Firefox's Australis theme may have disastrous consquences for users who customize the browser

Martin Brinkmann
Apr 18, 2013
Updated • Apr 22, 2013

The new Australis theme has been looming around the heads of the Firefox community for a very long time. Most of what we - that is the public - know about the theme is that it will modify how Firefox looks as it will replace the current default theme when it is released. What many Firefox users may not be aware of though is that Australis is more than just a theme replacement as it will affect the way we customize the browser.

It has not been made clear up until now what this really means and while nothing has been set to stone yet, according to Mozilla, some of the proposed changes will affect many users of the browser. Here is a list of (proposed) changes to customization options as discussed on Bugzilla:

  1. The Add-ons toolbar (former status bar) will be removed. Mozilla plans to move all add-on icons formerly displayed in the bar in the main navigational toolbar instead (just like Chrome does).
  2. Custom toolbars will be removed. Icons displayed in those toolbars will be moved to the main navigational toolbar as well.
  3. The back, forward, reload and stop buttons as well as the url bar will be placed at the beginning of the main toolbar. They can no longer be moved to another location.
  4. Items can no longer be placed in the menu toolbar. All items that have been placed there - by add-ons for instance - will be moved to the navigational toolbar instead.
  5. Small icons will no longer be supported.
  6. Third party toolbars such as Ask, AVG, Babylon or Norton will remain untouched.
  7. The tabstrip's customization area is limited to one area on the side of the tabs closest to the menu button. All items displayed in the tabstrip will be displayed there.

Again, Mozilla notes that this has not set in to stone yet and that users can voice their opinion on Mozilla's Dev mailing list.

Probably the greatest strength of the Firefox web browser besides its awesome add-on support are the customizations that you can make to the browser. You are not stuck with a browser that you cannot modify at all (Chrome) but can use it just the way you like it. If you want the add-on bar you can display it, if you do not, then you leave it disabled. The same is true for other toolbars, the location of add-on icons and browser icons that you can place almost anywhere, or the option to display the old menu bar or the single Firefox button.

Taking that away from users, or part of it, is a huge issue and I'm not sure if Mozilla is really aware of that. What's your take on the proposed changes?

Update: Mozilla published a second draft which you can read about here.


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  1. EUnderhill said on May 6, 2015 at 6:20 am

    Seems to me we have been through this BS before with Mozilla. Anyone old enough to remember
    Netscape should be able to see that Mozilla is playing their same old game again. Make a good browser and then destroy it.

  2. Jennifer said on November 12, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    I was about to switch from IE to Firefox.
    I had a good look at it and was actually thrilled with
    – The customization options (very important!)
    – The “old school” look (I hate the ugly cookie cutter minimalistic look)

    Then I came across this… what a big disappointment =-(

    Its so sad how everything is being simplified and uglyfied for the mobile crowd.
    I hate the ONE SIZE FITS ALL attitude that is now becoming standard, thanks to the simple mobile devices and their users whom have simple needs.

    But I am on a PERSONAL (and powerful) computer for a reason!
    I really hope FF Australis respects it’s PC users more than this =-(

    1. Pache said on December 29, 2013 at 12:37 am

      Mozilla lost all their respect for PC and their old school followers.
      Australis is exactly a middle finger on their faces.

  3. guest said on October 26, 2013 at 12:48 am

    They won’t put any option to return to customizable version, as they think users are stupid – normal thing today. Opera did exactly the same thing, they removed customizability options.
    We’re going back to standards differences as it was with mainframes in 1970s. Example: You had Unified System, ICL and ESR in 3 different centres, all of these with serial channels and modulation devices. Emulation of the same standard was implemented on each, and they won’t speak to each other through line! Why? Because they won’t! They may do stupid things after each byte, they may throw sub-bytes, but it won’t be changeable from teletype nor console, only chewing into matrices helps.
    Resurrecting this confusion has a point – to bind the user to software, then hardware platform with dedicated softwre and then – to enslave with cloud computing technology as with 32 levels of code abstraction even 16-core CPU is too weak to handle typical productivity apps. As today, no cloud computing technology gives privacy. And that’s the final point of these changes.
    Back to the topic, there may be some extension, but as many extensions, it’ll require to insert another 16GB of RAM to PC. Well, with so much RAM I can try Linux with… Trinity Desktop wnere I have everything customizable, as it was made for users, not consumers.

