First non-final Tabs redesign courtesy of Proton lands in Firefox Nightly

Martin Brinkmann
Jan 23, 2021

Mozilla is working on a Firefox design refresh under the codename Proton. The project is in its early stages but the general plan appears to be to refresh pretty much any user interface element in the browser.

Mozilla did create several mockups of browser elements, sometimes multiple, to showcase some of the ideas its UI team has for the refresh. It is clear that the project is still in its infancy and that final decisions have not been made yet.

Firefox users who run the Nightly version may enable the general preference browser.proton.enabled by setting it to TRUE to get the changes as they land in Firefox. If the past is anything to go by, changes will be introduced in waves over time and not all at once.

Nightly users who run the latest version can change a hidden preference -- one that is not displayed by Firefox when you search for it -- to enable the first version of the browser's tabs redesign.

It needs to be noted that the design is not final, and that it has been implemented mainly for testing purposes at this stage. Still, it may provide a glimpse of things to come.

Here is how you enable it:

firefox tabs design refresh proton not final

  1. Load about:config in the Firefox address bar.
  2. Search for browser.proton.tabs.enabled. You won't get any results, but an option to create the preference.
  3. It should be set to TRUE automatically; TRUE means that it is enabled, FALSE that it is disabled.
  4. Restart the Firefox browser.

Firefox displays the redesigned tab bar after the restart. Since the design is not final, it is fruitless to review it in earnest. Some things do catch the eye immediately, like the large size of the tabs or the second row that displays media playback controls permanently.

firefox tabs compact mode
Compact Mode

Firefox supports changing the tab density in the customization options. Setting them to "compact" reduces the height of the tab bar somewhat while setting them to "touch" makes tabs even larger.

Again, the design is not final and it is possible that the design will change before it lands in Firefox Stable. Mozilla is discussing the change openly here.

Closing Words

On a personal level, I would like to see an option to make the tab bar more compact as it is taking up a lot of height currently even in compact mode. The larger tabs may improve handling for touch users, but since there is a touch-mode already, it is unclear why the default tab design displays these larger tabs as well. It may work on large resolution screens, but if you use Firefox on a 1920x1080 screen or lower, and maybe not even in fullscreen mode, then you will have only a few tabs displayed.

Now You: what would you like to see in regards to the tabs design refresh of the Firefox web browser?

First non-final Tabs redesign courtesy of Proton lands in Firefox Nightly
Article Name
First non-final Tabs redesign courtesy of Proton lands in Firefox Nightly
First look at the first Tabs redesign of the Firefox web browser that landed in Firefox Nightly in January 2021.
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  1. Anonymous said on June 9, 2021 at 11:33 pm

    Just let me move the tab bar from above to under the other toolbars, and I’m happy.

  2. anonymous said on January 31, 2021 at 4:26 pm

    The mute button is so stupidly placed now, it’s impossible to not accidentaly click if you want to drag the tab around

  3. Anonymous said on January 31, 2021 at 4:35 am

    This was already a thing in the Customize Menu > Touch Mode.

    Don’t know why this move warranted a default.

  4. Richard Stallman said on January 27, 2021 at 5:07 am

    There is no visual separator on the background tabs. There is no indication (other than an assumption) that those text are clickable tabs.

  5. Hajtmarová said on January 26, 2021 at 8:29 pm

    Come on guys, as many of us I also am on he critical side about Mozilla due to the last years, and I agree that it shouldn’t be needed to change the looks as often as it has happened lately. But we should be honest, Firefox’s look is not the best today and a “fresh up” is needed. The last two changes (Australis and Photon) clearly were not great and today’s result is a bit… not in line with the competition?
    I don’t care about a complete new redesign or whatever, but I am trying the new tabs and it already helps a lot giving it a more modern look, it simply feels better.
    Then, is it really important? Yes and no, but it’s definetly a welcomed improvement, as simple as that.
    Let’s let them improve the looks for this release cycles for good, so it’s not gonna be needed again in a couple of years.

  6. empirefall said on January 26, 2021 at 3:59 pm

    I don’t like it

  7. anona said on January 26, 2021 at 3:18 pm

    I showed it to my toddler and he likes it. Way to go Mozilla!

