Firefox: Mockups show Activity Stream, New Tab Page and Share updates

Martin Brinkmann
Feb 15, 2016

Three new mockups for the Firefox web browser reveal how the browser's New Tab Page, Share functionality and Activity Stream (browsing history and bookmarks) could look like in the future.

Mockups are design ideas that don't make it necessarily into the Firefox web browser in that form or at all.

Mozilla designers release mockups regularly, just recently one highlighting a combined Firefox address bar and search field.

The three newest mockups showcase designs for the New Tab Page, Share functionality and Activity Stream.

Activity Stream

Firefox's History page opens in its own window in current stable versions of the browser. It features a chronological list of websites visited in the browser using a functional design that it shares with the majority of other browsers.

The Activity Stream could replace the history that is currently provided by Firefox. As you can see on the mockup, it would provide access not only to the browsing history, but also to downloads, bookmarks and tabs.

The design combines textual information with visual elements. One interesting idea here is that some elements may be displayed directly on the browsing history page as indicated by the Vimeo embed on the page.

The Spotlight result works similar to the Discovery mode of the Opera browser. It is reserved space that Mozilla uses to highlight content that may be of interest to the user.

There is no apparent way to change the display. One reason users may have for wanting to do so is that the new stream is not really designed for going through a list of items quickly due to the additional visual elements on the page.

The timeline will be a new, core UI surface in Firefox. It is the eventual replacement for the current Library UI.

It acknowledges the web is driven by reverse chronological lists of content.

This is a great way to interact with the content and tasks a user has interacted with over a short time horizon (48 hours).

This also provides a single destination to find anything that you've done in the browser.

Whether that be something as prosaic as visiting a site or something more.

New Tab Page

Mozilla released many mockups for the Firefox browser's New Tab Page but the page itself has not changed all that much throughout the years.

The mockup shows additional elements on the new tab page. You find the search bar at the top, and below that the main content area.

There you find a row of six tabs based on previous visits or pinned sites, and below that the Spotlight section.

On the right are top activities and a chronological timeline of activities.

New Tab is an existing UI surface, but it is currently underutilized. We will optimize the current Top Site's tiles in order to allow for other content on new tab.

We will show 6 smaller, fixed top sites with logos of the sites, when available.

We will introduce two new sections: Recent Activity and Spotlight.

Recent Activity will be a summary view of your timeline and provide the most recent actions you've taken (Bookmarks for now) and other interesting history.

Spotlight will be a space for us to feature "nearly now" content along with recommended content in the future.


The third and final mockups shows how Firefox's share functionality could look like in the feature.

One idea here is to integrate with the functionality that the underlying operating system provides.

Our user research shows that people repeatedly share and return to content in the browser. We should embrace this by creating a flexible save and share toolbar. It should allow the user to share and save to the most common services such as Facebook or Pocket.

We can quickly provide this functionality on desktop by leveraging existing "sharplane" and offer the most popular services as default options in our new saving and sharing menu.

We should also include the existing features built into the browser such as "Email link" and "Save to Pocket". There should eventually be a more option at the end of this menu that connects the user with the built-in sharing options provided by their OS.

Closing Words

Mockups are just ideas which means that they may or may not end up in the Firefox browser.

Mozilla did not highlight the customization options -- if any -- should these new designs become reality.

As far as Spotlight goes, there needs to be an option to disable the feature completely as it will not be liked by all users.

The history would benefit from a "plain view" option that mimics the current chronological list of activity as it provides a quicker way of going through the list.

Now You: Do you see anything that you'd like to see integrated in Firefox? (via Sören Hentzschel)

Firefox: Mockups show Activity Stream, New Tab Page and Share updates
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Firefox: Mockups show Activity Stream, New Tab Page and Share updates
New design mockups show how Firefox's new Activity Stream, New Tab Page and Share functionality could look like.
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  1. kalmly said on July 19, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    Just looks like a lot more bloat for the sake of bloat to me, and bloat that requires a lot more scrolling and clicking by the user – like all the “new” stuff does. I like things small, quick, and mean . . . and oh yeah, useful. Will FF will make it impossible to turn these wonderful new “improvements” off?

  2. Anonymous said on February 20, 2016 at 4:02 am

    a separate search bar is a must for me. All too often the page your on has a really long URL and it’s a right PITA to have to delete or select all the text to overwrite it when you just want to search for something

  3. Anonymous said on February 20, 2016 at 3:59 am

    well, that new tab idea looks OK for an option to choose for a start page or home page, but not for a new tab page. I don’t want to have to keep installing addons to disable firefox additions – I like to install addons that extend firefox to my liking. If Mozilla want to put together a repository for addons like pocket and this new tab page in the addons section and call it addons that Mozilla endorses or something like that, that would be nice. Even if they were options that were available through the menu. I get that there are people who would like this, but it definitely looks like something that should be as an extension and easily disabled. Even if just for debugging or to fix an issue. I really hope firefox never disables extensions.

