Like Chrome, Should Firefox Put Tabs on Top?


mozillaMozilla, the open-source browser maker, has posted mockup screenshots of its upcoming 4.0 and 3.7 browsers for Microsoft Windows (s msft), and the company is encouraging people to give feedback on new, highlighted features it may incorporate into the products. One of the proposed updates for 4.0, called “Tabs-on-Top,” looks similar to tabs on Google’s (s goog) Chrome browser. (Apple (s appl) released a new tab interface on its Safari browser in February that, according to Macworld, took a page from Google’s Chrome playbook.)

Mozilla describes the “Tabs-on-Top” feature as “contentious,” and then provides a bullet list of positives and negatives about it in the mockups. Oddly enough, one of the negatives listed against the feature is it breaks the user’s “familiarity” with the traditional design of the Firefox browser. So far, people who have commented in the discussion thread are divided over whether Mozilla should incorporate the tabs feature in Firefox 4.0.We’ve written about how Google and Mozilla have had a close financial partnership over the years. The most obvious symbols of this relationship are the Google homepage on the Firefox browser and the Google search bar affixed in the top right-hand corner of the application.

The financial partnership between the two companies “accounted for 88 percent of Mozilla’s $75 million in revenue in 2007,” The New York Times reported this weekend, which is a huge chunk of cash. Yet Google’s entrance into the browser market, with its release of Chrome this past September, heightened competition between the two companies; Mozilla CEO John Lily told the Times that “life was a lot simpler before they (Google) did this.”

Mozilla rolled out Firefox 3.5 just last month, and the browser maker made clear that both the 3.7 and 4.0 mockups are simply for “brainstorming” purposes, so time will tell whether Mozilla adopts the Google-like tabs feature. What do you guys think — should Mozilla have tabs on the top, or are you happy with the current design?




For 10″ netbook the chrome version is much better, because of the space. And sometimes chrome crashes in hotmail. So I like and use both.

jose antonio

i guess that for me its all about space efficiency,(hate the bulkiness of toolbars,etc) but some people just wouldnt be ready to change or they just want it one way…. so why cant it just have an intergrated option were the user can choose if they want the tab on the top or the bottom, this would satisfy both sides and would reduce the hassel of whether they shoul or should not put it


One word: Optional.

Some people like them on top, others (like me) prefer them on the bottom.

So, make it configurable. Everyone wins.


I think they should have the option to put them on top. I prefere them on top, but just because I do doesnt mean everyone should have too.


Why not move the menu bar/awesomebar/back buttons to the top of the frame, then move the tabs up to where those were? Keeps the same format but achieves the same screen efficiency?

Personally I think the interface for chrome is not one of its assets. Mozilla should focus on replicating chrome’s speed, not its looks. Firefox already looks better, and frankly looks don’t matter.


This is kind of unrelated but does anyone know if there’s a plugin for firefox to duplicate the chrome tab behaviour where when you start closing tabs, the remaining tabs are not resized until you move the mouse off the tabs. This makes closing a bunch of tabs alot faster since you don’t need to move your mouse between closing them.


I prefer the tabs as they are now. I often use windows with 20 to 50 tabs open and if I have to ‘travel’ the mouse all the way up to the top to close a tab then that not only increases the travel distance, it also takes more time to do. In addition, I prefer to have the page name on the tab right above the window, not above the ‘clutter’ on the browser tool bars.

But bottom line, why even have this discussion? Give users the option to place the tabs where they want them to be just the way we can customize button locations, tool bars etc.
Keep it flexible, keep it simple, keep everyone happy.


I currently use Chrome over Firefox solely because the UI, with tabs-on-top being the most important difference, just feels better to me. Tabs-on-top saves space and looks better.


If Firefox removes the features that make it unique, they will reduce the barrier for switching to another browser.

I personally did not make the switch to Chrome for two reasons. Tabs on top and the absence of my favorite firefox extensions.

That said, I’m cool with tabs on top, only if it is optional setting.

Coitus Interruptus

Do we really need Firefox, now that Chrome is here? Time for it to dry and blow away.


Yeah, we do. The extensions are what make Firefox worthwhile, and Google doesn’t seem very interested in competing in that area.

So what you have is arguably the worst modern browser being used by most of the web developers out there, so sites always work best with Firefox.

Then you have the newest (I wouldn’t go so far as to say best yet) browser using a rendering engine that almost no one tests with, so presentation and functionality are catch as catch can.

And the most standards compliant browsers are the one that everyone hates (IE8) and the one that nobody uses (Opera).

The browser industry is long overdue for a real shakeup. I thought that would happen when Google made their own browser, but they backed way off of their previously stated intentions for it and went with an interesting technical approach that doesn’t bring anything really new to the user experience. So still we wait.


Hardly people adverse to change…. it seems to me that the only people who want tabs on top are people who just like novelty for the sake of novelty. The tab should be attached to the PAGE. That is the logical position. Even though from a technical standpoint tabs in Chrome represent separate processes, this is an abstract and difficult thing for the average users to understand and then translate to their UI experience. The whole concept of a tab is that the browser is like a filing cabinet and each tab represents a different folder with titles showing what’s in each folder. Tabs-on-top would be like having the titles for the file folders sitting on top of the filing cabinet, where it is difficult and obtuse to relate a given title to a given folder and it’s contents, with all of the height of the filing cabinet between the content and it’s title.


