June, 2009

Jun 09

Firefox 3.5 and Privacy

One of the major themes in Firefox 3.5’s user interface is a focus on privacy. So far Firefox’s approach to privacy has been essentially all or nothing. Users previously had the ability to easily clear all of the data the browser had stored about them, but this destroyed absolutely everything. Instead of being able to go off the record, this was kind of like shooting the reporter. Now users have considerably more control over their privacy, both proactively and retroactively.

There are 5 new privacy features introduced to Firefox with the 3.5 release. Here is a description of how each one works:

Tools > Private Browsing (Proactive Privacy)

If you would like to browse the Web without Firefox recording history, Private Browsing allows you to quickly launch a browsing session that will be completely off the record:


After launching into private browsing mode, you receive a confirmation explaining that Firefox isn’t going to remember anything:


It’s great to get private browsing mode into a shipping copy of Firefox, since private browsing mode was previously both targeted and canceled for Firefox 3 (and in the interim it was added to IE and Chrome, which is really great for users). Private browsing mode actually has a long history of not quite making it into a final release, way back in 2002 Blake and Asa prototyped it for Netscape. We all owe a huge thanks to Ehsan Akhgari who worked incredibly hard to get the feature fully implemented.

Tools > Clear Recent History (Retroactive Privacy)

Let’s say that you’ve been browsing around the Web for awhile, perhaps shopping for an engagement ring, or researching a medical condition, and you realize that you really should have been in private browsing mode. The Clear Recent History feature is kind of like Private Browsing, except it works in reverse. (All good interfaces support undo!)


After selecting Clear Recent History, you will be asked what time period you would like to erase:


If you expand details you can see the somewhat arcane list of things being removed, but the short version is that “history” refers to everything that is implicitly collected by Firefox as you browse the Web (and we really mean everything). You can also use this dialog to max out the time range and effectively reset Firefox, similar to the old dialog.

Thanks go to Drew Willcoxon, Shawn Wilsher and Johnathan Nightingale for implementing this feature.

History > Forget about this Site (Retroactive Privacy)

If you don’t want to clear a specific time range but would rather selectively delete items out of your history, Firefox now offers the ability to remove all of the history of a particular Web site. For instance you can select this article in your history (either through the Library window, or the History Sidebar), and then use “Forget About this Site” to remove every visit to blog.mozilla.org.


This is a bit more powerful than deleting individual visits if you are interested in pruning your history. This feature was implemented by Shawn Wilsher.

Simplified Privacy Options (Proactive Privacy)

We’ve also significantly simplified Firefox’s privacy options. By default Firefox will remember where you go on the Web:


However, if you are extremely privacy conscious, or you are setting up a computer that will be in a public location and used by many different people, like a hotel lobby or a computer lab, you can now very easily set Firefox to never remember history. This is basically the same thing as always running Firefox in private browsing mode, except that the mode is always on.


Of course if you have previously changed your history settings, or are interested in micromanaging exactly what Firefox will and will not store as you browse the Web, the full range of settings are still available:


This feature was implemented by Ehsan Akhgari.

Ability to Control What Appears in the Location Bar Search Results (Proactive Privacy)

When we expanded the capabilities of the location bar to search against all history and bookmarks in Firefox 3, a lot of people contacted us to say that they had certain bookmarks they didn’t really want to have displayed. In some cases users had intentionally hidden these bookmarks in deep hierarchies of folders, somewhat similar to how one might hide a physical object. Having something from your previous browsing displayed to someone else who is using your computer (or even worse) to a large audience of people as you are giving a presentation, is really one of the most embarassing things that Firefox can to do you. So now in Firefox 3.5, users have complete control over what types of information are displayed in the location bar (or suggestions can be turned off entirely):


This feature was implemented by Ed Lee and Dietrich Ayala.

Even More Control!

But what if the five privacy tools described above still aren’t enough? You want to be able to save both bookmarks and history, but in a way that only you can access the information.

The most direct way to do this is to create a new user account in the operating system you are using, and to give it a password. Firefox will create a separate profile for that user, and you can use this new profile to store bookmarks and history.

Alternatively, you can launch Firefox and display the profile manager. This is a feature that is intentionally hidden from the normal Firefox UI, since it is a bit more complicated than creating a new user account in your operating system, and is more commonly used by developers who are testing Firefox. Instructions for accessing Firefox’s profile manager vary by operating system, but we have a detailed article explaining the feature.


The third, and perhaps most extreme way to keep your bookmarks and history private, is to use something called Portable Firefox. This allows you to put both Firefox and your profile onto a USB thumb drive. You can then place the thumb drive into a physical box, and literally lock it, bury it, etc.

What’s Next?

While Firefox’s profile manager is currently more of a tool designed for developers, with emerging tools like Mozilla Lab’s Weave, users may soon be logging into their Web browsers to access all of their personal information. The great thing about this is that similar to Web mail and other online services, users can create multiple accounts. Also (unlike Web mail and most other online services) Mozilla Lab’s Weave encrypts all of your information, so you can be assured that you are the only one who has the ability to access it.

Firefox takes your privacy incredibly seriously, and we hope that you enjoy using all of the great new features we’ve added in Firefox 3.5, which is available for download starting today!

Jun 09

Refreshing the Thunderbird Icon

Rafael Ebron of Mozilla Messaging will be managing the update of the Thunderbird icon. The process will be similar to the recent update of the Firefox icon, and they will be working with the very talented Iconfactory, so that the icons continue to visually reference each other, and feel like they are part of the same application suite. Rafael has an initial draft of the creative brief posted, and is looking for feedback.

Jun 09

Several (Small) Changes to the Firefox Icon in RC3

We are now preparing builds of a third release candidate of Firefox 3.5 which should be available shortly. RC3 is being created to fix a few important issues, but it will also include several small changes to the new Firefox icon.

New 16×16 Version (All Platforms, but primarily Linux and Windows)

Based on the feedback coming in to the previous post about the new Firefox icon, we’ve gone through several quick iterations on the 16×16 version. Here is the set of iterations which appear in chronological order from left to right. The icon now packaged in RC3 appears on the far right:


Dock Shadow Cropping (OS X)

We moved the position of the 128×128 icon on OS X down slightly so that the automatically generated shadow created by the dock is not as cropped off. This is technically an OS X bug, but the problem isn’t as obvious now (and we are in alignment with other OS X icons):


Higher DPI Shadow Effect for 512×512 (OS X)

This was something that we missed but someone in the community caught: the previous shadow on the highest resolution OS X icon wasn’t being rendered by Illustrator at a high enough DPI:


As always feedback is welcome in the comments below.

Jun 09

The New Firefox Icon

Later this week we will be shipping the first Release Candidate build of Firefox 3.5, which is currently in the process of being evaluated by our exceptional QA team and testing community. This also means that we are now ready to finalize the design of the new Firefox icon.

I want to thank everyone who provided feedback on the icon during the design process. But more importantly I want to thank the new icon’s creator Anthony Piraino from the Iconfactory. He did a great job with the design work, he very quickly adapted iterations as we changed our direction and sent feedback, and he wasn’t the slightest bit fazed by a completely transparent process that designers often find to be a bit uncomfortable.

The updated Firefox icon is based on sketches and conceptual artwork by Jon Hicks and Stephen Horlander. It is also of course an evolution of the previous rendering of the Firefox icon which was created by Jon Hicks, based on a sketch by Stephen DesRoches and the creative direction of Daniel Burka and Steven Garrity. More information about the history of the Firefox icon is available in our creative brief. All of the designers on Mozilla’s original visual identity team provided feedback on this update, along with Mike Beltzner, Asa Dotzler, John Slater, Paul Kim, Tara Shahian, Alexander Limi, Jennifer Boriss, and the broader Mozilla community.

Files for the new Firefox icon are below, as well as on wiki.mozilla.org.

Download everything (2.9 MB)




















No Shadow



















Icon Files

Windows ico
OS X icns
(Linux: just packages individual png files)

Favicon (to replace an ico)
Favicon (to replace a png)

PSD grid with all pixel polished resolutions

Word Marks

Logo + word mark vertical
Logo + word mark horizontal
Word mark

Vector Files

We will also be releasing vector files for the new Firefox icon (to help with crop circle planning, etc). However we need to finalize a license agreement to accompany them (please do not sell unauthorized physical copies of Firefox with nice box art). We should have those files ready soon.

More information about the project can be found in these earlier posts:

5/06/09 – Thinking about Refreshing the Firefox Icon
5/14/09 – Evolving a Product Brand
5/15/09 – Creative Brief for the New Firefox Icon
5/15/09 – New Firefox Icon: Iteration 1
5/15/09 – New Firefox Icon: Iteration 2
5/17/09 – New Firefox Icon: Concept Rendering by Stephen Horlander
5/20/09 – New Firefox Icon: Q&A
5/20/09 – New Firefox Icon: Iteration 4 + Modified Creative Direction
5/20/09 – New Firefox Icon: Iteration 5
5/21/09 – New Firefox Icon: Q&A, Mostly about Orange Juice
5/22/09 – New Firefox Icon: Iteration 6
5/22/09 – New Firefox Icon: Iteration 7
5/26/09 – New Firefox Icon: Iterations 8 and 9
5/28/09 – New Firefox Icon: Iteration 10
5/30/09 – New Firefox Icon: Iteration 10 in Context
6/02/09 – New Firefox Icon: Iterations 11 to 14
6/06/09 – New Firefox Icon: Iteration 14 in Context
6/17/09 – New Firefox Icon: Q&A

Jun 09

New Firefox Icon: Q&A

Lovely screenshots. I don’t see any Linux ones. Is Mozilla ever going to learn? Don’t you remember the whole visual refresh issue that happened on this very blog?

My apologies for the delay, updating the icon on linux was slightly more involved, partly because we were adding support for additional resolutions, and partly because I had no idea how to update an app icon on linux (David Dahl wrote the patch). Anyway, here are the screenshots, and please don’t read too much into them being posted late. It was just an implementation issue and not at all meant to convey anything other than that.


