Surprises in Firefox 29

Category: Browsers

The Firefox browser is updated so frequently that a new version barely makes the news cycle anymore. Usually, updates are minor tweaks and bug fixes. But the latest release, Firefox 29, startled users and pundits with a major makeover. Will it be enough to propel Firefox past its rivals, or will it turn loyal users away? Here's what's happening...

What's Up With Firefox 29?

People don’t like surprises when the surprise is in a tool they’re accustomed to using without thought, so Firefox 29 is drawing lots of criticism – most of it unearned. Here's what all the fuss is about.

The truth is that Firefox has gone stale over the past few years, and has lost market share primarily to Google Chrome. I'm one of those who jumped the Firefox ship in favor of Chrome, due to the way Firefox hogged memory on my system, and because Chrome just seems faster. (I wrote about this a year ago, in Chrome 27 and the BLAM! Factor.)

Firefox Version 29 shakes things up by making Firefox look more “standardized;” that is, more like its two major competitors -- Internet Explorer and Google Chrome.

Firefox Latest Version

First, the main pop-open sidebar has moved to the right side of the screen, as it appears in Chrome and IE. This icon composed of three horizontal lines (sometimes called the "hamburger") is also becoming the standard for many mobile apps.

The grid layout of icons on the sidebar looks a lot like Google’s layout of its various apps, too. Users are complaining that their apps and settings are not where their eyes automatically look. (Personally, I never liked the big orange Firefox button on the top left. It's actually one of the reasons I stopped using Firefox as my everyday browser.)

The forward and back buttons are no longer greyed out ambiguously when their functions are unavailable; instead, a button disappears completely if you can’t use it from where you are. That should save wasted clicks but instead people are wasting time looking for something to click.

Under the Hood and On the Dashboard

Worldwide, Chrome is by far the most popular web browser, with a 45% market share. Internet Explorer trails with 21%, and Firefox takes the number three spot with 19%. Apple’s Safari has 10% of the market, while Opera languishes at about 1%.

In the mobile market, Android’s native browser leads with just over 25%. Apple's iOS browser (iPhones and iPads) powers about 21% of mobile devices. Both of those are declining over the past year, as a result of the rising number of users opting to install Chrome. In the past year, Chrome has risen from 3% to almost 16% mobile marketshare.

Bookmarking got cooler, with one-click bookmarking of the current page and an animated confirmation that the bookmark was saved. A second click opens the bookmark manager where you can edit the bookmark’s title, categorize it, and add tags for searching later.

Under the hood are new customization options; the ability to set up Firefox Sync by creating a Firefox account; HTTPS connections for Yahoo! searches; and a built-in interactive tour of changes to help you make sense of all of this. See the Firefox Releases Notes for details. (

Of course, the changes to Version 29 are not all entirely cosmetic. A slew of security issues have been cleaned up as well.

All of the howling to “bring back the old Firefox” has not gone unheard. You can get the best of both worlds – enhanced security, easier bookmarking, Firefox Sync, etc. – while retaining the familiar look-and-feel of Firefox 28. Just install the Classic Theme Restorer add-on

Are you using Firefox? If so, what do you think about the new look? Are you considering a browser switch? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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This article was posted by on 27 May 2014

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Most recent comments on "Surprises in Firefox 29"

(See all 58 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

28 May 2014

Been using FireFox for years. I prefer it over all others that I've tried....including IE. Currently I have version 29.0.1 on both my laptop and desktop....along with Windows 8.1.
I do have AdBlock Plus installed. I had not noticed any change in speed. Also have used Ghostery for about a year to smother tracking.

So far no problems except for a compatibility problem with Yahoo Mail...on just my laptop. But after uninstalling FireFox completely and then reinstalling it....all compatibility problems disappeared. I'm going to stick with it.

Posted by:

28 May 2014

I have used Firefox for years because I like the look of it -with the Nautopolis theme. If I didnt I would just use Chrome. But after the way FF has been going lately I switched to Cyberfox which keeps the old FF look. Pale Moon also retains it.

