Perhaps not earth shattering news for many users (who may not have known that pressing ESC does this) but, for some, this will be an unwelcome change and puts Firefox into the same boat as Chrome – IE will become the only major browser to still let ESC pause annoying animated GIFs.
Rationale For The Change – The reason for this change (detailed in the 2 year old bug report 614304) is that pressing ESC in Firefox used to stop all network requests associated with the current tab (not just animated images) even after the page had loaded.
This can be considered bad practice because an increasing number of web applications rely on the ESC key for user interaction e.g. closing an inline dialog box without disconnecting the user. The planned fix scheduled for Firefox 20 means that pressing ESC will no longer stop all network requests – which is a good thing. However, it will also no longer pause animated GIFs either…
ESC Key Alternative – Those users who want an alternative way to selectively pause animated GIFs in Firefox 20 onwards may be interested in this new add-on:
SuperStop – download from Mozilla Add-ons here (not available until you have upgraded to Firefox 20). This is a simple add-on which just adds a Shift+ESC shortcut to stop background requests and animated GIFs even when the Firefox Stop button is disabled.
This exactly matches the behavior of the ESC button in versions of Firefox prior to Firefox 20 – once installed, just hold down the Shift button at the same time as pressing ESC to stop animated GIFs playing.
Note: just like the current ESC key functionality, the new Shift+ESC shortcut from this add-on will pause animations on the current tab only.
Disable Animated GIFs On All Tabs Or Limit Them To Play Once Only – If you want to permanently stop animated GIFs from playing in any tab (or limit them to only playing once), follow our guide to disable them via about:config in all versions of Firefox, including 20 and beyond. This can save time but, if you choose to completely disable them, you may not be able to tell if a GIF is animated or not so may miss out on some video-like animations that could have been useful.
This fix has been in progress for over 2 years so it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if it doesn’t quite make it into Firefox 20 but at the moment it is still on target. If it is implemented, the SuperStop add-on is a very effective replacement for the traditional ESC key.