After greater than a yr of improvement, Mozilla at the moment launched Firefox 79 for Android, branded Firefox Daylight. Like with Firefox 57 Quantum, Firefox Daylight will get its personal identify because it marks “a new beginning for our Android browser.” The new model is “an entirely overhauled, faster, and more convenient product.” Firefox Daylight contains Enhanced Tracking Protection on by default, a brand new person interface, Mozilla’s personal cell browser engine GeckoView, and a slew of latest options. Mozilla is rolling out the brand new Firefox for Android globally, beginning in Germany, France, and the U.Okay. at the moment, and North America beginning August 27.
Firefox has about 200 million active users, based on Mozilla, making it a serious platform for internet builders to think about. But that quantity has been steadily falling over time. Furthermore, on cell, the place customers are much less prone to change their default browser, Firefox holds lower than 1% market share, based on Net Applications. That’s why the corporate determined to hit reset on its Android browser.
The launch comes at a tough time for Mozilla, which earlier this month announced layoffs of about 250 staff. We spoke with Mozilla senior product supervisor Vesta Zare concerning the Firefox Daylight launch. “I wouldn’t say it was impacted that much by the layoffs but of course everyone was impacted,” Zare mentioned. “But I do want to stress that this remains a priority, a high area of focus for us, especially on mobile.”
Enhanced Tracking Protection
Over the previous two years, Mozilla has been boosting Firefox’s privateness chops, particularly in the case of blocking internet trackers. Other browser makers have made related strides, a win for browser customers however a headache for the internet marketing business and the companies that rely on it.
In October 2018, Firefox 63 arrived with Enhanced Tracking Protection, blocking cookies and storage entry from third-party trackers. Firefox 65, launched in January 2019, added three Content Blocking controls for the blocking characteristic:
- Standard: the default, the place Firefox blocks recognized trackers and third-party monitoring cookies normally.
- Strict: for individuals who need a bit extra safety and don’t thoughts if some websites break.
- Custom: for many who need full management to choose and select what trackers and cookies they need to block.
Firefox 69 arrived in September with Enhanced Tracking Protection turned on by default and cryptomining blocked by default. Firefox 70 adopted in October with cross-site monitoring cookies from websites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn blocked beneath the Standard setting, and Firefox 72 arrived in January with fingerprinting blocked by default. All informed, Firefox now blocks 10 billion third-party monitoring cookies, cryptominers, and fingerprinters per day.
Now, Firefox Daylight is popping on Enhanced Tracking Protection by default on Android. Ad trackers are blocked within the Standard mode proper out of the field, however customers can customise their privateness settings additional utilizing the Strict or Custom choices.
Speaking of privateness, Firefox Daylight has an improved Private Mode based mostly on the privateness browser Firefox Focus. Private Mode is now accessible from the Firefox homescreen and customers can create personal searching shortcuts on their Android homescreen. This largely makes Firefox Focus redundant, although Zare confirmed to VentureBeat that Mozilla has no plans to kill off the privateness browser.
“Firefox Focus is going to stick around for now,” Zare mentioned. “We did port over a lot of the popular Focus features into this browser, because we know users loved it. But again, I think the beauty of Focus is that it’s very simple, and lightweight so I think we want to first launch this browser and then figure out how both browsers can coexist together in the same market.”
The new Firefox for Android has a very overhauled person interface. Best of all, it’s customizable.
You can set the URL bar on the high or backside (default), which is especially helpful on giant smartphones. Firefox for Android additionally makes it straightforward to toggle between Light and Dark themes, or you may select an computerized swap that follows your Android setting so the browser switches to darkish mode at a sure time of day.
There’s additionally a brand new bookmarking software known as Collections, which is supposed that can assist you set up and curate on-line searches. Firefox Daylight helps you to share Collections between your units, so you may ship greater than only a single tab out of your cellphone to your laptop, and vice versa. The firm plans to combine Pocket into the characteristic. “We’re working on something called Smart Collections as we’re doing integration with Pocket,” Zare mentioned. “We’ll have some of the top articles as a default collection but then we’ll also have the Smart Collection that will recommend content based on the Collections that the user has manually created.”
Browser extensions are an enormous deal on desktop however they aren’t actually obtainable in cell browsers, besides Firefox for Android. The new browser options 9 add-ons from Mozilla’s Recommended Extensions program. They are uBlock Origin, Dark Reader, Privacy Badger, HTTPS Everywhere, NoScript Security Suite, Decentraleyes, Search by Image, YouTube High Definition, and Privacy Possum.
To be clear, Firefox for Android already had add-ons, however the expertise was poor. “The way it worked before was that any Android user could just go to AML and install any plugin. But oftentimes it was not available on Android or it didn’t work well on Android. They just thought it was buggy, and they didn’t have a good user experience or it didn’t do what they intended for it to do. So we wanted to be a lot more mindful about this implementation and slowly roll out addons that have passed the compatibility and security benchmarks that we’ve set.”
Firefox pioneered add-ons (now generally often known as extensions) on desktop. Mozilla is attempting to do the identical on cell, however it’s going to take time to get it proper given cell’s limitations and distinctive concerns like battery life. By the tip of the yr, Mozilla is aiming to have solely 30 add-ons, relying “on how fast we work with individual developers.”
In October 2018, Mozilla switched Firefox Focus for Android to GeckoView, its personal cell engine. This introduced efficiency enhancements, although it elevated the app’s measurement from 4MB to 38MB.
“We chose Firefox Focus to be the first to use the new GeckoView engine because it allows easier integration of Focus’ well-known privacy features,” a Mozilla spokesperson informed VentureBeat on the time. “Since this is still a new engine, we will gradually enable it for users. Then, we will explore the possibilities of using the new engine on other Firefox browsers and apps on Android.”
In June 2019, Mozilla introduced it was bringing GeckoView, which it describes because the “high-performance, feature-enabling motor that fuels our Focus app,” to Firefox. The change additionally permits Mozilla to rely much less on Google.
“While all other major Android browsers today are based on Blink and therefore reflective of Google’s decisions about mobile, Firefox’s GeckoView engine ensures us and our users independence,” the corporate mentioned then. Aside from add-ons, GeckoView is arguably the most important differentiator for Firefox on Android. Brave, Chrome, and Edge are all based mostly on Google’s cell engine Blink, whereas GeckoView provides Mozilla “complete freedom of choice when it comes to implementation of standards and features.”
In observe, Mozilla says GeckoView interprets to sooner searching for customers (the browser masses 10% sooner than its predecessor) and impartial management for “which privacy and security features we want to make available.” In truth, Enhanced Tracking Protection wouldn’t have been potential with out GeckoView, Zare mentioned.
GeckoView means Mozilla will be capable of launch Firefox for Android updates sooner than ever. Mozilla this yr transitioned Firefox desktop releases to a four-week cadence (in comparison with six to eight weeks for its opponents). On cell, it’ll follow that cadence, however it may also be capable of push out updates even sooner in some circumstances.
“Another really good advantage of us building this browser the way we built it is that now we’re going to be able to do very quick releases,” Zare mentioned. “It helps us become a lot more agile, so we could potentially just do releases every two weeks. We could have new addons every two weeks. This is something that we were not able to do in the old browser. We’re going to keep the same version but we’re probably going to have a lot more ‘dot’ releases just to make sure that we’re constantly engaged with our users, fix bugs, and ship the fixes. It could also bring minor features, changes, enhancements, and improvements.”