It's happening: Firefox interface redesign landing in Nightly channel - gHacks Tech News

It's happening: Firefox interface redesign landing in Nightly channel

Mozilla has been working on an interface redesign of its Firefox web browser for a very long time. The idea was to improve the interface in many regards, make it modern and comfortable to use at the same time.

The Firefox engineers responsible for the new interface -- named Australis -- did not only change the look of the browser chrome, but also tried to declutter the interface, by removing parts of the interface or moving them to another location in the browser window.

Today's blog post over at the official Mozilla blog highlights how Australis is improving the interface of the browser, and how users of Firefox will benefit from it.

As far as details are concerned, there are a couple of elements that stick out. Tabs are now curved, and background tabs are de-emphasized more than they were previously. A side-effect of this according to Mozilla is that lightweight browser themes look better than in the previous interface.

Note: The new interface will launch later today or at the latest tomorrow as things stand right now.

Update: Australis is now available in the Nightly.

Update 2: Classic Theme Restorer to undo / modify interface changes has been released.

new-tab-australis

The browser controls that are displayed in the browser's main address bar have been modified and streamlined according to Mozilla. There is the new bookmarks button that combines the option to bookmark web pages and to display all existing bookmarks, the new download panel which is already integrated in Firefox, and a new look and feel for all the buttons displayed here.

You may also notice that tabs are on top now which, according to Mozilla's blog post leaves more screen space for web pages.

Customizations are made easier in Australis, as they are now integrated into the new "three bar" menu button that has replaced the Firefox menu button.

Here you can click on customize to add or remove icons to the menu, and the main browser toolbar.

Changes in Firefox's new interface

customize-australis

I suggest you read Mozilla's blog post prior to this part of the article to understand Mozilla's point of view first.

Note: Much of what is being discussed refers to the default Firefox browser without the installation of extensions. A browser extension will be released shortly that enables you to undo many of the changes that Mozilla made to Firefox.

  1. Tabs can only be placed on top. The old Firefox about:config preference browser.tabs.onTop does not work anymore.
  2. There is no add-on bar anymore, which means that add-on icons can only be placed in the main Firefox toolbar or the tab bar. If you have a lot of those, it may get quite crowded there.
  3. The new Customize menu does not display nearly as many options as the Firefox button did. It is possible to remove all icons displayed here, so that users end up with an empty menu.
  4. The new Bookmarks icon cannot be separated anymore. You can either display the bookmarking star and menu, or none of the two. [Fixed by installing Classic Bookmarks Button add-on]
  5. While I have not measured it, it does not really look as if the new curved tabs save more space than the previous squared tabs layout. In fact, the width is slightly wider which means that you can fit less tabs in the browser window at the same time.
  6. There is only one icon size for all icons. The option to use small icons, to display icons, text or icons with text has been removed as well. As has the option to add custom toolbars.
  7. The reload button is now displayed on the right of the address.
  8. The menu bar, while still there, cannot be home anymore to custom entries.
  9. Some interface elements can only be moved or removed together. The forward and backward buttons are now tied to the address form, as it the previously mentioned bookmarks star and menu. What this means is that you cannot move the forward button anymore, or the bookmarks menu icon (without moving the bookmarks star as well).

It needs to be stressed that all -- or at least the majority -- of features that were removed in the new Firefox interface can be restored by installing add-ons. While someone needs to create an add-on for that first obviously, it still means that Firefox users who do not want to have anything to do with Australis can keep on using the browser, at least for as long as the add-on is maintained and that the functionality that it uses is not removed by Mozilla from Firefox.

There will also be a -- temporary -- branch of Firefox codenamed Holly that won't have the Australis changes included.

So when will it land in the stable channel? If things go as planned, Australis will be launched in Firefox 29, and that version of the browser will get released in April 2014 as things stand right now.

Expect a guide on how to restore the old Firefox interface later this week.

Closing Words

Is it possible to live with those changes? Sure that is possible. It requires some re-thinking of how the browser is used though, especially if Firefox is heavily customized.

It is on the other hand almost certain that extensions will be made available to restore features that have been removed in the new Australis interface.

I think that the resources used to create the interface would have better been spend elsewhere, but that is just my humble opinion.

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Comments

  1. yoav said on November 18, 2013 at 9:31 pm
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    Except for Google Chrome, I cannot imagine who will benefit from these dis-improvements. This is pure and simple sabotage of the Firefox browser.

