There is a new Firefox browser available in the Google Play mobile app store today, with Mozilla debuting Firefox Focus for Android.
Firefox Focus is a different browser than Firefox for Android or Desktop, in that its core mission is to “focus” on providing user privacy, with tracking prevention and ad blocking by default. Firefox Focus first debuted on Apple’s iOS mobile operating system in November 2016, providing a privacy-focused browser for iPhone and iPads.
“After Focus on iOS launched, it didn’t take long for our Android users to ask for the same browser for Android,” Barbara Bermes, product manager for Firefox Mobile at Mozilla, told eWEEK.
With the existing Firefox for Android browser, Mozilla provides users with tracking protection as well as a private browsing mode, though users need to select those options. With Firefox Focus, privacy and ad-tracker blocking are automatic.
“Firefox Focus is the automatic private browser that provides tracking protection,” Bermes said. “There is no need to set it up, in contrast to any other browser.”
Also in contrast to the existing Firefox for Android browser, Firefox Focus uses a different layout engine. Both the Firefox desktop and Android browsers use the Mozilla-created Gecko layout rendering engine. Bermes said Firefox Focus uses the default Android WebView, which uses WebKit. Mozilla was also forced to move away from Gecko on its Firefox Focus for iOS browser to Apple’s version of WebKit, which is the default on iOS.
Firefox Focus will also follow a different release cadence than the existing Firefox browser. Firefox 54 was released on June 13 by Mozilla, providing an improved multiprocess engine and multiple security patches.
“Since Firefox Focus is a separate application, it is not tied to the Firefox for iOS/Android/Desktop release schedule,” Bermes said.
Firefox Focus isn’t the only privacy-focused browser available for Android. Former Mozilla CEO/CTO Brendan Eich started the Brave browser, which also provides ad-blocking capabilities.
“Firefox Focus is based on Mozilla’s own mission and aligns with our mission to build an internet that puts users in control, and creates and maintains trust,” Bermes said. “We are excited about the potential of the Brave browser.”
“The more open-source innovation that exists in this space, the more users are served and the more vibrant the open web becomes,” she said.
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.