In July 2016, Google Chrome blocked the use of the backspace key to navigate to a previous page in their Chrome 52 release. This was because of reports that it brings about loss of data inputted into a form on a page by switching to a previous page.
The data loss often occurs when the user intends to use the backspace key to delete characters on a page, but the cursor is not in the text input area.
This makes the browser interpret the action as back navigation and brings about loss of all the filled data. Firefox also uses the backspace key shortcut for back navigation. This was initially done to follow Internet Explorer’s behavior.
In 2014, Firefox also considered disabling the backspace key as a navigation element due to a bug report they received about its loss of data drawback. They took their time to deliberate on if they should remove the ability of the backspace key to navigate to the previous page.
According to Firefox in 2014, the “Backspace” keyboard shortcut had 40 million clicks, which made it the most used shortcut compared to “Find in page”. That had 16 million clicks and “Page reload” had 15 million clicks. This is a cause of concern that users may be suffering from usability issues and data loss issues from hitting this keyboard shortcut by mistake.
Part of their reasons for keeping the backspace keyboard functionality was for muscle memory for users that are moving to Firefox from another browser or using Firefox with another browser. Unfortunately, this does not apply anymore as Chrome has gotten rid of this shortcut and only implements Alt + Left Arrow to navigate to the previous page on the same tab.
Also, Edge has now been used in place of Internet Explorer as a default Windows browser which has an Alt + Left Arrow shortcut for back navigation. In the coming release of Mozilla Firefox (Firefox 86) which is already in the nightly version, the backspace key functionality has been changed. This is a strong indication that Firefox 86 which will be launching February 23, 2021, will follow chrome in backspace keyboard functionality change.
What will be the new shortcut for back navigation in Firefox 86?
As already implemented in the nightly version, the new shortcut to go back to the previous page in the new release of Firefox will be ALT + LEFT ARROW key.
How to re-enable the backspace key shortcut:
In case you’re a fan of the backspace key shortcut for navigating to the previous page on the same tab, then you can re-enable the shortcut in the new release by Setting the browser.backspace_action to 0 in the about:config settings panel.
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