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Posts Tagged ‘Firefox’

Firefox 3 Password Manager is a little TOO helpful

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

I was trying to fix a bug today, where saved usernames passwords in Firefox were showing up on other forms, in the wrong fields. Pretty simple, I thought - just change the names of the password fields so they’re different than the login page.

It didn’t work.

Apparently,  the new Password Manager is designed to thwart security such as changing the names of the password fields, so the user has to enter the password. It looks for a field of the same name first, but if it doesn’t find one, it will put the password in the first type=password field it finds - and then puts the username in the text field just before that.

I really can’t see how this is good. But it’s not a bug. This was an intentional design decision by the Mozilla foundation:

Firefox stores passwords with this metadata:

domain usernamefield passwordfield username password

Then uses the usernamefield/passwordfield values as hints to find the appropriate <input> elements within a webpage by matching them to the “name” attribute.

Unfortunately this means that when a website redesigns and changes the un/pw field names, the effect on the end user is that the password is “forgotten”.

As a backup, when usernamefield/passwordfield fail to match, Password Manager should attempt to discover the password field manually, using a technique similar to what Camino uses.

While I understand trying to make things easier for your users, sometimes you can go too far. This, I think, is an example of that. It actually causes usability problems. See an example of a problem this can cause here. While this is a contrived example, it should be easy to see how a complex site could easily face these sort of problems.

Personally, I think Firefox needs to rethink this. It is not a good thing.

Browser Wars: Why IE still wins

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

Today marks the release of the long-awaited Firefox 3. By all reports, an good browser with great features - and when the site is back up and running, I’ll probably download it myself.

But despite the increased adoption of alternate browsers such as Firefox, Opera, Safari, etc., Internet Explorer remains the dominant browser, and will continue to be the most-used browser for the foreseeable future.

Many will disagree - however, let me explain why I believe this:

The problem is not on the user end. There are many thousands of alternate browser users who are enthusiastically spreading the word. Personally, I recommend Firefox to just about everyone - and most have tried it, and prefer it to IE. No - there is definitely no problem getting users to switch away from IE.

The problem is on the developer side.

I recently wrote about some problems I had with a couple websites. In one of those cases, I lost some good tickets at the Orange County Performing Arts Center because they don’t properly support non-IE browsers. The bigger problem is that this is not an isolated occurrence. Far too many websites fail to account for alternate browsers.

This is something I simply don’t understand. But it appears that there are many developers out there who are unaware of either the existence of browsers other than IE, or just don’t care to learn how to make their sites work on other browsers.

But the problem doesn’t stop with the developers. The real problem lies with the management of the companies who hire these developers. They hire people who work only with IE, because they are not aware, or don’t care, that there are other browsers.

Now, I can’t imagine why any company would knowingly neglect over 20% of its potential customer base, so the only conclusion I can reach is that this failure is due to ignorance. The people running these companies either don’t know about alternate browsers, don’t know the number of people using alternate browsers, or don’t know that different browsers require different coding.

To this end, I am launching the Alternate Browser Education Initiative (at http://browsereducation.org), a non-profit group aimed at educating businesses about alternate browsers and how to correctly build websites that function on most, if not all, of the available browsers.

I firmly believe that this is the only path to real browser choice. I hope you will join me in my effort.