Now that everyone from Google to IBM is hiring Firefox devs and at least tacitly sponsoring development, I have one big To Do for them: fix the corruption of user profiles issue. It’s a problem rarely encountered, but when it first happens to you it’s immensely frustrating.
In my experience, it’s liable to occur when Firefox is unexpectedly shut down or killed. When you try and restart the application, it asks you to select a “Profile” because the one you were using is “in use.” As near as I can determine, that’s Firefox-speak for telling you that the profile you were using has been irreparably corrupted. Reboot, and everything may be ok, but hasn’t been for me twice now. The only path left to you at this point is to start a new profile (unless you perform regular backups of your Firefox directory). Unfortunately, that typically means leaving all of your bookmarks and extensions behind and essentially starting from the base browser again.
The geeks out there know that the extensions and bookmarks are not actually lost – they remain available in the hidden /.mozilla/firefox/[profilename] directory and can be copied to the new profile relatively easily – but there’s no way that Joe or Sally User is going to figure that out. Instead, he or she is most likely going to start from scratch, and be very unhappy about it. Maybe even switch back to IE.
And lest you think this is a problem that just affects those of us likely to be doing things that will randomly kill our machine (folks like me), I just had this come up with a friend of mine I got onto Firefox. Luckily he was able to restart and recover, but next time he might not be so lucky.
So for any of you out there working on Firefox, I urge you to look into this before it costs you some users. Or if I’m wrong and there’s some magical fix for this, let me know.