Mozilla modernises Firefox UI with design overhaul, privacy protections

Developers claim the refreshed browser is cleaner, more intuitive, and responsive to users' browsing habits

Mozilla has "reimagined" the user interface (UI) of its Firefox browser by introducing a more intuitive aesthetic as well as functionality tweaks to improve the overall experience and attract more users to the privacy-oriented web browser.

Key to version 89's new look is a dramatic reduction in the number of prompts and notifications that demand users' attention, as well as actions on the menu bar.

Tab design, too, has been reworked so they float neatly alongside one another, while also being detached from the browser so users can move and rearrange them at will.

Alongside these aesthetic improvements, Mozilla has upped the ante on its privacy protections with the integration of a feature dubbed Total Cookie Protection in its private browsing mode. This tool was previously only available in Enhanced Tracking Protection (ETP) mode, and allows all users to block cookies from tracking them around the web by creating a separate 'cookie jar' for each site.

"We set out in 2021 to reimagine Firefox's design to be fast, modern, and inviting the first time you run it and every day after," said Mozilla's senior vice president for Firefox, Selena Deckelmann. "We've always had your back on privacy, and still do.

"Now with today's new Firefox release, we're also bringing you a modern new look designed to streamline and calm things down so you have a fresh new web experience every time you use Firefox."

Deckelmann added that the development team had set out to implement a swathe of minor and subtle changes to improve users' browser experience without making the overall change too obvious.

The heat map used by Firefox devs to figure out which elements people were using and which they weren't

Tweaks have also been made with browsing habits in mind, with the team analysing 17 billion clicks per month to determine which elements users were interacting with the most, and which were more or less redundant. This analysis also gave the team insights over varying browsing behaviour by country, with the UK being home to the most 'tab hoarders'.

Underpinning the new UI is web navigation, with fewer icons in and around the main address bar, and fewer prompts to distract the eye. Menus, too, are less cluttered with different kinds of settings, and give a clearer idea as to where different options will direct users.

The reworked tab design, meanwhile, aims to improve the user experience by adding new functionality, such as blocking autoplaying videos on newly-opened tabs unless users visit them first. They'll also convey information about what video is playing, or update you on details like when your next meeting is.

The new tab design that comes with Firefox 89

Finally, enabling Total Cookie Protection by default on Firefox's private browsing mode means each site that users visit will be isolated in terms of the cookies on their machine. Cookies can no longer be used to follow users from site to site and gather browsing data when using other services.

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This was first introduced in February for users who've enabled ETP, but it's now generally available for all using the private browsing mode. This is in addition to supercookie protections, automatic clearing of cookies and caches after each session, tracker blocking, fingerprinting script blocking, and SmartBlock. This latter feature intelligently fixes a web page that was previously broken when tracking scripts were blocked.

With Firefox 89, Mozilla has also rolled out a new refreshed UI for Firefox on iOS, with iPhone and iPad users also benefiting from a design functionality refresh. Among the tweaks made are reducing the steps to search in a new tab, emphasising the ability to do new quick searches, and changing the iconography and menu item naming to be more consistent with the desktop experience.

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