SiliconFilter

Coming to Firefox in 2012: New Look, New Home Tab, Focus Mode and a Windows Metro Version

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If the popularity of Google's Chrome browser has shown anything, it's that competition in the browser market is a very good thing for consumers. To counter Chrome's seemingly unstoppable march towards dominance in the browser market, Mozilla has set itself an ambitious roadmap for Firefox in 2012. As part of this roadmap, Firefox will introduce a new look, a Chrome-like new tab page and a dedicated Windows 8 Metro version.

A "Web-Wide People-Centric Identity System" and "A Complete Web Apps Ecosystem"

In a statement attached to the roadmap, the Firefox team lays out some of its overall strategies for approaching the future of Firefox. Most importantly, Mozilla acknowledges that "the Web is more than just the desktop browser." Because of this, the group plans to introduce a "web-wide people-centric identity system, a complete web apps ecosystem, and a no-compromises mobile browser" in 2012. Mozilla, of course, has long been working on prototypes for its identity system and announced plans for an app store-like experience for web apps (again, something Chrome already offers) more than a year ago now. Until now, though, none of these have actually arrived as full-grown products and we've only seen prototypes so far.

New Features for Firefox in 2012

Overall, 2012 promises to be an interesting year for Firefox and one that promises to introduce a number of highly anticipated and useful features.

Among these are an updated look, an updated and speedier JavaScript engine called IonMonkey, and support for a distraction-free reading mode similar to the "Reader" feature in Safari.

Here are some of the highlights from the roadmap:[list]

  • Add-ons Sync: Firefox Sync makes it easy to move between computers and devices. In addition to syncing passwords, bookmarks, and history between Firefox installs, users are going to be able to sync add-ons.
  • Firefox Hotfix: There are small issues that can occasionally affect Firefox users after a release. Correcting those small issues should not require a full Firefox update. With a new hotfix system, Mozilla can patch minor issues in Firefox without requiring a browser restart.
  • Proof of concept for Firefox in Windows 8 Metro: In order to deliver a compelling Firefox for Windows 8 Metro experience, we need to understand what's possible. A technology proof of concept is the first step. This is not a Alpha or a Beta, but should demonstrate the feasibility of Firefox in Windows 8 Metro. (Timing here is dependent on when Microsoft releases their Windows 8 consumer preview and developer documentation.)
  • Firefox Home Tab additions: Firefox's start page, AKA Firefox Home Tab, is where users start their browsing session and where they land when they've closed their last tab. In addition to easy search, Firefox Home will become a launch point for managing all of your Firefox data
  • Silent Update: The Firefox update process will be moved to the background and Windows admin passwords and/or UAC prompts will be removed. Also, users with the rare incompatible extension will have a gentler upgrade process.
  • Web Apps Marketplace integration: Firefox Home will offer a launcher for the Web Apps Marketplace and promotion for personalized app recommendations.
  • Firefox Focus/Reader Mode: Despite the rise of multi-media on the Web, reading is still the most common web activity. We will make reading long-form content a wonderful experience with a user-activated re-formatting and re-styling of the page that puts focus on the content rather than ads and navigation.
  • IonMonkey: The next generation of the Firefox JavaScript engine, code-named IonMonkey, will bring dramatic improvements to JavaScript performance making Web applications even faster.[/list]

 



9:47 am


What's Next for Firefox in 2011? Faster Updates, Shinier Interface and More

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Now that Firefox 4 has already been downloaded more than 8 million times, it’s time to look ahead and see what Mozilla has in store for Firefox for the rest of the year.

The Chrome Model: At Least Three More Version of Firefox This Year

While it took twelve public betas and two release candidates before Mozilla shipped version 4, the organization expects to ship at least three more versions over the course of this year, thanks in large part to a new development process that resembles Google’s method for regularly pushing out new stable versions of Chrome. These new versions will ship roughly every 16 weeks (with the option to ship even faster) and will be developed in a number of separate branches, just like Chrome.

Mozilla Firefox Development Process

What’s on the Firefox Roadmap for 2011?

Thankfully, we don’t need to resort to guesses when it comes to what’s next for Firefox this year. Mozilla’s roadmap for 2011 lays out the group’s plans in detail. Besides the faster update cadence, Mozilla plans to ensure that there is never more than a 50ms delay between a user action and the application reacting to it. The group also plans to “shine the primary UI until it gleams,” with a focus on making the interface more polished and adding more animations to the user interface.

Are we Pretty Yet

For users, this also means that the next versions of Firefox will bring integrated support for Mozilla’s sharing tool (currently known as F1) and account manager, which is meant to give users more control over their online identities and make signing in to web apps easier.

There has also been some talk about creating support for site-specific browsers to Firefox, though the 2011 roadmap does not stress this anymore.

On the back end, Mozilla obviously plans to continue adding support for modern web technologies, but the Firefox team also plans to finally bring support for its multi-process project Electrolysis to its browser (a project it started in 2009). While Firefox currently sandboxes some plugins like Flash – meaning the browser won’t crash just because Flash crashed – the plan is to give a new process to every open tab. With this technology in place, if a web app in one tab crashes, just that tab is affected and the rest of the browser just continues to work.

Are we Pretty Yet site specific 1

With version 5, which should be available this summer, Mozilla also plans to finally ship a 64-bit build for Windows. Support for Apple’s OS X Lion will arrive in version 6. Given the renewed focus on the ARM platform, it doesn’t come as a surprised that one of the priorities for Firefox in 2011 is to ensure that its just-in-time JavaScript compiler performs well on ARM CPUs.

The Next 3 Versions of Firefox

Here are Mozilla’s plans for the specific versions it plans to release over the course of this year. This list is likely going to change, so take this with a grain of salt. Mozilla also notes that it plans to add anything that improves responsiveness and stability, as well as anything that enhances the interface to these versions whenever it is ready, no matter the current version number.

Firefox 5:[list]

  • Account Manager
  • Simple Sharing UI
  • UI Animation
  • 64 Bit on Windows[/list]

Firefox 6:[list]

  • Web Applications
  • FasterCache
  • OSX 10.7 system integration
  • JavaScript Optimizations[/list]

Firefox 7:[list]

  • out-of-process add-ons with e10s

[/list]



10:00 am


Firefox 4, 5, 6 and 7 Coming This Year: Shipping Updates in Small Bundles

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When it finally ships later this year, Firefox 4 will have gone through at least twelve beta releases since. The first beta was released in July 2010 and the final release is now set for around later this month. Going forward, however, Mozilla’s director of Firefox development Mike Beltzner envisions a very different release schedule. Indeed, if it is up to Beltzner, we will see Firefox 4, 5, 6, and 7 later this year as the organization changes the way it defines major versions and ships updates.

Faster Releases in Smaller Bundles

As Beltzner puts it, to stay relevant in this “newly competitive market” and gain market share back from competitors like Google Chrome (though he doesn’t mention Google’s browser by name), Mozilla has to be able to continue to deliver “a product that is compelling to users.” One aspect of this plan is redefining how the organization ships and defines updates to Firefox. Mostly, this means shipping smaller bundles of updates on a fast schedule and with a scope that is more akin to Google’s updates for Chrome.

Here is how Beltzner explanation for this new release schedule:

Changing the way we ship products will require the re-evaluation of many assumptions and a large shift in the way we think about the size of a “major” release. The criteria for inclusion should be no regressions, well understood effects for users, and completion in time for a planned release vehicle

“Shine the User Interface Until it Gleams”

There is a lot more to the Firefox roadmap that just a faster, more nimble release schedule. Priorities for Firefox in 2011 include an improved user interface (“Shine the primary UI until it gleams”) that makes the Firefox UI feel modern again and that is optimized for the most important user interactions like searching for restaurants. This will include more animations, building the F1 sharing plugin right into the browser, and introducing an improved account manager.

On the back end, Beltzner envisions a system that never takes more than 50ms to react to a user action, supports recent web technologies and runs on all modern operating systems, including mobile platforms like Android 3.0.

Summary

Here are the main items on Beltzner’s list:

  1. – Ship Firefox 4, 5, 6 and 7 in the 2011 calendar year
  2. – Always respond to a user action within 50 ms
  3. – Never lose user data or state
  4. – Build Web Apps, Identity and Social into the Open Web Platform
  5. – Support new operating systems and hardware
  6. – Polish the user experience for common interaction tasks
  7. – Plan and architect for a future of a common platform on which the desktop and mobile products will be built and run Web Apps

(Note: while the document says it was last updated in December 2010, the last edit was actually made on February 7)

Mozilla’s also published its plans for other areas over the last few days, including add-on development, Mozilla’s plan for a federated identity system and the future of its developer tools.



11:02 am