Mozilla firms up Firefox 4 plans
By Stuart Turton
Posted on 11 May 2010 at 08:18
Mozilla has given a breakdown of its plans for Firefox 4, including a pledge to make it "super-duper fast".
Perhaps the most striking change to Firefox 4 is the user interface, which takes a great deal of inspiration from Google Chrome. Though Mozilla was keen to note that the mockups shown in the presentation were subject to change, it's clear Firefox 4 will benefit from the design choices made by Google's pared-back browser.
"Something UI designers have known for a long time is that the simpler an interface looks, the faster it will seem," said director of Firefox Mike Beltzner during the presentation.
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"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."
To that end, Mozilla plans to strip away many of the user interface controls currently cluttering Firefox. Beltzner acknowledged the move was likely to lead to protests from the community, but claimed "tough choices" had to be made.
Also mooted was the ability to give applications such as Gmail and Twitter their own permanent tabs for easy access, and the introduction of a "switch to tab" button, allowing power users running hundreds of tabs to quickly find the one they want.
This desire to simplify navigation in Firefox 4 was evident throughout the presentation. Dialogue boxes - including those requesting geolocation or other data - will appear as bubbles specific to individual tabs, meaning you can continue to navigate around the browser without being locked down until you've answered.
Beltzner said Mozilla was also looking at replicating Chrome's tactic of silently updating the browser in the background, removing the annoying wait when Firefox first loads up.
Under the hood, Firefox 4 will benefit from a new permissions manager that will dictate which information the browser can share with websites. This will include geolocation data, and their ability to access local storage - both key aspects of HTML5, which will find broad support within the browser.
More intriguingly, the permissions manager will allow users to apply these settings to websites on an individual basis.
Firefox 4 also looks likely to benefit from hardware acceleration - potentially stealing Internet Explorer 9's thunder - multitouch support, and deeper integration with Aero Peek and OS X.
Mozilla has slated Firefox 4 for release in November.
Would you like Firefox to...
It's "Son of Clippy!"
More seriously - why can't people follow UI rules? There should be a menu bar at the top. It'll only be faster until I'm floundering around looking for something that's on the menu bar in every other app.
By AdrianB on 11 May 2010
How about instead of geing is UI 'go faster stripes' you stop is from hanging every blasted time it saves a file?
1 2 3 4 5 6
By ANTIcarr0t on 12 May 2010
Couldn't agree more. I avoid software with non-standard interfaces for exactly that reason. If a user wants a 'simpler interface' there are options to turn off various toolbars - which can be easily found under 'view' using the menu bar in the UI!
By survivalskills on 13 May 2010
I also agree. I rarely use IE but when I do the first thing I do is look for the proper menus. Text based menus are still a lot quicker to find than tool bars full of meaningless symbols to click on.
I still think keyboard short cuts are the quickest way to get things done. I tend to use menus and buttons when I don't know a keyboard short cut.
By phudct on 13 May 2010
yeah, the thing that put me off chrome is the UI is a bit idiosyncratic. I like having a menu system at the top. Whats the point in promoting web standards like CSS3 if you dont follow UI conventions.
By mykeblack on 13 May 2010
Nielsen's Discount Usability Engineering.
Need I say more?
By CeltiKaos on 13 May 2010
For the less telepathic amongst us... yes you do! Is Nielsen in favour of interfaces being this minimal? And are you in favour of Nielsen??
Like most Firefox users, I like to keep the menu bar enabled - and every time I use a machine with only IE on it, the first thing i do is enable the menu bar. I'm assuming (hoping?) that this will still be an option in FF4, but as mykeblack stated, if you're going to promote web standards, you should also promote UI standards, and enable the menu bar by default.
By stephenjfa on 14 May 2010
I also agree with the comments about the UI - it's one of the reasons I use Firefox not Chrome. It's hard to try and guess what every icon means - and which ones can be sent into oblivion. So I too prefer a text menu bar, and use keyboard shortcuts for the most common actions.
By ianbyrne on 15 May 2010
Will Firefox 4 knock out SiteHound?
Recent Firefox 3.x knocked out my Sitehound. Has this now been sorted and will Firefox 4 do it again?
By GeoffOakshott on 18 May 2010
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