  8. piomiq said on January 25, 2021 at 3:52 pm

    Only “Tree Style Tab” (vertival view of tabs). When I started to use it I cannot stop. In my humble opitnion this is much more convenient than standard horizontal version, because vertically I can fit more tabs opened and additionally I can arrange them in branches.

  9. Anonymous said on January 24, 2021 at 10:00 pm

    Are u all, sorry, that dumb or what? If a painter do a paint job at home, and leaves the paint, all stuff, and half painted wall to be back the next day to paint another wall and a ceiling will you also wondering if that is his final job done?

    People, they just started, they will redo it, it is done like stacking LEGO blocks, it will last for another weeks and months, changing icons, shapes, sizes, colors, what are you writing here omg..

  10. nealis said on January 24, 2021 at 4:13 am

    If this is what Mozilla is paying its remaining coders to do after the last round of layoffs, then maybe its time to close shop. What a disaster of a company.

  11. VivaldiViewer said on January 24, 2021 at 2:06 am

    I, and many others, prefer to have the tabs at the bottom, but Firefox won’t give us the option. This is one example of their failure to respond to users. I switched to Vivaldi as my principal browser.

    Or perhaps the new version will have this option? After all, protons can have spin-up or spin-down.

    1. lukasz said on January 24, 2021 at 4:37 pm

      Such rounded “island” tabs are very universal.
      Now you can easily add the option to move the bar down or to the side.

      Only the tab strip height is bad – maybe “Density > Compact” will fix this?
      The extra “Playing” line is also a very bad thing.

    2. lukasz said on January 24, 2021 at 3:06 pm

      Such rounded “island” tabs are very universal.
      Now you can easily add the option to move the bar down or to the side.

      Only the tab strip height is bad – maybe “Density > Compact” will fix this?
      The extra “Playing” line is also a very bad thing.

  12. lukasz said on January 23, 2021 at 11:59 pm

    The sound button is better like this:

    It’s also from my old extension “Mini Audio Icon of Tab – Noise Control”.

  13. lukasz said on January 23, 2021 at 11:55 pm

    Sound button and card height – NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

    “Islet” designation of active tab – as in my old extension/theme “Google Material Design Paper Theme – Best Theme”:

    On a dark theme you can see better:

  14. Ray said on January 23, 2021 at 8:48 pm

    This pill design isn’t doing any wonders. Hope it changes before it reaches stable.

  15. Anonymous said on January 23, 2021 at 7:37 pm

    The dense devs now working at Mozilla puts the final nails in the coffin of Firefox.

  16. Kent Brockman said on January 23, 2021 at 6:51 pm

    I recently gave up on Firefox as my primary browser after using it for years, just too many misteps for me. This looks like more junk eye candy. Vivaldi(primary) and Brave are my browsers of choice now.

  17. ULBoom said on January 23, 2021 at 6:34 pm

    Whatever. At least the baby room wallpaper purple icons attempt from two years ago disappeared.

    It did, right?

  18. ULBoom said on January 23, 2021 at 6:31 pm

    Rounded tabs look fine but they went away from them once. There used to be an add on that reduced tab height as much as desired, Thin Tabs, maybe?

    Whatever they do, they should look at how fonts display on low powered and/or old devices. Our newer stuff has no problems with most themes but our older computers won’t display anything legible with some themes. Dark backgrounds and light fonts are a blurry mess; in many instances font characters break into pieces.

  19. Skynet said on January 23, 2021 at 1:08 pm

    That looks vile.

  20. msk said on January 23, 2021 at 12:20 pm

    Jesus Christ, the current photon design is immensely superior to this atrocity.

    1. Jody Thornton said on January 23, 2021 at 8:24 pm

      I’m staying with Waterfox G3 for a year, which is based on Firefox ESR 78x. When that expires, I may have to – I can hardly make myself say it – OK here it goes, switch to B – B – B (I know, I can do this) …. Basilisk. Yes I know, I know, but if the Moon-Matt team can make Web Componeents kinda work, it may be an option.

      Besides I can make Basilisk look like Quantum with the Photonic theme and Classic Theme Restorer.

      1. Lukash said on January 26, 2021 at 5:56 pm

        Just look into Uxp’s own gith repository..

        Most stuff flagged as Bounty is required by the web today. Guess how many more entries will be existing there in 2022. Without entries like that text is vanishing, pictures and buttons can’t be pressed or pages are simply blank.

        Basilisk… Only in combination with a Chromium based backup browser.

