If you have recently installed the Firefox 15 Beta version on a computer, you may have noticed that it does not ship with an option to display tabs on the bottom anymore. More precisely, an option to uncheck the tabs on top feature which has been the browser's default way of displaying tabs for a while now.
A tabs on top menu option usually becomes available when you click on the Firefox button, and then on the Options menu item in the main menu that opens up. If you do not display the single menu icon you can right-click a blank spot on a Firefox toolbar to see the same set of options.
The change does not affect Firefox users who have updated the browser or are using an existing profile with tabs on bottom. New Firefox users and those installing the browser on a new machine without migrating a user profile still have an option to restore the tabs on bottom feature.
This is now handled using the browser.tabs.onTop about:config parameter. It is set to true by default so that tabs are displayed on top in the browser. Just double-click the preference to set it to false and move tabs below the other toolbars in the Firefox browser.
You may wonder why Mozilla is making the change. According to Frank Yan, it is because of "maintenance costs and usability concerns in relation to current and future UI".
What key Mozilla employees often do not understand in their ivory tower is that these changes may look good on paper but affect users who do not want their browser to change fundamentally. Tabs on bottom has been Firefox's default way of displaying tabs for a long time and there are users out there that use the browser because it gives them the choice to modify the browser to their liking. And if that is tabs on bottom, Mozilla should provide the option as it has done so since the first version of the browser was released.
Taking that away from those users takes away another reason to stick with Firefox. After all, it will eventually look like Chrome with another theme. Firefox users want choice and customizations. Yes, that means that Mozilla has higher maintenance costs than Google has but it also means that Firefox users will keep using the browser because it gives them a choice and options to tinker with the browser UI. (thanks Ken for the tip)
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