  4. Danny said on June 12, 2013 at 8:44 am

    That’s simply awful!!
    I stared using firefox because of its versatility and because i liked the clean, simple and easily costumizable look. If they are planning to erase all of this, i will probably stop using this browser and move to the good old IE. I don’t like the Chrome style UX and i want to be able to change everything i need on my own browser since it’s one of the programs i use more. Just hope they’ll change their mind or at least introduce an option to choose the UI.

  5. rpwheeler said on April 27, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    As I said in previous my comments about interface changes, I hate them.

    I want my browser interface as it is, and don’t want changes like proposed ones.

  6. Augure said on April 24, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    I’m on Mac OSX and have switch to Chrome for 3 years now.

    It’s way more successful because it’s way better, and Mozilla just have been doing stupid shit over and over and over again.

    And FOR THE FIRST TIME, this Australis theme that has been in work for way too long is making me curious about Firefox. But then I see that not only it have any added value compared to Chrome, and the only one it had, customization, might be gone with it.

    Mozilla were great but now are just the most untalented losers of the browser domain, taking stupid decisions over stupid decisions…

    1. Orhin said on April 24, 2013 at 6:11 pm

      Well, Google Chrome Devs always followed their course, they never drifted of in other territorys – Something Firefox Devs never where able to learn, if you are not willing to go on with a steady and straight ahead road, then you better stop creating products, because you will only fail.

      And Mozilla is failing. Hell, i even was thinking to buy an Firefox OS Phone until some time ago. But well, they will get my money NO more!

  7. greg said on April 23, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    I’ve been hearing good things about Opera. Might be time to give them a try.

    1. Orhin said on April 24, 2013 at 6:08 pm

      Better use Palemoon. Offers all the amount Firefox was and is at least now is still offering, More or less the same Mozilla Codebase, only without the terrible arrogancy of the Mozilla Devs and That Chromification UX Team ;)

  8. Mike Conley said on April 22, 2013 at 12:58 pm


    With all due respect, I don’t believe you’ve read my new proposal thoroughly enough.

    I invite you to read it again:



    1. Orhin said on April 22, 2013 at 1:10 pm

      I have read it. I even have read it twice. Is it not true that addon creators have now for example to recreate a custom addon bar if there is any need for it?

      Sure, i give you the credit it DOES sound not that hostile anymore for power users. And i say honestly that i am no power user, but what i DO know is that every additional addon makes the Memory consumption larger.

      If you would hide that features you plan to take away in about:config with a general switch, that would be something different. But if i have to install an addon for moving the locked UI parts to another UI part, if i have to install an addon to create an addon bar, or if i have to install an addon to seperate the parts of the UI which will be merged.. Count for yourself.

      3 addons which will make the memory usage larger, if hidden in about:config it would be one switch which would not have that negative impact.

      Sorry dear Sir, putting that burden now on addon creators shoulders which creates in the end more memory usage for all the ones which want to bring back that features again to the browser.

      You are sure it is no joke? :D

      Anyway, i wish you good luck with Firefox and Australis. I know already what i will do ;)

  9. Orhin said on April 22, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    That rewrite of that plan.. Let us be honest.. It is a 1:1 copy of the stuff which was posted by Conley Before, the only difference now is the add “The Users have to repair it”!

    Seriously, if Mozilla makes such a joke offer, they should not wonder when more and more people abandon Firefox, and the Market Share is dropping constantly.

    If any Mozilla Dev reads that here – Have at least the courage and remove that features in cold blood and endure the anger instead of making such a joke Offer!

  10. Dougle said on April 21, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    The new proposal is better –!topic/firefox-dev/28GuuosKxn4/overview – but we’re now getting into needing addons (again) to replace functionality that simply should not be removed.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on April 22, 2013 at 1:01 am

      Thanks I take a look.

  11. BobbyPhoenix said on April 20, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    I didn’t even know there were small icons. Well I think I did, but never touch them. Either way it doesn’t matter to me as I always use a skin.