The “average user” does not need to understand the metaphor of the tab placement to know that they simply switch pages. Even if the user insists on understanding this “difficult” paradigm of tabs representing separate processes before using the browser, it’s like 5 minutes of learning vs a much longer time of using. So I think what you raised is a non-issue.

The only issue I see with tabs on top is how multi-row tabs look like with tabmixplus


Yes, absolutely they should go on top. It’s an easier paradigm to understand – tabs within an existing window throws “normal” users off. E.g.: My parents do not use tabs because they just don’t get them.

Notice the only people arguing to keep them inside the content window are those used to them – aka: people averse to change. Which, of course, is a poor argument against change.

Mishan Aburted

Jeez, arguing about the nuances of a pretty bad UI. iRider did it right six years ago, but most of the tech press never talks about it.

Q dub

Tabs-on-top is leaps and bounds superior. In a world where web-apps are growing in diversity and functionality, a browser shouldn’t beg the question that the standard navigation chrome (back-forward-reload-URL) is universal across all applications. What will be true though, is browsers becoming a run-time for any number of applications so it’s first order UI responsibility is manage multi-tasking, not navigation.

tom p.

sorry, but how do tabs of the same height free up any space whether they’re top or bottom of the nav bar?

anyway, it seems senseless to disconnect the page from the tab from a UI perspective. let people do this in an extension or as an option. said differently, if you’re a heavy tab user, it will be harder to connect the page with the tab.


What they need to do is ignore all this fluff cosmetic stuff and get back to what FireFox originally stood for – a fast lightweight browser. Right now it is heavy and takes forever to load – which is why I switched to Chrome and am staying there!

BTW: I was surprised at myself not missing the plug-ins!!!


3.5 is slow and chews memory like never before, even with no extensions. +1.

Mark Jaquith

Apple released a new tab interface on its Safari browser in February that, according to Macworld, took a page from Google’s Chrome playbook.

It appeared in a beta version, and was yanked out before the final release of Safari 4.0. It was confusing and hard to use, not to mention visually inconsistent. Tabs-on-top is a clever idea in theory. In reality, it is bad UI.


No safari’s implementation was confusing and hard to use. Chrome tabs are MUCH better


I”ve been using Chrome for a month or so as well – and, while I use tabs extensively (favorite all-time FF feature) – I’ve not consciously registered that the tabs are above the address bar.


Tabs on top is a bad idea. It completely breaks the consistency of UI across apps for a given platform. (This breaking of UI consistency is why MS Office 2007 is an abomination.) So, unless tabs on top is the standard convention for that platform’s UI, the tabs should go where users expect them to be.

And, while some might like the idea because it, “frees up screen real estate,” the downside of inconsistent UI conventions more than offsets this benefit for most users.


I believe tabs on top should be THE standard convention. because

1)It save precious vertical space on the now common 768px vertical laptops.
2)It makes tabs easier to reach, because the mouse only needs to move straight to the top, and down a bit, as opposed to the more careful vertical aiming required for bottom tabs.
3)The implementation from the screenshot above leaves space on top for moving the window. It might be harder to move the window, but it’s not a frequent action
4)The shorter title still seems to identify the page.

On windows and linux, browsers are where most of the tabs are anyway (other than property dialogs) , so it should SET the convention, not follow.


From my understanding, when maximized, they’re at the very top so as to take advantage of Fitts’ law with a practically infinite height.

There should be a preference, though.

Michael Chaney

I’ve been using Chrome almost exclusively for the last few months, and I’ve gotten pretty used to the tabs on top. But really it doesn’t matter. Tabs are tabs, I can click them where ever they are. Top or bottom tabs is really pretty trivial. Just make a browser that launches and renders quickly, and is easy to manage bookmarks.

Vasudev Ram

The ideal would be to have both for both, i.e., the possibilty to have the tabs either above or below, for both Firefox and Chrome, IMO.

If they could implement that without much difficulty, it might be the best of both worlds. It could be a configurable option, either via the Tools / Options menu and/or just allow the user to change the position by dragging the tab bar up or down.

– Vasudev


How would you free up screen space? Seems like six or one-half dozen to me.

Give users a check box to let them choose whether the tabs’ placement.


When at the top, the tabs replace the title bar entirely. It removes a row of screen space.

Luca Candela

I would really appreciate the tabs on top, as a heavy user of extensions Firefox tends to get a little cluttered and steals space from the main browser view. I wouldn’t feel too bad about “stealing” from Chrome, good ideas are to be used, there isn’t very much to improve upon the wheel and it’s been invented a long time ago, and nobody feels bad about ripping off the prehistoric dude that came up with it!


I’m more comfortable with the old ways. I don’t want to make the transition.


we should decide based on measured efficiency, not backward compatibility. This is how the world moves forward.

Comments are closed.