  4. Lestat said on February 17, 2016 at 7:58 am

    Here we have another example that Mozilla these days does not innovate on their own. They taking left and right ideas from other companies because they lack vision. This time, they take the idea from Opera again, like they did in the past with UI customization.

    Sucks if you do not have developers who can innovate on their own.

    1. Appster said on February 17, 2016 at 10:23 am

      Firefox will be dead when Mozilla deprecates XUL anyway. The outcry when most Add-Ons refuse to work is going to be hilarious. Firefox won’t survive.

      I am currently using Waterfox which is by far more performant than Firefox – despite what haters may say. Scrolling is smooth again, no telemetry, no Pocket, no NPAPI whitelist… I could go on. The only major drawback is that when Mozilla drops XUL Waterfox will most likely lose it too (I hope not).
      Vivaldi might be a great alternative in the future, though I don’t believe in Otter Browser (reason: exotic rendering engine).

      PS: Wonder why the fanboy (Sören Hentzschel) is not here to defend the copycats? This might change though.

      1. Appster said on February 17, 2016 at 10:43 pm


        I don’t care about him, I just find his absence suspicious considering that he is always the first in line when it comes to justifications.

        Brave Browser and Vivaldi are still in development and did not have a single stable release yet. Their reliance on Chromium means that they will never have advanced Add-Ons, though I hope that at least the browser interface is going to be heavily customizable. Firefox is heading nowhere: In the end it will offer a non-customizable interface without any good extensions. Just like Chrome.
        Sad story indeed. Vivaldi/Brave will at least be advanced browsers with crap extensions, Firefox will be a crap browser with crap extensions. And this is called “future”?
        Anyway, Otter Browser is no option as sites are likely to display incorrectly due to its rendering engine.

      2. Lestat said on February 17, 2016 at 8:30 pm

        Who cares about Mr. SH? I for sure not ;)

        Anyway, you can count in another future player: Brave Browser from Brendan Eich. There are a lot of recent Twitter messages that this browser will also be quite customizable in the future, to pseudo-quote some random tweet from Mr. Eich: “It is also a goal to give the user batteries for the product” :D

        It is interesting that the pure garbage product called Chromium can indeed be enhanced in quite a useful way if you pimp it with some 3rd party libraries or tools to create a non-native UI. Great times for people who are in love with features and that kind of developers push an utter trash product into enhancement borders where no other trash product has been pushed before :D

  5. Justin said on February 16, 2016 at 12:44 am

    Geez, negativity. This looks awesome to me. When was the last time anyone enjoyed browsing their history, let alone had the pleasure of skimming through with video embeds and highlights for things I bookmarked.

    This to me is like what Pocket SHOULD have been! Effortless retrieval of stuff I crossed paths with, brought to my attention again.

    The New Tab page looks solid, too. I’m all for it.

  6. Anonymous said on February 15, 2016 at 11:58 pm

    sorry for my french
    but in all honesty this looks like shit. the continuous move from compact and fucntional ui to… this bloated, minimalistic crap is dumb

  7. pd said on February 15, 2016 at 4:37 pm

    Wow. News about ideas for Firefox! Can’t remember the last time ideas for useful change were the focus of a neutral news story rather than a lightning rod for venting disgust at the direction Firefox head taken over the last several years.

    Let’s be a little more objective though:

    – New tab page doesn’t appear to have anything new. Personally I’m happy with a completely clear page anyway but that’s just me.

    – Library UI was/is ripe for an overhaul and thankfully the mockup looks quite good. Hopefully no tricky issues will prevent it from reaching release stage line that. It would also be great to hear this UI may get a dedicated process when e10s is bedded down because the performance of history or ‘places’ has rarely been impressive. Back in RDF days it was hang city. So adding more content to what should always be an instantly filtered tool could cause more performance issues that simply won’t be worn the benefit of a more graphical layout. Hopefully thumbnails for the history sites will be used rather than too much actually live content. After all I don’t think the Library/History ‘places’ functionality even includes an index of a significant sample of text from each entry. This means unless users can remember a keyword from a title or URL, they presently can’t even filter their history to find sites they know they’ve visited! The NSA has more bloody insight into most user’s history than they do themselves through this UI !

