Mozilla Firefox is a web browser from the Mozilla Corporation which used to aim to be a lean mean browsing machine. It's been going down-hill for Firefox since around 2007. Each release since then has become sluggish and less privacy-respecting. Firefox is a decent browser with modern features and it's fine for regular web browsing; it's just slower than the competition and less privacy-respecting than it used to be.
- 1 A brief history-lesson
- 2 The "privacy" browser
- 3 Usability and performance
- 4 Tips and Tricks which help make Firefox more usable
- 5 Essential extensions
- 6 notes
A brief history-lesson
The "privacy" browser
Mozilla used to promise privacy and Firefox was the most privacy-respecting browser for a long time. Modern Firefox has telemetry and other botnet features. You can type
about:telemetry in Firefox's URL address bar to see just how much personal information about you and your loves ones it is gathering and uploading. Firefox also has a "Pocket" feature which promises synchronization between your devices. This works by uploading a copy of everything you do to Mozilla and this copy is then shared with other devices you have as well as law enforcement agencies and other unknown parties.
Usability and performance
Firefox is alright for most casual web browsing. It performs alright when browsing not-so-advanced web pages.
Firefox on Linux performs horrible when viewing pages that are graphics-intensive or use WebGL. This is partly due to the default renderer on Linux being set to "Basic". It is possible to more than double WebGL and general graphics performance by setting the key
gfx.webrender.all in the secret
about:config settings to true. Just type
about:config in the navigation bar to get to the secret settings page.
Tips and Tricks which help make Firefox more usable
HOWTO switch search-engine
This is not immediately obvious in newer versions of Firefox since the small search-box next to the address bar was taken away. This box is required for easy search-engine management. Take it back: Go to
Search and choose
Add search bar in toolbar. You will now have a small search-box next to the URL address bar. You can still use the address bar to search. The search-box is more powerful as you can choose a specific search-engine and it can also be used to easily add search-engines.
If you have the search-box and you go to a search-engine or website - like this one - you can click the magnifying-glass icon in the search-box and add the site to your list of search-engines.
The best privacy-respecting search-engine option today is the metasearch engine software SearX. It is free software. You can install it on your own machine or server or pick one listed on asciimoos list of Public Searx instances on github. Finding a good searx metasearch-engine that works well may take a bit of effort, some are slower than others. They also tend to slow down as they become popular.
Just click on the search-box's magnifying glass and choose
Add when you are visiting a SearX instance or other search-engine you want to add and use.
You can not set a default search-engine from the searchbox. You need to go to
Search to choose a default.
There are settings you can change to make Firefox slightly less botnet on a special configuration page you can get to by entering
about:config in the URL bar. Consider changing the following keys found there:
|privacy.resistFingerprinting||activates the anti-fingerprinting code used by the Tor browser||false||true|
|toolkit.telemetry.enabled||informs the botnet of your activites||on some distributions it's removed entirely, on some it's set to true||false|
|browser.search.suggest.enabled||sends everything you type in the URL bar and search-box||true||false|
|extensions.pocket.enabled||Enables some botnet thing||true||false|
|network.trr.uri||Makes DNS resolve using Cloudflare||https://mozilla.cloudflare-dns.com/dns-query||blank|
Some of these items warrant some further elaboration. Some, like
toolkit.telemetry.enabled, do not. It's all bad and there's no upside.
browser.search.suggest.enabled is something you may want to enable at the cost of privacy. Noticed how you can type in a few letters and by magic get a full search-term matching suggested? Every letter you enter into the searchbox is sent to a search-engine which sends responses back. This can be useful and you may want to have this feature. However, you are sharing everything you type in the URL bar. This includes typing in URLs to websites you are visiting. Search-suggestions are convenient - but do not underestimate the privacy-implications of using this feature.
network.trr.uri is a new in Firefox 65+. Firefox will request DNS settings from the configured location and use those regardless of your systems configuration. As of now Clourflare DNS settings are auto-configured. There are privacy-implications and it also gives a large private corporation the ability to simply turn sites they do not like off at will. On the flip-side, some countries mandate by law that Internet Service Providers censor DNS requests. Leaving this setting to it's default may be preverable in those situation - thought the better solution would be to setup your own DNS server.
Setting a sensible minimum tab width
It used to be possible to make Firefox tabs shrink as more tabs are opened by going to about:config. The Firefox developers decided that this was too easy and made the tab related options there do nothing.
The current solution is to make a file called userChrome.css in the chrome/ directory in the Firefox profile folder ($HOME/.mozilla/firefox/$profilename).
This will make tabs shrink as more tabs than what is possible with the window with are opened.
Getting the actual URL shown in the address bar
You can make Firefox show you the full address of a website including the
http:// by adding a new boolean called
browser.urlbar.trimURLs set to false in
Using a different User-agent
about:config and right-click and select
String and make the key
general.useragent.override and put something in that key like
general.useragent.override;Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; CPU iPhone OS 12_3 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/605.1.15 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/12.1.1 Mobile/15E148 Safari/604.1 if you want to browse the web as a stupid phone poster.
This will NOT work if
privacy.resistFingerprinting is set to true as this setting will force the user-agent
Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; rv:60.0) regardless of what
general.useragent.override is set to.
Some extensions are more useful than others. These are, in our opinion, worth having.
Best Content Filter (=Advertisement blocker
uBlock Origin is the best adblocking plugin for Firefox. You can download and install it from https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/ublock-origin/
uBlock Origin defaults to a somewhat crippled configuration for some reason. You need to click the red shield icon to configure it once it is installed. Go to
Filter lists and enable everything under
Big corporations would have you believe that you are stealing this website if you read it with an adblocker enabled. Do not worry, there are plenty of people who have no idea there is a advertisement-free Internet experience to be had. Let them see the advertisements.
Non-Spyware User Style Manager
Greasemonkey is an old popular alternative. It's mostly fine. Tampermonkey by Jan Biniok is closed source.