Meet Firefox Focus – The Browser That Blocks Ads, Analytics, & Content
On November 17, Mozilla announced the launch of a new browser for iOS, Firefox Focus — a free, mobile browser that privacy browsing front and center. Within seconds of downloading and launching, it’s easy to see Firefox Focus’ impact on web privacy. By default, Firefox Focus blocks all ad tracking software, all web-analytics software, and even some advanced content trackers and formats.
The real innovation by Focus is its combination of two popular products for privacy advocates (forgive the unnecessary alliteration): Private browsing windows, and ad/analytics blockers. Each of these items have been around for years on desktop. Ad blockers for mobile really popped up in the last couple of years on Android, and just last fall on iOS, when iOS 9 began to allow third party ad-blockers on the App Store. Focus is the first major browser to integrate both these technologies at once, by default, for mobile browsers.
In addition to offering a competent browser with such robust security for free on the App Store, Mozilla also makes it easy to port these security settings over to mobile Safari, if that’s your browser of choice. In that effect, Focus works just like a third party ad-blocker such as 1Blocker, Purify, or Clear. The difference is that this is not coming from a third party company known primarily to security advocates who have already been blocking ads and analytics for years. Instead, this is coming from the developers of second most-popular desktop browser in the world.
Users who have these features enabled would be capable of visiting retail sites, conducting transactions, all the while remaining invisible to most analytics tracking, including Google Analytics and Adobe SiteCatalyst. In many cases, revenue would not even register until finances were reconciled, sometimes days or weeks after the fact.
Currently, Focus is not ranking in the Top 150 Free Apps for iOS, but is sitting at #46 among Free Utility Apps on iOS. That would suggest some, but limited adoption at this time.
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While the low press coverage and Mozilla’s admitted struggles in gaining traction among the mobile browser market could suggest limited impact from this product, we should still pay attention to this development as a possible sign to come from future mobile browsers. Online security is becoming a bigger issue and this definitely feels like the natural progression of online security and privacy.
Posted by Jonathan Hunt