Firefox 85 is Here, But Mozilla is Killing PWA Features

Posted on January 27, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Dev, Mozilla Firefox with 60 Comments

Mozilla released Firefox 85 this week, adding protections against so-called supercookies. But it’s also taking a major step back from Progressive Web Apps (PWAs), which makes this browser a lot less interesting and useful.

“At Mozilla, we believe you have a right to privacy,” the Firefox 85 announcement post notes. “You shouldn’t be tracked online. Whether you are checking your bank balance, looking for the best doctor, or shopping for shoes, unscrupulous tracking companies should not be able to track you as you browse the Web. For that reason, we are continuously working to harden Firefox against online tracking of our users.”

On that note, Firefox 85 now protects users against supercookies, which Mozilla says is “a type of tracker that can stay hidden in your browser and track you online, even after you clear cookies. By isolating supercookies, Firefox prevents them from tracking your web browsing from one site to the next.” It also includes small improvements to bookmarks and password management.

Unfortunately, Mozilla has separately—and much more quietly—stopped work on the Site Specific Browser (SSB) functionality that I highlighted a few weeks ago. This feature allowed users to use Firefox to create apps on the local PC from PWAs and other web apps, similar to the functionality provided in Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and other Chromium-based web browsers.

“The SSB feature has only ever been available through a hidden [preference] and has multiple known bugs,” Mozilla’s Dave Townsend explains in a Bugzilla issue tracker. “Additionally, user research found little to no perceived user benefit to the feature and so there is no intent to continue development on it at this time. As the feature is costing us time in terms of bug triage and keeping it around is sending the wrong signal that this is a supported feature, we are going to remove the feature from Firefox.”

As you might expect, Townsend got a lot of pushback from users in the post, and I’ll point out that there’s no way to gauge user benefit or interest unless you make this feature easily discoverable in the browser. But whatever, Mozilla is walking away from a key tenet of modern web apps and, in doing so, they are making themselves irrelevant.

“There is currently no plan for PWA support in Firefox,” Townsend finally blurts out in response to one complaint.

Well, there you go. There is likewise currently no plan to ever recommend or use Firefox ever again.

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