Mozilla will be bringing its widely popular Firefox browser on Android to its end-of-life (EOL) period at some point in 2020, based on a recently spotted support document posted by the company. Summarily, the document outlines a plan to prepare Mozilla’s newer browser Fenix for users to switch over. So most of the details won’t necessarily affect end users.
The process will technically begin in May when the company plans to merge over Gecko 68. The browser will be relegated into nightly builds to continue working on deeper under-the-hood changes on that front while Firefox 68 appears to be scheduled for July. By September, the company plans to start launching Extended Support Release updates that will effectively contain only the basic changes needed to maintain the browser’s current state.
If everything goes smoothly, September 3 will see version 68.1 shipped, followed by versions 68.2 and 68.3 on October 22 and December 10, respectively.
It’s not dead yet
Mozilla’s language surrounding the launch of Fenix, first spotted last summer, and the death of Firefox on Android may come as a surprise to some but technically the company’s browser isn’t going away. It is basically an update to the heavy-hitting browser meant to help the company compete more comprehensively with its rival apps.
To that end, Fenix has been built completely from the ground up with a revamped UI, new functionality such as a fresh take on tab grouping, and the ability to save browsing sessions. The latter of those serves as a way to return to tabs opened previously for a more natural flow while tabs and ‘sessions’ can also be saved manually for more granular control over what’s saved. Presumably, users will also be able to not save sessions alongside other ‘private’ mode features.
Mozilla was formed way back in 1998 and its mobile browser has essentially followed nearly every other offering available in the Play Store in terms of features, layout, and function — with some security or privacy benefits. Loyal fans of Firefox will likely disagree but from the average users’ perspective, there hasn’t been much to set Firefox apart on Android aside from user preference.
Among some of the features users should expect with Fenix, the browser will reportedly include an interface that focuses on placing interactive items on the lower portion of the screen, well within thumbs-reach. Other ‘actions’ will be tucked away under a gesture from the bottom of the display.
To better compete with Google
Beyond competing on Android in a more general sense, the move should also serve as a clean break from Google’s Chrome — coinciding with a former Mozilla executive’s recent claims that Google actively sabotaged Firefox when the two companies were still working together. As noted above, Google Chrome and Mozilla’s Firefox aren’t too different in terms of usability and features.
Fenix, as its name suggests, offers Mozilla an opportunity to build on what’s been learned about mobile users and use in Firefox. In short, it lets the company start with something completely new stemming from the ‘death’ of that mobile browser. All that remains to be seen is how far the company shifts away from its roots.