Prepare yourself: Australis landing on Firefox Nightly on Monday

Martin Brinkmann
Nov 15, 2013

If things go as planned, Mozilla will move the controversial interface update for its Firefox browser to the browser's Nightly channel on Monday, November 18th.

Up until now, Australis was tested in special UX Builds of the browser and not available in any of the regular release channels of it.

The push to the Nightly channel marks the beginning of the final part of Australis' development. From there, it will remain in Nightly for the next release cycle (Firefox 29 Nightly) and then be moved through the other release channels to land in Firefox Stable finally on April 15th if things go according to Mozilla's release plans.

When it is released in Firefox Stable, which will happen when Firefox 29 comes along as it appears right now, it has been deployed to all versions of the browser that Mozilla maintains with the exception of the ESR versions which will receive Australis at a later point in time.

Mozilla does not that it will hold back Australis if required. The company will maintain a temporary branch of Firefox -- codenamed holly -- which does not included Australis.

Australis may break some add-ons. Fixes may be trivial for some, while others may require more work, Mozilla notes. Firefox users are encouraged to file bugs about broken add-ons.

Firefox Australis

We have covered Australis extensively before here on Ghacks and I do not want to rehash all that has been said in the past. Most of it still stands, and I suggest you check out the following articles if you want to find out more about it:

Mozilla has addressed all performance blockers that prevented Australis from being moved to the Nightly channel.

The latest UX version of Australis is displayed on the screenshot above. As you can see on first glance, it introduces several core changes to the Firefox web browser.

  1. The Firefox menu is gone. It has been moved to the right side of the main toolbar of the browser instead. It looks and behaves different now.
  2. The add-on bar is gone. If you run extensions that add icons to the browser chrome, they are now all placed in the main toolbar as well.
  3. There is only a menu bar and a bookmarks toolbar that you can enable. There are no custom toolbar anymore, and the tabs on bottom option is gone as well.
  4. The bookmark star and the bookmark list have been merged and can only be moved together.
  5. Tabs display less title text than before.
  6. The new tab page is completely different, now sporting a big Google search box in the middle and an icon bar at the bottom leading to downloads, history and other features.

Screenshots of Australis

customize-australis bookmarks


Closing Words

If things go along as planned, Australis will launch in Firefox 29 on April 15th. The browser extension to fix Australis annoyances -- at least for users who do not like it -- will be released shortly after Australis is moved to the Nightly channel. It is possible that this will happen on Monday as well or shortly thereafter. As always, you can be sure that we inform you in a timely manner about it.


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  1. GzzR said on November 26, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    But now you can not access their add-ons you installed the available icons at the bottom.
    Add-ons that require easy accessibility becomes worthless. Really awful bad I think.

  2. Dwight Stegall said on November 20, 2013 at 3:42 am

    Tip For All Firefox Users, Even Australis

    If you use lots of add-ons you quickly run out of room on the Awesome Bar for your add-on buttons. There are fou4 options.

    1. Create a new toolbar. Drag the Icons to it and hide it until needed.

    2. Un-hide the Menu Bar. There is a large area to the right of Help where you can drag 20 or so depending on your screen resolution. Then hide the Menu Bar until you need to click on one of those buttons. I never hide the Menu Bar so this option works great for me.

    3. If you have extra space on the Bookmarks Bar you can put some there. I use Simple Timer add-on and place it on the left-side of this bar.

    4. I haven’t tried this but maybe you can leave some of the buttons in the Customize box. Try it and see if the add-ons (disconnect, ghostery, etc) that run in the background will still function.

  3. Dwight Stegall said on November 18, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    This build is ridiculous. If I wanted a browser that looks and works like Google Chrome I wouldn’t download Firefox. Since Google is paying their bills I wonder if that influenced this change?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on November 18, 2013 at 6:42 pm

      I honestly think that Mozilla believes that this is indeed better.

