Firefox 57: disable highlights on the New Tab Page

Firefox 57 will ship with a redesigned new Tab Page that displays more content to the user when it is opened.

Firefox users have full control over what is displayed on the page; Mozilla plans to launch the browser with options to turn off any module that is displayed on Firefox's New Tab page, but it is also possible to install add-ons that change the default page.

You can check out New Tab Override for instance which gives you even more control over the New Tab page of the Firefox web browser.

I previewed the changes of the Firefox 57 New Tab page here, and I suggest you check them out as they still hold true.

Basically, what Firefox displays by default is a search box, a top sites section that is prefilled for new installations and new users, and a highlights section. Top Stories, another new feature showcased in previous months in Firefox Nightly is not shown in recent versions anymore; it is unclear right now whether it will be part of Firefox 57.

Disable highlights on the Firefox New Tab Page

firefox 57 highlights

Mozilla defines highlights as a "way back to interesting things you've recently visited or bookmarked".

Basically, what Firefox does is display sites you visited or bookmarked recently so that you are exposed to these sites or pages again, and may revisit them with a click on them in the Firefox interface.



Highlights differ from top sites in two distinct ways:

  • Highlights may display media, e.g. an animated GIF that plays on the Firefox New Tab page, while Top sites are always static (thumbnail and name).
  • Highlights change often, and they lead usually to inner pages of a domain and not the homepage.
Read also:  The death of Classic Theme Restorer for Firefox

Mozilla added options to the Tab Page of Firefox to disable the Highlights functionality. Some users may find it distracting or unneeded; if you are one of them, you can do the following to turn it off:

  1. Open the New Tab page of the Firefox web browser.
  2. Select the cogwheel icon in the top right corner.
  3. Remove the checkmark from Highlights there.

disable highlights firefox

The entire Highlights section is removed immediately. You can undo the change at any time by enabling the Highlights section again in Firefox.

You may turn it off using Firefox preferences as well if you prefer that option:

  1. Load about:config?filter=browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.feeds.section.highlights in the Firefox address bar.
  2. Double-click on the preference browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.feeds.section.highlights to toggle its value.

A value of true means Highlights is enabled, a value of false that the feature is disabled.

Tip: Find out how to load any about:config entry directly.

You may add the preference to your Firefox user.js configuration file, or use it when you deploy Firefox.

Summary
Article Name
Firefox 57: disable highlights on the New Tab Page
Description
Find out how to disable the Highlights section of the New Tab page that Mozilla plans to launch in Firefox 57 in November 2017.
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Ghacks Technology News
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Responses to Firefox 57: disable highlights on the New Tab Page

  1. Caveman September 13, 2017 at 3:27 pm #

    A bit OT question for those who already testing FF57 i'd like to know how light (or heavy) in resources, both in CPU & RAM usage, is in comparison with v55, i'm on a very old machine (P4, 2gb ram, 128mb GPU) and in my experience v55 feels a bit heavy. Chrome on the other hand although is more heavy on ram it feels faster even on this paleolithic machine.

    • Anonymous September 13, 2017 at 4:19 pm #

      It's probably impossible to tell, only another caveman could reply. Firefox 57 is a lot faster but with a single core, you will miss out on Stylo's parallel architecture, so the increase won't be as steep. You will basically mostly gain from Quantum Flow and Quantum DOM (probably not for 57 though).

      I'm going to assume you are on a 32-bit computer so you don't have to deal with RAM increase due to 64-bit, and you can disable E10S or reduce the amount of content processes it is allowed to run in Options if necessary. I would try not reducing this value though, maybe even increase it if RAM allows.

      So RAM can be kept in check, and speed should be a little faster than 55 for you, but then again it's impossible to know without being a caveman.

      • Jody Thornton September 13, 2017 at 7:42 pm #

        Actually I'm using dual Xeon (netburst-style) CPUs each at 3.68 GHz. I have been able to run multi-process, but even with e10s turned off, there is a significant performance improvement on Nightly 57.