  12. greg said on April 20, 2013 at 9:25 am

    Installing an add-on to get Small Icons is unacceptable. Small Icons should be supported in the browser natively. Small Icons should not be removed from the Firefox browser. I see no issues with removing the Large Icons however.

    Mozilla should
    1) keep Small icons and remove the Large icons option
    2) keep both options as is

  13. greg said on April 20, 2013 at 8:55 am

    Guys, please complain to Mozilla about taking away “small icons.” I HATE those large icons and never use them. Hopefully if enough people complain, mozilla won’t remove them.

  14. Chakra said on April 20, 2013 at 6:43 am

    @ Ken Saunders

    I dislike having to use addons to restore functionality no offense to addon developers of course. More than preference, generally the less addons you have the more stable Firefox is b/c less things can go wrong.

    Just keeping up with the with memshrink projects and others, I was surprised at how often top 100 addons add problems such as memory leaks etc so I only installs addon when I absolutely need them.

  15. Ken Saunders said on April 20, 2013 at 1:46 am

    Mozilla isn’t removing the ability to customize.
    Add-on developers will compensate for whatever is changed. They always have.
    Firefox will remain the most customizable browser.

    As a user who does fully customize Firefox above and beyond what is offered by default, I’m simply preparing for changes and planning on how to counter what I don’t like but those changes aren’t even final yet so I’m not freaking out like others are.
    As an amateur add-on developer, I’ll do what I can to help out others, and trust me, other add-on developers will too.

    There’s nothing at all wrong with Thunderbird. It is fully customizable as is, through add-ons, through CSS, advanced preferences, etc.

  16. Felipe said on April 19, 2013 at 9:45 am

    For those who left Thunderbird due to similar impositions …

    … have you check this TB addon ? ( )

  17. evenorbert said on April 19, 2013 at 9:20 am

    Everybiody is so insecure. Chill, enjoy your life, it is just a browser. I am a longtime Firefox fan and user, and I think there is no reason to panic. Firefox won’t turn into Chrome. There are gazillion other themes and extensions that we can use.

    1. Orhin said on April 19, 2013 at 9:26 am

      Well, When UX arrives, it will break that themes. As it seems, fixing addons and Themes for UX (Australis) will be quite a lot of work and be sure that many Theme and Addon Authors just will simply give up because the amount of work to always be up to date with Firefox Changes is simply too time Consuming.

      The new Simplicfication process will be the Death of many Addons and Themes, that can be said already.

  18. tuna said on April 18, 2013 at 11:07 pm

    FORK! FORK!!! FORK!!!!!

    Hope Waterfox doesn’t incorporate this crap.

  19. Orhin said on April 18, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    Getting ready to move to Palemoon when Australis is incoming.

    And no, it will not only break a lot of adons beyond the chance to repair them, it will have a horrible effect on Third Party Themes too.

    And all for the simple case of Chromification.

    But Windows People do not fear, we still have Palemoon or Waterfox :)

    The question is only, if Firefox loses much marketshare… Is there a way away from Chrome or IE? Less Marketshare means less Sites support Mozilla Browsers and Forks.

    Guess the only chance in the end is to switch back to IE or Chrome. The future never looked worse!

  20. Anomaly said on April 18, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    This is idotic of Mozilla to even consider such jack off changes. I love Firefox but if they go through with this Goolge Chrome wanna be transplant Firefox will deserve to die. If I wanted to use a moron browser that I can’t customize the way I want I would use Chrome.

    Who are the perplexed primates at Mozilla that think this crap is a good idea? If they fire them immediately I will not lose respect for Mozilla but if they actually go through with this I will wipe my ass with them.

    The browser area is getting scary. You have Chrome becoming very popular and it’s crap at best. Opera will probably be totaly borked when they finish switching from Presto. IE is and always has been garbage but the new Metro version is absolutley uslelss, makes IE 6 look good. Now Firefox seems hell bent on becomming crap to. What’s left?

    1. Orhin said on April 19, 2013 at 8:27 am

      Why do advancec Computer Users do love Chrome so much?