    1. bino said on November 19, 2013 at 10:11 pm
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      Guess who is funding Mozilla? Mainly Google… So I totally agree that Australis is pure sabotage! An australised browser is anything but Firefox. If it looks like Chrome and feels like Chrome, it most likly is some sort of Chrome…

      Alas, I fear that Mozilla won’t listen to its most loyal users who use Firefox since it still was Netscape, but will listen to the one who pays its cheque:

      “Mozilla has been a valuable partner to Google over the years and we look forward to continuing this great partnership in the years to come,” said Alan Eustace, Senior Vice President of Search, Google.

      The specific terms of this commercial agreement are subject to traditional confidentiality requirements, and we’re not at liberty to disclose them.

      Source: https://blog.mozilla.org/blog/2011/12/20/mozilla-and-google-sign-new-agreement-for-default-search-in-firefox/

      I guess Mozilla got bribed to ruin Firefox to allow Google to win the browser war. Have a look at the Mozilla UX crew at https://blog.mozilla.org/ux/who-we-are/ : They freely confirm that some of them were (or maybe still are) on Google’s payroll (like Alex Limi or Jinghua Zhang). So they’ll give a shit about the community and continue the work that started with Firefox 4: Make Firefox so bad, that you rather use Google Chrome. And with Australis all I have to admit is: Mission accomplished!

    2. trino said on May 3, 2014 at 8:52 pm
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      The sabotage is clearly with one purpose-Total destruction of the market share and Firefox browser

  2. nonqu said on November 18, 2013 at 10:00 pm
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    >it still means that Firefox users who do not want to have anything to do with Australis can keep on using the browser, at least for as long as the add-on is maintained and that the functionality that it uses is not removed by Mozilla from Firefox.

    Not really. Every add-on causes bloat. I recommend Palemoon, but there are only Windows builds.

  3. Zeus said on November 18, 2013 at 10:05 pm
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    I’m baffled by the removal of the add-on bar and the lack of an additional bar to stick icons. I’m pretty picky about what I have installed — I don’t let random toolbars and other junk on my system — but I’d still have seven icons elbowing for space on top.

    Thunderbird has had a terrible interface for a while now, and the only way I can tolerate it is with the use of third party add-ons. It’s sad that Firefox is in the same boat.

  4. Dwight Stegall said on November 18, 2013 at 10:08 pm
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    If you have a 64-bit Windows 7 & 8 computer you can keep all of the functions and user interface you have now by using Cyberfox 64-bit browser. The developer doesn’t like the Australis downgrade either. Sorry, there are no Mac or Linux versions.

    https://8pecxstudios.com/
    https://www.facebook.com/8pecxstudios

    1. Peter said on November 19, 2013 at 1:33 am
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      Tha tis very nice. Thanks for the info.

    2. XenoSilvano said on November 19, 2013 at 6:12 pm
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      Doesn’t support x86 (32 bit) Windows 8.1

      1. Sarge said on December 14, 2013 at 4:49 pm
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        What part of “64-bit” don’t you understand?

  5. ACM79 said on November 18, 2013 at 10:14 pm
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    If imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery, the Google Chrome team must be feeling rather good about themselves today.

  6. Paul A. said on November 18, 2013 at 10:28 pm
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    I have learned that the scariest thing that can happen to a program I love and have used for a long time is to have their interfaced “modernized.” I don’t want my computer programs to look like webpages.

  7. Uhtred said on November 18, 2013 at 10:31 pm
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    I already use tabs on top, from your pic it looks as though there is wasted space above the tabs which I don’t have at present using nasa night launch theme set to minimum size

    agree with Zeus above: “I’m baffled by the removal of the add-on bar and the lack of an additional bar to stick icons” and a little saddened by it too.

    “Expect a guide on how to restore the old Firefox interface later this week” there is hope! looking forward to seeing that guide, as I imagine, will many others

    1. JeffK said on November 19, 2013 at 5:27 am
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      You can add stuff from the icon bar to that empty tabs area. I used to keep that stuff in the status bar at the bottom, but that’s gone now.

  8. Karl J. Gephart said on November 18, 2013 at 11:04 pm
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    Mozilla clearly wanted to turn Firefox into Chrome. Not just the rounded tabs, but the Customize and Control UX feature as well. Heck, why not just rewire the browser to webkit and get it over with? I guess if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Needless to say, I’ll be using the undo-Australis addon when I need it in April.

    1. bino said on November 19, 2013 at 10:26 pm
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      Follow the money: Mozilla was sort of bought by Google some years ago. If Google decided to stop funding Mozilla today, Mozilla soon would have to close down. So it’s obvious why Firefox mimics and imitates Chrome’s look and feel: It’s business, stupid! Effectively Google is in charge at Mozilla’s for at least 3 years and decides how the web has to look and feel in the future. The future is Chrome. Get used to it. Firefox (as we know it) is as dead as Mosaic and Netscape.

