Mozilla launches revamped Firefox for Android, with URL bar at the bottom

Mozilla is rolling out a new version of the Firefox for Android browser that places the URL bar at the bottom of the screen.

The tweak is part of Mozilla’s attempts to create a better user experience, which includes “some massive changes under the hood” to also improve Firefox’s load times, the company wrote in today’s announcement.

“One of the things we were trying to accomplish was to sit down and imagine what a browser built from the ground up would look like in 2020,” Mozilla SVP Dave Camp told PCMag in an interview.

“Our first reaction was the thing you interact with the most (the URL bar) should probably be near your fingers,” he added.

We tried the new Firefox and dug into the change. With the URL bar at the bottom, the browser is easier to use, especially with one hand, and if your phone has a 6-inch screen.

The decision to move the URL bar also creates more screen real estate at the top, an area where your eyes could naturally focus. Still, users may have a love-hate response to search bar placement. If you don’t like it, you can switch back to traditional search bar placement by going to browser settings and visiting customize.

“When it comes to looks, we’ve completely redesigned our Android browser UI so that it’s now even cleaner, easier to handle and get to grips with,” the company added. There’s also a dedicated dark mode and an alternate mode that will try to match the color scheme to your phone’s device theme.

Additionally, you can organize your many browser tabs into collections, which can provide an easy way to access your favorite sites when starting the software. (The traditional bookmarks feature is there too.)

The new Firefox browser on Android.

On the privacy front, the revamped browser promises to prevent websites and marketing companies from tracking your web presence. Mozilla’s Enhanced Tracking Protection mode is enabled by default on the browser, which means it will block cross-site tracking cookies, fingerprinting techniques, and other trackers that social media companies have planted on sites. website.

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“Enhanced Tracking Protection” is enabled by default. However, Mozilla collects anonymized user data from its browser for product improvement purposes.

Under the hood, Mozilla has opted to use its own GeckoView rendering engine, which helps the new Firefox achieve a 10% speed increase over the older version when it comes to page loads. GeckoView was also independent of Google’s Blink rendering engine when Chrome dominated the mobile market with a 64% share.

“This allows us complete freedom of choice when it comes to implementing standards and features,” Mozilla wrote in today’s announcement. “Plus, it protects our users if there are any security issues with Blink because Firefox won’t be affected.”

That said, not everyone is happy with the new Firefox. On the Google Play Store, the revamped browser has received many negative complaints from users who have already received it. Some claim the company “simplified” the interface, ruined tab and bookmark functions, and blatantly removed support for most add-on extensions.

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Indeed, the new Firefox currently only supports nine of the most popular add-ons, but the company is working on integrating more extensions to work with the new GeckoView architecture. Camp estimates it will take between six and 18 weeks to deepen the catalog of add-ons, but it’s work that will also require the participation of third-party developers.

As for other complaints, Camp said some users might just need more time to get used to the changes. Nevertheless, the company listens to consumer feedback.

“Whenever you make a large-scale change to an established product, it’s really important to pay attention to what users are saying and how they’re feeling,” he said. However, Camp noted that many other users of earlier betas of Firefox for Android said they liked the changes. “With the test audiences, we’ve had really good feedback and people are enjoying it overall,” he added.

Still, the company plans to address a user complaint about the new browser: the lack of a back button next to the URL bar. “After listening carefully to user feedback, we decided to bring it back with our next update (next week!) after learning that our users prefer using it over the phone’s back button,” said the company to PCMag.

The new Firefox for Android arrives today in Europe. It will then roll out Thursday to North American users. You can download it from the Google Play Store. Add-ons available now for the new browser include: uBlock Origin, Dark Reader, Privacy Badger, HTTPS Everywhere, NoScript Security Suite, Decentraleyes, Search by Image, YouTube High Definition and Privacy Possum.

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