Mozilla Firefox Gets New QuantumBar Address Bar Design And Method To Confuse Advertisers By Polluting User Tracking Data

Mozilla Firefox has effectively moved on from the Awesome Bar to QuantumBar. The redesign of the address bar should have a significant impact on the usability of the web browser. Additionally, the browser maker is offering an interesting way to confuse advertisers by polluting user tracking data.

Mozilla Firefox version 68 is the first stable version that features a fundamentally rewritten and redesigned address bar. The feature, officially called QuantumBar technically matches the Quantum name that Mozilla has used for Firefox browser ever since Firefox version 57 adopted ‘Quantum’. Incidentally, users may not feel much difference. This is an intentional strategy to ensure users feel familiar and not overwhelmed with the redesign.

The changes, however, from Awesome Bar and QuantumBar are quite significant at the backend and under the hood. Used till date, the Awesome Bar relied heavily on classic Firefox components such as XUL and XBL. Moving ahead with QuantumBar, Mozilla no longer uses these components. Essentially, Mozilla has reworked the design and now uses QuantumBar web technologies.

Firefox Gets New QuantumBar That Replaces Awesome Bar

Mozilla has deliberately abandoned several visual elements from the Awesome Bar. The company noted that it intended the new implementation to look and feel like the old in the first release, which is Firefox version 68. Mozilla has initially just activated the QuantumBar in Firefox 68. It plans to gradually introduce newer visual and operational elements in future versions of the web browser.

We recently reported how Mozilla has activated a new feature called ‘Project Fission’ in the Firefox Nightly build version 69. This feature works in the background to isolate components of the website in an effort to boost reliability and stability. Meanwhile, the QuantumBar should significantly simplify navigation, primarily through the address bar. In simple words, Mozilla is attempting to boost functionality at the back as well as the front end.

One of the most prominent changes Firefox users will observe is the dynamic resizing of the address bar. The address bar in QuantumBar gets a bit bigger when it is selected or when a new tab page is opened. This is a simple but effective visual indicator that the bar is selected. The dynamic list of suggestions and one-off searches with alternate search engines will now be quite smaller in width. In other words, the suggestions would take up the same width as the address bar.

In the new QuantumBar Mozilla is trying to clearly demarcate the user typed text and the search suggestions. Apparently, there has been some confusion owing to visual similarities and the way Firefox highlights text. An important feature that comes with the new address bar is that Firefox “remembers” the current state of the input. Up until recently, Firefox forgot what the users have typed if they clicked outside of the area or switched tabs accidentally. The new QuantumBar will display the last state automatically. This will allow users to resume instantly from where they left off accidentally.

The new address bar comes with one-off search icons apart from the preferred search engine. These icons will now come with descriptive text that mentions the searches conducted by clicking them are for a single use or search only. In other words, using them won’t alter the default search provider in the Firefox browser.

Mozilla Offers ‘Track This’ Feature To Pollute User Tracking Behavior

The next stable release of Mozilla Firefox, which is version 68, will launch on 9th July 2019. In addition to the QuantumBar, Mozilla is also offering a new experimental feature designed to pollute what advertisers know about the user by opening a large number of unrelated sites on the Internet. Essentially, the method of “fooling” advertisers by opening several websites that users do not normally open is quite old. Usually, advertisers rely on large data sets about the users browsing history and pattern to tailor advertisements and promotional messages. Mozilla’s Track This experiment loads 100 different websites in browser tabs to add data to the profile that is unrelated to a user’s online behavior.

It is interesting to note that Mozilla’s Track This experiment can be used on all modern browsers. However, there are a few important rules and prerequisites. Track This works best if no content-blocking tools are used. Users who run the experiment should expect unrelated advertisements. The effectiveness depends on the advertising and tracking services that the selected 100 sites use. Needless to add, users who visit websites that use different advertising providers may not need the feature.

Track This comes with four profiles: Hyperbeast, Filthy Rich, Doomsday, or Influencer. Clicking on any of the profile first opens a warning page that cautions the users that 100 tabs will be opened in the browser. After the browser window is flooded with 100 tabs, users can choose to manually close each one or use “close tabs to the right or left”.

Alap Naik Desai
A B.Tech Plastics (UDCT) and a Windows enthusiast. Optimizing the OS, exploring software, searching and deploying solutions to strange and weird issues is Alap's main interest.