Mozilla streamlines Firefox in browser rejuvenation project

But use of Firefox continues to dwindle as Chrome dominates the browser world.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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Stephen Shankland
2 min read
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Mozilla has reworked Firefox in an attempt to get rid of user interface clutter and to make its web browser easier to use. A new version, released Tuesday, cleans up the address bar, simplifies main-menu options, consolidates website permission requests and gives tabs a new look.

The effort is designed "to give you a safe, calm, and useful experience online," Mozilla said in a blog post.

The new tabs present the open tab as a free-floating rectangle, a visual indicator that you can drag around to reposition it in the tab strip or disconnect it entirely into a separate browser window, Mozilla said.

When websites request permission to use your camera and microphone -- for example when starting a video conference -- Firefox will present the request as a single pop-up. And gone is the three-dot menu in the address bar, which Firefox users didn't favor, according to telemetry data Mozilla gathered through 17 billion user clicks over a month.

Firefox is Mozilla's best-known project, a browser that helped reignite competition more than 15 years ago when Microsoft's Internet Explorer was dominant but stagnant. Firefox's rise was squelched with the arrival of Google Chrome, which now accounts for 64 percent of browser usage while Firefox dwindles. Firefox's waning fortunes reduce Mozilla's ability to steer the web in directions it likes,such as improving people's privacy and cutting how much they're tracked online.

Firefox's new tab look

Firefox now presents your open tab as a standalone rectangular item to indicate you can drag it around.

Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Today, Firefox has 207 million active users each month, according to Mozilla's Firefox usage statistics. That's a lot of people, but it's less than the 300 million Firefox users Mozilla had in 2017 when it embarked on its Firefox Quantum project to speed up the browser and attract more users. Firefox remains a rarity on smartphones, where Google's Chrome and Apple's Safari are dominant.

Mozilla cut a quarter of its staff in 2020, blaming a pandemic-induced cut in revenue from partners like Google that share ad revenue. The nonprofit has been increasing the profile of advocacy work like protecting privacy and fighting for net neutrality, but the layoff hit its core browser team.