Posted by:

28 May 2014

I left Firefox a while back after losing all my tabs for the nth time. . .
I left them a rather vile and profane diatribe and farewell about building the tabs and losing them over and over and over again...
Couldn't they just come up with a method to lock the tabs each time I reconfigure them or alter them to my desire...?
* * *
I came back a few months ago to see how it went...
I am happy to find a "show my windows and tabs from last time" option that has made me a happy camper. . .
and I'm camping out on the doorstep of Firefox until they kick me off the stoop again - if they ever do. . .

I'm a big Firefox fan. . .
I thank them for activating an option for avoiding and eliminating tab and window disaster.


Posted by:

Bill Johnson
28 May 2014

I have been using FF for several years, but really disliked the previous version, and they have ruined the mobile version. I switched to Chrome a few months ago, but am dissatisfied with that, also - intermittent re-boots, mainly. However, I have bought a Chromecast to watch streaming movies on the big screen, which, of course, requires Chrome browser. Oh well....

Posted by:

28 May 2014

I've used FF for a long time. I wasn't looking forward to the changes with all that I'd read, but when the time came it was ok. The only real difference for me was tabs on top instead of underneath. That means I need to be a tad bit more careful where I click. I have tabs on top, then everything else on one bar underneath. I got small icons back when I got Noia Fox, and I love the icon colors. I've had a lot of crashes with the new FF and heard it could be ABP, so I tried Bluhell for awhile. And then went back to ABP. A lot less ads and popup windows. I have my tabs set about half-length and got to keep that, and as a bonus I can show/hide the menu bar by hitting the Alt key. I like FF most for the ability to set it up the way I like it, so I'll stick with FF. Now if they could just make it quit crashing...

Posted by:

28 May 2014

I lost the bottom toolbar and the refresh symbol was moved to the right where I could never find it, as I use it often. Also Forecast Fox no longer worked. These changes couldn't be customized to move things back to where they were. Luckily I found an update for Forecast Fox and add-ons for the bottom tool bar and another that shifted the refresh to the left of the address bar. Sometimes I wonder what Firefox is thinking.

Posted by:

28 May 2014

I have been using Firefox for years, recently I bought a new computer and the guy who built it suggested I use "Chrome" so I did.......I'm now back with Firefox it takes a few minutes to get used to the no big deal it works better than anything else so I won't be leaving anytime soon!

Posted by:

28 May 2014

Upgraded to 29 on the regular 'update firefox' info.

Somehow it turned off AddBblockPlus......

I don't care if it is a memory hog. Nothing seemed faster and if anything a lot slower waiting for adds to load.

Once re-enabled everything is fine again.

A great browser that is much maligned, but doesn't want World Domination like some others that could be mentioned.....


P.S. Herself hates the changes so I MUST be wrong!

Posted by:

28 May 2014

I did change to Chrome -- three time -- and have gone back to my favorite. I really dislike IE, and, Chrome, not much better: not enough tweaking allowed. Anyway, I love FF and will not change again.

Posted by:

28 May 2014

Firefox 29.0 caused me no end of aggravation - unfortunately, an earlier iteration set up my browser to "automatically update" itself (I was unaware of this setting), and I found out about 29.0 the first time I fired up my browser to hit the Internet...WOW! Nothing worked right, I thought I had been hit by some vicious alien-spawned virus or somthing-or-other, but it was my "automatically updated" Firefox. Half of my extensions were gone, all of my themes didn't work, and navigating the thing was a venture into the unknown. I tried to "downgrade" to a former version, but 29.0 wouldn't let me, Mozilla offered no solution, so I resorted to restoring a recent image backup (losing some recent data in the process) and immediately setting up (my earlier version) Firefox to NOT check and NOT automatically update itself. I intend to use Firefox 27.0 until I can decide on which of its competitors to switch to. This is the last strike for Mozilla.

