Mozilla drops support for desktop web apps in Firefox

Mozilla drops support for desktop web apps in Firefox

Recently, Mozilla introduced Firefox 85, which added protections against “supercookies.” The update also appears to have dropped support for Site Specific Browser (SSB) functionality, which some users are very unhappy about.

Mozilla actually signaled its intentions to drop support for SSB functionality weeks ago. In its bug-tracking forums, one developer said the feature has always had “multiple known bugs,” and that user research found “little to no perceived user benefit to the feature.”

“So there is no intent to continue development on it at this time,” Mozilla said. “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.”

The SSB feature allows users to easily create apps from Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) and other web apps. The feature makes it easy to launch web apps in lieu of having multiple browser tabs open at once. You could, for example, create a shortcut for XDA and put it on your desktop. It’s quicker than launching Firefox and then navigating to the website.

Some users in Mozilla’s forums have responded to the company with disappointment following the move. Even Fast Company published a report lamenting Mozilla’s decision. Alternative browsers such as Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge continue to offer enhanced support for PWAs.

“That puts Firefox at a disadvantage against Chrome and Edge, both of which are speeding ahead in making web apps an integral part of their desktop browsers,” Fast Company wrote.

Firefox continues to support PWAs in its Android browser, but Mozilla has no intentions to bring PWA support to the desktop. The company said it didn’t feel like the feature added value to the experience. Meanwhile, Firefox’s implementation of SSB was nowhere near as polished as what Chrome and Edge offer. It was also hidden behind a lot of settings, so the average user likely didn’t know it existed.

In Fast Company’s article, a Google engineer said PWAs now have hundreds of millions of active users, which speaks to their growing popularity. Unfortunately, Mozilla said bringing PWAs to desktop won’t happen anytime soon, or at all.

“Based on the available data we have (both the research we performed as well as looking at how Chrome and Edge’s implementations are being received) PWAs on desktop fall behind other work right now,” Mozilla said in its forums.

About author

Brandon Russell
Brandon Russell

Brandon's love of technology can be traced back to his childhood, when he would obsessively watch Back to the Future. Since then he's followed the industry and its many innovations, from handheld consoles to powerful smartphones. He's still waiting on a hoverboard.