Firefox, Android and Quit Buttons

With the recent launch of Firefox 20 for Android, we retired the quit button. Some of you noticed. Some of you were sad. Which in turn made us sad. Here’s how you can get it back, and some background around why we removed it in the first place.

You broke my workflow!

If you used Quit and were unhappy to see it go, well, we’re really sorry about that. The good news is that it’s easy to get back. Just install the QuitNow add-on, which will put Quit right back in the menu where it was.

Easy, right? Now go forth and quit like the wind!

A bit of history

We introduced Quit about 2 years ago, in a time where Android phones were lower in performance, and had poorer memory management built in than they do today. Our users were having memory issues on lower end phones, where Android wasn’t killing background tasks as well as it should have been.

Now, adding a Quit button was kind of a hack that apps aren’t supposed to do. Quitting an app isn’t really a core UI concept on Android, since it handles this kind of memory management at the OS level, and isn’t user controlled per app like on desktop. But we added it in, and our users were happy.

As time went by, phones continued to get faster, and Android improved by leaps and bounds. Android 4.0 brought with it better memory management than before, and also provided users with a multi-tasking interface that also allowed apps to be manually closed, satisfying those who preferred managing apps on their own over simply allowing the OS to make choices for them.

Growing with Android

As these improvements have developed on Android, Firefox has been improving release by release as well. Firefox 20 shipped with Private Browsing, for example. We have lots of other great stuff in the pipeline over the next several releases. A better homepage. A more beautiful Reader experience. Enhancements to Search. And much more.

The thing is, controls to operate these features need somewhere to live in our UI, and Firefox is designed to be as minimal and out of the way as we can make it. We aim to avoid overwhelming people with UI since web content always comes first. So we tuck things into the title bar, into the tab menu, and remaining items go into the Android menu.

This means that from time to time, we need to do a bit of spring cleaning on our UI to make sure we have the most useful, and most commonly used controls at your fingertips.

Given the advances in the Android memory management I mentioned above, it seemed reasonable to remove the Quit button to free up menu UI, and that it wouldn’t adversely affect device performance. The fact is, users simply aren’t faced with the same issues on newer phones that existed 2 years ago. (I should note that we only removed the quit button on phones running Android 4.0+ because of its aforementioned improvements. This means if you are on Android 2.3 Gingerbread or older, nothing will have changed. The quit button will still be there.)

It’s also worth repeating that Quit simply isn’t a core UI concept in Android apps anyway — notice that none of Google’s apps (GMail, Maps, even Chrome, to name a few) include a quit function, nor do must other independently produced apps.

Make it yours

Of course, none of that is meant to convince you that you shouldn’t have a quit button if you truly have a need for one. And that’s what makes Firefox so great: even if a feature doesn’t exist as core functionality in the browser, chances are that an add-on either exists or can be built to satisfy that need. We recognize that everyone uses the internet differently, and we encourage everyone to customize, hack and tweak your way to a better Firefox that works for you. It’s a lot easier than you think, and can make a world of difference to your experience!

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4 comments

  1. zatopus

    Thanks for the information. I was wondering why it was removed since it came to the beta version.

  2. me

    To be honest most phones still have horrible memory management.. new phones just have a bunch of memory. and.. most users still have old phones.
    But its true that users that will rate and talk most about FF have newer, 2GB+ phones.

    Anyhow, its nice to have it as addon :)

  3. Not having a way to actually close apps is IMHO a design flaw of the system. That said, it looks like at least someone at Mozilla agrees, because in Android 4+ you can actually quite applications by sliding them away from the app switcher menu… ;-)

    • Umm, I meant, someone at *Google* agrees – but our UX designers at Mozilla seem as well because Firefox OS also has a way to close apps (from the app switcher).

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