Everything that you do online, whether you may realize it or not, is being tracked. In varying degrees, you can turn off some of the data tracking features on desktop browsers. But that isn’t always the case with web browsers that run on smartphones—at most times, simplicity supersedes the need for advanced features. But that may be set to change, with Mozilla, makers of the popular Firefox web browser, releasing a private web browser for iOS devices—called Focus.
By default, the Focus browser prevents trackers from logging your browsing history and online activity, as well as ads that tend to be peppered on various web pages. The browser window has an “Erase” button near the top right corner, which when tapped, purges your browsing history and closes any open web pages at that time. There are specific toggle controls for blocking ad trackers, analytics trackers, social trackers and even various other sorts of trackers that log your activity on web pages. By default, all except one are switched on by default—the “Block other content trackers” option is disabled by default, because it may cause issues with certain content such as embedded videos on certain pages. The advantages—your web browsing experience may be more secure, and perhaps even faster, because trackers and advertisements are being restricted.
Incidentally, you don’t necessarily need to make the switch to Firefox Focus for your browsing requirements. There is the option of integrating all these features in Safari as well, which is the default web browser on your iPhone and iPad. And that may be good news for a lot of users, because at present, Focus is very limited in terms of what we may now consider basic features in a web browser. There are no tabs to open multiple web pages, no option for bookmarks, and no option to share a web link—if you tend to save a link in read-later apps such as Pocket, this can be a big miss. In fact, the share button in the window actually opens the same webpage you were currently browsing, in the Safari browser.
Apple had allowed content blockers with the iOS 9 update onwards, to make the mobile web browsing experience less frustrating. There have been many content blockers released since, but none seem to be as simple and focused as, no pun intended, the Firefox Focus.
This app is essentially a two-pronged approach by Mozilla to make space for themselves in the iOS ecosystem where it is hard to dislodge Safari and Chrome from the top of the user’s preference list. We can consider this as a content blocker, which can bolt features on to Safari, and also offers a limited web browsing experience.
The Firefox Focus app is free to download from the App Store, and will work on the iPhone and iPad. It may not become your default browser just yet, but Mozilla has done a mighty good job of showing Apple how it should be done, and has perhaps set the benchmark for other content blocker apps.