After making it clear that full theme support will be discontinued in Firefox, Mozilla announced that it will remove another feature from the browser.
Tab Groups, formerly known as Panorama, allow the creation of groups of tabs that the user can switch between to limit the number of open tabs in the browser at the same time.
The feature was initially offered as an add-on before it was integrated in Firefox 4 as a native feature.
Used for research among other things, the feature is used by 0,01 percent of all users of the browser according to metrics that Mozilla published recently.
Tab Groups, just like full themes, have been moved to the backseat in Firefox a long time ago and it is likely that the lack of promotion is one reason why the feature is not used by many users of the browser.
It is interesting to note that Mozilla announced the removal of Tab Groups back in 2013 but did not act on it in the following two years.
Reasons for removing the feature are low-use but also the "(very) high costs in terms of maintenance".
So what is Mozilla's plan?
The removal is not trivial considering that Mozilla needs to make sure that users don't lose any of their tabs open in groups that are not active.
The current plan is to copy sites of groups that are not active to the bookmarks, but Mozilla looks into other options such as restoring all background groups to separate windows.
Firefox users will be warned that Panorama is going away when Firefox 44 is released early next year, and the feature will be removed in Firefox 45. Nightly users get the warning message already when they open Tab Groups with the Ctrl-Shift-E shortcut.
The main reason why it is removed in Firefox 45 is that the version is the new base for Firefox ESR.
The organization recommends several alternatives such as using bookmarks in the sidebar, using Pocket, or relying on one of the available add-ons for the Firefox browser (without mentioning one).
There does not seem to be an add-on available for Firefox currently that replicates the functionality however. You do get some add-ons that enable you to save open tabs though.
Mozilla warns users of the browser in advance when it comes to the removal of features. That's definitely the better approach than removing features without any form of warning.
The organization should consider however that feature removals are perceived in a negative way by the majority of users even by those who are not using these features. (via Sören Hentzschel)
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