Firefox 86 will block the Backspace-key to go back action by default
The Firefox web browser is one of the few web browsers left that supports using the Backspace-key to go back. Hit the Backspace-key on the keyboard to go back to the previous page.
Starting in Firefox 86, Firefox users won't be able to use the Backspace-key anymore to navigate back in history by default. The key won't have the action mapped to it anymore.
Mozilla's keyboard shortcut Telemetry indicates that 40 million Firefox users use the Backspace-key shortcut in a month. To put this into perspective, Ctrl-R to reload a page is used by 15 million users, and the alternative Alt-Left-Arrow to go back is used by just 2 million users.
Mozilla suggests that the high number of users who use Backspace is partly caused by users hitting the key accidentally in the browser.
The organization suggests that Firefox users start using Alt-Left-Arrow instead to navigate back.
Restore Backspace-key functionality in Firefox
Firefox users who do use the Backspace-key to navigate back can restore it in desktop versions of Firefox.
- Load about:config in the Firefox address bar.
- Confirm that you will be careful.
- Search for browser.backspace_action.
- Change the value of the preference to 0.
Doing so restores the classic Backspace-key action to navigate back a page.
The new default value as of Firefox 86 is 2, which means it is unmapped; this appears to have been the default for Linux for a long time.
You may also set the preference to a value of 1. Doing so maps the Scroll action to the key. Press it and you will scroll-up, or use Shift-Backspace to scroll down.
And other browsers?
Google removed Backspace-key navigation in Chrome 52 to prevent users from accidentally losing form data when hitting the Backspace-key. Google revealed that 0.04% of page views navigated back using the key back in 2016.
The company did release an extension for Chrome called Go Back with Backspace that restored the functionality for users who wanted to continue using it; this extension is still available.
Microsoft Edge does not support the Backspace-key navigation action anymore as well. Techdows notes that Microsoft users may set a flag on edge://flags called "Assigns the Backspace key to go back a page" to restore the functionality.
Mozilla suggests that part of the Backspace-key using Firefox users use the key by accident, and it is quite possible the case. Firefox users can restore the functionality once the change lands to restore the functionality. Many may not do that because they may not be aware of the possibility.
Firefox 86 is scheduled for a February 23, 2021 release. The next stable release is Firefox 85; it will be released on January 26, 2021.
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