      Just take a look around in the web a bit and you see more and more sites dropping support for Firefox and IE – For example HTML5 sites which offer only Sound on Google Chrome.

      Thats what i wrote down in a post more at the bottom: It really looks like we drifting again into the “1 Browser=Maximum Compatibility” way of things have been in the past with mostly only IE as leader around.

      The only difference is that today’s leader is Google Chrome.

      I guess the future will be like that, all other browsers move around between 2-10 % of useage, Chrome is the Top Field Leader beyond 40-50% and People are again forced to use a browser they did not like.

      History repeats itself over and over again! And the problem is, Chrome gets no juristical problems, because after all there is competition, no matter how small and tiny!

      Sooner or later the time comes to choose between Maximum Compatibility and incompatibility. And no matter how we dislike that fact, we have to choose between that 2 options.

      Let us enjoy these days as long as we can enjoy them, because that other time is coming sooner as we may think!

    2. Orhin said on April 19, 2013 at 7:40 am

      I would not say Google Chrome is crap. It’s most important sellling point is the Raw Speed. And it also is loved because it is REALLY simplified – But that just does not mean that the Firefox Devs will Win Users back with Australis if it goes the simple easy Chrome way.

      Just ask a Chrome lover if he would like to use the upcoming “Mozilla “Firechrome”

      I can already give you the answer such a guy would give you: “Why should i use a cheap copy which is way slower when i can also have the ORIGINAL”

      Instead Firefox Devs should burry Australis and get Firefox much more faster, THAT would be a Chrome Copy i would LOVE.

      But because resources and perhaps knowledge how to manage to do that is missing is no excuse for forcing us the “Plan B – Chromification thanks to Australis, who the hell cares about Speed when you have the Skin!”

      Crazy and utterly stupid Idea ;) Sorry, sounds rude, but its the way it is!

      1. Anomaly said on April 19, 2013 at 8:09 am

        I would and did say Chrome is crap. I don’t find it faster than Firefox on Windows, or Mac and Chrome is much slower on Linux. On top of that it’s an absolute resource pig. I never had issue with Firefox as far as resource usage.

        I can understand the average computer user liking Chrome. It’s stupid simple. Firefox and especially Opera requires some learning and they are far better for me because of their complexity. What I can’t understand is the love of Chrome from the more advanced computer users. I would think they would be offended by the lack of customization. It blows my mind that Mozilla wants to go this route. I am sure there are just a few clowns there at Mozilla pushing this and they need to be fired immediately.

        Lets hope this thread has many others like it going on on thousands of blogs and forums and Mozilla gets the message that they are on thin ice and removes the ass clowns over there that want to make these changes. Maybe they can get jobs at Google since they want to be like Chrome so much.

  21. tPenguinLTG said on April 18, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    I am shocked!
    I have no words for this….

    I have the ESR installed to get away from the RapidRelease madness and my theme makes Firefox look like Firefox v2:
    As well as Status-4-Evar to bring back the status bar and a whole load of other extensions to revert functionality.

    Of all the changes to Firefox made over the years, this will be the most unwelcome.

  22. hum said on April 18, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    I swallowed a lot of crap from their UX-dept, but this will be the final straw.

  23. Peter M. said on April 18, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    Being able to customize Firefox’s user interface is one (but admittedly not the only) reason I prefer Firefox to Chrome. Proposed changes 3, 4, 5, and 7 will essentially wipe out *all* of my UI customizations. If Mozilla wants to change the default interface to better appeal to new users, no problem. But why eliminate the ability to customize? Australis proponents state: “One of the points of Australis is to make it harder for users to render their browsers un-usable with their customizations. Another goal is to make Firefox more beautiful, regardless of how it has been customized.” Well, *my* customizations have made Firefox *more* usable fro me, not *un*-usable … and beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.

  24. iron2000 said on April 18, 2013 at 11:53 am

    I agree.
    UI customizability is the strong point and unique point of Firefox.

    Maybe all the UI freedom came at the cost of complexity, performance and increased difficulty of maintenance and adding new feature?

    So they followed the approach of Chrome and simplified/restricted their UI?

