Mozilla, Gecko Archive

Firefox on the brink?

A somewhat obscure guideline for developers of U.S. government websites may be about to accelerate the long, sad decline of Mozilla’s Firefox browser. There already are plenty of large entities, both public and private, whose websites lack proper support for Firefox; and that will get only worse in the near future, because the ’fox’s auburn paws are perilously close to the lip of the proverbial slippery slope. ↫ Bryce Wray US government guidelines say that US government websites only need to be tested on browsers with more than 2% market share – and Firefox is getting perilously close to that threshold. While it won’t kill Firefox overnight, it would definitely make Firefox progressively more cumbersome to use for American users, and could have ripple effects elsewhere.

Firefox lost users during “failed” Yahoo search deal, says Mozilla CEO

This week, Mozilla CEO Mitchell Baker rose as a key figure in Google’s defense against the Justice Department’s monopoly claims. Providing a video deposition for the landmark trial, Baker testified that Mozilla’s popular browser Firefox tried to switch from using Google as a default search engine but reverted back after a “failed” bet on Yahoo made it clear that Google was Firefox users’ preferred search engine. That fits in a long string of similar claims – namely, that defaulting to anything but Google is impossible, because nothing else is even remotely as good as Google Search, because none of the others are the default, meaning they don’t get the amount of queries needed to improve search quality, and on the spiral goes. What’s spicy here is that this trial could potentially turn out to be Mozilla’s downfall, since Google’s search deals with, among others, Mozilla, are up for debate. Desktop Linux’ Firefox problem could explode sooner than we might think.

Can browser choice screens be effective?

Mozilla has conducted one of the first – maybe even the first – studies into the effectiveness of browser choice screens, and they conclude: This research showed that browser choice screens have the potential to be effective. Well designed browser choice screens can improve competition, giving people meaningful choice and improving people’s satisfaction and feelings of control. And they can do all of this without overburdening people or taking too much of their time. What’s more, people have strong preferences: it turns out they want the ability to choose their default browser (rather than being assigned one by the operating system/device manufacturer); they also want to pick from a wider range of browsers. You can download the full report from Mozilla.

The Servo project is joining Linux Foundation Europe

Created by Mozilla Research in 2012, the Servo project was the first major Rust codebase other than the compiler itself, and has since been a hallmark for experimental web engine design. Major components of Servo have been incorporated into the Firefox web browser, and several of its parsers and other lower-level libraries have become foundational to the Rust ecosystem. As a promising, modern, and open web engine for building applications and immersive experiences using web technologies, stewardship of Servo moved from Mozilla Research to the Linux Foundation in 2020. In 2023, Servo experienced renewed activity led by Igalia, a Linux Foundation Europe member that now has a team of engineers working on the project. Today we are pleased to announce that the Servo project has officially joined Linux Foundation Europe. I’m very curious to see where Servo goes in the future.

Firefox for Android to get full extension support in the coming months

Mozilla has announced that the Android version of Firefox will soon support any and all extensions, and has informed extension developers about this change. For the past few years Firefox for Android officially supported a small subset of extensions while we focused our efforts on strengthening core Firefox for Android functionality and understanding the unique needs of mobile browser users. Today, Mozilla has built the infrastructure necessary to support an open extension ecosystem on Firefox for Android. We anticipate considerable user demand for more extensions on Firefox for Android, so why not start optimizing your desktop extension for mobile-use right away? This almost instantly makes Firefox the most capable and versatile browser on Android. It’s taken them a long time, but the ability to load whatever extension we want will be a great asset.

Thunderbird 115 released

On behalf of the Thunderbird team, Thunderbird Council, our global community of contributors, and our extended Mozilla family, I am incredibly excited to announce the initial launch of Thunderbird 115 “Supernova” for Linux, macOS, and Windows! With this year’s version, we’re delivering much more than just another yearly release. Supernova represents a modernized overhaul of the software – both visually and technically – while retaining the familiarity and flexibility you expect from Thunderbird. This is a massive release, and modernises this venerable e-mail client considerably. I can’t wait to test it out once it hits the Fedora repositories – I never liked Thunderbird all that much, but Supernova seems like something that suits me a little better, so I’m curious to see if it can pull me away from Geary. If you want to quickly gauge the changes to the user interface, the Thunderbird team made a very handy page for that.

