Firefox 75 - Not bad but also not necessary

Updated: April 25, 2020

I've done a fair share of Firefox-related articles lately. 'Tis a strange dichotomy what lurks in me heart. On one hand, I'm quite angry over the years of lost elan as a result of the whole Chrome copypasta Australis nonsense. On the other, Firefox is the most sensible browser out there, still, and you SHOULD use it. On the third hand, Firefox has been improving lately, becoming saner, more fun, more reasonable. A good start, and hopefully, not too late.

I gave you an overview of versions 71 and 72, lay low for a while, and now, with Firefox 75 out, I did some testing. As it turns out, with the fastened cadence of release, there ought to be less super-big stuff in Firefox releases, ergo lean reporting. But then, this particular version comes with something that took me off the happy path I've been walking lately. Let's talk.

About

What's new - the new address bar, that's what it is

If you look at the official release notes, as I surmised, there ain't much. A few enterprise-focused changes, good. Some under-the-hood dev changes that ordinary users won't notice, also good. Performance, stability, no regressions, no curveballs, no revolution. Then, the major thing of this release - the revamped address bar. It's meant to be smarter, more accessible, whatnot. But what it did was annoy me.

The first thing I noticed is that it pops up - and this is intrusive. It does not align with the rest of the browser's UI, and my OCD demons are screeching in anger. Feels like I am supposed to be confused as to where the address bar is, and this mega-glow zoom hint will shepherd me the right way. Wow, relax. There's only so much a browser can or should do, and that's give you a text box to type in websites, and then display pages of text and images and maybe videos. That's it. The focus thing could work if Firefox looked like a U-boat torpedo guidance station, but the browser has a simple, clean interface, so there's no need for the landing guidance beacons.

Address bar with zoom and glow

So many issues here - the new zoomed-in address bar is not aligned as it should be, it's intrusive, big. Too big. Then, I also use a separate search box, so this whole thing is even less relevant than it could be.

The second thing is, I don't see a point. There's a new functionality here, so to speak, but it doesn't feel radically different from the old functionality. Plus, I don't use suggestions and such, nor do I want them, so the change has even less appeal for me.

New search

There are moments when I might want search prediction and auto-completion - and then moments when I don't.

Finally, Firefox 75 goes back to its copypastafest and removes the http/https part from the address line. The silliest decision since Napoleon decided to invade Russia. This is a horrible thing, and the fact Chrome does it doesn't make it good in any way, sense, shape or form. If morons are confused by technology, the solution is not to dumb down things to accommodate chimps. Because chromosomally challenged users won't know or care what they do any way, so this change only pisses off smart and security-savvy users who do actually care a great deal about this.

But then, Firefox lets you change all this back to the old, sane behavior. And this is what sets is apart from competition. You do have a fairly broad degree of freedom, and it's not all about money and idiots and how to make money off idiots.

Address bar changes reverted

You can do it yourself - about:config, and then toggle the following values to false:

browser.urlbar.update1
browser.urlbar.update1.interventions
browser.urlbar.update1.searchTips
browser.urlbar.update1.view.stripHttps

And you're back to simple, normal behavior.

Conclusion

All in all, this is a checkbox exercise release really. Firefox 75 isn't drastically different from the previous few versions, and if you ignore the address bar thing, it's virtually identical. Then again, there's a limit to how much innovation can be crammed into a four-week release schedule. It does feel unnecessarily forced. And specifically, the address bar change is totally unnecessary. Because it brings no actual value.

In my mind, the only reason for this change that would make sense is to drive revenue. Again, this is Mozilla's fault. They removed the search box as part of the modern copypasta changes, so perhaps this also reduced the search-generated interest and revenue. Now, the new address bar kind of fixes that, but it doesn't really, because it feels forced, out of place - and the search box is there anyway. The whole thing feels like a rushed experiment. The proper solution would be to enable this on mobile - the zoom feature feels touch anyway, because there's no separate search there to begin with. On the desktop, restoring the search box by default would be the sensible thing to do. Thus, you kill two dodos with one claymore.

I like Firefox, and I really hope it can survive this nonsense called the modern Internet. But then, this situation is no reason to condone silly changes, especially when they dilute the value of Firefox over its competitors. There's no reason to play the low-IQ game. Firefox should be about privacy, freedom, choice. And extensions. Oh woe me. That's where the focus should be. More extensions. More access. More. The reason why it was such an amazing success in the early days. It can't win the game of financial attrition. So there you go. Firefox 75. Toggle the config changes, and enjoy the Webz. Me not happy. Me worried about the future. Me done.

Cheers.

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