I was ecstatic to discover that Mozilla has opened a position for a Mac Platform Integration engineer. While Firefox works, and works pretty well, on the Mac, there are a lot of quirks and oddities that get me down.
In some cases, it’s a matter of the uncanny valley effect. A long time ago, Firefox felt like a Windows application on the Mac. The UI was distinctly different from every other Mac application, and it stood out like a sore thumb. But you knew what you were getting into. You started it up, and because it looked nothing like a Mac app, it was okay that it didn’t really act like one. You didn’t expect it to.
But then we put a fair amount of work into making it look a lot more like a Mac application. As a result, we now have a Firefox that looks much more like a Mac app… but doesn’t quite act like one. There are little, subtle things that just feel wrong. This gives you this uneasy feeling, very much like the uncanny valley effect, and it’s unsettling. This really needs to be addressed, because it’s a big turnoff to a lot of people (myself included).
There are big things, too, of course.
A few things, right off the top of my head, that bug me:
- Pop-up menus don’t behave like real Mac pop-up menus. This is one of those uncanny valley problems; they used to act totally different, then we made them much closer, but there are still differences, and they’re annoying.
- Our pop-up panels (like the one that appears when you go to edit a bookmark) look very out-of-place, and many of them are not resizeable even though they would be much more useful if they could be resized.
- Text selection behavior is subtly different in ways I can’t put my finger on, but I know the issue is there.
- Drop-down sheets — particularly the one for configuring the toolbar — are just not right.
- If Firefox isn’t running, and you click a link in another app that causes Firefox to open to open that app, and Firefox has an update pending, the update installs, Firefox restarts, and you don’t get your link opened. This was fixed at one point, then rebroke (possibly around the time we switched from Carbon to Cocoa). This drives me nuts, especially since I run on Aurora and/or Nightly, so it happens to me all the time.
- We could use more and better gesture support. At one point, we had swipe to top and bottom support, but that vanished at some point. With Lion making it clear that gestures are the wave of the future on Mac, we need to get on board.
- With Mountain Lion on the way, we need to look at integrating with the new Notification Center as well as the operating system’s built-in sharing service. Being able to quickly tweet using that service would be a really nice touch.
That’s by no means everything, but just what I could think about in the five minutes or so it took me to compose this post.
So if you’re a Mac developer looking for work, consider Mozilla! You’ll be glad you did! It’s a kick-ass place to work, and a lot of fun. And you’ll be making a great browser greater on the best operating system around.