Firefox 66 may move New Tab search input to Address Bar

Martin Brinkmann
Jan 10, 2019

I think it was Google that started to display a search form for the first time on a browser's New Tab page; correct me if I'm wrong on that. Many browser makers, Mozilla included, added search forms to the New Tab page of their browsers, and it is quite common to see a search field on the page.

I never really understood why Mozilla added the field to Firefox, as you could just use the address bar or the search bar, if displayed, to search on the Internet. Firefox's address bar runs searches using the default search provider but the browser supports on-off searches as well to use different installed engines for individual searches.

Mozilla added search shortcuts to the Top Sites listing on the New Tab page recently that use keywords, a neglected feature, to power searches.

Firefox users who don't use the search field on the New Tab Page can hide it on the page by disabling Web Search on the configuration page about:preferences#home.

New Tab Page search changes in Firefox

firefox new tab page search

Firefox 66, currently available on the Nightly channel, changes the behavior of the search field on Firefox's New Tab page.

The search form is displayed on the page and activation highlights the cursor in the form; the input is moved to the address bar automatically, however, as soon as you start to type the first character. In other words, the search field is degraded to a link to the address bar.

It is not clear, at this time, if the change is just a test to see how it performs compared to the status quo, or if Mozilla plans to go ahead with the change and launch it in Beta and Release versions of Firefox when they hit version 66.

I have created a short demo video that highlights the change

Firefox users who dislike the new functionality may turn it off the in the following way (again, as of right now. It is possible that Mozilla will add a switch to the preferences to improve the visibility).

  1. Load about:config?filter=browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.improvesearch.handoffToAwesomebar
  2. Double-click on the preference.

A value of False means that the feature is turned off, i.e. input in the search field on the New Tab page in Firefox does not jump to the browser's address bar on first character input. A value of True means that the feature is enabled.

Closing words

The new system that Mozilla plans to launch in Firefox 66 changes what happens when users start to type in the search field on the New Tab page in Firefox. Users would expect text input to be entered in the field they are typing in, but Firefox will move the input to the address bar.

Whether that will lead to some confusion on the user part remains to be seen. Mozilla could have created different solutions, e.g. that text is displayed in both fields or that activation of the search field jumps to the address bar directly (with a short notification that things changed in that regard).

Now You: Do you use the search field on Firefox's New Tab Page? (via Techdows)

Firefox 66 may move New Tab search input to Address Bar
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Firefox 66 may move New Tab search input to Address Bar
Mozilla will change the search form functionality on Firefox's New Tab page in Firefox 66; input jumps to the address bar automatically.
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  1. Anonymous said on August 4, 2021 at 5:35 pm

    I for ones like to search in the NewTab search, and find it annoying that when I put the cursor in one place is jumps to somewhere else.
    I purposely fixed the hight of my screen so I will never need to bend and ruin my posture, and the bar up there forces me to look too high up for comfort, so that’s mine main reason. mine second one is that if I wanna search something, in 99.9% of the cases I want a new tab anyway.
    so thanks a lot, it was usuful to me, to return it to a predictable behaviour.

  2. Anonymous said on June 27, 2021 at 6:54 pm

    I love You :)

  3. JD said on March 30, 2019 at 9:37 pm


    My system:

    Windows 10 Home, version 1803, build 17134.648

    System Model: Dell laptop: XPS 13 9370

    BIOS Version/Date Dell Inc. 1.4.0, 5/25/2018

    Firefox: 66.0.2 (64-bit)

    FF Home page set to: Custom URL:

    FF New tabs set to: Firefox Home (Default)


    When I click the (+) at the end of the FF tab bar, or I press Ctrl-T, I get a new tab with a Firefox
    page showing a FF search box (with a DuckDuckGo icon in the very left of this search box), an
    empty URL/address field, & the cursor is flashing in the empty URL/address field.

    This position of the cursor is not desired.

    I prefer to have the cursor in the actual (DuckDuckGo) search box of the FF page.

    While still in the new tab created by either clicking the (+) at the end of the tab bar or by pressing
    Ctrl-T, when I then click the Home icon on the FF toolbar (which shows “Firefox Home Page”
    whilst hovering over it), the page goes to a DuckDuckGo page with
    in the URL/address field, and now the cursor is flashing in the DuckDuckGo search box.

