Faster and snappier searches now in Firefox Aurora

1 August, 2014 § 17 Comments

nice-red-running-foxIn case you haven’t noticed yet, Firefox Aurora contains some great speed ups when searching from the location bar. For far too long, searches that consisted of a single-word or arithmetic expressions would either result in errors or long delays before a search results page was presented.

This has all changed starting in Firefox Aurora. Take for example, a search for “867-5309”:

Previously when a single word was typed in to the location bar and Enter was pressed (or the Go button clicked), Firefox would look for a website at http://867-5309/. After the lookup timed out, Firefox would redirect to a search for “867-5309“. If the hyphen was removed and “8675309” was entered, Firefox would immediately go to an error page saying that it was unable to connect to the server at 8675309.

Some people may have become accustomed to placing a `?` at the beginning of the location bar to subvert this behavior. With the new Firefox Aurora, this is no longer necessary.

Slow and broken search behavior seen in Firefox 32 and older

Slow and broken search behavior seen in Firefox 32 and older

Now, in both of these cases Firefox will kick off the search request immediately. In the background, Firefox will look for locally-hosted sites that have a hostname matching the value that was typed in. Most people will see search results on average 5 seconds quicker!

In cases where there is a potential match, Firefox will show a notification bar asking if the locally-hosted site was the intended destination. Clicking “Yes, take me to 8675309” will navigate to the matched site and whitelist it for future.

Screenshot of new behavior coming in Firefox 33

Screenshot of new behavior coming in Firefox 33

Whitelisting a serverIf you’d like to proactively whitelist a site, you can go to about:config and create a new Boolean pref with the name of `browser.fixup.domainwhitelist.` followed by the single word that you would like whitelisted. Set the pref to true, and the search will be skipped. localhost is already whitelisted.

Firefox continues to gain speed, customizability, and security with each release. This feature will find its way to the Release population with Firefox 33. In the meantime, you can install Firefox Aurora or Firefox Nightly and begin using it today.

There are two minor cases left to fix:

  • Queries that end with a period still fail. This is in the process of being fixed and can be tracked at bug 1042519.
  • Queries containing a period in the middle also fail. This is not currently being worked on, but is tracked at bug 494092.

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§ 17 Responses to Faster and snappier searches now in Firefox Aurora

  • Caspy7 says:

    Can you explain how Chrome accomplishes one-word searches quickly? The explanation may make it obvious, but if not, why we don’t use that approach?

    • msujaws says:

      We are using the same approach that they use. When a single word is typed and hit enter, a search is immediately started. If we find a host that matches that single word (in the background), then we will offer that as an option. It is possible that Chrome is preloading the search page before the user hits Enter. I don’t think we will make that change though (due to privacy/bandwidth).

  • […] All this changes with the release of Firefox 33. Mozilla has improved how single-word and local query searches are handed in the browser. […]

  • Mozilla needs more developers with HiDPI display, almost every new Firefox feature lands without HiDPI friendly icons… The notification bar has a really pixelated icon on OS X with retina display. 😉

  • heycam says:

    Are there people who actually rely on entering host IP addresses as decimal numbers like that?

    • msujaws says:

      It’s not beyond technical users to type in or, etc. to access their router’s configuration page, for example.

      This is not to say that I am advocating that we continue to navigate to the typed address if it contains a period. We could either add a regex for IPv4 and IPv6 addresses, or just make IP addresses follow the same path as single words and require them to be whitelisted.

  • G says:

    Neat. Although accidentally performing keyword searches is probably a bigger nuisance for me.

    “Some people may have become accustomed to placing a `?` at the beginning of the location bar to subvert this behavior.”

    Usually a space stops a keyword search anyways, but I always neglect it. Chrome on the other hand has that TAB escape mechanism. I suppose Firefox has both bookmark keywords and regular search engine ones though.

  • Pedro Rosado says:

    That’s all neat, looking for numbers always gave me an headache on firefox. Also, why can’t we get search suggestions directly on the location / url bar? I never use the search bar, I only have one (to save space and to have a clean look), the only things I can get is bookmarked suggestions and visited websites. I want to get search suggestions and auto-completion on the url bar without having to use Omnibar extension…

  • tom says:

    8675309 is a valid IP address, =

  • tiger123 says:

    I got the new Firefox today and am not very happy with this new “feature”. For most people it is clearly an improvement but not for me. I use many different devices in my network which provide web interfaces. I am used to accessing them with their DNS name (omitting the domain suffix). Now I have to click one more time when I try to access a host not visited before. For quick search I use Ctrl-K. How can I get the old behaviour back?

    • msujaws says:

      You can go to about:config and prefill the domains by creating new prefs with the style of ‘browser.fixup.domainwhitelist.localhost’ for the name and ‘true’ for the value. Replace the ‘localhost’ portion with whatever your local domain name is. Alternatively, when you click on the button in the notification bar, it will remember your choice and you won’t get redirected to the search in the future. So in short, it will fix itself and you shouldn’t notice this issue after a couple weeks.

    • msujaws says: was filed to add a preference to disable this feature.

  • tiger123 says:

    Thank you for your quick reply. I already knew the possibility to whitelist domain names, but was hoping for a setting like “browser.fixup.domainwhitelist._all_” which would restore the old behaviour. It’s not that whitelisting the hosts is too much a time waste but it’s a bit annoying that I have to click one more time for every hostname for every Firefox installation I use.

    Rather experienced users, who are used to utilizing and do want to use the address/location bar regarding its originally intended purpose (to enter DNS domain names, either fully qualified or not, or IP addresses), would appreciate the possibility to restore the old state.

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