  9. hector said on November 18, 2013 at 11:16 pm
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    mozilla tries to be modern and simplified yet they are the only ones that still have a search bar.

    This vanilla chrome copy couldn’t even be bothered to show a firefox logo. Even the “3 bar” options menu icon is the same. Is that some universal symbol for settings?

  10. Zeus said on November 18, 2013 at 11:20 pm
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    I suggest everyone take a screenshot using their favorite screen capture utility, to commemorate the passing of an era of power-user friendly interfaces.

    But hey! How about that Facebook support! Amirite?

    Anybody?

  11. Sören Hentzschel said on November 19, 2013 at 1:48 am
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    So beautiful! <3 Thanks Mozilla!

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on November 19, 2013 at 9:58 am
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      Haha ;)

      1. Sören Hentzschel said on November 19, 2013 at 10:30 am
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        No joke! I like the streamlined default interface and the better platform consistency. It’s the best Firefox design ever. A modern browser needs a modern design. And customizing is no problem, there are add-ons, userChrome.css etc. I am Firefox UX build user since the first day.

        Oh, and curved tabs are sexy. ;)

      2. Martin Brinkmann said on November 19, 2013 at 10:53 am
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        I do not like it for a number of reasons. I think that the new three bar menu is impracticable. If Mozilla would add an option to display text menu links instead, it would go a long way to make me happy.

        In fact, I have removed all icons from it except for add-ons, developer and options.

        I do not like tabs on top, never will and the claim that this saves space is just bogus. I do not really care if tabs are curved, rectangular or in triangle-shape, as long as it is functional though.

        I rely on the add-on bar since I do not want add-on icons displayed at the top. It looks too messy up there and removes space from the url or tabs.

        I do not like the reload button on the right.

        I do not like that you cannot display as many tabs as before in the browser window.

        I do not like the new combined bookmarks menu / bookmarking button.

        And that’s just my first impression. I’m not using the sidebar, small icons, and many of the other things that other Firefox users complain about.

        For something that was in development this long, it does not really make a whole lot of sense (to me).

    2. Anonymous said on November 19, 2013 at 10:54 am
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      You are a power-user, you know how to easily get around things.

  12. Dougle said on November 19, 2013 at 2:21 am
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    I’ve switched entirely to Linux now – Arch – but I’ll continue with firefox, as it’s the only browser that provides the addons I need. However, if the addon Aris has been working on doesn’t go far enough, in backing out these changes, I’ll probably look at Iceweasel and see if Debian are planning on following the Australis path. Hopefully they won’t.

  13. WandersFar said on November 19, 2013 at 3:22 am
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    Okay, I tried out Australis with an open mind, but it’s awful. It’s fat and ugly and you can’t move anything.

    More specifically, I can no longer combine my tab and address bars which is a deal-breaker for me. My laptop’s vertical resolution is too small to waste valuable vertical resolution on fat chrome.

    The tab bar and address bar are definitely fatter, too. I estimate that my UI has grown between 3 and 4 times larger thanks to this terrible “upgrade.”

  14. ff adept said on November 19, 2013 at 4:18 am
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    Australis is sucks. Return the customization. Please… :D

  15. Steven Foxley said on November 19, 2013 at 1:56 pm
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    I won’t enjoy this new interface unless I can continue with all the customizations I’ve been using in FF for years. At the moment am using with steva’s FTDeepDark theme which is always compatible, even when I update to a newer FF version & the theme file hasn’t been updated.
    As to tab-width, wiith TabMixPlus extension you can specify the size of tabs (also the style of the tabs, at least text colour-wise). If I wanted rounded tabs I’d use chrome !
    Not being able to use the add-on bar would be crap as the extension ‘status-4-evar’ uses it to put back the status bar that got removed a while back.
    I cannot understand how anyone can seriously surf with out a status bar indicating download progress & all the other add-ons that add important functionality to a decent web browser. If I want to have a no clutter view I call up the old F11 & go fullscreen.
    It’s sad (but sort of understandable) that FF feels the need to pander to the masses but thank god for all those extension developers who give people the tools to customise FF in the way that suits them.

  16. jwm4 said on November 19, 2013 at 7:44 pm
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    Firefox new UI follows in the failed UI footsteps of Microsoft’s modern/metro/mess. The people that do this call themselves designers? Since when is design served well by screwing up what already worked well in the name of faddishness and trend-following? All of these “modernizations” seem to be failed attempts to create one interface for all devices, forcing desktop users with 24 inch screens to have the same dumbed down interfaces as those that are 2.5 inches. As much as I appreciate the convenience my smartphone brings me, I don’t want that convenience at the price of productivity on my desktop. Surely some entrepreneurs will see the market opportunity here and provide desktop users with non-mobile optimized UI’s.

