Earlier this month the Mozilla Foundation unveiled a plan to revamp its browser Firefox. It’s no secret that Google Chrome has been taking a bigger and bigger share of users and there has been criticism concerning not only Firefox’s bugs but also the fact that the browser has turned into a bloatware. Mozilla’s plan is radical as big changes were announced to make it again the best browser around.
The Mozilla Foundation’s plan is based on what were called three pillars. Firefox has always been different and free software, a philosophy that will keep on being the foundation for its development. That’s clearly not enough so some innovation is needed to make Firefox cutting-edge again, hence the three pillars: Uncompromised Quality, Best Of The Web, and Uniquely Firefox.
Uncompromised Quality. This pillar means that Firefox’s development must be focused on user experience with features that work well, directly implemented in the browser or through a high-quality addon. This is crucial because it also means that bits that are not useful or good enough must be removed. If they pull this off, Firefox might lose some of the extra weight that is making it bloated.
Best Of The Web. This pillar is about working with a community of partners who collaborate in Firefox’s development. New services such as Hello and Pocket were the result of working with other companies. Of course, there are all the addons and all of those third-party components raise worries because of security and privacy concerns. According to the statments published, the Mozilla Foundation will watch the development with care to avoid problems.
Uniquely Firefox. This pillar is based on what Firefox users identified as what’s different about this browser in a recent survey. This will allow to focus on the browser’s strong features and the ones that can be developed to give users even more flexibility and options to customize their web surfing experience. At the same time, the plan is to give Firefox users more control on their online privacy and improvements to the Private Browsing mode should be available soon in the upcoming versions.
Dave Camp, Firefox’s director of engineering, published a couple of mails in the Firefox Dev mailing list explaining the Mozilla Foundation’s plans. He added details about the three pillar and also gave information about the changes we can expect to see in Firefox.
An important point about the big changes we’ll see in Firefox concerns the moving away from XUL (XML User Interface Language) and XBL (XML Binding Language). Those are two markup languages widely used by Firefox in building its features that never turned into standard used by other browsers. The Mozilla Foundation will work with its partners to understand what technology to adopt instead of XUL and XBL.
Another point concerns Firefox development cycle. The plan is to shorten it to have new features reach users more quickly. I have to say that I’m a bit worried about this idea because Google already set a fast development pace with Chrome and Firefox started following it years ago with results that are not always the best.
I’ve been using Firefox for more than a decade but lately I was disappointed, particularly by version 38, which seeded the most bloated ever. Version 39 seems a bit better but memory management is still lousy compared to previous versions. I’m still using Firefox because other browsers have other problems so in my opinion the Mozilla Foundation should focus first on making a browser that works well and then on adding features.
I hope that the new plans unveiled by the Mozilla Foundation will mark a new era for Firefox. It’s the browser that really broke MSIE’s monopoly giving users free software and a care for their security and privacy. Those are fundamental values and it would be a shame if they got lost and forgotten because of a bad technical job.
Valbonne Consulting provides Research & Consulting for emerging technologies in Internet/Web of Things (WoT/IoT/M2M) and Emerging-Tech. We specialise in decentralisation, security and privacy. We work across a variety of traditional industry verticals (Telecommunications, Automotive, Energy, ...). We support Open Source and technologies built on open standards.