Firefox

Logo für Firefox von der Mozilla Foundation, CC BY 3.0

Firefox is already preinstalled on Ubuntu and most of its derivatives. The browser, which is backed by the Mozilla Foundation, is popular among Linux users and has a high user share especially in Germany – also on Windows computers. On a worldwide scal, Firefox has lost many users since it reached its best times around 2010 with more then 30 Prozent market share. Today, its market share is far, far below Google’s market leading Chrome browser nearly on the same level as Apple’s Safari.

With version 57, Firefox received a new foundation, which not only brings the browser back on par with its competitors in terms of speed. The user interface also benefited from this, which is now cleaner, following the example of Google’s Chrome/Chromium.

Recently, the Firefox makers have placed particularly high value on preserving the user’s privacy. Thus, since version 69, which was released in October 2019, tracking cookies and crypto miners are blocked by default. Fingerprinting protection was activated soon after. These settings can be accessed via the shield icon in the browser’s address bar or via the “Block page elements” menu item.

The Snap controvery

On 3 May 2022 Firefox 100 was published. However, the main topic among Ubuntu users was the re-packaging of Firefox as a Snap, which was introduced in Ubuntu 21.04 and completely implemented in Ubuntu 22.04 by transforming all existing .deb package installs of Firefox to Snaps. According to the Ubuntu developers, this was requested by Mozilla in order to minimize the effort of packaging Firefox every new Firefox relase for various supported Ubuntu versions. While this is a legitimate reason, the outcry in the Linux community was loud, since critics felt that Canonical, the Company behind Ubuntu, wanted to force them into using their own Snap format.

Apart from such strategic reasons, the noticable tradeoff of the Firefox Snap in the daily work is its long startup time. Particularly on old computers with weak hardware, users report that it takes half a minute and more for Firefox to startup. Even on contemporary hardware Firefox starts a bit slower when installed as a Snap.

Storage locations and backup

In Debian and Ubuntu, Firefox stores each user’s profile in a folder in the $HOME/.mozilla directory. Profile folders consist of bookmarks, saved passwords, browsing history, plugins etc. For backup purposes, simply copy the profile folder to another destination. Since Firefox is also available on Windows and OS-X, it is good to know that they can simply be copied from Linux to another operating system. Moreover, Firefox has a cloud based synchonisation feature.

Where does the Firefox Snap store the profile folder?

When Firefox is installed as a Snap, the profile folder is located at  $HOME/snap/firefox/common/.mozilla/firefox.

Installation

Since Ubuntu 22.04 Firefox was packaged as a Snap only. Existing Installations were automatically migrated from .deb packages to Snaps when upgrading. Even if you choose to install Firefox the old school way with apt …

sudo apt install firefox

… the Snap gets installed.

Spell checker dictionaries, including a version for new German spelling, can be installed from the Firefox add-on page.

Alternatives

Chromium is the main alternative for Linux users. Some “lean” Linux desktops even give Google’s open-source browser preference from the start. Falcon, formerly Qupzilla, is preparing to become the new default browser for KDE; Kubuntu, however, continues to install Firefox.