Mozilla have been teasing a new look for their Firefox browser for a while, so I decided to download and install the latest version to see if the hoopla was justified.
To be honest, I’m not seeing any great difference. Yes, it may be faster under the hood, and perhaps more streamlined on the surface, but what struck me was how little they’d actually changed things.
I guess I’ve been spoilt from using Vivaldi as my primary browser since last year. While Vivaldi is based on Chromium, the team behind it have put a lot of effort into making it more personal through the features they’ve added. I’m not just talking visual customisation, but the ability to change things like handling of browser tabs, keyboard and mouse gesture shortcuts, and Web Panels that let you open a second website in mobile view alongside the page you’re currently viewing. Heck, they even let you increase the size of the user interface!
Is there anything Firefox has that I miss? Their Containers system for sealing certain sites and services (Facebook, YouTube) so their cookies can’t follow you to other places — that was something I used a lot. Per-site zoom settings was also helpful. But other than those, Vivaldi pretty much covers everything I need.
And I have to also say, with a heavy heart, that my faith in Mozilla has diminished over the past year. Their focus has drifted a lot, and while their commitment to web standards and user rights appears, on the surface, undimmed, it is painfully obvious that they’re only still keeping the lights on because Google needs to point to a ‘competitor’ to try and stave off increasing scrutiny from regulatory authorities.
I think it would be great if the teams at both Mozilla and Vivaldi (and Brave and DuckDuckGo, for that matter) could work together to not only improve the browser but form a united front to break Google’s hold over it. As things stand now, there’s a real possibility that Google could still force through technologies like FLoC that exist primarily to reinforce their dominance, simply because so many people use Chrome. Neither Microsoft nor Apple seem interested in anything other than protecting their corners, and while the latter talks a good talk about privacy that only extends to those within its ecosystem.
That doesn’t mean that I want Mozilla to throw in the towel on their browser technology, any more than I’d want Apple to throw away WebKit. We need that diversity. I remember only too well the stagnation that occurred during the several years that Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 6 stayed put on millions of PCs, and I don’t want the web to be reduced to only what serves the interests of Google and their partners.