug 498840) and probably also other locales.

accesskey

I think that we should really start to think about accesskeys and how to introduce automated tests.

The first step should be to create a standard naming convention (it’s not even mandatory, but it would make things easier): right now you can find accesskeys named like “label_accesskey”, “labelaccesskey” or “label.accesskey”. At this point, checking for external characters shouldn’t be a problem.

The real challenge would be to find accesskeys conflicts – using different tables to store all the accesskeys with the same scope – in particular in pop-up menus. Have you ever tried to select different parts of a web page (create a selection with images, links, images with links, text, etc.) and check how the context menu change? Doing this kind of checks manually is simply crazy ;-)

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