  4. othoap said on November 18, 2013 at 5:35 pm


    – smart phones and tablets small screens are to blame for the win8/chrome/safari minimalist ui design trend.
    – if all is true about Australis design direction. I’ll have to freeze FF like I did with win7. Glad I turned off auto updates on FF long time ago. (no I didn’t turn off win7 updates. Rather I wont upgrade to win8)

  5. Dwight Stegall said on November 18, 2013 at 6:22 am
  6. U96 said on November 17, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    I have fully customizable Australis interface :) Why I have no problems?

    1. George III said on November 17, 2013 at 9:53 pm

      To U96,

      What did you do to customize it? Please tell everybody, so that everybody can learn from you.

      Did you use any existing extension or CSS style sheet to customize your ‘Australis’ interface?

      1. U96 said on November 18, 2013 at 11:57 am

        To George III

        Tabs on bottom, up BookmarkToolbar and move stop/reload to the left. It’s all only styles.

        All buttons and elements (except Urlbar and new AppButton) can be moved anyplace in the UI.
        Urlbar and AppButton can be moved by a simple extension.

  7. mof said on November 17, 2013 at 11:28 am

    Disclaimer: I work for Mozilla.

    I do not like Australis too much. I don’t care if it looks like Chrome or not. I don’t see what’s the problem is with copying their UI if it’s good.
    The point is, I prefer the older UI. Takes less space and the menus are more useful IMO.

    Now then again, when I see my mum and others non-technical people using Firefox, they don’t have any single idea where stuff is except for the URL bar. That’s where Australis shines. They can actually use some other browser features in australis…

    I’ll be using the non-australis version when it comes out though.. and I think we should have worked on the preference dialogs, the password manager UX and so on before this… heck its hard to believe it took a year just to move around menus and make rounded tabs.

    1. Neal said on November 18, 2013 at 8:15 am

      @mof, I really can’t see how Mozilla will maintain two GI for the desktop. The elimination of a lot of features including small icons mode were commented in the report to simply code maintenance. If you have links to meeting notes, or bug reports stating otherwise it would help.

      Also I am not sure Australis is an improvement in usability. In the current Firefox gui we have a big Firefox icon where the options are. In Australis we have 3 horizontal lines? It works in Chrome b/c the UI is super minimum with absolutely nothing by default on the right side so people will eventually click. In Firefox the UI is too busy with the download error, bookmark star icon, home button.

    2. George III said on November 17, 2013 at 6:09 pm

      To Mof
      It is really good that a Mozilla person takes the time to write a comment here.

      One question:
      To quote you:
      “I’ll be using the non-australis version when it comes out though” means what ?

      Is there going to be a permanent non-australis version after Firefox 29?

    3. Finvana said on November 17, 2013 at 6:02 pm

      That’s the problem the UI is not good and I don’t believe non-technical people will use more options with Australis. I’ve got several clients trying to use Chrome and they are unable to find most of the options so I can’t see how they will find and use those options in Australis.

    4. 桜 said on November 17, 2013 at 2:45 pm

      To mof,

      I read that you work for Mozilla so I could not avoid writing with a question. It will be good to hear from you.

      When you say ” be using the non-australis version” do you mean that when users update to Firefox 29 there will be an option to choose?

      The ‘Holly’ version seems to be a temporary version.

      Alternatively, in the worst scenario, can users use extensions (which do not exist yet) to restore the browser interface to the ‘non-Australis’ version? If that is going to be so easy, there is nothing to worry about.

      Incidentally, I like a browser which “stays out of my way”. I only have one bar at the top which incorporates the url address bar, tabs and the search bar and a few icons. Therefore, the ‘Australis’ interface will make my bar twice as big, if the tabs are forced into another bar.

  8. montuos said on November 16, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    “The company will maintain a temporary branch of Firefox — codenamed holly — which does not included Australis.”

    I hope you intend to keep us posted on holly, and how to get it?

  9. 桜 said on November 16, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    Does anyone know whether the ‘Australis’ interface is also going to be on ‘Iceweasel’?

