Roadmap to a better FreeDesktop: ridding us of the Firefox filth

Lately, I've been pondering how to solve one annoying aspect of the FreeDesktop, namely how to eject the piece of bloat called Firefox from the picture and get myself a fast web browser that I can rely on and that yet offers a similar UI experience based upon native GTK2 widgets rather than XUL components.

Just to investigate possible options, I tested Epiphany, Galeon and Konqueror. My conclusions were than a Gecko-based Epiphany or Gaelon is incredibly fast and that Konqueror offers a similarily efficient experience albeit using QT, rather than GTK2 widgets.

Why is Firefox so bloody bloated then, if it uses the same Gecko engine as Epiphany and Galeon? The only possible conclusion I could come up with is that its crappy XUL implementation, rather than leverage existing native GTK2 or QT widgets, tries to reinvent the wheel with its own UI toolkit running as a gigantic RAM blackhole.

One option that I wanted to investigate but found too deficient was a Webkit-based port of Epiphany. Unfortunately, at its current stage, the GTK2 port of Webkit simply isn't mature enough to consider, although the fact that Webkit has been succesfully ported to a number of platforms and constitutes the basis for Safari on Mac OS suggests that the potential is significant.

That only leaves one single aspect on which Firefox wins hands-down: its UI concept; it just works well, whereas Epiphany simply has a UI concept that is utterly inadequate, because it is too crude, lacking basic necessities such as a session saving feature that also works when purposely unloading the application, rather than only as a crash recovery measure. Simply put, Epiphany's premise that a browser should never be closed and thus ought to always remain open in the background of a desktop session is utterly flawed; it doesn't work like that in real life and Firefox acknowledges this, while Epiphany stubbornly doesn't because someone wreaked Havoc in our desktop paradigm.

Anyhow, to me the solution is clear: regardless of which rendering engine it uses, Epiphany's UI concept needs to become more like Firefox, before it can truly gain acceptance as the default browser among Linux distributions.


Hub said...

Step 1: fix GtkNotebook.

Elver said...

Well, it's the UI side of Firefox that seems to be the main culprit here...

In any case, Chrome, while only slightly faster than Firefox, has a far superior user interface in my opinion.

Looking forward to Firefox 3.2, though. Ubiquity is gonna be nice for us geeks: see the demo video here.

rjc said...

I'm on the other hand looking at something lighter, webkit-based; whether it is qt or gtk+ doesn't bother me that much (not using any big DE) - arora (QT project demo web browser) is fast, light and you can have all your tabs next time you open it. Sure it lacks some features, but then again, the project's quite young.

Michael Krog said...

I agree about firefox being too bloated.
Furthermote it looks nasty under KDE.

I only use Firefox for firebug and youtube now.

Anything else I use konqueror or Arora

Lloeki said...

"Epiphany's UI concept needs to become more like Firefox"

Not. I love Epiphany the way it is. A simple, fast, no-frills browser.

Unknown said...

[flamebait]Do you mean that GNOME's UI choices are wrong?

Try to tell them directly, but watch out for the incoming fire..[/flamebait]

Gustavo Noronha said...

I believe you may want to try Midori out. It's written by the awesome Christian Dywan, and has lots of very good features, nice UI and is starting to grow powerful extensions: http://www.twotoasts.de/index.php?/pages/midori_summary.html

I use Epiphany myself, and while I agree there are some features lacking I don't really want it to go the Firefox route UI wise. Now, as for features such as session saving, I would definately want that, and maybe I'll work on it as soon as we have a usable WebKit backend (I'm trying to help on that =D).

Unknown said...

I've been a fair-weather fan of Epiphany for so many years that I don't remember how long it's been. I've supported Evolution the same way, though obviously not for as long.

Epiphany's admitted problem is that it was pushed too early, well before it was ready for prime time. I used it through most of that period ... until it got a bug while caused to to take about three minutes to open. I couldn't take that. Other bugs along the way have driven me to Moz or FF temporarily, but I always go back because Epiphany fits in Gnome better.

While the Gecko engine has worked well for years, Epiphany's future is Webkit,, and it's being tested right now. Gnome 3.0 will definitely see the browser in it's best light. The extensions have mostly caught up; the engine is solid; the UI is mostly good but needs a little tweaking. A bright future awaits for Ep'y.

It excels in Gnome because it fits with the rest of the components: it doesn't do anything but browse -- for everything else there's another desktop app already installed that can be called. That's the way I like my desktop -- small pieces well integrated. If Abiword can catch up in some important areas, the Gnome desktop is going to be a functional piece of art.

nobrowser said...

All is relative. If you think replacing Firefox/Iceweasel with Epiphany saves you space (RAM or disk), to me it just proves you're a GNOME lover. If *I* were to switch the other way, it would *cost* me GBs and GBs of space for the *@#$! GNOME libraries and *daemons* that !%#@* GNOME apps start.


fs111 said...

You should check out midori (http://www.twotoasts.de/index.php?/pages/midori_summary.html#). It's a webkit based browser using gtk2. I found it the other day and it looks promising so far.