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New member
Status: New idea

In Safari if you just opened a new tab (for example to view a picture from Reddit) and then hit the back button it would close the new tab and show the previously viewed tab. Example:

In Firefox the back button does nothing if there is nothing to go back to. I really wish this function was in Firefox.

Status changed to: New idea
Community Manager
Community Manager

Thanks for submitting an idea to the Mozilla Connect community! Your idea is now open to votes (aka kudos) and comments.

Strollin' around

I disagree with the user here.  I prefer to explicitly close any tab.  I do want the Back button (and keyboard equivalent) to do nothing if I'm at the beginning of a tab's history, prompting me to use the tab's Close button instead.

I believe the submitter's considered use-case (made clear in the video to which they linked) is perfectly common, but it is not universal.  I often open links in the background, never automatically switching to them and not always manually switching to them right away; this is another common use-case.  That may lead to whole other paths of web surfing, maybe unrelated to the originating page.  I also will often close the originating tab when I am done with it before starting to use the new tab(s), and what is the proposal for the back-button's behavior when the originating tab is closed?  (I'll address this again below.)

I think that I do understand the utility of the Idea, effectively treating that new tab as if it were a page opened in the same tab, part of the originating tab's history -- technically a branch of it, since presumably IF you moved on to other pages from the originating tab without closing this new one, this functionality in the new tab would still work the same way.  And I understand that it isn't always instantly obvious when a new tab opens; sometimes the graphics work is so fast and the appearance of a new tab in the tab bar is so small that it can be hard to even notice; I understand if the submitter feels that the Back button is the intuitive choice in those circumstances, rather than the new tab's Close button.  If you don't know you've gone to a new tab, then you also just don't know there's a new Close button and no use in the Back button, causing you to click the Back button (maybe even if it's greyed out, because you work quickly on muscle memory) and then the Close button -- two clicks instead of one, and extra mouse or finger movement.

So it's not all bad.  Yes, I'm helping make the submitter's case 🙂.  But I still have a different personal preference, which is to know when I've come to the end (well, beginning) of a tab's history, rather than risk not realizing that the tab has closed.  I prefer to continue to treat tabs as discrete entities, as I described above.

I'm willing to engage in conversation and be convinced to add a vote, though, so I'll continue to accept e-mail about this Idea.


If it is implemented as an option in settings or in a menu item, I have no objection.  I'm all about allowing flexibility and customization, giving choice to users 🙂.  Perhaps edit the original Idea proposal to reflect this?

Also, it may be trivial to some, but the question should still be addressed, whether to treat tabs opened in new or other windows the same way as tabs opened in the same window.  (Related:  In my FF desktop browser, a window closes automatically when its last tab closes.  I think this is default and unchangeable behavior; I didn't see any options in a very quick check of settings, so tell me if I'm wrong.  So just to explicitly cover the topic, if the submitter's Idea is implemented, then I believe that there is no need for anything to be done differently with respect to this fact.)

Also, please address the back-button's behavior when the originating tab is closed.  Does it do nothing?  Would that confuse users used to going back to a webpage?  Does it display a message like "The originating tab has been closed.  You can re-open it from your Recently Closed Tabs History if that option is enabled."?  Does it set focus to the next-most-recent tab (which I think is a bad option)?

New member

With trackpad gestures now available in Firefox for Windows, I think this becomes more prominent for everyone using more than one type of device (especially Windows and Apple's products together) - because in the Mac/iOS ecosystem, the three-finger-swipe gesture to go back / close the recently opened new tab is standard. So switching between your iPad and Windows laptop for example would feel much more fluid, if the same gesture behaved the same, not just "almost-the-same".

I completely agree though that this should be optional, not hard-coded.

New member

Let's call this feature: "back button enabled on new tab open"

This should be the default behavior if a website uses target="_blank". This behavior is especially important on mobile devices where "tab navigation" has been a usability challenge. Users find themselves "lost" when a website targets a "_blank" window and the browser opens a new tab. Navigating "back" to the originating tab is non-trivial for a user--to me, a three-finger gesture, as T4uru5 mentions, seems more of a "super-user" tidbit of knowledge and is not accessibility compliant.

What pootmonkey describes is an important use case: when a user decides to "open a link in a new tab"- whether through keyboard shorcuts or using an alt-click menu in the browser, or long-press in a mobile browser, the back button should not show. In these cases, the user is well aware of what it means to launch a new browsing context. 

New member

I totally agree with @CodedGames, I signed up to say. It greatly increases the practicality of use. I work with many tabs on a large monitor and when I click something that opens a new tab I have to look for its close button to return to the previous content. The back button is always there in the same place, it could be dynamic and make it clear that by clicking on it you would be closing the tab and returning to the previous one, perhaps with a change of icon. But it would be innovative and practical.

