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Bid your swoopy Firefox tabs goodbye, starting now

A test version of Mozilla's browser shows the new look that will debut in November with Firefox 57, a crucial version of the browser.

Firefox is dropping its ornamental curvy tabs in favor of faster-performing but plainer rectangles atop the website view.
Firefox is dropping its ornamental curvy tabs in favor of faster-performing but plainer rectangles atop the website view. 
Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

When Google's Chrome arrived in 2008, it showed off a bold new tab design that made the tops of websites look like folders in a filing cabinet. Firefox came up with its own variation in 2013 called Australis that had even curvier tabs.

Now, though, Firefox is going for the austere, bare-bones rectangular tabs that Microsoft's Edge browser uses. The new look arrived Thursday in the Firefox Nightly test version of the browser.

"It runs faster, and tests way better" with users, said Mark Mayo, vice president of Firefox. "You can imagine the 'it looks like Edge' discussions," he added, but "everyone likes it once they get past it."

Cosmetic changes, done well, can make software easier to use. But there's often a backlash and some confusion when we have to cope with changes to what we're used to.

You can download Nightly if you want to give it a look, but be warned: it's for developers to try the latest updates and is more likely to suffer from crashes, bugs and website incompatibilities. But there's another reason to try too: it's the preview of Firefox 57, on which Mozilla is pinning its comeback hopes when it arrives in November.

Much of the new look is part of a project called Photon to refurbish Firefox's look. In the new Firefox 57 Nightly build, there also are new icons and new options for the page action menu that appears in the address bar.

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