Mozilla Firefox 89.0 – Proton Redesign [EN]

This will be my last post about new Firefox versions and this time in English. I started posting release notes in Lithuanian here a few years ago as i was posting them in a local forum, so i figured i will post this in my blog and then copy to that forum. Which is nearly dead now. As well as my interest in posting such things 🙂

It feels like only yesterday i was writing about my concerns about Quantum update (with its Photon UI). It killed a lot of things i liked about Firefox (customization and ability to extend various features). I have adjusted to that and to the loss of many extensions, although i still miss some of them and more robust tabs handling (multi rows, tabs opening position, etc.). I didn’t like the UI changes as well, but it was easier to get used to.

Seems that redesigns and UI changes happen more often in Firefox now. Maybe this is an attempt to stay relevant (even bad press is still press). Some will hear negative comments and will be curious to try to see is it really that bad. But i believe that influx of new users is not as high as exodus of long time users.

I have started playing around with new Edge at home when they introduces huge jumping address bar effect (which they toned down a bit later). Recently at work i also started using Edge in parallel with Chrome to see what works, what not. Especially when Google made annoying tab preview fly outs mandatory in 91 version. Edge has some rough edges 😀 But i like some things more.

For me having clearly indicated tabs boundaries was always an important thing. This is why i used add-ons to make them back square when Australis made them trapeze like. I used extensions or light/default themes so it would always clearly show where one tab ends and another starts. Because not having boundaries makes your brain do additional cycle to figure out where it is safe to click to still hit a required tab. I know this is minor , but i don’t want to lose my efficiency and peace of mind because developers thought it would be fancier to make them blend with background, float, etc. Usability is more important to me.

So, what changes 89.0 version brings (and 90 will solidify):

New Proton UI with floating tabs and bulkier tab row because of that. As i mentioned before, no clear delineation between tabs (especially inactive tabs) other than site icon and title. It looks cool, but doesn’t feel practical.

Many buttons and UI elements, icons now are flat, without color, similar to what Edge or Chrome have. Personally i never liked this flat trend and to me it feels Firefox is just losing its unique identity again and again. I guess this is called looking modern now. It looks more jarring with colorful icons of add-ons i use.

Other menu elements also became bulkier, like main or bookmarks menu. More spaces between likes, less content fitting on the screen before you have to scroll. Especially annoying with bookmarks. I have noticed that Edge also has a lot of space between bookmarks and this is one of the things i like more in Chrome. It looks tidier. At least Last Used Bookmarks menu is still here (i didn’t see it in alpha version i tried). Context menus and informational popups were also redesigned and on macOS it uses native menus. And there should be less popups.

There is no 3 dots button in address bar anymore (as well as Pocket integration button). I actually was using this button often to send a link via email. Now we are back to do it the old way (copy link, go to mail app, open new email, paste the link). They say people were not clicking on it often enough. Well, Firefox account button was not getting love either, but it is still there 🙂

There are some additional changes to privacy settings, performance improvements and fixes and security patches as usual.

You can still switch off Proton UI by going into about:config and changing browser.proton.enabled setting to false. Although tabs still don’t look the same as they were. This setting will go away in 90 version.

In conclusion, it doesn’t feel like completely broken, but design is less clear and efficient now, i have lost a few things i was used to. And it is harder for me to find a reason to keep using a separate browser instead of switching to built-in Edge option. Just need to make sure a few add-ons that are still working in Firefox are also available in Chrome/Edge store.

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