    1. bino said on November 19, 2013 at 10:52 pm
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      It is sabotage. Google is the main source of income of Mozilla (see http://static.mozilla.com/moco/en-US/pdf/Mozilla%20Foundation%20and%20Subsidiaries%202011%20Audited%20Financial%20Statement.pdf#page=20 Note 8: “Mozilla entered into a contract with a search
      engine provider [i.e. Google] for royalties which expires November 2014. The previous contract term expired in November 2011. Approximately 85% and 84% of royalty revenue for 2011 and 2010, respectively, was derived from this contract. The receivable from this search engine provider represented 77% and 64% of the December 31, 2011 and 2010 outstanding receivables, respectively. […]”) Figures for 2012 and 2013 are not publicly available.

      The community or the Firefox users don’t pay Mozilla or its UX developers. Since Google actually funds Mozilla, it is not much of a surprise that Mozilla makes its products the way Google wants them to be and gives a shit about the community.

      Having observed the development of Firefox over the years, I come to the conclusion that Firefox is going to be ruined on purpose to allow Chrome to become more popular than Firefox. I guess Firefox 3.6 was the summit of Firefox; since then it gradually declines. Google wants to dictate how the web of the future will look and feel. So Firefox got sabotaged to resemble Chrome. So why use Firefox any longer when you can have the original Chrome?

  17. Phill said on November 19, 2013 at 7:49 pm
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    Oh No!!! Why??????? I’m starting to think about not updating anything anymore.

  18. Porecreat said on November 20, 2013 at 3:40 am
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    Did you switch from FF4 to FF29 ?
    Forward button is linked to previous button for a while and same goes for the reload button in the right of the address bar.

    1. Rufus said on November 21, 2013 at 12:31 am
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      If you use a vanilla profile, you are right. But until now (i.e. FF 25) you are able to easily customize this: Just place a separator between the back- and forward button and they are not linked any longer. Currently you can also relocate the reload and cancel buttons. Since they move into the address bar, this won’t be possible with Australis any longer. So effectively your opportunities to customize the look and feel of Firefox are crippled by Australis.

  19. Ola Dunk said on November 21, 2013 at 12:17 am
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    It may be the end of Firefox.

    Chrome + Chrome OS or Windows + Some fucking browser.

    Perhaps I should retire from working with computers.

    1. Sören Hentzschel said on November 21, 2013 at 12:40 am
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      “It may be the end of Firefox” – lol, seriously?

      1. Ola Dunk said on November 21, 2013 at 8:33 pm
        Reply

        If firefox continue to be more and more like Chrome it would be useless.

        There is another big problem with firefox. For flash there is no useful
        replacement. The new html5 plugin/add-on does not work with youtube
        and most other flashy site of interest.

        Not happy about it but I fear it will be like chrome.

  20. jwm4 said on November 22, 2013 at 1:36 am
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    Bino, I believe you nailed the core issue. I was unaware of the depth and financial importance of the Google relationship. If it is as you posit, then all of the difficult to understand decisions made by Mozilla are rendered easily understood – Occam’s razor.

    Thanks for sharing that info. I hope a new alternative springs forth from some of the Firefox forks. Do you know if any of those are truly independent of Google?

  21. Tom said on November 23, 2013 at 4:44 am
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    I don’t understand why “modern” interface has to mean “just like chrome.”

    I was perfectly happy with the old UI, though I do always couple it with TreeStyleTabs, since showing only 8 or so tabs at a time is not helpful, and with widescreen monitors, unnecessary.

  22. George said on November 25, 2013 at 12:27 pm
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    Agree with nonqu, Pale Moon is the way to go. There is not much sense in what Mozilla are doing.

  23. othoap said on November 25, 2013 at 4:23 pm
    Reply

    This is just one in many steps to the death of desktops. :{( The smart phone is a wolf in sheep’s invention. It’s not smart nor a phone. Just a platform to harvest analytics.

    NICE this form’s cookie saved my name and in the “leave a Reply” fields. cool idea!

