What's new with Firefox 29?

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by Jimmy Nicholls| 30 April 2014

Mozilla has unveiled the latest update to its flagship browser, but is it too similar to Chrome?

Yesterday's relaunch of Mozilla's flagship browser is the first time the not-for-profit firm has hit the headlines since Brendan Eich's pained resignation this month, following revelations about his contribution to a campaign opposed to gay marriage.

The relaunch includes a major overhaul of the interface, named Australis after the star system, as well as an update of Firefox Sync, incorporating the newly created Firefox Accounts and increasing security measures. Though the beta has been open for some months now, less adventurous users will find much has been altered.

Firefox 29's new interface looks very similar to Google Chrome. Perhaps too much so.

Visuals

As others have commented, the new Firefox bears close resemblance to Google Chrome, the design being more curvaceous than previous iterations. Tabs are now rounded at the corners, fading into the background when inactive, and menu functions are slotted away on the right of the address bar. In an archaic departure from their rival, Mozilla have opted to continue with a separate search box, though this can be easily removed.

Menus and customisation

Firefox's handling of menus and customisation is more innovative than the aesthetics. Mozilla previously led the pack when it came to personalising the browser, and the drag and drop interface is a welcome step forward. Users will be able to move buttons between the taskbar and drop down menu, with other functions stored in the customise menu. Bookmarking has also been updated to a one-click button with a cute animation, though by default it dumps new bookmarks in an unsorted folder, which is rather unintuitive.

Syncing

Beforehand Firefox Sync was regarded as difficult to use, and was thus mostly ignored. The new system lets you sign up for a Firefox Account (which will later be used in the Firefox OS for mobile and tablet) and move your bookmarks, tabs and other information between devices. The new system includes better encryption and security to protect users from a variety of attacks.

Final remarks

The new update brings Firefox in-line with Chrome, its main rival. Each browsers account for around 17% of the market right now, but with the changes Mozilla have implemented some may wonder if the two are significantly differentiated. For those loyal to Firefox the new customisation tool and sleeker look will no doubt be welcome, but there is little reason for those on Chrome to contemplate a switch.

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