We wrote just a couple of weeks ago that Mozilla was shacking up with Yahoo to replace Google as Firefox's long-standing default search engine, and it didn't take long for the fruits of that relationship to be seen. With today’s release of Firefox 34, Mozilla has pulled the trigger on that move and at the same time rolled out some other enhancements and security fixes.
Unless you specified a default search engine other than Google in the past, what you'll see after entering a term in either the address or search bar is this:
Mozilla's decision to make Yahoo the default search engine has truly divided opinion, but since the announcement a few weeks ago, I've seen more against it than for it. Some have even gone as far to say that they were switching browsers because of it, even though it takes mere seconds to change the default search option back to Google.
Another controversial change is that a different search engine can be chosen on-the-fly when using the search bar, as seen below.
Admittedly, I'm not sure why there's so much angst towards this change, as whichever search engine you chose to make default remains default here. What users gain is the ability to quickly view the same search term in different engines -- it's actually pretty elegant.
It's important to note that Firefox's Yahoo addition as well as the improved search bar only affects users in North America at the moment. It's not quite clear when the rest of the world will greet these changes.
Yahoo aside, a major feature Firefox 34 brings to the table is Hello, a built-in chat application that doesn't require an account to use. This is useful for those who might need to chat to someone that uses a different chat client, and connecting is as easy as generating a URL and sharing it with the person you wish chat with.
To simply call this "chat" is an understatement, though; you can have both a video and audio conversation as well, and best of all, it's entirely free to do so. It's a little unfortunate that a feature this cool is being overshadowed by something as simple as a search engine change, but that said, I for some reason don't see the option in the browser anywhere, and I haven't figured out a way to enable it. Some say that you need to adjust a value in the about:config, but I can't find it anywhere.
Nonetheless, another useful change is the increased ease of switching themes. In the customize menu, you'll see a Themes button to the bottom left that will allow you to preview and apply themes very quickly. This to me is another elegant change -- I think Google could take a lesson from Mozilla here.
In addition to all of that, Firefox 34 defaults to HTTPS for Wikipedia (in en-us only... for some reason), allows for better recovery from a locked Firefox process, and implements a number of HTML5 enhancements and bug fixes.
It goes without saying that if you're a Firefox user; it's well worth upgrading to 34. Just be mentally prepared for the Yahoo invasion.