Mozilla has refreshed Firefox with a major revamp that features cleaner design, more customization controls and better cross-browser syncing across devices, courtesy of the new Firefox Sync service.
Version 29 of the desktop browser puts the focus on the active browser tab, and stashes a new drop-down Firefox menu under a single button (at the right corner of the toolbar). Using Firefox Accounts, a login and identity service Mozilla launched in February, Firefox Sync stores browsing history, passwords, bookmarks, open tabs and form data, and makes them available on desktops and Android mobile devices.
It’s been two years since Firefox’s last big redesign, though the group has been steadily working on performance enhancements for quite a while. Now Firefox’s sleeker outside better matches what’s inside.
Unfortunately, recent events at the organization behind Firefox have overshadowed its technical work.
Dating app OKCupid called for a boycott of the Firefox browser last month in protest of Mozilla’s controversial choice of CEO. (Brendan Eich, formerly the company’s CTO, had previously donated money in support of a ban on gay marriage, a fact that alarmed some Mozilla employees and users. After Eich proved ill-suited to handle the backlash, he tendered his resignation after 11 days.)
Given that, along with Firefox’s eroding marketshare—it’s in third place for desktop browsers, behind Google Chrome and Microsoft Internet Explorer—it’s only logical for Mozilla to do whatever it can to entice users back into the fold. (Even if that means borrowing some design elements from Chrome.)
One thing that could work in its favor: timing. The revamp lands one day after government advisories urged people to seek alternatives to Internet Explorer, pending a fix for a major security hole discovered in the Microsoft browser. A video promoting Firefox 29 highlights the kudos Mozilla gets for respecting users’ privacy: