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Firefox risks user backlash by adding search box to new tab page

Gregg Keizer | June 16, 2014
Mozilla has pulled a "Chrome" by adding a search box to the new tab page in Firefox 31, which is slated to ship in final form on July 22.

One commenter did raise the issue in a different Bugzilla entry. "I'd like to propose a hidden pref, where season[ed] users can just hide the search box by default anyway," wrote Paul Rouget, a Firefox engineer and Mozilla technology evangelist, on May 9. There was no reply addressing Rouget's proposal.

Computerworld could not find an obvious setting in Firefox's semi-hidden "about:config" section that disabled the new tab page's search field. Users can access those advanced settings by typing "about:config" in the address bar, then clicking "I'll be careful, I promise!" in the ensuing dialog titled "This might void your warranty!"

Firefox users can dispense with the new tab page's search box by clicking the small icon at the upper right, but that also eliminates the useful thumbnails, resulting in a completely blank new tab page.

Adding another search option to Firefox — even if some object — may make business sense for Mozilla. The company relies on contracts with search providers, notably Google, for almost all its revenue. In 2012, the most recent year for which financial data has been made public, 98% of Mozilla's income came from search deals, with 90% of that from Google.

The Mozilla-Google search contract expires in November. Mozilla is in a tighter spot than in 2011, the last time it negotiated with Google: According to analytics vendor Net Applications, Firefox's desktop share is down by 25% since it inked a deal with the search giant.

Firefox 31's beta can be downloaded for Windows, OS X and Linux from Mozilla's website.

Firefox 31, now in beta, adds a search box to the new tab page, aping Chrome's similar design change of last year.


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