Microsoft wants Firefox to ditch Google, switch to Bing

The rumour, by way of The Information, claims senior Microsoft execs hope to seal a deal with Mozilla to make Bing the default search engine as soon as this year, as the browser’s existing big-bucks deal with Google is coming up for renewal. Now, Firefox making a search engine switch isn’t new. Mozilla tested Microsoft’s Bing as Firefox’s default search engine back back in 2021; and those with longer memories may just remember a time when Yahoo! was the default search engine in select countries. It’s a tough pill to swallow: Firefox, effectively the only serious browser not controlled by Google or Apple, exists by the grace of Google. Google pays Mozilla for being the default search engine in Firefox, and said deal makes up about 85% of Mozilla’s revenue. Replacing Google with Microsoft int his equation seems like a lateral move, at best.

Here’s what’s going on in the world of Firefox extensions

So we weren’t surprised to hear that Chrome users were concerned after learning that several of the internet’s most popular ad blockers, like uBlock Origin, would lose some of their privacy-preserving functionality on Google’s web browser, resulting from the changes Manifest V3 brings to Chrome’s extensions platform – changes that strengthen other facets of security, while unfortunately limiting the capabilities of certain types of privacy extensions. But rest assured that in spite of these changes to Chrome’s new extensions architecture, Firefox’s implementation of Manifest V3 ensures users can access the most effective privacy tools available like uBlock Origin and other content-blocking and privacy-preserving extensions. I’m so glad Firefox exists. There simply isn’t any viable alternative to it, and that’s why I’m continuously worried about the continued existence of Mozilla. The story around Manifest V3 is just another example of why Firefox is superior.

Improving Firefox on Windows stability with this one weird trick

The first computer I owned shipped with 128 KiB of RAM and to this day I’m still jarred by the idea that applications can run out of memory given that even 15-year-old machines often shipped with 4 GiB of memory. And yet it’s one of the most common causes of instability experienced by users and in the case of Firefox the biggest source of crashes on Windows. A detailed technical explanation of why Windows’s memory management – and only Windows’s – is causing so many crashes for Firefox, as well as a solution they found to address the problem.

Firefox UI UX history

The history of Firefox UI is important because my project compensates for the shortcomings of this Proton UI and inherits the strengths of the existing Firefox UIs. It’s also one of the ways to prevent divisions in the community, given that there have been forks every time the UI changes big. A detailed timeline of the changes to the user interface of Firefox.

Is Firefox OK?

At the end of 2008, Firefox was flying high. Twenty percent of the 1.5 billion people online were using Mozilla’s browser to navigate the web. In Indonesia, Macedonia, and Slovenia, more than half of everyone going online was using Firefox. “Our market share in the regions above has been growing like crazy,” Ken Kovash, Mozilla’s president at the time, wrote in a blog post. Almost 15 years later, things aren’t so rosy. Across all devices, the browser has slid to less than 4 percent of the market—on mobile it’s a measly half a percent. “Looking back five years and looking at our market share and our own numbers that we publish, there’s no denying the decline,” says Selena Deckelmann, senior vice president of Firefox. Mozilla’s own statistics show a drop of around 30 million monthly active users from the start of 2019 to the start of 2022. “In the last couple years, what we’ve seen is actually a pretty substantial flattening,” Deckelmann adds. The decline and potential demise of Firefox is a massive problem that everybody seems to be kind of tiptoeing around, too afraid to acknowledge that if Firefox were indeed to disappear, we’d be royally screwed. We’d end up right back where we started 20 years ago, with Chrome being the new IE6, but with the big difference that Chrome isn’t bad enough yet for people to care. The situation is especially dire for the Linux world, and I feel like a lot of Linux users, developers, and distribution makers simply aren’t thinking about or preparing for a future where they can’t rely on Firefox anymore. Aside from Firefox, there really isn’t any browser out there that takes Linux seriously, and this is a big problem. Chrome is a disaster on Linux – it doesn’t even do something as basic as video acceleration unless you use one of the third party, custom maintained versions of Chromium, and, of course, it’s a vessel for Google’s advertising business. Things like the Gnome Browser or KDE’s Falkon can barely be taken seriously, and on top of that, are based on Apple’s WebKit, which isn’t a great position to be in either – and that’s it. There’s nothing else. The desktop Linux world is playing with fire by being so reliant on Firefox, and now that Firefox and Mozilla seem to be in some serious dire straits, I’m dumbfounded by the fact nobody seems to be at all preparing for what happens if Mozilla ever truly goes down.

