Some closure for removed features


(Andrei Petcu) #1

I do FF support on Twitter. Lots of people got upset about RSS bookmarks. Some like livemars, some don’t and have some bitter taste in their mouth for each removed feature.
Why was livemarks removed? I mean besides maintainability. What change triggered it? For example you can say that the XBL removal triggered this or some WebRender work. Something that works should never be removed. Something that needs to be ported/converted should be removed.

What should I tell users when they complain? What awesome feature that is brewing triggered this change? All refactoring/scope removal has a purpose. What work was avoided in the immediate future by removing this?


(Michael Kohler) #2

Hi, thanks for taking your time to respond to people on Twitter!

Please note that I’m neither a Mozilla employee nor was I involved in that discussion.

I’d suggest to read https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1477667, most notably comment 3, which answers one of your statements:

[…] this code is old and bogus, it has quite a few security problems, and prevents a bunch of optimizations from happening. It’s not sustainable and nobody wants to maintain it in current shape, nor we have the resources to write it from scratch (and maintain it then).

Keeping features around because “it works” can lead to several crucial problems. Maintainability of software is important and nobody wants an insecure, bloated browser, right?

IMHO the best way forward in terms of support is to recommend add-ons which can do this:

And here’s a curated list of helpful add-ons:

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/collections/mozilla/refined-reading/


(Michael Kohler) #3

https://www.gijsk.com/blog/2018/10/firefox-removes-core-product-support-for-rss-atom-feeds/ is a pretty good blog post for this as well.

By virtue of being baked into the core of Firefox, these features have long had outsized maintenance and security costs relative to their usage. Making sure these features are as well-tested, modern and secure as the rest of Firefox would take a surprising amount of engineering work, and unfortunately the usage of these features does not justify such an investment: feed previews and live bookmarks are both used in around 0.01% of sessions.


(Andrei Petcu) #4

Very good article! Exactly what I wanted. Also

As one example of those costs, “live bookmarks” use a very old, very slow way to access the bookmarks database, and it would take a lot of time and effort to bring it up to the performance standards we expect from Quantum. Likewise, the feed viewer has its own “special” XML parser, distinct from the main Firefox one, and has not had a significant update in styling or functionality in the last seven years. The engineering work we’d need to bring these features, in their current states, up to modern standards is complicated by how few automated tests there are for anything in this corner of the codebase.

also

These parts of Firefox are also missing features RSS users typically want. Live bookmarks don’t work correctly with podcasts, don’t work well with sync, and don’t work at all on any of Mozilla’s mobile browsers. They don’t even understand if an article has been read or not, arguably the most basic feature a feed reader should have. In short, the in-core RSS features would need both a major technical overhaul and significant design and maintenance investments to make them useful to a meaningful portion of users.

I wish all this info would be linked from SUMO. Firefox has been getting this reputation that it keeps removing features for no apparent reason. Removing features is a hard decision. I wish devs would make it more transparent.