Mozilla has been working on a rewritten version of Firefox for Android, designed to be faster and easier to maintain, and it started rolling out to the stable channel last week. Even though the new version is absolutely an upgrade in some areas, replacing the older browser before the newer codebase had all the same features has proven to be an unpopular move.
The new Firefox, nicknamed ‘Firefox Daylight’ by Mozilla, covers all the same core functionality as the older browser. It uses Mozilla’s own GeckoView engine, it syncs with Firefox accounts, and it offers the same built-in tracking protection. However, not everyone is a fan of the updated design (especially with the focus on ‘Collections’). The most critical issue is the lack of extensions — Mozilla has only allowed a handful of add-ons to work in the new browser, and non-partnered developers have no way of updating or listing their extensions in Firefox Daylight. A Mozilla developer said integration with the main Firefox addons repository is in development, but regardless, it’s not there right now.
Firefox had an average user rating of 4.3/5 stars on the Play Store as of August 23rd, out of 3.5 million reviews. Since then, the average has now dropped to 4.1/5 stars, with 1-star ratings now accounting for more than every other option except 5/5. That’s not a massive difference, but analytics data by SensorTower shosw that the spike in negative reviews far outnumber new positive reviews.
Complaints have also been pouring in over social media. A megathread for the update on the Firefox subreddit has over 600 comments, most of them lamenting the lack of add-ons. Other complaints include the removal of about:config (a page with advanced settings, which is coming back soon), migration issues (some who didn’t set up Firefox Sync had all local passwords erased), design problems with the new tab switcher, and so on. The replies to Firefox’s announcement on Twitter also are mostly negative.
Saying it’s “got everything” while i have less features than previous version is pretty rich.
— The CoPiloter (@Co_Piloter) August 27, 2020
Can’t fine downloads. There were mant downloads in my @firefox app. All are gone. Its very very bad.
— Indian Army (@VinayKu12681819) August 27, 2020
I lost most of my add-ons and it’s a browser without a download manager. Anyways, the UI and browsing experience is crisp and smoother than before, and the bottom nav bar is much appreciated. Just get back those add-ons, enable side loading and about: config asap.
— Nair (@nairulislam) August 27, 2020
Loss of add ons, no way to open links in the background, no download manager
Way to screw up what was the best browser out there
— knowledgemedia (@knowledgemedia) August 28, 2020
Really feeling some user pain from not having my most common websites available + interesting Pocket articles when I go to open a new tab. The UI changes and lack of extensions on this are a real miss for me too.
— Adam Beame (@AdamBeame) August 28, 2020
I’m a Firefox fan, but I strongly dislike this new version on my phone. I find the pop-up to change tabs extremely annoying. In the light version I can barely make out my “back,” home” buttons (white on white!). Better visible in dark version, but I don’t really care for it.
— exNY (@NYexpatness) August 27, 2020
It’s not entirely surprising that Mozilla decided to roll out the new Firefox before it had complete feature parity with the existing version. Maintaining two separate codebases for a browser isn’t an ideal situation, and Mozilla’s limited resources (which are now even more limited) meant that the stable Firefox browser (v68) went without new features for nearly a year. The old browser also suffered from at least one critical security vulnerability while the new version was in development, which possibly accelerated Mozilla’s plans to phase it out.
If you’re not a fan of the new Firefox, you can still download Firefox 68 from APKMirror and disable automatic updates from the Play Store. However, using an unsupported web browser isn’t the best idea if you care about security.