Barbara Bermes and the Firefox mobile team had a big task in front of them. Create a high impact product, and do it fast. With some focus, the answer was clear.
IN MID 2016, A YEAR INTO HER JOB leading product development for Firefox mobile browsers, Barbara Bermes and the Firefox mobile team were issued a throw down. What could be added to the Firefox mobile product line that would produce a high impact? Oh, and have it ready for customers by the end of the year. Conventional wisdom would suggest a big splash with fancy features to attract users. The answer, it turned out, was much simpler.
“People clearly told us that they wanted an ad blocker on Firefox in iOS,” Bermes said. “Back then it was technically very difficult to achieve in a short time frame, so we thought, why don’t we leverage what we already have and instead take our implementation of content blocking and put a browser around it.”
With that decision, Firefox Focus and Klar, for the German-speaking market, the free, open source, slimmed down browser that provides instant, automatic privacy protections with always-on tracking protection were born. Both products are much simpler and smaller than the full Firefox mobile browsers and were quicker to develop, showing up in app stores in under eight weeks.
Bermes is especially proud that with Focus and Klar, the team was able to give users privacy by default.
“We delivered what users asked for in a different simpler product,” she said. “And as you can see from the reviews that’s exactly where we found a market fit.”
After nearly a year in the market, the team is defining precisely what Focus is and what it is not. User feedback is telling them that people want tabs, history and bookmarks, all the features of a full-fledged browser. Bermes says her group has been listening and investigating carefully to the requests as they weigh developing great features against replicating browsers that are already on the market.
“In the September update, we tackled one of the most requested features that people really wanted, which was multiple tabs,” Bermes said. “Our team dissected the underlying problem that users were facing. They wanted the ability to switch between websites during their browsing journey. Focus now lets users open multiple tabs and visit multiple sites during a single session, and then they can clear the entire session once they’re done browsing.”
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