      2. KanoJall said on January 26, 2021 at 4:58 pm

        @Jody Thornton You can and will wait forever for web components, it will never come as they are unable to implement Servo specific features which are required for web components starting to work.

        Better use Vivaldi, Web components in Pale Moon/Basilisk… Never going to happen. Zero chance!

      3. Jody Thornton said on January 26, 2021 at 5:58 pm

        Wow! That’s a tad frightening. I guess that the Moon-Matt team hopes to heck that the backward compatibility means stay online. Otherwise YouTube and other such sites will stop working

      4. Iron Heart said on January 26, 2021 at 9:18 pm

        @Jody Thornton

        Jody, my main man, as I’ve pointed out to you some time ago, there is a reason why rendering engines like Blink / WebKit / Gecko are being developed by big teams and not by literally two guys living in their respective mother’s basement.

        It has something to do with the complexity of today’s rendering engines, implementing support for new web standards is HARD from the browser side of things.

        When you are a comparatively small browser project (but still miles ahead of Moonchild Productions in terms of size), like Vivaldi, Brave etc., you survive by rebasing your browser on newer versions of the parent, in the cases mentioned here Chromium. You do this while still keeping your own goals and visions intact, that is, e.g. Vivaldi wants to provide a highly customizable browser by utilizing a wrapper around Chromium –> doesn’t collide with rebases, e.g. Brave wants to improve Chromium’s privacy by ungoogling it, implement native adblocking and fingerprinting defenses, and their crypto stuff –> doesn’t collide with rebases.

        These browsers don’t have Pale Moon’s problems, because rebasing on newer versions of the parent rendering engine doesn’t collide with the project goals! Pale Moon, on the other hand, wants to:

        – remain a single process browser
        – keep compatibility with XUL add-ons
        – remain with its XUL-based frontend

        Mozilla is moving away from all these things, meaning rebasing on newer versions of Gecko (which I consider the parent rendering engine of Goanna still) is not possible. But those rebases were needed in the past to keep the Pale Moon project going. Rebasing on a newer Gecko engine won’t happen if they don’t want to change their project goals, they are truly on their own now, and this puts the project in jeopardy – because of the aforementioned lack of manpower more than anything.

        So a few things could happen:

        – They change the project goals, for example to providing a sanitized version of Firefox, let’s call it “Unmozillaed Firefox”, constantly rebasing in the process.
        – They get new contributors resolving all their issues.
        – Pale Moon’s web compatibility gets worse and worse, the end result being a graphical version of Lynx (nothing against Lynx, I like it, but Pale Moon aims to compete with other graphical web browsers – just used it to illustrate my point).

        The first point would be Moonchild and his padawan doing something useful for society, because Mozilla is not as trustworthy as they were 10 years ago, the second flat out won’t happen, the third is the most likely. What @Lukash wrote is sensible, keep some backup browser around if you intend to stick with Pale Moon or Basilisk.


      5. Lukash said on January 26, 2021 at 5:22 pm

        1 year… Uxp is missing already quite a hell of complex new standard implementations…

        In 1 year even less pages will work with Palemoon and Basilisk. Even SeaMonkey has a brighter future.

  21. Marek said on January 23, 2021 at 12:09 pm

    Looks very bad.

  22. John said on January 23, 2021 at 11:45 am

    Looks huge.

    1. BlogReader19876 said on January 23, 2021 at 12:13 pm

      Hugely disappointing.

  23. Tom Hawack said on January 23, 2021 at 11:04 am

    What would I like to see in regards to the tabs design refresh of the Firefox web browser?
    Nothing. For three reasons :

    1- It is never possible to satisfy everyone when it comes to aesthetics. Subjective.
    2- My subjectivity leads me to say that, other than Opera (in the old days anyway), not one browser deserves the qualification of applied aestheticism. Out of the box GUI is, IMO, repulsive.
    3- Consequently make code relative to the design as simple as possible, stop changing it accordingly, which will allow users striving for a minimum of a subjectively pleasant GUI to code it themselves with CSS, be it their own be it any found on dedicated Web pages.

  24. Concerned said on January 23, 2021 at 10:32 am

    As long as they leave it flexible enough to change everything using userChrome.css, I’ll be good. My Firefox looks little like the stock UI, and so I’ll probably have to update my code to keep it looking the same. It works and looks great how I have it now. I just hope they don’t mess things up so much that my current code can’t be adapted to be used with the new design.

    Honestly, I wish they would focus on functionality instead of “redesign for the sake of redesign”. Firefox has a simple and highly customizable layout, which I really like. But there is still key functionality missing, like determining what folder bookmarks are located in after searching for them, and being able to perform more complex bookmark searches. There are so many important things to still work on, that I would have hoped a “design refresh” would be at the bottom of the priority list.

    I’m all for great UI design. It’s critical and extremely important. But change driven largely by a desire to look “new” or “refreshed” rarely ends up being a good thing. Just look at Windows 10 as an example of a big mess.

  25. Iron Heart said on January 23, 2021 at 10:16 am

    They think redesigning the UI for the 100th time will stop the market share decline? Australis and Photon have worked so well, surely “Proton” will fix everything now.

    1. ULBoom said on January 23, 2021 at 6:23 pm

      It’s increasing, not declining.

      1. Iron Heart said on January 23, 2021 at 9:28 pm


        Citation needed. My sources indicate that Firefox usage is going down:

        @John C. is right on the money. Mozilla is making Firefox worse, and it doesn’t exactly draw users to the product. They totally butchered the mobile UI (look at the Play Store reviews, hilariously bad indeed), you should hope that a similar fate can be avoided for the desktop application. I am low key helping Firefox by pointing out that more lipstick on the pig won’t solve any problems.

      2. Name said on January 24, 2021 at 9:04 am

        Firefox is still miles away better than Brave (or any Chromium browser) in features, privacy and customization, I can tell because I have both. I know this annoys you terribly, but it’s just factual.

        Mozilla is losing marketshare because Google is one of the owners of the Internet and most people download the first thing they see on Google’s homepage. The usage drop isn’t related to lack of functionality, performance or crashes. Also, most things come with Chrome (or Chromium) bundled (ex. Android, Apps that make use of Chromium’s engine, Smart TVs).

        I use my browser 100% of the times I’m on the PC and I’m yet to encounter anything that makes me use another browser, unless it’s some gov website that relies on dated tech which makes me use IE, not Chromium.

      3. Iron Heart said on January 24, 2021 at 7:17 pm


        > features, privacy and customization,

        Features? Citation needed, don’t know what you even mean by that.

        Privacy? Uhm, nope. Brave is more private than Firefox by default, and it’s not close:

        Sorry to break this to you. Brave is doing several things to improve privacy by default, it disables various privacy-hostile APIs, has a sane referrer policy, a sane cookie acceptance and lifetime policy, gets rid of most prefetching by default, has decent ad and tracking protection by default, does CNAME uncloaking by default based on lists that amount to more than nonsense excuses (Disconnect lists in Firefox, haha), gets rid of session identifiers, tracking via HTML Alternative Services does not work in it, no address bar leaks being deliberately left working etc. pp.

        There is more, but I leave it there. Firefox does none of this by default (or when it does, it does it insufficiently at times, e.g. CNAME uncloaking being hampered by weak lists), you have to go into about:config and install extensions to achieve the same as what Brave already provides out of the box. It’s exactly this action of going to about:config which you then advertise as “better privacy” here, when in fact you are just fixing bad defaults on your own, because Mozilla more or less refuses to.
        I also found that some of the things you can do in Firefox and for which there is no setting directly in Brave, can be done at the OS level. For example disabling IPv6, if you are really inclined to do that (instead of letting sanity prevail by just spoofing your MAC address randomly), you can do it in the settings of your OS, you do not need a duplicate Firefox setting for that.

        That is assuming that you even have the ability to change FF’s defaults, e.g. Firefox on Android has actively killed about:config and most privacy-enhancing extensions in one sweep. I am also assuming that Mozilla doesn’t actively compromise you by slurping user data again, as it happened with the Cliqz incident – after all, the backdoor to install random code into your Firefox installation is still active by default for some reason (Firefox Experiments / Normandy).

        Brave does all of the above mentioned privacy-enhancing things without actively sucking at the security side of things, too:

        Sorry, but you are way, way off there.

        Customization? userChrome.css is officially deprecated, have fun with it while it lasts. Also, Vivaldi technically does it better these days, if you are really into UI meddling.

        > Mozilla is losing marketshare because Google is one of the owners of the Internet and most people download the first thing they see on Google’s homepage.

