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Attention Firefox Plug-in Makers: GET OVER YOURSELVES!!!

Date/Time Permalink: 04/22/08 06:54:22 pm
Category: General

Some people came to Linux because they wanted freedom. Some people came because they liked the Unix way. Some people came because they were sick of Microsoft.

Me, 75% of the reason I came to Linux is because it lets me run it instead of it trying to run me.

It has no pretensions. It doesn't think that it's the most important product in the world. And usually, that attitude trickles down to the applications on the system. Not like on Windows. On Windows, every two-bit program, even if it was built from four lines of C code, believes that it is the sole reason you own a computer.

On Windows, each little widget will absolutely demand to have its own major directory, its own desktop icon, its own taskbar icon, its own position in the Start menu, its own functions in the right-click menu, its own wallpaper, its own screensaver, and its own file extension. It will pop up with every single mouse click demanding attention like a starving cat. Update me, choose a new theme for me, register with me, change these files so they're associated with just my program, install my patch.

On Linux, we've been safe for the most part from that disease, save for one program which just happens to be popular on both systems: Firefox. And Firefox itself is well-behaved, but half the attraction of Firefox is the plug-ins... and so help me, I am now at the point where I am ready to leave Firefox just for the rude behavior of the plug-ins.

How tiny, trivial, and inconsequential does a function have to be? It doesn't matter. It will be slamming itself into your face screaming for your attention like a monster two-year-old, until you remove it.


I wanted to resize pictures on the fly. That's all, just when a picture's too small, just frob the scroll-wheel and make it bigger. So I installed ImageZoom. I was happy for a month. Then it upgraded and upgraded and patched and upgraded. Then it wants to handle locales, have custom controls, be the YouTube of image viewing, it sticks its big fat ass into every single menu on Firefox, it wants its own toolbar...

No, no, no. When I get something called "Image Zoom" I expect it to be something like this pseudo-code:

if (pointer-over-image)
{ if (mouse-wheel-up)
{ image_size=image_size+1;}
if (mouse-wheel-down)
{ image_size=image_size-1;}}

OK? You're not the Times Square New Year's Eve show! It added new functions and menus and hotkeys until I got disgusted and removed Image Zoom. I couldn't believe it.


StumbleUpon, I already documented my saga with about here, here, here. When I first got StumbleUpon, you will not believe me when I tell you that it was just one button and one drop-down menu!!!


Hey, how about colored tabs? Can I just have one tab be red and another blue? Do you think you can do that right? After all, it's just a visual aid. Is that so simple that nobody could possibly mess it up? If you think so, then you haven't been using Firefox very long... Anyway, I'm still able to tolerate this one enough to keep it on, but it is one upgrade and nag screen away from DeleteLand. Really, why do we have to be such blockheads about it? One line of code:


There, it's done. Get on with your life! Why is this so difficult?


Over at Rea Maor's pad, I discovered the AllPeers tool - which downloads BitTorrent files as transparently as Firefox downloading FTP. "Finally!" I heaved, and I installed it and used it and all was Heaven. True, I didn't use the social features at all, but they mostly just got out of my way while trying to be only a moderate pain-in-the-ass and let me upload/download my BitTorrent files in peace.

Then AllPeers announced that they were closing down their social network part. "Who cares?", I said, "I just need a BitTorrent client plugged into Firefox." Then every time I clicked a torrent seed file it started the in-your-face toolbar and sidebar and popup with the mascot making teary eyes saying they couldn't provide the social service any more, so I couldn't share this download with my network of AllPeers friends I never had, and I said, "Just get out of my damn way and let me download this 25KB file that I need for work already!"

And then a week later... they actually TURNED OFF THE BITTORRENT CLIENT PART OF THE PROGRAM. In the middle of a 4-disk distro torrent session. That's right, they went to the trouble of writing a patch that went into my computer and took away the only useful part of their plug-in. They couldn't just leave the client there. They couldn't leave it to me to decide when to remove it. To my way of thinking, if they had, that actually would have been the perfect ideal. Companies should be born, produce 1.0 versions of the simplest form of their plug-in, and then quietly buzz off and never bother me again.


ScribeFire just updated. Oh, I know, I could just not allow Firefox to get updates, but you know how lousy that is for a long-term strategy. ScribeFire is going to be the next to go. Here again, all I wanted was a scratchpad-type space attached to Firefox. A place to save HTML code snippets, long URLs, notes and fragments and such. I don't need a second Mozilla or Seamonkey in here. I don't need a Firefox for my Firefox.

Think of Emacs' *scratch* buffer. Mind you, I don't need it to publish to my web site. No program in the world could handle how I work. ScribeFire doesn't support my blog software anyway, and God forbid that it should, because I've custom hacked my blog system by now so much that I would trust least of all that software which would claim to support it.

But ScribeFire, once a dandy little text buffer that popped up and down quickly and got out of my way, has now mutated into this multi-headed abomination. The editor now wants to embed YouTube and Flickr into everything. It wants me to "share this page" with Mahalo and StumbleUpon. It wants to manage my bookmarks. It wants me to pick categories. It wants me to fill out forms. I'm going to count how many tabs there are that open different parts of it: 21. Twenty-one tabs that open features and features and features and features that I do not need, I do not want, are a hindrance, are a nuisance, and will be an excuse for it to update every single day.

But the final straw: like the other plug-ins that got too big for their britches, ScribeFire has now broken the only thing it was good for. I used to have a few pages worth of snippets I'd built up, which I had saved in ScribeFire itself. These were HTML character codes, Javascript snippets, frequently-pasted URLs, a user-name of somebody I wanted to keep track of so I could send them something they asked for, blah blah blah. ScribeFire had become my refrigerator magnet board.

Guess what happened to all that? Yep, deleted! There's no trace of it anywhere. Guess what it does instead now when I try to look for my old data? That's right: a STUPID POPUP. "Welcome to ScribeFire Account Wizard" I don't want to give it my website and user-name and password, because it will boff up my website like the brainless idiot it is. And I can't turn it off because there's no action that says "don't be a stupid asshole and put a pop-up wizard in my face" in any of the twenty-one tabs which took me an hour to search through. And I'm going to have to uninstall it because IT OPENS THE SCRIBEFIRE ACCOUNT WIZARD STUPID POPUP EVERY SINGLE STINKING TIME I CLICK ITS ICON!

No, I don't care to wait around to see if it's fixed later. Anybody stupid enough to put a pop-up wizard into a program for any reason whatsoever is not allowed to have software running on my computer. I think they should never program again, and yes, I am saying "I think they should never program again." in place of what I'm *really* thinking. Hard!

Are you, have you ever, or do you intend to write a Firefox plug-in? GET OVER YOURSELF! You are not the most important person in the world! Nobody wants your little hack to revolutionize computing! You will not get a date with Paris Hilton! The Nobel Committee is not going to award you for your little scroll-bar polisher! Google is not holding on line two! The world is not flocking to your social network! You are not inventing Web 3.0! Nobody wants their lives to revolve around your custom mouse pointer! You will not get a Superbowl commercial! We are not getting your logo tattooed on our heads! You are not a unique and beautiful snowflake! You are a paper clip; a thumb tack; a piece of string; a square of tissue, to be used and forgotten like a public restroom!

If you don't like being that then GO DO SOMETHING ELSE!

As for me, I'm going to have to start writing Firefox plug-ins. The very last thing I wanted to do, but I'm going to have to just to see them done right.


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