  10. Berry said on November 16, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    I can’t understand why Mozilla has introduced the so-called “rounded tabs”? Is there a higher sense behind them? They are just looking stupid, exactly as they do in Chrome. What is their idea behind taking the Add-On-Bar away completely? What’s about the tabs-on-bottom-option, it is also going to be removed! That is just ridiculous!
    Why can’t I actually move around the icons to places in the UI – where I want them to be – in this so-called “Update” anymore?
    Please, Mozilla, rethink your plans again! They could KILL Firefox, because almost all the users out there (myself included) won’t understand your reasons for this worsening of Firefox!
    I like this product as it is now, do not annoy me further, Mozilla!

  11. pd said on November 16, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    So I run Aurora. Does that mean I’m in for a very nasty Xmas present? The release trains run 6 weeks between versions/releases don’t they?

    What exactly do you mean by “The browser extension to fix Australis annoyances …” ? Is that an official Mozilla extension? Or unofficial? What exactly will it revert?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on November 16, 2013 at 4:56 pm

      As it stands now, it will land in Aurora 29 which will be released in January.

  12. dan said on November 16, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    The beginning of the end of Firefox.

    1. pd said on November 16, 2013 at 3:51 pm

      I’ve been tempted to make the same suggestion. However there might be a few other eventualities. I guess the question is whether Australis will actually pull any market share off IE. It seems both Chrome and Firefox are unable to knock IE lower than 50% which is a real shame.

      I think the question Mozilla is ignoring is very simple: if we make firefox into another Chrome, what reason would Chrome users have to move to firefox? There would have to be a good reason.

      – Firefox’s update mechanism is still disruptive where Chrome’s is invisible
      – Firefox STILL lacks multi-process support (separate processes for plugins is not the same as per-tab)
      – Firefox’s built-in PDF reader is inferior
      – Firefox still requires additional plugin maintenance for Flash where IE/Chrome do not (Shumway is still in development)
      – Firefox’s support from add-on developers appears to – based on perceptions of how often they are reviewed in tech media like this blog – on the wane. Justifiably so since so many areas of the browser UI are disappearing; the original add-on APIs are antiquated and the Jetpack APIs encourage shallow, limited extensions in comparison.
      – Mozilla cares more about the third world’s access to crappy smartphones than it does about the desktop browser market. I’m starting to wonder why Planet Mozilla still produces an English language version!

      It appears that Mozilla feels the biggest upcoming innovation in browsers will be in the area of 3D gaming. They are also appear to be behind the 8 ball there as well in that Chrome released a GPU-acceleration software emulation layer in version 18 whilst Mozilla still relies on users keeping GPU drivers up to date in order to support WebGL.

      I really want Firefox to continue. I see that IE11 pinched the pinned tabs idea from Firefox. That’s a small, non-glitzy but effective innovation. That’s the sort of subtle, non-intrusive innovation that Mozilla originally succeeded in attracting users with. I also rate Tab Groups but apparently that’s not been so popular.

      Mozilla should innovate in ways that suit it’s objectives as well. Social buttons and various widgets on the web are a plague in performance terms. Unless you manually block them, every time you load a page these days, several requests to third party button/widget vendors are made. Even if you use social/share buttons, you’re unlikely to use even two of the ‘big three’ (Shitter, Friendface and Goggle) so the extra requests are redundant and merely slow down the page. If I’m not mistaken, Web Intents is supposed to do something about this, but do you see Mozilla implementing this standard early like they do with plenty of other nascent standards? Seemingly not. That said, I wouldn’t know because I only read Planet Mozilla, no mailing lists for me, and Planet Mozilla has become nothing more than a place for Mozilli alumni to talk about their new workplaces, current Mozillians to talk about obscure technology not directly related to current-day browsers or the web, and evangelists endlessly posting not actually about the web they are supposed to evangelize, but about how they are doing that evangelism. “Ooh today I got out of bed 6 hours late and did a talk”. “Hmm, today I’m ignoring global warming and flying off to some other conference”. “Don’t be afraid of public speaking, use these techniques instead”. The web? Oh yeah, that’s the thing they wouldn’t let me access when jet-setting on planes in between conferences. I just had a snooze instead.

