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Are Firefox Themes Dying?

Firefox WearI’ve been developing Firefox themes for the past few years and, as I see Firefox change and evolve, I’m beginning to wonder if themes are going to become a thing of the past.

Why?

  • Firefox is pushing personas. They are now standard in Firefox 3.6.
  • Themes are complex with lots of pieces to edit and are not easy for users to create.
  • Getting them to work cross platform is tricky. Testing cross platform is even harder.
  • Themes have to be tweaked often to work with Firefox updates. On major releases, possibly completely re-created.
  • One wrong file, or line of code, and you can cause major Firefox display issues.
  • It takes extra work to theme extensions; and there are way to many to keep up with.
  • Users have to know how to install a theme and how to un-install, or deactivate, a theme.
  • They can cause usability issues as one persons idea of beauty is a train wreck to the next.

So what’s next? Personas.

Personas are more like skins than themes. They are easy to create, easy to install, and Firefox 3.6 is ready to use them with no additional addons.

Yes, the customization is limited, but with limited customization, there is less likelihood of creating usability issues with Firefox or conflicts with extensions.

Overall, it takes very little knowledge to create and use personas which is why they may just become the standard way of theming Firefox in the future.

I’m hoping that either themes don’t die completely or that personas start to allow additional items to be customized, but either way, I think we’ll start seeing fewer and fewer full blown themes come out and the Personas community continue to grow.

6 Responses

  1. Sean says:

    It seems like they have been dying for a couple years really. Used to be a lot of creative ideas in the 1.5-2.5 days, but lately its lame mac skins, or simple re-colorings. This year your Christmas theme was the only one available, and it was only an updated version of something that was around for a few years.

    Can’t blame anyone though if its is as tricky as you say =)

  2. Donut says:

    i still use themes quite a bit. past couple of months ive been using Black Stratini along with css styles to make the browser look dark but still usable.
    but the default themes with a lot of apps and operating systems are always bright white or a light grey.
    while i prefer dark menus and such.
    hell i still use OS X 10.4 because i have a great dark theme, that has it easy on the eyes and just looks cool. whereas OS X 10.5 has whiteness and a light grey that i just can’t get into. u can theme the OS now but its so limited and still doesnt look as good. among other factors that are quite an annoyance.

    ive jailbroken my iPhone with each update, because i like having a custom dark theme and icons. dont like the default look at all.

    so to me themes /skins will always be a part of my computer experience.

    ive tried out the personas a while back with a Firefox 3.6 beta, and yea they dont look all that nice. its merely just putting up a background image, which i could do back in the early days of Firefox. so those don’t appeal to me at all.

    • Thomas says:

      Yea skins and themes re very different. I think there will always be some people themeing, but I don’t see that community growing.

  3. Jivko Evgeniev says:

    Everythig you wrote is true.I also think that Firefox themes are dying.I think that everything started with the release of Firefox 3.Since than Firefox themes have less downloads and extensions became even more popular.I don’t know why but the most downloaded extension has over 500 000 weekly downloads and the most popular theme has around 80 000.I don’t like personas.It only customizes the toolbar and the statusbar.Nothing else.Firefox themes are hard to make and it takes time and effort to create them.I hope that they will become more popular in the future and I hope that my themes won’t die soon. 😉

  4. radiomother says:

    I’m still using Tinseltown even though Christmas is over because it’s a great winter theme and I think that themes humanize computers. I wish that Yahoo had a better assortment for its My Page and that they would throw in some retro themes for middle aged fogies like me.

    I write a very watered-down tech column for our local newspaper, by the way, so these things are very interesting to me.

    Thanks,
    radiomother

  5. mike says:

    IMO firefox as a whole is dying. Slowly but surely firefox is slipping in overall browser usage, according to net applications firefox dropped 0.2 % points while Chrome rose .7 % points. An indication of things to come. Firefox is becoming increasingly slower while taking up more resources to run. As soon as Chrome or IE get a solid plugin base for dev tools, i.e. firebug, greasemonkey, equivilent i will be done with firefox.

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