(note that the launcher icons are controlled by the distribution, so they won’t show up if you are testing a Release Candidate).

You nailed it. Honestly can’t think of any more improvements. Great job!

Thanks, but credit really goes to Anthony Piraino at the Iconfactory, as well as the very long list of talented designers who privately provided feedback and creative direction throughout the project.

Nice icon.
Could you now address the 5-year-old printing bugs in firefox?

If by “you” you mean me personally, then probably not without first getting entirely up to speed with our printing code. However if by “you” you mean the Mozilla community in general, yes there are people working on that. However, I think having separate teams that work on different aspects of a product is a good way to make sure that user experience doesn’t get de-prioritized under a long list of low level implementation bugs.

In your last post, pretty much everyone said they liked 11 or 12-1 and due to too much gloss and the weird line that extends past the right side of the nose…yet you pick the glossiest icon with the weird ass line. The head also looks very, very fuzzy on the 16px icons.

Alex, maybe [you’re] only reading the first dozen comments on your blog each time and not checking back the next day to see what all was posted overnight.

I’m reading every comment as they arrive (with occasional breaks for sleeping). However, feedback is coming in from a lot of places beyond the comments section of this blog, and overall more than half of it has come in through private email. This leads to the unfortunate situation where people may feel like we aren’t listening. The other consideration is that while we are very interested in getting as much feedback as possible, we aren’t trying to create an environment where we are running the design purely by committee. So this means that while I’ve been processing all the feedback that comes in, I’ve also been giving increased weight to our overall goals for the project, and the opinions of other designers, like Stephen Horlander, Stephen DesRoches, Sean Martell, Steven Garrity, and Daniel Burka (who have all contributed significantly to founding Mozilla’s visual identity). We also received a lot of useful feedback from Mike Beltzner, Asa Dotzler, John Slater, Paul Kim, Tara Shahian, Alexander Limi, and Jennifer Boriss.

Shadow looks out of place on windows — it has light coming from 12o’clock (straight above), all the other windows icons have light coming from 10.30 or 11 or so (upper left, so shadow is below and to right).

We ended up going with a consistent shadow across platforms since we didn’t want to adjust the light source for each type of shadow (causing a lot of visual changes). It’s a little inconsistent with platform conventions, and I think we’ll want to customize the icons to each platform’s visual style more in the future.

Looks nice, but does it look good on Windows 2000? I believe, Windows 2000 is now the only supported OS, that doesn’t support the alpha blended icons.

Here is the icon on Windows 2000, with no alpha blending, and going all the way down to the retro 4 bit. My apologies to the Windows 2000 users testing an earlier build with the application icon that accidently didn’t render, we got that figured out pretty quickly.


In general I think these changes are too conservative. It’ll look fine on the Firefox homepage but on your desktop the change will be too subtle for most people to notice.

We are being really cautious to avoid confusion as users attempt to locate the Firefox 3.5 icon in order to access the Internet. Refreshing icons can of course be problematic because it is part artwork, and part road sign.

Could you also include a screenshot of the Windows XP installer. It has very large close up of the icon on the first page.


Ok… lets say that program icon looks good. How about mime types? I hate XP-style icons in Vista.


Thanks to Boriss for getting these assembled, the background page images for Windows and OS X were made by Sofa. Linux has the standard behavior of using the html document icon supplied by the desktop environment.

Jun 09

New Firefox Icon: Iteration 14 in Context

Here is how iteration 14 of the new Firefox icon would appear in context on mozilla.com, XP, OS X and Vista. I’ll try to get some Linux images posted as soon as we have a patch ready.

The icon is being rendered by Anthony Piraino at the Iconfactory. The design has been influenced by a conceptual sketch by Jon Hicks, and a conceptual render by Stephen Horlander.

The reflection line featured in this iteration gives the globe a bit more gloss and dimensionality. It also helps to establish two contrasting textures in the icon, making the refresh really more about fidelity of detail as opposed to more significant structural or color palette changes. This type of reflection line is also consistent with common textures and lighting found in Vista and OS X, and blurs out at the smaller XP-sized resolutions.






Note: the shadow being clipped off at the top of the icon is actually being drawn by OS X, and isn’t really something we can directly control (aside from making the icon visually smaller).





Jun 09

New Firefox Icon: Iterations 11 to 14

Yesterday and today there was a flurry of quick iterations on the new Firefox icon based on all of the feedback we have been receiving. Tomorrow I’ll likely have some in context shots of iteration 14 posted (similar to the images of iteration 10 in context).

The icon is being rendered by Anthony Piraino at the Iconfactory. The design has been influenced by a conceptual sketch by Jon Hicks, and a conceptual render by Stephen Horlander.

Differences between these iterations are pretty subtle, in this set we were primarily working on the globe’s continents, texture, and lighting. Across all of these iterations the globe is darker than it was in iteration 10 (something that a lot of people commented on). The Firefox head is also a bit lighter across all of these iterations.







Background Information on the Project

Creative Brief
Evolving a Product Brand
Thinking about Refreshing the Firefox Icon