Posted by:

Bill Morris
28 May 2014

I stopped using FF because when I tried to sync my bookmarks, all I got was error messages. Chrome did it for me.

With the new version seems to have done it.

Posted by:

28 May 2014

For whatever reason, Chrome has stopped working on my Win 8.1 machine, and FF won't update to 29. It updated on the wife's win 8.1 and I was kind of taken aback by the "new look". I really have gotten to like Chrome, and it still works fine on the Win 7 laptop. Anybody have any ideas as to why my Chrome stopped working?

Posted by:

29 May 2014

I was really alarmed when I saw the new dumbed-down look in FF29, making it look like the accursed G**gle* Chr*m*. Thankfully, it didn't take too many adjustments to restore it back to the familiar adult version. The new version also remembers my Yahoo passwords too. Something only IE11 did until now.

Posted by:

31 May 2014


I am a person who really hates change and I missed having that orange FF button on the top left of the screen. However, I quickly learned the new layout of FF and am now use to it.

These are cosmetic changes and Folks should NOT get their Pannies all rolled up into a bunch for there are other things on this planet to get really concerned about!

I have used the Google Chrome browser in the past and did NOT like the idea of once I supposedly "deleted" my private information that the browser still HELD ON TO IT!!!

Anyway . . . enjoy your day/night 'cause I'm OUT.


Posted by:

31 May 2014

I've been a Chrome user for quite some time, but after I updated my Mac to Mavericks, Chrome started to fail (don't know why), so I tried Firefox for the first time in years... and I've been gladly surprised: The user interface is beautiful and unintrusive, it responds respectably well, and it doesn't freeze. I'm also a Linux user at work, so I use the IceWeasel browser (the Debian rebranding of FF), and it also feels great. On Windows, I still use Chrome (for some reason, FF lags behind Chrome on my Windows computer)... And of course, I've ditched away IE a very long long long time ago.
I think I've used all major browsers, and I recommend both Firefox and Chrome... but, as always, which one is better, is a hot matter of debate. I use the one that has better response on a given platform, and go on with my life.

Posted by:

02 Jun 2014

I have been using FF for a number of years and FF29 was a positive surprise, I like the new look and feel once I got used to where things where at. I have had a problem since update 28 though I keep getting a FireFox is not responding or the pop-up for the script not running. And yes I have gone through all their trouble shooting steps. Even with that issue I like the FF29.

Posted by:

tom fowler
16 Jun 2014

i'm debating switching, longtime ff user - i hate that it no longer reloads your tabs & other windows following a crash, and you can no longer enter a bookmark into several different folders, only "edit" it and switch folders. i'll try cyberfox and bob's classic theme first -

Posted by:

24 Jun 2014

This was quite an unnecessary shock. I've been around since Netscape. Do it again and I'm gone. I'll trust the pundits who say IE whatever number is safe these days. I really don't like IE. Maybe Chrome or Safari or whatever comes along. That time may have already arrived. The latest update causes a number of interactive buttons to render improperly. Thin ice.

Posted by:

Agent Zero-M
05 Aug 2014

Hi I Updated to FF 29 for a few hours & absolutely hated tt I could find Nothing.

It was work to do the simplest things.

There is 1 HUGE reason to NOT use Google/Chromium..

It is CONSTANTLY reporting EVERYTHING you do back to Google.

It seems theres a program called "Little Snitch" for Apple that monitors your outgoing traffic & Chrome is a dirty culprit.

I imagine that all Micro$oft products report lots o info to MS also.

Im hoping FF will keep true to its users privacy.

I dont LIKE being spied on, do you?

Posted by:

06 Sep 2014

Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth I used EI, but I ditched it as soon as I discovered FF and never went near it again because EI had so many security problems. My son will only use EI so I've used it on his PC and don't like it.

I like FF and don't mind the FF 29 changes, especially when there are workarounds available.

I tried Chrome and couldn't get used to the fact that it didn't do everything I wanted (or maybe that I was used to with FF), so back to FF.

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