Updated: August 31, 2020
Today, my Moto G6 phone had a little surprise for me. A new version of Firefox. Well, I thought, what's so special about it - ah, you see, quite a lot. This is the brand NEW mobile edition of the Firefox browser, bringing in a lot of changes under and above the hood. In essence, remember my Firefox Preview article? Well, that.
Anyway, I decided to install it and see what gives - and then share my findings with you. Because it's not only about this or that feature, it's about the future of the Web. With Idiocracy inevitably creeping on us, it's always good to know how much pain there's in store for a nerd like me (and you), come tomorrow. Let's commence.
The new Firefox installed fine. My bookmarks and (most of) my settings were preserved. The browser unset itself as the default Web page thingie, which I find strange, but hey. Add-ons wise, and 'tis a big one, at the moment, the new Firefox only supports a dozen add-ons or so. However, this ultra-short list includes a couple of essentials, like Noscript and uBlock Origin. Well, having an adblocker for mobile is a must, because otherwise, the experience is utter diarrhea. So this is very good.
But it's also very, very sad. Just like the whole WebExtensions thingie on the desktop, we have a browser release before the ecosystem is ready. So once again, just like in the Quantum days, tons of valuable work is flushed down the drain. Overnight, people who rely on extensions for improved browsing experience, convenience and security are (mostly) left without adequate solutions. Overnight, developers find themselves facing the wall. That breeds loyalty, I'm sure. And once more, Mozilla promises to work on things and introduce additional functionality, the "modern" let's create a gap and then fill it approach. The whole move-fast-agile nightmare strikes again.
What can I say that I've not already said. I'm not even angry anymore. There's no point stressing over the inevitable. The world is not going back to how things were. The old Internet was created by geeks for geeks. The new "modern" Internet is created by sales people for idiots. You and I are not part of that equation. We're an outlier, an anomaly. People who seek logic and efficiency don't have a place in the modern Internet. You can either accept it - and rant occasionally just to feel good - or move away from it, like going somewhere warm and quiet like Curacao.
Look and feel, settings
The new interface is slightly different from the Preview edition. For example, the home page looks slightly saner than in my early test, and if you add "top sites" - they only feature as small icons. However, you cannot rearrange them. The collections thing cannot be removed, and it will sit there and annoy your eyes for all eternity. It also kind of negates the point of bookmarks - and why not show those here instead?
Overall, the workflow in Firefox 79 for Android is slower and less efficient than in the old Firefox. This is not surprising, because every "iteration" of the so called modern Internet brings less and less IQ to the table, and this affects pretty much every single product out there. You need more taps to get things done. Now a handy trick, a new tab can be spawned by opening the menu - or by long-press > new tab on the tab icon to the right of the address bar.
You can customize the browser - theme and position of the menu/address bar, but that's it. Hopefully, in the future, there will be an option to customize the home screen completely, including the ability to have a simple, blank page without any extras whatsoever.
Privacy and security
Good. This is the one aspect of the new Firefox I can't fault. You get enhanced tracking protection, video and audio playback is disabled by default, and in my case, telemetry was not enabled - whether this is the standard setting for a fresh install or a carryover from my existing installation, I don't know right now. However, the search is set to show clipboard, suggestions, and voice search. Kind of contradictory.
One thing that really annoyed me was that on Youtube, it suggested opening the page in the app. Now, old Firefox would also do this - display the Android logo up there, next to the address bar. But why would I want to do that? If I toggled the option for "open links in app" to no, I'm using an adblock AND I'm visiting a page in Firefox, then obviously, I want to be using the browser. Why try to steer me away to an app?
Speed, responsiveness, stability
So I tried the browser, and for most part, I must say, I don't have any complaints. It would appear that the overall responsiveness is quite similar to what I had so far, so that's good. Now and then, the interface tries to be faster than it can actually be (processor wise or whatnot), so it starts animating a canvas, really fast, but then stops in the middle, and then continues. This can be a little jarring. But in what little time I had to conduct this test, I am cautiously pleased. With speed that is. And stability.
If you ask me, do I have a magic bullet solution to the Firefox market share? No, of course not. You can't solve that by logic, because most people are illogical, and most people can barely count to ten. Mozilla seems to be trying to bring some of the vast pool of idiots to its side, but so far, its experiments have not yielded any satisfactory results. The whole Firefox 57 saga and whatnot, didn't work out. I told you so.
But what Mozilla did do is alienate its hardcore users, the loyal veterans, the 1% who do not count. Only recently, I gave the company cautious praise for going back to its roots - Web designed around freedom and privacy (sort of). And now, they have undermined their own fragile platform once more. It's exhausting. Even depressing. This strategy is not winning anyone really, neither the plebes nor the geeks. That said, I intend to use Firefox as long as it exists, a decade or a century - if I exist that long. And I strongly recommend you do so, too. Because the alternative, a universe without a rival browser to the whole Chrome thingie, is a horrible one for people with triple-digit IQ. If you need convincing, just look at the "native sockets" API proposal or whatever.
So, mobile, Android, Firefox 79. It's okay. It has some nice attributes, and overall, it's a decent enough browser. Given what's happened with Firefox Quantum onwards, at some point in time, we will get extra functionality (that we already had in old Firefox, but hey, modern ftw). So if you're willing to suffer a little for the time being, then it will be sort of okay in the end. You will have to contend with a more simplified and less efficient interface, plus fewer addons, side by side with reasonable privacy and speed. But don't fight it. There's no point. The old net is dead, and it's not coming back. Just be rich, move to a secluded island, and problem solved! There.