With a major redesign, Mozilla Firefox is back but no longer in black. The most obvious change in Firefox 89, which arrived on Tuesday morning, is the toolbar atop the browser: It now comes in a shade of pale gray instead of black, so it fits in much better with other Mac or Windows apps. Below that, the new release of the open-source browser—which has also been updated for Linux, with a corresponding iOS and iPadOS update—shows considerable pruning of its interface. The address bar has lost the traditional home button and condensed the raft of buttons at the top right, while the menu available there is no longer festooned with the icons that made Firefox look even more like a stranger on a Mac or PC. A June 1 blog post calls this “a modern new look designed to streamline and calm things down.” But the face-lift also represents a recognition that this privacy-focused browser continues to get squeezed between Google’s dominant Chrome, Apple’s equally privacy-minded Safari, and Microsoft’s reinvented Edge . So while past Firefox updates have emphasized its protection against online tracking —it blocks third-party ad trackers and the Facebook widgets that let that firm follow us across the web, displays a privacy report card for each page, and even encrypts your domain lookups—this one sells a less-is-more design. That was the right call for Firefox, a browser that broke Microsoft Internet Explorer’s lock on the market by offering tools Microsoft wouldn’t—starting with pop-up blocking and tabbed browsing—but then grew to suffer from a certain amount of feature-itis. For example, the previous release featured two rectangular toolbar buttons, one with mostly vertical lines and the other with a mix of horizontal and vertical lines. The former, Library, provides access to your bookmarks and history, while the latter, Sidebar, offers a different way to view your bookmarks and history while adding the ability to see tabs synced from other copies of Firefox. Updating my Mac and Windows installations of Firefox expunged the Sidebar button and with it the chance that I’d once again confuse it for the Library button. You can undo that in the Customize Toolbar screen or choose the latest Firefox defaults—which remove the Library button as well but add a button for Mozilla’s Pocket page-saving service .
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Firefox still wants to be the ‘Anti-Chrome.’ Can it beat Edge, too?