    How can I make Ctrl-T and/or clicking the (+) at the end of the tab bar display the same page
    I get when I click the Home icon in the FF toolbar?

    Thanks for all suggestions!

  4. Tom said on January 17, 2019 at 10:40 am

    I use Firefox Nightly and set up my default search engine to DuckDuckGo.
    I hate having my search text bounce up to the address bar because the search
    hints supplied by DDG are much more useful.
    (thanks to this site for showing me how to disable this behavior)

  5. Juraj M said on January 11, 2019 at 7:21 pm

    No, I don’t use search on the New tab page – because I’ve created my own New tab page replacement :D – Group Speed Dial:

  6. John Fenderson said on January 10, 2019 at 7:52 pm

    “Do you use the search field on Firefox’s New Tab Page?”

    No, I prefer new tab pages to be entirely blank, so I set Firefox up to do that.

  7. Darren said on January 10, 2019 at 7:39 pm

    It’s time for a publicly funded non-profit (like wiki foundation does with wikipidia) to release a browser that just browses. All current browsers are trying to hard to become a self-serving mini-OS. Everything gets complicated by ulterior motives.

    1. John Fenderson said on January 10, 2019 at 7:55 pm


      I agree 100% with this. Right now, Waterfox is as close as I can reasonably come, but at some point I may start experimenting with implementing a more basic browser myself, if only to meet my own needs. That’s a rather large project, though, and would have to get in line behind a couple of other equally large projects that I am already in progress on.

  8. Steve#99 said on January 10, 2019 at 3:20 pm

    ah…. for those times when people, thinking there is a URL in the clipboard, accidentally send their SSNs, credit card numbers, passionate love letters, office gossip, private phone nbrs, and that super secret password to the universe via the awesome bar; sending that private data to an assorted lists of privacy invading companies. Thanks Mozilla!

  9. Tom Hawack said on January 10, 2019 at 10:57 am

    Why make things simple when they can be made complicated? Keep the search input in the New Tab or remove it and leave it where good sense reminds it should never have been removed from : awesomebar or searchbar in toolbar.

    I don’t use the awesomebar, on-off searches are disabled, and I perform my searches from the searchbar which I’ve set to appear in the toolbar. For convenience : on a site I don’t like the site’s url to be removed by my search query but also, I appreciate the search query to stay available should I search with other engines. PC screens are wide, far enough width to accommodate the searchbar in the toolbar.

    Also, because I’ve never used Firefox’s default New tab, Mozilla’s wanderings all about that page don’t concern me.

    Mozilla’s problem remains that the company entertains a tempest in a teapot.

  10. Anonymous said on January 10, 2019 at 10:13 am

    “I never really understood why Mozilla added the field to Firefox, as you could just use the address bar or the search bar, if displayed, to search on the Internet.”

    I think that the reason there is a huge search field in every new tab by default is to push people to use the search engine more, and to think about the search engine as the main entry point to the web instead of bookmarks or direct URL typing. And not any search engine, but the one Mozilla chose. Because of Mozilla’s search engine deals.

    1. user17843 said on January 10, 2019 at 3:17 pm

      Indeed, pushing people into search is the main reason. I wouldn’t be surprised if google gets their main revenue from people confusing address and search.

      Nowadays when you search for common websites, you see those platforms advertising themselves with that keyword, even though they are at the first place of the organic results. This is because they would lose their own name to competitors if they don’t do it. Which means that the status quo is that websites need to actually pay google to be available to the common user. It’s quite absurd what the web has become.

      For example if someone puts in “nytimes” into google with the goal to reach nytimes, they need to be the first ad-placement for people to actually click on nytimes.

      Mozilla is probably planning to get away from Google eventually, but they want to optimize search input before, so that the revenue loss will not be that great.

  11. ShintoPlasm said on January 10, 2019 at 8:24 am

    That’s been the behaviour in Edge for a long time. It warms the heart that Firefox is now copying the UI failures of yet another browser.

    1. G Spyware Inside said on January 11, 2019 at 6:33 am

      Everyone is “copying” everyone else, it’s not a big deal as long as you don’t use it to promote spyware such as Chrome.

  12. Luzandro said on January 10, 2019 at 8:19 am

    I also never understood this. When you open a new tab, the address bar already has focus and if you want to use the search field, it’s also only a tab away – why would you want to use the search form on the new tab page?

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