        I'm using 7 GB of DDR2 memory

      • John September 14, 2017 at 12:13 am #

        Actually, there are some improvements coming from Quantum Flow since v55, which is a "umbrella" of fixes performance-wise, not a component of Servo per se.

        Quantum DOM I'm not sure, if I remember correctly a little of it will be landed on 57. Stylo is coming to 57 however, and WebRender on 58 or 59.

        Even on a fast machine, I still feel that Firefox 55 is more heavy and takes longer to load pages in comparison to Chrome, but I still prefer it over Chrome for various reasons.

      • Anonymous September 14, 2017 at 10:43 am #

        That's what I meant yes, the parenthesis only applied to Quantum DOM. Quantum Flow indeed has has a lot of stuff in from Firefox 55 to 57 :)

    • Pants September 14, 2017 at 1:11 am #

      If you control JS and XSS as well, as well as adblocking etc (eg uBlock Origin, uMatrix, NS), this alone will speed up FF content (less to load) and save resources. Decentraleyes can also save some resources

      • Anonymous September 14, 2017 at 10:47 am #

        @Caveman

        This is probably the one thing you need to do, regardless of browser. Block ads and tracking scripts, if possible third party scripts altogether, or even all scripts. (You would then have to manage a whitelist)

  2. Anonymous September 13, 2017 at 4:21 pm #

    Question: Are these thumbnails and text making a web connection to the relevant websites, or are they stored on the computer ? If they are stored, do they survive a full cache clearing like bookmarks and their favicons do ?

    If so, happy.

    • gh September 14, 2017 at 6:45 pm #

      Batches of thumbs+text are periodically retrieved via https from tiles.services.mooofuzilla.com (not from each relevant site). The cache datastore is completely separate from the content cache and, yes, "survives" (is unaffected by) a "full cache clearing". AFAIK, we're not offered a means to clear the newtab cache.

      If you type about:config in your addressbar, then in searchbox type "newtab" (noquotes), you can view/edit the settings related to the new tab page

      Although I don't like (won't use) about:newtab, I respect the attention to privacy evident in the mechanism used for populating the highlights. Last I checked, batch download content is generic (every browser client receives an identical set of data, analagous to an rss feed) ~~ then LOCALLY, based on keyword matching and/or browsing history, the "seemingly most relevant (and haven't already been displayed nn times" items are displayed.

      edit:
      Below, a comment mentions "mining us for profit" and (so) I want to point out that the "highlights" mechanism is supplemental to -- separate from -- the SponsoredTiles mechanism. Yes, IIRC the mozilla blog mentioned that "paid/promoted" items may be accepted for inclusion in the batched downloads... and that the "relevance" algo includes a filter to prevent more than 1 in 3 displayed highlights items being a "promoted" item. No privacy breach, and I can't fault them for using this feature toward generating supplemental income.

      • Anonymous September 14, 2017 at 10:20 pm #

        Nice, thanks. Couple questions:

        " Batches of thumbs+text are periodically retrieved via https from tiles.services.mooofuzilla.com (not from each relevant site). "

        Can this be disabled ?

        " (every browser client receives an identical set of data, analagous to an rss feed) "

        That probably only concerns the most popular sites. What about all other sites ? I'd rather have the download be exactly like bookmarks, which means acquiring the data directly from the site and not updating it unless I actively visit the site itself using the new tab page link.

        If you can't explain because this is too long and detailed, I would be glad to have sources instead :)

  3. Robert September 14, 2017 at 3:24 am #

    If Mozilla is going to sell ads on the new tab page targeted towards the individual then the browser must be mining us for profit.

  4. tabtab September 14, 2017 at 9:15 pm #

    Is there still a built in option to set any local .html file as new tab page?

  5. John C. September 16, 2017 at 6:59 am #

    I stopped updating Firefox on my computers. Will continue to use the older versions until I'm unable to or else until I find something which is acceptable. Firefox 55+ aren't acceptable.

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