  13. U96 said on November 16, 2013 at 8:54 am

    > no longer being able to reorder/remove the majority of navbar items.
    > have they removed MENU BAR ?

    Maybe we should try to install and see. And do not write stupid comments?

  14. Orhin said on November 16, 2013 at 8:19 am

    Fine, i am ready to go to use fulltime Chromium then. Way better as the Mozilla-Chrome copy. Faster, more technologically future proof.

    And a Firefox without In Browser Customization and all from now on in addon form is not worthy using for me. Addons i only use for features which are optionally, like reverse picture searches, addblock plus and noscript and not for things which have been originally in the browser.

    Basic Customization now removed… that is too much to accept! I have no need for “Googlezilla Chrome” !

    1. penu said on November 17, 2013 at 12:35 am

      Actually Firefox is faster than Chrome, have a look at the recent tomshardware review as well as the arewefastyet benchmarks

  15. ank91 said on November 16, 2013 at 7:13 am

    have they removed MENU BAR ?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on November 16, 2013 at 8:51 am

      As a menu option, yes.

      1. U96 said on November 16, 2013 at 9:11 am

        Menu Bar not deleted.

  16. Matt said on November 16, 2013 at 1:38 am

    I intend to use the Help>Submit Feedback… feature extensively to (calmly) express my unhappiness about things like small icons mode disappearing and no longer being able to reorder/remove the majority of navbar items.

  17. Neal said on November 15, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    I finally gave up and switched to Firefox ESR 24. It will be like the old days with Firefox, just use Firefox and don’t have to worry finicky changes by developers every 6 weeks..

    Then whenever Firefox ESR 24 is discontinued, I will evaluate again if Firefox is worth sticking with.

  18. WandersFar said on November 15, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    Can you still combine the tab and address bars in Australis?

    I have everything all on one bar (tabs, URL and icons) to save on vertical space. The default Australis is actually thicker than what I have now…

    1. greg said on November 15, 2013 at 6:41 pm

      I used to do this back when I used Windows. I switched over to Ubuntu-Linux because the Unity desktop minimizes chrome bigtime plus Linux is much easier to maintain and operate than Windows. But the minimized chrome that Unity displays is really awesome. On Unity using Firefox with “Side Tabs” extension, I only have Firefox’s URL-Bar displayed and that’s all I see because the menu-bar gets merged into Ubuntu’s top-bar. So when Firefox is set to small-icons I have two slim bars displaying and that’s it. And I have full access to the URLbar and Menu-bar.

      I feel sorry for myself because I will no longer have access to small-icons. I feel extra sorry for Windows-Users cause you can no longer merge bars.

      I have been complaining to Mozilla to AT A MINIMUM reduce the size/height of the chrome-bars. I encourage anyone that feels similiar to me to speak up and file bugs. If enough voices speak up Mozilla will hopefully act and do a better job of minimizing the chrome bloat that Australis appears to have. You can file bugs here: (under australis-navbar).

    2. Anonymous said on November 15, 2013 at 5:37 pm


    3. Jaroslav Matura said on November 15, 2013 at 5:09 pm

      No, you can’t. Mozilla brags about how Australis improves customization, yet it actually cripples it in more ways than this.
      I’ve said it a lot of times and I will say it again: Australis is a fucking joke.
      Let’s just hope that Aris@Mozilla will deliver as he’s promised.

  19. Chains The Bounty Hunter said on November 15, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    ChromeFox, coming soon to a download near you. :(

    1. Joe said on November 15, 2013 at 8:53 pm

      So what….Firefox is going to look more like CHROME…Oh well…oit’s not that big of a deal. Everything changes at one point or another…If people hate it that much, they’ll find another browser…

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