Mozilla thinking about separating profile folders for Firefox editions

Martin Brinkmann
Jul 18, 2013

Firefox users have two options currently to run different editions of the browser side by side. They can use one profile for all editions, or use separate profiles for each edition. The first option may be more comfortable as changes made to one edition are automatically available in all other editions as well, but it is also increasing the likelihood of issues that arise when a single profile is shared.

It is usually better to use individual profiles for each version of Firefox to avoid any issues that may otherwise arise from sharing profiles. While that means using the profile manager to make sure the right profile is launched each time, it is a one-time configuration change. I have detailed the process in this guide. What you need to do basically is to launch each version of Firefox with the -p profilename command, with each profilename pointing to a unique profile that is only used when that version of the browser is started.

firefox launch different profile

This is however a move the user needs to undertake to use different profiles for each version of the browser.  A new bug was filed recently on Bugzilla in which the author suggested to automate that process to get more users to try out Nightly (and provide Mozilla with more test data).

While this may sound like a good idea, it may have its drawbacks as well. While some users may be inclined to install Nightly if it is set to use a different profile automatically, existing users may use Nightly less if profiles were to be separated. This comes partially from the fact that it is difficult to keep all data in sync automatically, so that it is available in all installed versions of Firefox.

If that is not the case anymore, Nightly may see less usage as users may prefer to use the stable version of the browser instead more often.

The proposal is mostly helpful for users and developers who want to run multiple versions of Firefox on the same system and do not know about the profile manager and its commands. That's however mostly a communication issue and not of the underlying system as it works just fine for that purpose.

Closing Words

I can see the benefit for users who want to test multiple Firefox editions or web applications in different versions of Firefox, but do not know about the profile manager command line options to launch them using different profiles. While it may help those users, it is not beneficial to current users who know about the profile manager or users who want to use a single profile for different Firefox versions. Quite the contrary for the latter actually, as they now have to figure out ways to keep their profiles fully in sync.


Tutorials & Tips

Previous Post: «
Next Post: «


  1. xetal said on July 19, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    not about this article, but “Tags:mozilla” is not enough for software with rapid development cycle. would be nice to see also the version number of the subjected software.

    personally i don’t use firefox since it started using sqlite as database engine (and thus the database files were not human readable any more). now, opera did u-turn, and in nearest future, once again, broswer swap should be considered

    … but i keep eye on features and users feedback fo some “featured” softwares. for later usage i group them (bookmark) under version number. so it would be nice to see what version “we are talking about” :)

  2. Collin Reinold said on July 19, 2013 at 2:20 am

    I think it’s a good a idea to have such function.

  3. Karl J. Gephart said on July 18, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    There’s also the add-on Easy Access which allows you to click a toolbar button and switch profiles rather easily.

Leave a Reply

Check the box to consent to your data being stored in line with the guidelines set out in our privacy policy

We love comments and welcome thoughtful and civilized discussion. Rudeness and personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please stay on-topic.
Please note that your comment may not appear immediately after you post it.