June, 2010

Jun 10

Why Tabs are on Top in Firefox 4

(best viewed in full screen)


Theora 720p

WebM 720p

In the Firefox 4 nightly builds, and in Firefox 4 Beta 1, we are changing the default tab position so that tabs are on top.  This is a preference that users can change by right clicking on any of their toolbars.  Moving the default tab position is obviously a significant and to some extent controversial change to the Firefox UI, which is why we made the video above to help explain our rationale.

Contributors who are active in the Mozilla community will know that this debate literally goes back for years.  So in some respects this video will serve as quick summary of all of the different arguments both for an against the change.  But the more interesting part isn’t about looking back, it’s about looking forward.  Recently modern browsers have been transitioning to placing tops on top, and that decision isn’t arbitrary, it isn’t about fashion.  The change to placing tabs on top isn’t about one browser versus another browser, it’s about the evolution of the Web as a platform.


Some of the Mockups Used in the Video

Tabs on bottom

Tabs on top

Conceptual Model of Tabs on Bottom

Conceptual Model of Tabs on Top

Conceptual Model of Firefox 3.5 (this mockup wasn’t used in the video, but is interesting nonetheless)

App Tab – Pandora

App Tab – Hypothetical HTML5 Map application

App Tab – Hypothetical HTML5 Spreadsheet application (spawned by one of the user’s app tabs, so it is has the privilege to provide its own interface)

Firefox Tab Based Library Window

Firefox Site Identity Based Notification System

Mouse Distance

Mouse Distance with the Window Edge

Mouse Distance, Bounce Off of the Window Edge (not included in the video)



Please use the comments below for any questions or feedback.