Firefox Focus: Taking Back the Mobile Web

Tuesday, July 25, 2017 2 minute read

I want to tell you a little bit about an app that has renewed my interest in using a smartphone as a web browsing device. Firefox Focus eliminates ads, tracking scripts, and the concept of browsing history.

The Problem

Perhaps I have the worst luck in the world, or am simply over-sensitive, but I've been frustrated for quite some time with the mobile web experience. I'm very annoyed when things don't work as we all agreed they would. I can't stand when the page shifts around as ads load, or when full-screen modals irritate me into downloading an app. It just isn't a pleasant experience, and I had largely given up on using portable devices to browse the web. I tried out iPhones, tablets, phablets, etc. but I found none of them as satisfying as a proper computer.

The Solution

Finally, the solution came along. It is called Firefox Focus, and it claims to be a private browser. Here is how they market it:

  • Forget the ad trackers Block ads with sneaky trackers that secretly collect your data by keeping a clean slate. Firefox Focus won’t remember you, so neither will they.
  • Make a fresh start Wipe out your entire browsing session — passwords, history, cookies — with a single click, whenever the mood strikes.
  • Pick up browsing speed Browse lighter and clutter-free by blocking pesky ads that wear down loading speeds and your patience.

What that translates to is a new way of thinking mobile browsing. Everytime you close the window, the history is gone. You aren't tracked (beyond something rudimentary), and you aren't served ads. There aren't tabs. The second you leave a page, it is gone.

It's so fast. It opens in an instant and by the time the page is rendered it won't move around. It's an experience I didn't realize I was missing until now.

Firefox Focus is now my default browser on all my portable devices. I still keep Chrome around, sync'd with my desktop profile with all my passwords saved, but it largely only gets used to load Facebook (I'll never install the Facebook app again) or to check out sites I'm designing.

More Information
  • For the default seach, I use DuckDuckGo. That usually works out well, but if I absolutely need Google I can just prepend the query with 'g!'.
  • One thing I'm slightly embarassed to admit is that I use video game guides quite often. Wikia is a nightmare of a website, but with Focus you can actually use it again!
  • The icon looks very, very fresh: