SiliconFilter

Firefox Turns 7: Here are Some Designs That Never Made It

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The first stable release of Mozilla’s Firefox appeared exactly 7 years ago on November, 9 2004. Quite a few things have changed for Mozilla and Firefox since then, including the arrival of interactive web apps that most developers and designers were only dreaming about 7 years ago. Instead of looking back to how Firefox changed over the years, though, Alex Faaborg, the principle designer on the Firefox team posted some of hts design ideas for the browser that never made the cut.

As he puts it, these are some of his “crazier concepts that we never rolled out, and highlights some of the stranger scenes that we have on the cutting room floor.”

Without further ado, here are some of the highlights:

1) A theme for the Firefox private browsing mode (somehow that one never made it into the stable releases):

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2) A fluffy pie menu (Faaborg: “But what I really like about this particular pie menu isn’t what it does, but how it feels.  It’s fluffy, it’s soft, it’s friendly.  It’s like interacting with a happy cloud.”)

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3) Immersive full screen mode (it’s a shame this design never made it. The full screen mode in most browsers still doesn’t feel right)

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4) Location bar as a graphical command line (I gather this one would have been too advanced for most users):

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5) New interfaces for searching and bookmarking (I would love to see those in a future version of Firefox):

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You can find these images, including a discussion of each of them as well as more examples on Faaborg’s personal blog.

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7:52 pm


Firefox 7 Has Arrived: Faster and Leaner

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Mozilla today launched the latest stable version of Firefox. While some enterprise users are not very happy with the new, faster release schedule for Firefox (this is the fourth stable release this year), every new version has brought worthwhile advantages and Firefox 7 is no exception. This new version doesn’t just include many developer-centric enhancements, but if you are a regular Firefox user, you will be happy to hear that the new Firefox now uses significantly less memory. It’s also faster, especially if you tend to keep many tabs open at the same time.

Other speed enhancements include support for hardware-accelerating some HTML5 functions that will make games and other interactive graphics run faster and smoother.

Calling Home

In addition to all of this, Firefox 7 is also the first stable release to support Mozilla’s new telemetry feature. With this, users can opt in to report their anonymized usage data back to the developers. This, says Mozilla, will allow its developers to measure Firefox performance in the real world better and help them optimize future releases. Before you worry about this, though, it’s important to note that Mozilla will only collect some very basic information about your system: memory usage, CPU core count, cycle collection times, Firefox startup speed.

Getting the Update

If you are already using Firefox, your browser will update itself soon (or take a look at the About menu and see if the update is already ready to be applied there). If you want to download the latest version manually, just head over here.

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5:42 pm


Mozilla Officially Launches Firefox 6

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Mozilla today officially launched Firefox 6, the latest stable version of its popular browser. Since its switch to a more frequent release schedule, Mozilla has already pushed out a number of releases, so version numbers themselves are becoming significantly less useful at this point and most of the updates are rather small. Indeed, users who expect this to be a major update will be sorely disappointed as Mozilla only made minor tweaks to the user interface and didn’t add any major new features in this new version besides a new permissions tool for site-specific permissions.

That, of course, doesn’t mean that there isn’t a plethora of bug fixes and new features for developers in Firefox 6. Regular users, however, won’t notice much of a difference if they were already using Firefox 5 before. Most of your addons should also continue to work just fine. While earlier updates often broke many of the most popular updates, this has become less and less of an issue over the last few releases.

What’s New

Here is Mozilla’s official list of what’s new in Firefox 6: [list]

  • The address bar now highlights the domain of the website you’re visiting
  • Streamlined the look of the site identity block
  • Added support for the latest draft version of WebSockets with a prefixed API
  • Added support for EventSource / server-sent events
  • Added support for window.matchMedia
  • Added Scratchpad, an interactive JavaScript prototyping environment
  • Added a new Web Developer menu item and moved development-related items into it
  • Improved usability of the Web Console
  • Improved the discoverability of Firefox Sync
  • Reduced browser startup time when using Panorama
  • Fixed several stability issues
  • Fixed several security issues [/list]

Firefox 6 for Mobile

In addition to the desktop version, Mozilla also launched a new version of Firefox for Android. This new version features a slightly updated user interface and was tweaked to work better on tablets.

Get New Versions Earlier with the Beta and Aurora Channel

Intrepid users who want an early look at new Firefox builds can also switch to the Beta and Aurora channel (or even the Nightly channel if you feel really adventurous). This way, you can get new features even earlier and help Mozilla by reporting issues with these test builds.



3:51 pm


The Internet Explorer IQ Hoax and the State of Tech Blogging

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Last Friday, the tech blogosphere was enamored by a study that claimed that Internet Explorer users had a lower IQ than users of other browsers. The study by AptiQuant found that the average IE6 user only scored just over 80 on its IQ test – a test score that is, in terms of real-life accomplishments, generally associated with elementary school dropouts and unskilled workers. The study was a hoax.

The Hoax

A hoax like this one obviously capitalizes on the inherent anxiety we all feel about our own intelligence and the prejudice that nobody in their right mind would ever use Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. It also allowed those who use fringe browsers like Opera and Camino to feel especially smug, as the average score of their cohort was supposedly around 125 (that’s close to the level of most neurosurgeons). Safari users (who are most likely to use Apple products) were also supposedly among the most “intelligent.”

Overall then, this was a well thought out hoax, though there were tons of red flags, as Wired’s Tim Carmody points out. The huge difference in scores, for example, doesn’t really make sense and the average Opera user – while making a fine browser choice – isn’t likely to be a genius either. A quick Google search would have shown that AptiQuant never really existed before it released this report (even though it claimed to have data from 2006). The data itself also isn’t exactly trustworthy, as it relies on online IQ test – likely delivered through spammy pop-ups – and carries little to no scientific relevance.

Why?

If this was so obviously a hoax then, why did virtually everybody in the tech world run with this story?

Here are a few reasons why I think this story was able to get so much play:

Pressure to be fast, write more stories and get more pageviews: This “report” was published on a Friday and while most people associate that day with fun, fun, fun, fun, writers still have to pump out a few stories and news is generally slow on that day (and that Friday was indeed a very slow news day). (That pressure, by the way, is even stronger for writers who are paid by story.)

Stories about statistics can be written quickly and get pageviews: Indeed, the constant pressure to write more stories that get as many pageviews as possible is one of the reasons why we writers love stories about statistics: they are easy and fast to write, generally come with some pretty graphics we can use and do well in terms of pageviews. I’ve written my fair share of those and there is a legitimate role for those stories that boil down lots of data into an interesting story. What often happens, though, is that writers will just believe anything they see in these studies and run with it, without ever questioning the study’s methodology.

Indeed, there is very little reward for those writers who spend a lot of time going through the methodology section of a report and then find that their time was wasted because the report turned out to be untrustworthy. Writing a story about how IE users are dumb makes for a good headline and lots of pageviewsafter all. A subtler story just wouldn’t get the kind of pageviews and rewards that “IE users are dumb as a bag of hammers” can get.

Microsoft sucks, doesn’t it?: There is also a general undercurrent of anti-Microsoft sentiment on most blogs that makes it even easier for a story like this to get through without even an ounce of fact checking (something most blogs don’t do anyway: you publish first, edit later and then update the story as necessary). If the story had claimed that Safari users were significantly dumber than Chrome users, chances are we would have seen a bit more pushback and less glee.

It’s worth noting that quite a few of the companies that create these studies also face a lot of pressure to get publicity and acquire new customers. Why they often risk their credibility by putting out statistics that are obviously wrong is beyond me, though. It’s up to the press, though, to examine this data and decide whether to trust it or not.



4:04 pm


Firefox 6 Now in Alpha: Introduces New Developer and Privacy Tools

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Mozilla’s new rapid release schedule remains on track. Firefox 5 is now in beta and, right on schedule, Firefox 6 is now entering its development cycle. The next version of Firefox will introduce a number of new tools for both regular users and developers. The alpha version of Firefox 6 Mozilla launched today introduces a new experimental privacy feature called the Data Management Window, an enhanced add-ons manager and some new features for Panorama. For developers, Mozilla is introducing a new feature for quickly building and testing JavaScript snippets in the browser, as well as enhancements to the Web Console and a new Web Developer menu that makes it easier to access these tools from the Firefox menu button. (more…)



8:32 pm


Google's Logo Dives 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (with Accelerometer Support)

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It isn’t quite the Pacman doodle, but today’s version of Google’s iconic logo introduces a whole new degree of interactivity to the animated logos the company sometimes produces for special occasions. Just in time for Jules Verne’s 183rd birthday, the company produced a whimsical logo that allows you to steer the submarine from Verne’s famous novel “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” with the help of your laptop’s or tablet’s built-in accelerometer. You can also play along by using the keyboard.

My Laptop has an Accelerometer?

Quite a few people will likely be surprised that their laptops have built-in accelerometers and that their browsers can access these (most modern MacBooks should work just fine, for example). As for browsers, today’s doodle works best on the latest versions of Chrome and Firefox. We also tested it on an iPad, where it worked perfectly well (though you probably want to lock the screen rotation).

The doodle really isn’t so much a game as a showcase for what developers can do with the help of modern browsers and web technologies like CSS3. The folks on Reddit will be happy to hear that Google’s ocean includes more than one narwhal.

Google 20000 leagues under the sea verne

Here are the images Google used to create the 3D effect in the doodle:



12:08 am