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Years later, Firefox finally adds pinch to zoom

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How did it take this long?

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Firefox is finally getting a feature that other major browsers have had for years: pinch to zoom.

It’s a foundational gesture control, and yet, Mozilla has taken an oddly long time to bring it to Firefox. Apple first added pinch to zoom to desktop Safari in 2011. Microsoft supported pinch to zoom in Internet Explorer on Windows 8 touchscreens in 2012. I can’t quite nail down when pinch to zoom was added to Chrome, but Google was experimenting with the feature as early as 2013 and brought it to Chrome OS in 2014. Firefox has been the holdout all these years.

Pinch to zoom lets you naturally scroll in and out of a webpage by pinching in or out on a trackpad or touchscreen. It’s not a game-changing addition, but it’s something I find myself regularly using to blow up images or text. Firefox’s implementation of pinch to zoom works well enough, though it’s missing the double-tap to zoom option that other browsers offer. (Double tapping in Firefox zooms you all the way out but not in.)

I asked Mozilla what took so long. The company didn’t have an exact answer, but a spokesperson said that support for the gesture is more complicated than it looks.

“The new pinch to zoom feature appears smooth and easy to use. Behind the scenes it is rather a technical feature to build and test,” the spokesperson said. “We’ve had several user requests to improve and we’re happy that we were able to ship it out in this month’s release.”

The feature is available as part of Firefox 83, which comes out today. It works on Windows and Mac trackpads and Windows touchscreens.