The temptation of Firefox Quantum for me

January 21, 2018

I'm very down on Firefox 57 and later because of how it breaks almost all of my existing addons with at best inferior replacements, and my expressed plan is to stick to Firefox 56 for as long as possible. But at the same time Firefox Quantum and the addons reset it means is kind of a temptation for me.

One of the consequences of my trick for rapidly starting new Firefox windows combined with how I stay logged on to my desktop all the time is that I naturally keep a single Firefox process running for a long time (I've mentioned this before). In theory I start Firefox when I boot my machine up and log in, then leave it running for days or even weeks until I reboot my machine for some reason. A long time ago, I could actually use Firefox like that; my Firefox process would run stably for weeks or even sometimes months. I can't do that these days, because my Firefox setup semi-slowly leaks memory and over the course of no more than a few days becomes too slow to be pleasant. I've said before that I've become resigned to this, but that's not really true. For all that I've crafted ways to make quitting and restarting Firefox not too painful, it's still somewhat painful to do so and it's simply irritating.

(How fast my Firefox leaks memory seems to depend on what I do with it and how actively I use it. Informally, Youtube videos seem especially bad, and with my active use at home I can run a Firefox session into 'too much memory usage' in less than a day.)

This is where the temptation of Firefox Quantum comes in, because it's possible that it fixes my memory leak issues (or at least significantly improves them). Quantum certainly has a completely different model of addon handling, which matters since addons seem to be the source of most of my memory leaks, and I believe that Quantum is supposed to be better about memory in general. I have a history of abruptly making radical changes when I'm dissatisfied with the status quo, which I am with Firefox, and there is this voice whispering to me that I'm going to have to upend all of my addons sooner or later so I might as well get it over with now.

(The counter-argument to that voice is that the WebExtensions API is clearly a work in progress and probably will be improving for months, so addons now are likely clearly worse than they will be in the future.)

Trying out Firefox Quantum would be somewhat more tempting if it was clearly a reversible thing, where I could cleanly go back to Firefox 56 if it didn't improve things. However I'm pretty sure that it's not, at least not in practice, if only because the moment I update I believe that at least two of my current addons may irreversibly migrate to their WebExtensions form. Of course I could always save my entire Firefox profile directory and then just restore it all afterward, but that probably involves losing recent browser history (which I care about).

(I have been forced to use Firefox 57 on some other machines and I have a test build of the latest Mozilla development Firefox, so I've done some experimenting with the WebExtensions addons I'd need. As far as I know there's still no great replacement for It's All Text, though; the closest is things like GhostText, Textern, and withExEditor, but they work in a somewhat different and more awkward way. Maybe Textern would be good enough.)

Written on 21 January 2018.
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Last modified: Sun Jan 21 02:33:20 2018
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