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What’s Coming in Firefox 4.0

By Craig Buckler



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Despite being the most popular web development browser, Mozilla Firefox has been losing market share to Google Chrome. Users appear to be switching because Chrome offers a faster, cleaner, and clutter-free browsing experience.

Mozilla has been listening. Firefox director Mike Beltzner revealed the primary goals for version 4.0:

  • Fast: making Firefox super-duper fast (his words — not mine!)
  • Powerful: enabling new open, standard Web technologies (HTML5 and beyond),
  • Empowering: putting users in full control of their browser, data, and Web experience.

A UI screenshot shows how the browser has been influenced by Chrome and Opera:

Firefox 4 screenshot

Mike stated:

Something UI designers have known for a long time is that the simpler an interface looks, the faster it will seem. The less the user has to take in with their eye, the quicker they can process it and the quicker the entire application will seem. So we’re actually looking at making our interface faster by changing the way it looks.

Firefox 4 tabs

Permanent tabs will also be implemented to provide easy access to regularly-used websites or online applications such as GMail, Twitter and of course. If I recall correctly, this is a feature which was first raised as an idea for the Chrome OS browser.

Mozilla will also remove the last remaining modal dialogs and are considering a Chrome-like background browser update process.

Other features will possibly include:

  • better OS integration such as Aero Peek and multitouch support
  • support for 64-bit OSs and Direct2D hardware acceleration on Windows — potentially arriving before it’s implemented in IE9
  • CSS transitions
  • improved DOM, video, audio and canvas performance
  • JavaScript threads
  • remote JavaScript debugging and improvements to the console and web inspector
  • a new permissions manager to control how information is shared with websites, e.g. geo-location data and local storage
  • a built-in Jetpack API for easier (non-XUL) extension development
  • WebGL

Great stuff. But don’t hold your breath — none of these features are guaranteed in version 4.0 and, even if they make the final build, you’ll need to wait until November 2010 to use them.

What’s top of your Firefox 4.0 wish list? Actually, scrap that — everyone will want a improved speed! What’s your second most-wanted feature?

Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.

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