Backspace Keyboard Functionality Change. In July 2016, Google Chrome blocked using the backspace key to navigate to a previous page in their Chrome 52 release. Reports using the backspace key on the keyboard lost the data in 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 on the keyboard to delete characters on a page, but the cursor is not in the text input area. Using the backspace key makes the browser change to interpret the action as back navigation and lose all the filled data. Firefox also uses the backspace key shortcut for back navigation which was to mimics Internet Explorer’s behavior.
In 2014, Firefox 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, making it the most used shortcut comparing 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.
Reason for Keeping Backspace Keyboard Function
Part of their reasons for keeping the backspace keyboard functionality was for muscle memory for users 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.
Edge is also using Internet Explorer as a default Windows browser with 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 also changes. This is a strong indication that Firefox 86, which will be launching on February 23, 2021, will follow Chrome in the backspace keyboard functionality change.
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, you can re-enable the shortcut in the new release by Setting the browser.backspace_action to 0 in the about: config settings panel.