    Wonder will this break any add-ons?

  25. Deekshith said on April 18, 2013 at 11:24 am

    Mozilla did not make it clear about their decision about the interface. Articles like these can possibly mislead the users.

    When we plan for something, we will have many proposals. That does not mean all of those proposals will be reflected in the final version. Hope mozilla will not do any mistake.

  26. mma173 said on April 18, 2013 at 11:23 am

    I use Firefox because it is customizable and if I wanted a faster browser I would have already moved to Chrome.

    I not only wish that they stop copying Chrome but rather undo most of the things that they copied such as the stupid version numbering.

  27. artakye said on April 18, 2013 at 10:38 am

    The reason I like Firefox is the Bookmarks toolbar. Even in Chrome I use the Imported from Firefox toolbar. Now they want to remove it and make Firefox FireChrome! Perhaps I would switch to Chrome after all.

  28. Mike Conley said on April 18, 2013 at 10:24 am

    Hello, Mike Conley here. I’m the guy who wrote the original bug comment that sparked this article.

    I just want to re-emphasize (as I do later on in that bug) that this outline is a *starting point* to begin discussions on how best to lower the barrier of entry for Firefox UI customization. My original comment didn’t make that clear enough.

    The firefox-dev post where I’ve started discussions is here:

    Come get involved! I look forward to a lively, civil, constructive discussion!


    1. Peter (NL) said on April 19, 2013 at 6:15 am

      @ Mike: you want an open, respectful discussion. I think most user do like this. But Mozilla Firefox users want also to be treated with respect and these days Mozilla is not doing a really great job. Actually, it is messing around with the Firefox browser. I wish Mozilla will listen to the users and their wants/likes.

    2. Orhin said on April 18, 2013 at 8:58 pm

      Why should we talk with you about stuff which IS happening the way it is stated? Do you really expect us Users to go with a Chrome Clone Browser?

      You better get ready that there will be a Firefox Fork or People move to already existing Firefox spin offs like Waterfox or Palemoon on windows for example.

      Watch your market Share drop like dead Flies!

  29. Marlon Orozco Baños said on April 18, 2013 at 10:08 am

    This is nonsense! It just take away one of the most —if not the most— relevant reason people still uses Firefox over Chrome. If they are trying to clone Chrome just to get back the user segment that Chrome has I think they will end with none. Please, please, keep the respect for the user that makes Firefox so lovable to me and to many others. I’m sick of the “Apple way” to deal with the user’s rights, but when that attitude comes to the open source community, well, that will be a tragedy.

    And, as been said here before: What are the pros for this decision? Is there anybody complaining about customization options?

    Just don’t do this, please, don’t.

  30. Kneyfield said on April 18, 2013 at 10:04 am

    I feared exactly that, when you first reported about this newly planned Firefox design. Now it seems my fears have become reality. There is a reason why people use browsers like Pale Moon, because not every user is happy with the, sometimes very strange and unpopular, changes in the Firefox development. I only hope that, seeing as Firefox is completely open source, someone like Moonchild (the PM developer) will keep our favorite browser up to date under the hood, while putting any Australis changes in the waste basket.

  31. Paul(us) said on April 18, 2013 at 9:28 am

    This is not what I am waiting for. Especially that I cant place main small icons for main add-one’s is something, that would make consider moving to a outer browser.

  32. Maou said on April 18, 2013 at 9:17 am

    I don´t need a “chrome-fox”, leave the interface alone Mozilla.
    If you have so much spare time to worry about such things, use it to improve the browser security and performance.

  33. ACow said on April 18, 2013 at 8:53 am

    There’ll probably be addons to remedy this less-than-brilliant decision, but the question remains: why the hell does Mozilla think that making their browser look exactly like Chromium is a good idea? Do they really have such low opinion of themselves that they think they can’t do better than their competitor?

    Let’s face it, the only reason a lot of users are still sticking with Gecko based browsers is their customizability. If Mozilla removes that ability, they’re as good as gone.

    The latest happenings in the browser market are a little worrying. Opera dumping their proprietary engine, Mozilla shooting themselves in the foot time after time. I wouldn’t want to see any of these browsers going away, as lack of competition is never a good thing.

