Worst Idea of 2010: Firefox Personas

Seriously, has the Mozilla team run out of important things to work on in Firefox?

My Firefox browser updated to 3.6.2 today and I’m greeted with this page, asking me to try their new personas:

Rollover and Change what?I’m not really a customize-my-browser-to-look-like-a-teenage-girls-Twitter-page kind of guy, but I thought I’d give it a shot and see what happened.

In a word:  horrific.

My browser’s link bar went from easily readable to complete obscured:

And not just with one, but pretty much ALL of their “recommended ones”.

WTF Mozilla?  Have we decided to throw out 30-odd years of user interface practices in favor of ponies, rainbows and unicorns? Really?

There are 30,000 MORE of these monstrosities to choose from!  Keep in mind that Mozilla would, of course, showcase the best and most interesting on their update page…But if these are the best, I’m frightened to dig any deeper.

This reminds me of the skinning snafu of the early 21st century where every damn audio application (WinAmp for example, but certainly not limited to them) had to come out with 368 cool skins to go with their app.

Not only did you have to learn an entirely new interface with the application’s custom look-and-feel, but you often had to relearn it for each damned skin you switched to.  The same was true of Linux usability.  Reminds me of a quote:

Whenever a programmer thinks, “Hey, skins, what a cool idea!”, their computer’s speakers should create some sort of c*ck-shaped soundwave and plunge it repeatedly through their skulls.

This is a usability nightmare**. No, wait, usability nightmare doesn’t even begin to cover it.  And now Mozilla wants to do that with my browser?  As if MySpace pages didn’t make the web awful enough…

For the love of all that is good and easy to read in the world, stop.  Just please stop.  Tell me where to send the money to make it stop.

My eyes are still bleeding.

UPDATE (part 1):  Looking to REMOVE the personas?  Do this:

Go to Tools -> Add-ons ->Themes Panel.  Click on Uninstall on the persona.  Then restart Firefox.

UPDATE (part 2):  Since I have the (un)fortunate Page 1 Google ranking in “firefox personas”, and the comments seem to fall into 3 categories in rough order:

  1. Dude, you’re a grouch.
  2. Dude, you’re an idiot AND a grouch.
  3. Dude, I totally agree with you.

I realize I fell prey to a classic issue often happened in math class too…I skipped straight to the answer and failed to show my work.

** When I say “usability nightmare”, what I mean (hyperbole aside) is that personas violate some well-known principles of web usability all posited by Jakob Nielsen, the guru of web site usability.  He doesn’t just guess on these things, he actually researches them, observes behavior and reports results.

Which principles?  Well, I can probably dig up a dozen if I try hard, but without going too crazy, here’s a short list of the ones that FF personas pretty much violate right out of the box:

Usability matters.  And grouchiness aside, the more we infect these kind of eye-Twinkies (think:  eye-candy, but far less nutritious) on people, the less capable they are of actually using the web in the first place.