Firefox: Not A Good Citizen on OS X Lion

I’ve been a long time Safari user. In fact, I continue to use it today as my primary web browser. I’ve never been averse to trying other browsers of course — what good geek wouldn’t try new software? This is something I have and will continue to do.

One browser that I have never been able to use full-time is Firefox. On the Mac, it just never felt quite right — it felt out of place and never well behaved like a native Cocoa app should. For the most part, Firefox has come a long way over the years. Just in the last twelve months, Mozilla has ramped out their development efforts on the browser. They’ve committed to much speedier releases — opting for constant iteration and smaller, more palatable builds — rather than waiting a year or two for the next major thing. Along the way, they’ve obliterated hundreds, if not thousands of bugs, increased performance, fixed massive memory leaks, and even re-written large portions of the app in Cocoa.

So here we are in April 2012 with the new release of Firefox 12. This is certainly not the same browser you knew a year or two ago. It’s faster in every way you can imagine — from web page rendering to interface improvements. There are, however problems with this browser that really annoy me. Problems that haven’t gone away with every release since version 8.0 on OS X Lion.

With the release of OS X 10.7, Apple added full-screen support in many of its own native apps — in addition to an API to allow developers to build this functionality into their own apps. Versions 8.0 through 12.0 have yet to support this functionality.

Another important feature was the addition of iOS-style scroll bars. I personally happen to like the way scroll bars disappear when not in use. I love the clean look and focus of the content on screen. The problem with Firefox here is that they have yet to release a version that supports this.

Lastly, Lion introduced inertial scrolling. That fun and quirky rubber-band effect when you hit the bottom of a list or page view — borrowed completely from iOS. Once again, Firefox still ships without this support. Scrolling is not smooth in the browser — in fact it’s complete shit. To quell this complaint, I find myself having to dig through Firefox’s preferences to turn on smooth scrolling. Why isn’t this on by default Mozilla?

Lion is not a new operating system, so the people at Mozilla have had plenty of time to support some of these innovative features that other third party developers have long embraced. How many more versions of Firefox do we have to go until they build a proper Mac browser?