  24. Andrew Bontrager said on November 25, 2013 at 10:22 pm
    Reply

    Go back to Firefox 3.6. I still use it. Just turn off updates in the options menu and you’ll be good to go. You can download it here.
    https://ftp.mozilla.org/pub/mozilla.org/firefox/releases/3.6.28/win32/en-US/Firefox%20Setup%203.6.28.exe
    I checked. The instaler for Firefox 3.6.28 is almost three times bigger than the one for the latest Firefox version. Unbelievable. Don’t be scared by the “vulnerabilities.” I’ll keep using this version until my hard drive is dead and cold. I tried version 4 when it came out and couldn’t stand it. I reverted to 3.6 and have never looked forward. You are absolutely right. From Version 4 forward, the whole firefox machine has degraded. What version number are they at now, 25? At that rate, I expect to live to see Firefox 100.

  25. Andrew Bontrager said on November 25, 2013 at 10:38 pm
    Reply

    Revert to Firefox 3.6.28. You can download it here:
    https://ftp.mozilla.org/pub/mozilla.org/firefox/releases/3.6.28/win32/en-US/Firefox%20Setup%203.6.28.exe
    I checked. This instaler is almost three times bigger than the latest version’s instaler. I expect that means it uses three times the memory too. Also, at the rate of furious pump-out of new versions, I expect to live to see Firefox 100. I bet this new UI design change is the only significant, noticeable change since version 4. These changes, as commented, are moving toward a Chrome clone (Firefox’s new name). Since I tried version 4 and hated it, I have never looked forward. Removing the status bar? Implementing Facebook into the browser? I don’t need that. If there are any vulnerabilities in firefox 3.6.28, I don’t think they’re significant. I’d rather use what I like than have a supposedly secure browser and hate it. You can only have Firefox 3.6 from my cold, dead hard drive.

    1. Screw GoogleFox said on November 28, 2013 at 12:37 am
      Reply

      Legend.

  26. Olivia said on November 28, 2013 at 8:34 pm
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    This is a disaster. One of my favorite softwares is slowly turning into every single thing I loathe. There is no way that I’ll adopt that “new” Firefox. I’d rather turn to a fork or use the last version before Australis arrives than having to tweak the hell out of it simply to get the normal interface back. What I’m curious about is how many users the future version will have Vs people who find alternatives to it. It’s gonna be entertaining, for sure.

    Even with Android, I use custom roms. My Gmail accounts are tweaked (thank God for Greasemonkey) to restore previous functions. Same for Youtube. I started using Duck Duck Go for my web search. I give no shits about Google + and never comment on the Play Store for that reason alone. Basically, I hate everything Google has become and the direction they try to push users toward. I would never have thought that it would affect Firefox like that though. Unbelievable. Is gathering my data not enough, do I have to hate basic use of the web too?

  27. Jeannette Byrne said on December 1, 2013 at 10:27 pm
    Reply

    I stupidly said yes to the new fast firefox and of course you changed everything I had instead of just firefox. I want my old firefox back. Give me my old firefox back. The new one is faster but absolutely nothing works the same and you might as we have teken away my computer.

    Jeannette Byrne

  28. TheAslan said on December 25, 2013 at 3:19 am
    Reply

    Firefox Nightly 29.0a1 x64/x86 freezes my whole computer completely, so I have to push down the power button to be able to turn off and use my computer again.

    This happens with the latest Chromium 34 also, but when using Maxthon and IE computer is not freezing at all.

    I’ve tested those freezing browsers with all Add-ons and Extensions disabled and with default settings, still those are freezing, especially Firefox, when I installed Firefox Nightly 29.0a1 and opened it freezed immediately and it freezed my computer also.

    Any help here?

  29. Beerpatzer said on March 9, 2014 at 7:05 am
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    Buh-bye Firefox… I’m staying with 24 for now.. Thinking of jumping to Opera…

  30. Anonymous said on December 10, 2014 at 9:56 pm
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    Today, I noticed that Firefox 34 (!) has REMOVED THE USER’S ABILITY TO DELETE A SEARCH ENGINE FROM THE LIST.

    Funny, that, when they’re being pimped-out BY a search engine provider, Google…

    It’s a noose that is drawing around our necks and will end up in the likes of a ‘Brave New World’ / ‘1984’ -style scenario.

    This makes me sick as I remember stories of suffering ‘for freedom’ in WWII.

    Some f**king ‘freedom’ we’re going to have – just two generations later! More like total loss of sovereignty to rogue IT use!

    With this monopolistic behaviour from Google – what are they so paranoid about having a little competition for?

    Look up on an encrypted web search site, one that doesn’t reveal all your search terms to your DNS provider and ISP (as DuckDuckGo DOES by putting it in the URL; ‘security and privacy’ they claim – the f**king liars).

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on December 10, 2014 at 10:07 pm
      Reply

      This is only temporary because of the new interface. Check out this post for instructions on how to reset it: https://www.ghacks.net/2014/12/02/firefox-34-feels-rushed/

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