Current Version plugins

Firefox 66 may move New Tab search input to Address Bar

I think it was Google that started to display a search form for the first time on a browser’s New Tab page; correct me if I’m wrong on that. Many browser makers, Mozilla included, added search forms to the New Tab page of their browsers, and it is quite common to see a search field on the page.

I never really understood why Mozilla added the field to Firefox, as you could just use the address bar or the search bar, if displayed, to search on the Internet. Firefox’s address bar runs searches using the default search provider but the browser supports on-off searches as well to use different installed engines for individual searches.

Mozilla added search shortcuts to the Top Sites listing on the New Tab page recently that use keywords, a neglected feature, to power searches.

Firefox users who don’t use the search field on the New Tab Page can hide it on the page by disabling Web Search on the configuration page about:preferences#home.

New Tab Page search changes in Firefox

firefox new tab page search

Firefox 66, currently available on the Nightly channel, changes the behavior of the search field on Firefox’s New Tab page.

The search form is displayed on the page and activation highlights the cursor in the form; the input is moved to the address bar automatically, however, as soon as you start to type the first character. In other words, the search field is degraded to a link to the address bar.

It is not clear, at this time, if the change is just a test to see how it performs compared to the status quo, or if Mozilla plans to go ahead with the change and launch it in Beta and Release versions of Firefox when they hit version 66.

I have created a short demo video that highlights the change

Firefox users who dislike the new functionality may turn it off the in the following way (again, as of right now. It is possible that Mozilla will add a switch to the preferences to improve the visibility).

  1. Load about:config?filter=browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.improvesearch.handoffToAwesomebar
  2. Double-click on the preference.

A value of False means that the feature is turned off, i.e. input in the search field on the New Tab page in Firefox does not jump to the browser’s address bar on first character input. A value of True means that the feature is enabled.

Closing words

The new system that Mozilla plans to launch in Firefox 66 changes what happens when users start to type in the search field on the New Tab page in Firefox. Users would expect text input to be entered in the field they are typing in, but Firefox will move the input to the address bar.

Whether that will lead to some confusion on the user part remains to be seen. Mozilla could have created different solutions, e.g. that text is displayed in both fields or that activation of the search field jumps to the address bar directly (with a short notification that things changed in that regard).

Now You: Do you use the search field on Firefox’s New Tab Page? (via Techdows)

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