Version 100 in Chrome and Firefox

Chrome and Firefox will reach version 100 in a couple of months. This has the potential to cause breakage on sites that rely on identifying the browser version to perform business logic. This post covers the timeline of events, the strategies that Chrome and Firefox are taking to mitigate the impact, and how you can help. Just skip 9.

Privacy preserving attribution for advertising

Attribution is how advertisers know if their advertising campaigns are working. Attribution generates metrics that allow advertisers to understand how their advertising campaigns are performing. Related measurement techniques also help publishers understand how they are helping advertisers. Though attribution is crucial to advertising, current attribution practices have terrible privacy properties. For the last few months we have been working with a team from Meta (formerly Facebook) on a new proposal that aims to enable conversion measurement – or attribution – for advertising called Interoperable Private Attribution, or IPA. Mozilla working together with Facebook on a privacy feature. How desperate is Mozilla, exactly?

Mozilla has defeated Microsoft’s default browser protections in Windows

In version 91 of Firefox, released on August 10th, Mozilla has reverse engineered the way Microsoft sets Edge as default in Windows 10, and enabled Firefox to quickly make itself the default. Before this change, Firefox users would be sent to the Settings part of Windows 10 to then have to select Firefox as a default browser and ignore Microsoft’s plea to keep Edge. Mozilla’s reverse engineering means you can now set Firefox as the default from within the browser, and it does all the work in the background with no additional prompts. This circumvents Microsoft’s anti-hijacking protections that the company built into Windows 10 to ensure malware couldn’t hijack default apps. Microsoft tells us this is not supported in Windows. Sadly, this does not work on Windows 11, where Microsoft is now forcing users to change the default handler for every individual file type a browser might use.

Progress on the OpenPOWER SpiderMonkey JIT

This may not look like much, but it demonstrates that the current version of the OpenPOWER JavaScript JIT for Firefox can emit machine language instructions correctly (mostly — still more codegen bugs to shake out), handles the instruction cache correctly, handles ABI-compliant calls into the SpiderMonkey VM correctly (the IonMonkey JIT is not ABI-compliant except at those edges), and enters and exits routines without making a mess of the stack. Much of the code originates from TenFourFox’s “IonPower” 32-bit PowerPC JIT, though obviously greatly expanded, and there is still ongoing work to make sure it is properly 64-bit aware and takes advantage of instructions available in later versions of the Power ISA. (No more spills to the stack to convert floating point, for example. Yay for VSX!) Good progress being made on porting Firefox’ JIT to POWER. I’m forced to use Chromium for now, which is unpleasant.

Firefox 89 released with new UI

Say hello to a fresh new Firefox, designed to get you where you want to go even faster. We’ve redesigned and modernized the core experience to be cleaner, more inviting, and easier to use. I was all set to dislike the new design, but honestly, on Linux – both on Gtk+ and KDE desktops, it looks and feels… Nice? I got used to it in an instant, and everything definitely looks cleaner, tighter, and fresher, without really making any massive changes or doing any truly drastic user interface overhauls.

Improving Firefox stability on Linux

Roughly a year ago at Mozilla we started an effort to improve Firefox stability on Linux. This effort quickly became an example of good synergies between FOSS projects. Just a nice feelgood read about collaboration in the open source world – and if you use Firefox on Linux, like I do, this is already benefiting you greatly.

Mozilla plans to remove the Compact Density option from Firefox’s Customize menu

The organization plans to remove the Compact option from the customize menu and migrate users who use Compact to the Normal mode once the change happens. The preference browser.uidensity will remain for the time being, but it is possible that it will get removed at one point in time as well or that the compact mode value won’t change it anymore at the very least. This is a terrible decision. I obviously use the compact layout everywhere, because not only does it look better and use less space, it also doesn’t have that insanely oversized back button. This change makes absolutely no sense to me, and I can’t wait until we get a hack to bring it back.