Mozilla's Lightspeed could make the web a lot simpler

Martin Brinkmann
Aug 8, 2014
Updated • Aug 8, 2019

Lightspeed is an idea by Philipp Sackl and Michael Verdi of Mozilla that could make the web simpler to use without sacrificing privacy or security in the process.

I don't like simplification when it takes away features or even necessary information. I don't like it when companies strip away features from a product or  give you little to no information, and simplification seems to be a trend in current UX design.

With that said, I do understand that there are users who prefer simple over complex, who do not need to see the protocol or full address of every link, and who do not want to customize the browser interface at all.

Lightspeed exists only in form of a presentation at the moment, no line of code has been written and it is unclear if that will ever be the case.

The main idea behind it is to make things simpler for the user by improving search and doing away with settings. It is a browser for "busy people" and people who do not want to or cannot deal with browser settings and configurations.

The browser is built around search which will be improved significantly over what Firefox and other browsers are offering right now. A click on the search bar displays the search/home tab overlay on the screen displaying top sites, directory tiles, open tabs and more right in the interface.

Search results are displayed inline alongside information such as contextual links at the top and right.

A search displays results at the top highlighting bookmarked sites for greater exposure. It may also feature definitions or other information displayed on the side, similar to how search engines do it these days, results from the user's private web -- email in this case -- and suggestions.


According to the project presentation, there won't be any settings at all. The program does not need them as "everything is built-in with smart defaults".

You can download the PDF presentation from Mozilla's website or watch a YouTube video that offers additional information about it.

My take

As I said earlier, I don't like simple. While I can see use for people who do, not being able to change search providers, customize what is being displayed to me, remove suggestions and links that I'm not interested, or install add-ons or make other modifications is far too limiting to be of any use to me.

It may make sense in a mobile context but even there I'd like to have control over the browsing experience which Lightspeed does not offer at all.

That does not mean that I won't review it here on Ghacks is a prototype is ever created by Mozilla. I'd say however that Mozilla should concentrate on Firefox and give some love to Thunderbird instead of spending time and resources on experiments that from the looks of it may not be successful after all.

Besides what I have mentioned already, publishing a second simpler browser could confuse some users who have to choose between two Mozilla browsers.

This may work as an add-on or by integrating part of the functionality into Firefox natively, but as a standalone product, it has little chance of getting traction. Then again, I may be wrong and this is what the world has been waiting for all along.

Now You: What's your take on Lightspeed?

Mozilla's Lightspeed could make the web a lot simpler and private
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Mozilla's Lightspeed could make the web a lot simpler and private
Lightspeed aims to simplify the web by introducing an intuitive browsing interface that concentrates on search to the user.
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  1. John Fenderson said on August 8, 2014 at 11:29 pm

    This is the exact opposite of what I want in a browser, so it’s fair to say that whole I hate the idea, I’m not the target market.

    The thing I hate the most? Well, I’ve hated the “awesome bar” from day one, and this just makes it’s awfulness even worse. That, and no configurability.

  2. pd said on August 8, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    Doesn’t look like anything more than integrating more datasources into the so-called (it was once) awesomebar. I think I saw something on Planet Mozilla about this already being considered. They really would have to make sure it works efficiently because there’s no point slowing down the basic typing in of a URL by including too many data sources (some of which might still potentially be in some ancient format like RDF or under-optimized file-system-based SQLite-related DB file).

    Does searching the “Library” feature actually work efficiently for anyone? It doesn’t for me. That’s a perfect example of the sort of performance issue beefing up the ‘awesome’bar could involve.

  3. Ivan Icin said on August 8, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    I think that search is key in this concept, and in essence it is just a bit modernized version of my concept from 2008 (though its first versions date from 2006 as you can see on the site)

    Not much more to say, I have submitted it in many places including Bugzilla, but everyone was bothered with exploring his own ideas. Now that concept has insider sponsor, it might come to life. The pity is that it’s just 6 (or even 8) years late.

  4. Dwight Stegall said on August 8, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    I hope they’ll have an opt-out option.

  5. Pants said on August 8, 2014 at 10:16 am

    Its just an idea at the moment >> no lost resources yet >> nothing wrong with a little thinking, exploring new ideas etc

    My thoughts, and I have no idea how complex this is >> rather than another browser, this could be a built-in profile within FF. Install FF, the default profile is asked for on installing >> Lightspeed or the “standard more advanced settings version”. You can open new windows in any profile.

    This may mean that the Lightspeed (LS) “profile” directory behaves differently, has some different files (within the profile dir), and uses different settings – or the changes/differences between standard/LS are all config settings – or a combination of both. Since there are NO settings anywhere in LS then there is no need for multiple Lightspeed profiles (IMO). To me, it’s just another actual profile – one that hides tones of stuff and auto-magically does things out of the box for a lot of people.

    I can certainly see this being a “hit”. Most people (IMO) are NOT computer “technical” savvy at all. They just want stuff to work. They don’t want to think about privacy, tracking, security etc. They don’t want to use “complicated to them” extensions, they don’t want to know about HTML5 vs Flash and how to configure it .. and the list goes on – When I say most – I’m going to estimate 90% of users (that’s overall, I would say FF’s user base percentage would be a higher). Even young adults I see today (and this is just my perspective) who can download and install spotify, zip around in gmail, grasp the concept of how facebook and social media works, fire off images to tumblr etc, and easily work with documents and files – the vast majority of these still have NO IDEA how an OS works let along software. Just because they can use email, doesn’t mean they know about protocols, or how to migrate clients etc etc etc – they don’t want to know – because their profession might be, well, midwivery or a nurse. They can learn to use a system or program, they don;t need or have time to learn how and why.

    That’s from a desktop perspective. But, AFAIK, the largest and fastest growing “market” (hardware?) is mobile (I don’t know the worldwide stats, but surely it’s like 40/50% now). Add to this that the biggest emerging “market” (people) are developing countries such as India etc – where a large percentage of users have never used a desktop. Their first computer is a smart phone. Typically browsers and settings in smart phones are a lot more “simplistic” and due to the nature of smaller phone screens etc (i.e use-ability), no one wants to dive three menus deep into various settings to configure things.

    To me, its why chrome (besides all the bundling they did and still do and the power of their reach and user-base) took off so fast. People just installed it (or it turned up!!) and used it out of the box. A lot of clients I see have chrome, and I ask them how they got it, they say they have no idea – but since it works they just use it. In fact to a lot of people, the names chrome, firefox, opera, and IE mean nothing – just as long as a web page opens and works they’re happy.

    /end of rambling

  6. Nebulus said on August 8, 2014 at 9:39 am

    As long as Firefox doesn’t transform into this “thing”, everything it’s fine. But if this is the template for the future of Firefox, we are in big trouble…

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