    – The paper plane / share or ‘action’ button is a good idea that took forever to arrive whilst browser developers forgot about implementing any sort of helpful widgets in chrome and thus created the awful disease of every site you visit watching you and wasting your attention with icons and links to every bloody ‘social’ service on the Web. But it’s currently very broken. As webemail had alas slowly taken over from real email clients, the mailto: link has been orphaned. Paper plane button almost fixed this neglected use case by incorporating your webemail compose view in it’s dubious door hanger/speech bubble UI. This works of you just want to fling a link but as soon as you want to add a note or a secondary link for context, you click away to another tab and bang, the stupid paper plane UI is gone. Your burgeoning drafts folder becomes even more bloated. Add a pin option! Allow users to click the pin and thus keep the UI open until they’re ready to send! Beyond that, force redirects or secondary loads required for this UI to load within this UI! Eventually people will try to use the UI without first logging into the service they wish to use within the paper plane UI. Don’t force users to jump out of this UI to get login and then … oh bugger, the UI vanished on me because there’s no pin option!

  8. insanelyapple said on February 15, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    Back in the past, I was trilled about such mockups of new tab page feature – there was whole contest for design of that. Now, considering the fact that this page is used to provide “suggestions” and also remembering the other “brilliant” ideas of MoCo – I am not interested and if something similar to this idea will land in stable builds, I will disable it by about:config registry or with dedicated extension help.

  9. Earl said on February 15, 2016 at 4:11 pm

    Soooooo, Mozilla wants Firefox to be the new “Flock” browser …because it worked out so well for them(?).

  10. Uhtred said on February 15, 2016 at 3:38 pm

    I auto clear history every browser close, and “forget” click every now and then, so activity stream won’t be of much value, tho others might like it. A bookmarks toolbar under my address bar gives me 42 or so instant access sites, and everything else through menu, it’s enough for me. I’ll take recommendations from friends and colleagues, but can do without the algorithm suggesting things. Firefox has done a lot to push privacy on the web, and good on them for that, but isnt promoting the use of activity stream going to aid tracking?

    one feature I’d like changed is the cusomise zoom level control, having ” – | 100% | + ” takes the width of three elements,a lot of room, where a single mouseover button activating a drag to zoom slider might be better use of space imo.

  11. Joker said on February 15, 2016 at 3:23 pm

    Is this now the phase of desperation?
    Throwing even the most ludicrous ideas against the wall and see what sticks?
    Of course not without another attempts to place advertising. Sorry, I meant “‘nearly now’ content along with recommended content”.

  12. Jason said on February 15, 2016 at 3:22 pm

    As long as I can DISABLE these things, I don’t mind what Mozilla does. But like everyone else has said here, software first and foremost should be simple and functional. These things look like resource hogs and concentration stealers rather than functional tools. Someone mentioned they take their design cues from Facebook, which is fair enough, but I am reminded of the “ribbon” bar at the top of newer versions of Microsoft Office. Sure, the ribbon looks pretty, but you cannot convince me that it is more functional than the simple toolbars it replaced.

    Sometimes an upgrade is really a downgrade, right?

  13. T J said on February 15, 2016 at 12:40 pm

    It looks more like Win 8 / Win 10 Metro screen than they do.
    I like to browse a nice simple page without having the screen covered in tiles, pictures, menus, etc. All that these new bells and whistles will accomplish (imo) is slower search times and having to negotiate a cluttered screen to find what I need.
    I realise that some users like to share their latest internet discoveries and have a record of their activities so that they can
    jump around the Internet like hyper active fleas. Why not simply bookmark pages ?
    Furthermore, how much memory will these options chew up?
    Will the user be able to turn off these “improvements”?

  14. sandwichgott said on February 15, 2016 at 11:21 am

    great, after they have started to control what users can do with their browser now comes the revolution: firefox goes facebook! lets hope this stays a mockup, as i firmly believe the normal history (which has a very fitting name) is more than enough.

    1. Gary D said on February 15, 2016 at 1:02 pm

      @Tom Hawack @sandwichgott

      I agree with you 100%.

      Looking at the proposed firefox changes, Mozilla’s “user research” must have concentrated on the 18 to 25 year old segment. The idea of a browser is to find information quickly. Why do they want to mess up the browser and alienate people by making it more difficult to navigate visually by cluttering up the screen ?
      The mock ups make it seem as if Mozilla have hired the programmers that MS fired, thus the “Metro” look.
      Mozilla, please remember K I S S = Keep It Simple Stupid !

      1. Dave said on February 15, 2016 at 4:29 pm

        Of course it focuses on preferences of younger users. That’s where most of the new users are.

  15. Tom Hawack said on February 15, 2016 at 10:46 am

    Why not, tomorrows are built with imagination.

    As far as I’m concerned, as I avoid both New Tab Page and Share functionalities, remains the Activity Stream.
    To be frank I’d prefer that a browser’s fundamentals be improved rather than a beauty show aiming at winning Miss Browser Cyber Contest. The organization of a browser is simple when a browser intends to remain a browser rather than a whatever extended multimedia-social-hyperthreaded-multifunctional-all-in-one advanced Network Machine.

    Keep things simple.

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