  34. kalmly said on April 18, 2013 at 8:44 am

    I have one thing to say: Why?

  35. rgoeken said on April 18, 2013 at 8:37 am

    Changes like this to Thunderbird forced me to move to TheBat! that is extremely customisizable. Now it looks like I have to look for a new browser—it will not be Chrome.

  36. Straspey said on April 18, 2013 at 7:56 am

    I agree with Compuitguy above –

    No sooner will Mozilla make these changes than there will add-ons available to “Make the Firefox GUI look like like the older versions”.

    They always do this.

    They did it when Firefox released version 3.0 with its “Awesome Bar”.

    They’ve done it with Windows 8 and the Start Menu.

    There will be developers who will provide add-ons to over-ride the changes in Firefox described in the article.

    1. Pericles said on September 1, 2013 at 3:22 pm

      But would it not make more sense to write the software as the users want it rather than as the writers think users OUGHT to want it? That’s the way software used to be written in the days of systems analysis.


      (This piece of software itself is just such an example of such bad writing: I cannot tab in to the submit button, which logically should be the next step from the text box. Crap authorship.)

  37. unhappy said on April 18, 2013 at 7:43 am

    whats next? a windows 8 metrowhateveritscalled menu for firefox?

    1. Doc said on April 19, 2013 at 10:49 pm

      There’s a “Modern UI” (Metro) version of Firefox in the works, yes….

  38. Chakra said on April 18, 2013 at 7:40 am

    This is baffling, if they are actually worried about people goofing via customization then make the “restore default” option more prominent and accessible no matter how much people mess it up.

    However, how many people really customize their GUI to oblivion? You need to right click then click on customize before you are even allowed to move anything. Most people just leave the GUI alone.

    For the people who do customize, obviously they have a preference and go out the way to do it. Why are they trying to solve a problem that doesn’t need to be solved?

    Example, I always thought the fact that they moved the reload and home button all the way to the other side was ridiculous, however I never said anything b/c I was allowed to customize and put it back to where it belongs. Its only natural when you are mousing over the back and forward buttons you might also depending on the situation use the reload or home button in succession. Moving it the other side requires more needless work.

    There is a reason why Opera and Chrome is setup this way on their desktop browsers. Mobile is different b/c obviously you are using a different input method.

    I can go on and on, but I never minded the default configuration b/c again we were allowed to customize. I might need to register for the emailing list to complain.

  39. Sleeping said on April 18, 2013 at 7:01 am

    I don’t understand. Are there some pros in this decision? Why did Mozilla take it?

  40. Uhtred said on April 18, 2013 at 6:15 am

    I have 31 bookmarks (no text) on my toolbar as small icons, which includes the zoom in/out and fullscreen icons. They are instantly accessible, used often and I hardly ever need to go search through bookmark folders. Cramming all that into navigation bar with same speed of access? unlikely.

    Firefox developers should try working on a 1024×600 resolution with touchpad.(no mouse). Yes keystrokes can get you there, but takes much longer than a simple click

  41. Nebulus said on April 18, 2013 at 4:33 am

    Typical Mozilla stupidity… I am sick of all their decisions that take away user’s choice, but they don’t surprise me any more.

  42. Glenn said on April 18, 2013 at 4:02 am

    Just Mozilla’s way of, once again, saying to all users, “Screw you–you’ll take what we give you and like it.”

  43. Ficho said on April 18, 2013 at 3:38 am

    I hope Palemoon won’t change anything.I hate Chromium and don’t get me wrong,
    I like webkit (blink). Browser without bookmarks sidebar is not browser at all in
    my opinion.

  44. Compuitguy said on April 18, 2013 at 3:31 am

    doesn’t matter really

    add-ons will make it customizable again

  45. Ray Radbod said on April 18, 2013 at 2:57 am

    The FireChrome browser! Why would I use that when I could use Chrome itself?

  46. Yoav said on April 18, 2013 at 2:49 am

    I agree with you. Martin. Customization is the main reason for using FF, so taking it away seems really stupid.
    It looks like they are just creating a Chrome clone. Bad Mozilla!!

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