Mozilla is considering slowing down its recent “let’s move as fast as Chrome” release schedule for Firefox. Sounds like a good idea to me.
Tag Archives | Mozilla Firefox
Slowly but surely, Mozilla’s laid back approach to web apps is blossoming into something with a lot of potential.
The latest web apps update from Mozilla Labs, available as an add-on for Firefox, gives the experimental project a new look and helps individual apps communicate with one another.
Web apps now appear in a tray at the bottom of the browser window. Once opened, they become pinned tabs with no URL bar, giving them a more app-like feel. Mozilla also wants to aid app discovery by letting web developers notify visitors when an app is available — kind of like the App Store link that appears when you visit Yelp’s mobile website.
The bigger improvement in this release is “Web Activities.” This is basically a calling service for web apps to pass data back and forth. So for instance, if you’re using an online photo editor such as Pixlr and want to import an image from Dropbox, neither service would have to support the other specifically. The Web Activities calling service would handle the file transfer.
As planned, Mozilla has launched Firefox 5, which considering the browser’s six-year history would seem to be big news.
Except, it’s not. Firefox 5 is actually the first update in a new, faster development cycle for Mozilla. From now on, new versions of Firefox will arrive every six weeks, meaning that 2011 will bring more Firefox updates than the entire six years prior.
In some ways, I like this approach, which is roughly the same way Google handles updates to Chrome. If a feature isn’t ready, Mozilla can simply hold it until the next version, which means less waiting for the features that are ready.
But the rapid release cycle introduces its own issues. It can result in some pretty dull updates, as evidenced by Firefox 5, in which CSS animation support and performance enhancements are among the biggest new features.
More importantly, I’m worried that these rapid updates will discourage dramatic user interface changes, like the difference between Firefox 3 and 4, or Internet Explorer 8 and 9. I don’t know for sure that this will happen, but I do know that after more than two years of rapid releases, Google Chrome pretty much looks the same as it always has.
So while rapid releases may allow Firefox to get better at a faster clip, it could make bold new changes harder to implement. Let’s hope the new development cycle doesn’t confine Mozilla to mere incremental improvements.
There’s misguided analysis out there this week (see here, here, and to some extent here for examples) on how supposedly Firefox is dead or in trouble. Better stop the presses: it sure isn’t happening yet. In the first 24 hours following the browser’s official release, consumers have downloaded it more than 4.7 million times, double the rate for Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 9 debut last week. Downloads continue at a fairly torrid pace — you can follow here.
Firefox 4’s success is evidence of the fact that consumers are still looking past Microsoft when it comes to browsers. According to NetApplications, Internet Explorer’s market share is now down to 57 percent. IE has been on a consistent decline for the past several years, and the upstart success of Chrome (which now has 11 percent of the market), and Firefox (at about 22 percent), show that consumers are ready for life post-Microsoft.
Likely in response to the fast-paced development of Google Chrome, Mozilla has announced it plans to accelerate the release cycle of its Firefox browser dramatically, with four major revisions of the browser expected by the end of the year. Chief among its goals are making the browser more nimble, as well as building social aspects into the platform and support for more hardware and platforms.
Seems like a solid plan considering the fragmentation of the hardware world as of late, and consumer’s increasing appetite for social networking. But I think the most important thing here is the focus on stability.
It’s no secret on some platforms Firefox is not so stable. I’ve had problems with crashing and sluggish behavior at times on Mac OS X, and have noticed others have had similar issues. Fixing these nagging issues should be a prority for Mozilla, as its competitors are more stable on Apple’s hardware.
If you care about the future of Firefox–and browsers in general–Matt Buchanan’s interview at Gizmodo with Mozilla Director of Developer Relations Christopher Blizzard is a great read.
Are you a browser junkie with a phone running Android 2.0 or above? Mozilla has released a “pre-alpha” Android version of Fennec, the mobile version of Firefox.
When they say it’s pre-alpha, they’re not being self-effacing–it’s pretty rough. On my Droid, at least, I couldn’t even get the on-screen keyboard to pop up. But it’s in decent enough shape to whet the appetite. And it’ll be great if the browser race on Android is anywhere near as exuberantly competitive as it is on Windows and OS X. (I’m already a part-time user of Opera Mini for Android.)
Firefox is the happy result of untold hours of unpaid effort by the Mozilla community. But Mozilla is announcing a pilot program called Firefox Add-On Contributions, with the aim of helping Firefox extension developers make a buck from their hard work. It’s a platform for requesting and receiving payments for extensions, with PayPal handling the exchange of money. It is, of course, optional.
I kind of like the idea–I try to pay for the shareware I use, and the iPhone App Store has shown the power of selling a lot of copies of something small and useful for just a little money. (I’m assuming that the contribution price for a typical Firefox add-on isn’t going to be more than a few dollars.)
So if you’re asked to chip in for extensions you use and like…will you?
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