Mozilla’s blog post on the release of Firefox 106 listed new features in the update (spoiler: not much in the way of new features – but I use Firefox with the Arkenfox user.js and my own carefully selected set of extensions, so I am often immune to new features). Among the new features listed was the addition of “new Colorways and wallpaper collections.” I know what wallpaper is and I support digital aesthetics, but I knew not of Colorways. I read to learn about Colorways:
Last year we launched Firefox Colorways, a new desktop feature that allowed our users to express their most authentic selves and bring joy while browsing the web.Mozilla
Not only does this not tell me what Colorways is, I am also dumber for having read it. What species of postmodern gobbledygook is “allowed our users to express their most authentic selves”? Who looks to Firefox to find “joy”? Firefox is a tool (and an important one) for browsing the internet, it is not part of anyone’s sense of self. Each of the words Mozilla employed makes sense individually, but that is not enough. If you have heard the phrase the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, I submit that this sentence – which would only be amenable to publication in a scholarly journal for a field ending in studies – is an example of the opposite idea. The parts are fine. The whole is the problem.
It was only after reading external links from the blog post that I learned that Colorways is a set of flat color themes for Firefox which Mozilla will only make available for a few months. There is nothing wrong with Firefox themes. I use Two little birds on both Firefox and Thunderbird, and the Mozilla extension store has thousands of free themes. Anyone can create a new theme. The new “limited edition” Colorway themes are pleasant enough (granting the limited edition aspect is a little bit strange).
But whether one likes the colors or does not care for them, I can assure readers that they have nothing to do with finding one’s authentic self – whatever that actually means – or finding joy.
The blog post made page one of Hacker News, and many of the comments expressed similar confusion about Colorways and Mozilla’s bizarre description thereof. My favorite comment published by Hacker News user hbn, who aptly pleaded with Mozilla to write clearly and noted that “no one is going to remember Firefox as the next MLK Jr because they let you turn the window chrome orange.” I fully agree. Moreover, “because they let you turn the window chrome orange” aptly describes one of the six new themes. I also tip my hat to a comment by Hacker News user smesla, who raised an honest question about the “finding joy” part of the sentence.
Lesson: You can release innocuous and pleasant-enough flat color themes, but please do so in English when using English words so that people have a clear and distinct idea of that of which you speak.