Recently the FireFox browser has been crashing on me.  But because FireFox is a Good Thing TM I’ve tending to gloss over the problems (we do this for our loved ones, don’t we). But when the browser started to crash consistently when embedded images in this blog I decided enough was enough. I’ve moaned a bit on Twitter about FireFox over the past few days and was interested to see that other people had had similar experiences. So I thought I’d try and find out how widespread this problem might be.

In order to minimise the time and effort in analysing responses  I sent the tweet:

Firefox is crashing frequently. Is this true for others? Respond with #firefoxcrashes or #firefoxisfine. Please RT.

I then used the search capabilities in Tweetdeck to search for tweets containing #firefoxcrashes or #firefoxisfine (bearing in mind that retweets would contain both strings. The response are illustrated in the screen shot (or you can see the live search results for #firefoxcrashes and #firefoxisfine).

Twitter responses to "#firefoxcrashes" or "#firefoxisfine"
There seems to be growing evidence that FireFox is not as reliable as we might have expected. And as I know a number of the people who responded I am confident that these responses aren’t coming from people who think that open source software is some form of communism, but from people who prefer the FireFox browser to Internet Explorer.

The next question might be “what is the cause of the problem?” A couple of people suggested it might be FireFox plugin bloat or maybe problems with specific FireFox plugins.

The final question is “what do I do next?” Tolerating the problem was no longer acceptable, so I wondered whether I should use Google Chrome (which is installed on my PC) as my main browser. But I also wondered whether it would be timely to try out a new browser, But rather than installing Apple’s Safari browser, which a couple of people suggested, I decided to try out Flock.

However during the installation of Flock I also restarted my PC, which had been put in hiberation at the end of the working day for a while. And as there were various plugins I was missing I decided to restart FireFox – which I’m now finding is working fine. So I think I’ll stick with FireFox unless the problems re-occur.

But to me the ease of getting a rapid and semi-structured response from Twitter was the most interesting part of the exercise.  A couple of people responded asking for details of my operating system I was running, FireFox version number, installed plugins, etc. Now I could have set up a SurveyMonkey form to gather such information – but I know that not many would have responded. I feel that the important thing was that the survey was available from within the recipient’s environment – they could immediately respond from whichever Twitter client they were using.

What, though, of the others for whom #firefoxcrashes? What do you intend to do? Opera, Chrome, Safari, Flock – or even the other browser?