Without the aid of specialised tools, everything you do online (and plenty of things you don’t realised you’re doing) is being tracked. Desktop browsers have the benefit of extensions and add-ons that block pages from tracking you, but mobile browsers tend to be a little less advanced. That’s what makes Focus, Firefox’s privacy-forward iOS browser, so refreshing.
By default, Focus blocks social and analytics trackers, as well as ads. Every page loads with an “Erase” button tagged to the top right corner for whenever you feel inclined to clear your browsing history. Further options allow blocking for content trackers or web fonts for a faster, if maybe worse-looking experience. And those features (minus the ‘nuke history’ button) can be added onto Safari through a toggle in the Focus menu.
While its privacy settings are robust for a mobile browser, Focus is very barebones, and lacks many of the features users have come to expect. There’s no tabbed browsing, no bookmarks, and no option to easily share a page — a function I use regularly to send things to read-later apps like Instapaper. What appears to be a share button in the bottom menu merely opens the same page in Safari when tapped.
A lack of features is to be expected: after all, Focus is essentially an address bar tacked onto a content blocker. The app, originally called Focus by Firefox, stripped Safari of annoying ads. Now rebranded as Firefox Focus, it has the ability to navigate to webpages and not much else.
Firefox knows it can’t beat Apple’s pre-installed browser, or Google Chrome, by far the most popular alternative. And granted, Apple has allowed ad-blockers in browsers since iOS 9. But default privacy settings are so obvious and so imperative that Firefox’s new browser might as well exist solely to shame the competition.
Were it not for Focus’s inability to push to read-later apps, I’d switch to it immediately. As it stands, I’ll be using it to beef up privacy on Safari — something Apple should have done on its own a long time ago.