Mozilla promises social, privacy-driven Firefox in 2012

The organisation has laid out a revised roadmap for its flagship Firefox web browser, providing details of a multitude of performance enhancements and new features
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Mozilla has set out its plans for Firefox this year, promising to help web surfers avoid being locked into any one company's internet ecosystem.

Mozilla Firefox

Mozilla has laid out a revised roadmap for its flagship Firefox web browser, providing details of a multitude of performance enhancements and new features. Image credit: Jon Yeomans

The open-source project released its roadmap for the browser on Sunday, in which it stressed it has no interest in 'owning' the user. According to the plan, Firefox will gain more elements for social browsing and sharing, as well as new ways of managing identity across different internet services.

"Firefox will continue shipping innovative new features that ensure users stay in control of their online lives," Mozilla said in the roadmap.

"As a non-profit organisation, Mozilla is uniquely positioned for putting users first, and in 2012 Firefox will do just that with features to help users manage how they're tracked on the web, make sharing across multiple social networks quick and easy, bring privacy and control to the site sign-in process, and much more," it added.

In 2012, Mozilla plans to integrate its BrowserID sign-in mechanism, mobile browser and web apps ecosystem into the "Firefox experience", while introducing multiple stability and performance improvements to the desktop browser.

Browser market

Although it oversees software such as the Thunderbird email client, Mozilla is best known as the company behind Firefox, the first open-source browser to give Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) a run for its money. However, Google's Chrome, which is now available on Android as well as the desktop, is proving to be a serious rival.

Firefox will continue shipping innovative new features that ensure users stay in control of their online lives.
– Mozilla

According to StatCounter, Firefox is currently the third-most popular browser, with a 25-percent share of the global market. Chrome has 28 percent, and the various versions of IE have 37 percent in total.

Mozilla's roadmap includes a plethora of improvements that the company hopes will put Firefox back on the rise. One of the first changes this quarter will be to allow people migrating from Chrome to Firefox to bring their browsing data with them.

In addition, Mozilla plans in the same quarter to bring in new media controls that take advantage of HTML5 features such as full-screen viewing.

Second quarter of 2012

The second quarter of 2012 will be particularly busy. Not only will Mozilla release a proof-of-concept for Firefox running in the Windows 8 Metro environment, with alpha and beta versions following later in the year, but the Firefox update process will — like Chrome's — become a behind-the-scenes affair, not bothering the user when it takes place.

The Firefox Home Tab start page will "become a launch point for managing all of your Firefox data", and will also take in a launcher for the upcoming Web Apps Marketplace. The marketplace is intended to work across desktops, phones and tablets. The 'new tab' page will incorporate a 'speed-dial' function to make it easier to navigate to frequently visited sites, and various improvements will be made in dealing with crashes and session restoration.

Mozilla's new sharing and identity tools will come in sometime during the second half of the year, Mozilla said. Firefox Share will let people post status updates and share links across a multitude of social networks at once.

BrowserID, which website owners can already incorporate using JavaScript, will be available for logging into Firefox itself.

"Many users carry around dozens of account logins and passwords, but that's way too difficult. Based on the Verified Email standard, Firefox users will be able to log into Firefox to enable Sync and user-centric site logins. Users will finally be able to say goodbye to remembering countless passwords," Mozilla said.

In the second half of the year, Firefox will also gain an integrated page translation service and a "reader mode" that will make it easier to read long-form content without the intrusion of multimedia page elements. A built-in PDF viewer will be added, and Mozilla has promised to improve Firefox's handling of large numbers of open tabs.

Mobile OS

Under Mozilla's wider roadmap, BrowserID and the Open Web application ecosystem are central to the project's upcoming mobile phone OS, which currently goes under the name of Boot to Gecko (B2G).

As the name suggests, B2G uses a Gecko-based runtime. Its kernel is called Gonk and its user interface, known as Gaia, so far includes 'home' and 'lock' screens, a dialler, an SMS app, a basic web browser and a contacts manager.

Mozilla intends to show off a user demo of B2G by the end of March, with actual products using the OS following in the second quarter of 2012.

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