Mozilla has reworked Firefox in an attempt to get rid of user interface clutter and to make its web browser easier to use. A new version, released Tuesday, cleans up the address bar, simplifies main-menu options, consolidates website permission requests and gives tabs a new look.
The effort is designed “to give you a safe, calm, and useful experience online,” Mozilla said in a blog post.
The new tabs present the open tab as a free-floating rectangle, a visual indicator that you can drag around to reposition it in the tab strip or disconnect it entirely into a separate browser window, Mozilla said.
When websites request permission to use your camera and microphone — for example when starting a video conference — Firefox will present the request as a single pop-up. And gone is the three-dot menu in the address bar, which Firefox users didn’t favor, according to telemetry data Mozilla gathered through 17 billion user clicks over a month.
Firefox is Mozilla’s best-known project, a browser that helped reignite competition more than 15 years ago when Microsoft’s Internet Explorer was dominant but stagnant. Firefox’s rise was squelched with the arrival of Google Chrome, which now accounts for 64 percent of browser usage while Firefox dwindles. Firefox’s waning fortunes reduce Mozilla’s ability to steer the web in directions it likes,such as improving people’s privacy and cutting how much they’re tracked online.
Today, Firefox has 207 million active users each month, according to Mozilla’s Firefox usage statistics. That’s a lot of people, but it’s less than the 300 million Firefox users Mozilla had in 2017 when it embarked on its Firefox Quantum project to speed up the browser and attract more users. Firefox remains a rarity on smartphones, where Google’s Chrome and Apple’s Safari are dominant.
Mozilla cut a quarter of its staff in 2020, blaming a pandemic-induced cut in revenue from partners like Google that share ad revenue. The nonprofit has been increasing the profile of advocacy work like protecting privacy and fighting for net neutrality, but the layoff hit its core browser team.