Thursday, October 5, 2006

Firefox 2 Feed Support

I downloaded and installed Firefox 2 RC1 last night, and on the balance I’m really impressed. The memory handling seems (so far) to be vastly improved over Firefox 1.x (I’ve had to kill the app pretty much once/day because of memory leaks). The UI is much more visually appealing, and they appear to have done a very good job increasing functionality in the core app (necessitating fewer extensions to get the app just right).



One area where it comes up short, in my opinion, is feeds. Here are some things it does that I’m not sure I like:


  • No XSLT support. Like IE7 and Safari, Firefox 2 ignores the publisher’s formatting instructions (if they’ve included an XSLT declaration) and instead formats the feed using its own rendering. I understand why they do this – having something readable is vastly superior to raw XML code. But where publishers include an XSLT declaration – especially where that XSLT is superior to Firefox 2’s own – they should pass it through. (Same goes for IE7.)

  • No full feeds. Even for publishers who produce full feeds, when the feed is looked at in the browser, Firefox 2 abridges the posts so you must click back to the publisher’s site to read the full content. If a publisher chooses to produce full text, why not display it on the page?

  • Imperfect “one-click” options. Unlike IE7 (which only provides an option to subscribe using IE7), I do like that Firefox gives you the option of using other apps to subscribe to feeds: Bloglines, Google Reader, My Yahoo! and FeedDemon were all listed on my options by defalut. But what about a podcast feed? I selected “choose application”, navigated to iTunes, clicked subscribe, and… Nothing. iTunes launched, but no subscription. For Firefox to get this right it needs to properly handle iTunes as an end point (and any other podcatcher). (Yes, I understand that sending iTunes a feed:// URL will not work, and that’s not technically Firefox’s fault. But how hard is it for Firefox to use the right iTunes string (prepend itpc:// or append .pcast, I think either works) to make this work? Having nothing happen is hardly a good user experience.


Overall, this is a terrific upgrade to the core browser. I’d been experimenting with switching to IE7, but I remain attached to Firefox’s customization abilities (though I suspect IE7 will be ideal for the majority of the mass market) and I like the overall look and feel. Just wish the feed support would be more in line with what I think the typical user will need/want… otherwise I think we’re still making feeds too hard for end users to adopt.

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for the heads up. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  2. The issue of Firefox 2.0 improperly displaying Feedburner feeds is the subject of this discussion:

    http://forums.feedburner.com/viewtopic.php?p=29246#29246

    ReplyDelete
  3. Actually i just found out that you can let IE7 to display formatted feeds by going to

    "Internet Options" » "Content" » "Feeds Settings" » Unmark "Turn On Reading view"

    That makes the trick (on IE7 7.0.5730.11)

    Regards!
    EOZyo

    ReplyDelete
  4. Absolutely correct on the XSLT stylesheet issue. I spent a long time developing my XSLT stylesheet for Atom 1.0. It was very fine on Firefox 1.5 and improving. But all that work was gone for naught come Firefox 2 and IE7.

    Alas and alack. I'm sticking with Firefox 1.5 until they fix that.

    ReplyDelete