Strollin' around

If the proposed new functionality is implemented -- and again, I only accept it IF the new functionality is made optional and addresses my raised questions satisfactorily -- then I agree that it "it [should] be dynamic[, to] make it clear that by clicking on it you would be closing the tab and returning to the previous one, [perhaps] with a change of icon".

The current icon is a back arrow; I propose that a new one be the same image with the arrow pointing at a small window icon image (a rectangle with a horizontal line added inside & near it's top, creating a narrow band at the top to imitate the window's title bar). To allow room, the arrow's "shaft" might have to be shortened in the new image, or the arrow might be made smaller, too.  I'm attaching an image below which shows the standard icon, and the two ways that it might be altered to indicate that the user would be going "back" to a previous tab if the button is clicked.  I prefer the last.  [It *could* be larger if there were less border space; but I presume that the amount of border space in the buttons is a visual standard that "can't" (won't) be changed.]


Have a blessed always!


New member

On ios I’m so used to it that I can’t use a browser that doesn’t support it anymore

New member

In relevant browsers, the back button (or swipe back) returns to the previous page or, if it is the first page, closes it. This saves a lot of time, which is why it is implemented like this in most of them.
I don't know why you want to block this functionality for a few people and force us all to close the tabs manually.
Do you want to be relevant or do you want to stay niche and complain that you have few users?

For those who want to close the tabs manually, you can put a setting somewhere. I have nothing against them scratching their right side with their left hand.

Strollin' around

Written communication being what it is, I'll explicitly state that there's no sarcasm or antagonism here 😊 .

@VioR:  Please, which are "the relevant browsers" you refer to?  I'm simply and genuinely curious.  From context, I don't think you mean "relevant to this conversation".  I am guessing that you mean "relevant to modern users" or something enough like that.  So I would like to learn which browsers behave the way that you describe, since I haven't come across them myself, or which browsers you consider "still relevant" if I have interpreted your words correctly.

I use Firefox for Windows and iOS, Edge for Windows, and Safari for iOS, and none of these four behave the way you and the original poster describe -- I just tested the last two, in case I had just missed it -- but there are WAY more browsers out there that I've never worked with.  So you're my chance to learn easily, without having to install and test a bunch myself 🙂 .

[Parenthetically:  The original poster referred to Safari behaving this way, and provided the link to a video.  It's genuinely interesting, and odd, that Safari (for MacOS, I'm assuming) and Safari for iOS don't behave the same way!]

Thanks, VioR!

New member

@pootmonkeySafari on iOS does work that way, depending on case:

- if a link would automatically opens in a separate tab (target="_blank"), then the back gesture or the back button does close the tab that just got opened (this seems to happen either by what the website defines, or maybe automatically if that page is under a separate domain, I did not yet pinpoint the underlying logic). (As far as I remember Safari on Mac does the same, will have to check later on a Mac)

- if a link would automatically open in the same tab, and I two-finger-tap it to open in a new Tab, then again it does close the tab both on gesture and on back button.

- if a link would automatically open in the same tab, but I long-tap and force it to open in a separate tab from the context menu, then you are right, the back gesture/button does not work.

On Windows, I couldn't reproduce this behavior either in Edge or Chrome, that's true - but when it comes to touch (screen or pad) gesture control, I personally wouldn't take Windows as a reference...

Strollin' around

"On Windows, I couldn't reproduce this behavior either in Edge or Chrome, that's true - but when it comes to touch (screen or pad) gesture control, I personally wouldn't take Windows as a reference..."

LOL, on my own laptop, I wouldn't either, since it doesn't have a touch screen, but Windows accommodates touch interfaces now.  Still, I didn't read the original post and conversation's context as restricted to touch interfaces 🙂 .

About what you just taught me regarding iOS Safari -- Aha!  That's new to me 🙂 .  I hadn't learned about the two-finger tap to force a link to a new tab.  You're absolutely right (no surprise to you, of course 🙂 ), and thanks for the lesson there.

And I guess that's enough said without repeating things I've already said about the whole topic, too, so have a good always, everybody!

New member

This is something I would like to see as well. It’s bad enough on a phone, but on a tablet it becomes super obvious that this feature is too important for my productivity and comfort.

For example, I’m reading an article in portrait mode and click a link to peek at one of its listed sources.

Safari: I swipe with my left thumb and go back to reading the article.

Firefox: I have to swipe webpage content up to get the tablist to appear at the top. Then I have to rearrange the tablet in my left hand, use my right hand to close the tab (might miss the X a time or two, it’s an uncomfortable hold), then probably have to manually select my tab (because after I closed this “transient” tab, Firefox switched to the tab on right instead of on the left, the one I came from) and then get back to holding the tablet like I was before.

This is not an obvious way of doing things, but as soon as they added this to iOS, I was sold on it. Can’t really use Firefox without it. Too much PITA.

Strollin' around

FWIW, Arc Search also works this way, as does desktop Safari.

When you get used to it, the lack of such tab-closing behaviour in other browsers is quite annoying.

I would be happy if it was optional (off by default) in Firefox.