        Sure thing, man. I am sure it had nothing to do with Firefox’s abysmal performance (they kicked the can down the street in regards to multiprocessing for ages), cluttered interface, or piss poor developer tools (making Firebug necessary back in the day) at all, right?

        You assume that people immediately download Chrome just because the Google website displays some ad. That is wrong, and not something a lazy user would typically do. They do not react to every online ad, you know. The fact of the matter is that Firefox sucked so bad compared to Chrome back in 2008 – 2017, that most people gladly and voluntarily switched. Did some Chrome installations occur via bundles? Sure, but this or the single Google ad being the reason for Chrome’s success, particularly among web devs who know what they are doing, is again, completely and utterly, provably wrong.

        > Also, most things come with Chrome (or Chromium) bundled (ex. Android, Apps that make use of Chromium’s engine, Smart TVs).

        I wonder why that is… Perhaps because it was the superior product all along and is rightfully the market leader? I mean, people are not exactly switching to Firefox in droves like what happened back in the day with IE, indicating that Chromium or Chrome indeed works for most people. On the other hand, Firefox is bleeding users massively, surely because it is so great a product…

        There are also other reasons why even non-Google OS vendors do not choose Firefox. For example, if you try to provide a security-hardened OS like GrapheneOS, Firefox is a poor choice, because its security is swiss cheese. Choosing Firefox also has web compat implications that are not necessarily motivating developers to choose it…

        Tired of the fanboyism here, your arguments are very much invalid.

      4. Destrij said on May 12, 2021 at 4:27 pm

        And as expected, the Brave * [Editor: removed] has never heard about ghacks user.js. Not Chrome, not Chromium, not Brave and neither any other run-of-the-mill chromium fork can even come close to the privacy and control Firefox with custom user.js brings you.

      5. Marc said on January 28, 2021 at 3:07 am

        I agree with Iron Heart, I’m only hoping Brave gets a portable version. Also I have to keep at hand and old version of Firfox for many tasks that cannot be done with newer versions sigh ¬¬

      6. Iron Heart said on January 28, 2021 at 2:44 pm


        A portable version of Brave already exists:

        You mention an old Firefox version – some humble advice on my part: Using outdated / abandoned versions of software is never a good idea for security reasons. There are forks of older Firefox versions which are getting security updates from newer FF versions, for example Waterfox Classic, Basilisk, or Pale Moon.

        If one needs an old Firefox version, I always suggest looking into those. Just telling you this in case you are unaware.

        Hope this helps.

      7. James said on February 1, 2021 at 5:37 am

        Agree with almost all your points, save the Waterfox recommendation. After the surreptitious sale to some ad co. I simply don’t trust, use and rec. it any longer.

      8. Iron Heart said on February 1, 2021 at 7:14 am


        Mozilla receives all its funding from the biggest ad company in the world (Google), stop being a hypocrite.

      9. someone said on January 25, 2021 at 6:33 am

        holy shit get a life

      10. Iron Heart said on January 25, 2021 at 6:00 pm


        Seems like you can’t refute any of my points… My post is more factual and informative than any of the smug one liners you put out here.

    2. someone said on January 23, 2021 at 12:35 pm

      Apparently you commenting about it everytime in every possible post will help them.

      1. John C. said on January 23, 2021 at 6:25 pm

        Your vain attempt to stifle Iron Heart’s objections are wasted on the legions of people who detest what Mozilla is doing to Firefox. I myself am among that number. IMO, it’s time for me to freeze at the current version or even go further back.

      2. Iron Heart said on January 23, 2021 at 1:05 pm


        Salty because you know it’s true?

  26. Yuliya said on January 23, 2021 at 8:41 am


  27. Zelanium said on January 23, 2021 at 8:36 am

    Looks horribly bloated. A very bad change. Perhaps part of Mozilla’s new self-professed mission to destroy a free and open internet.

    1. James said on February 1, 2021 at 5:13 am

      New? Sadly they’ve been on that path for quite some time now, steadily destroying a once fine browser and making it irrelevant in terms of market share. The only reason they’re still around is because of Google’s yearly largesse, and even that would stop in a heartbeat if Google didn’t fear being hauled up as a monopoly in the browser space.

  28. Thorky said on January 23, 2021 at 8:26 am

    Right now, I can’t see any advantages of this design. Kid’s stuff.

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