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Firefox developers outline next version

The next version of Mozilla Firefox will look a good deal more like Google's Chrome browser, according to a preview of Firefox 4 posted yesterday.

Product director Mike Beltzner outlined the core features and goals of this open-source release, due late this year, in a blog post and presentation.


The obvious change here, as seen at right, is a streamlined interface with a thinner frame around each page that catches up to one of Chrome's advantages. As in Google's open-source browser, Firefox 4's address bar and back and forward buttons will appear underneath the tab icon representing each page open in the browser instead of occupying a separate floor above a row of tabs.

Firefox 4's developers--both employees of Mozilla and unaffiliated programmers elsewhere--also aim to improve Firefox's performance. Chrome can be notably faster than Firefox, which helps explain its growing popularity relative to its older competitor. And Firefox 4 will feature rewritten dialogs and screens to ease controlling the behavior of individual Web sites and maintaining browser add-ons. (An intermediate release due soon, Firefox 3.6.4, will run some plug-ins as separate software processes, which should help to stop them from bogging down or crashing the entire browser.)

But Firefox 4 may not get Web users much closer to a standard video format that could replace Adobe's Flash. Although Chrome, Apple's Safari and Microsoft's Internet Explorer incorporate a commercial standard called H.264, Firefox 4 will instead support the free, open Ogg Theora format. (Chrome can play Theora, too, but Apple and Microsoft have unambiguously sided with H.264; the latter's support alone will make life difficult for Theora.)

Beltzner's post illustrates this problem all too well. Viewing the slide show requires you to have Flash installed, while the Theora video copy of the presentation doesn't play in IE or Safari.

What's your read on the Firefox developers' course? And--bearing in mind that most pages in Beltzner's presentation bear the warning "PLANS MIGHT CHANGE (please don't overreport)"--what do you think of the rest of this outline of Firefox 4?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  May 11, 2010; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  The Web , Video  
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Next: Progress, and a problem for Android


FYI, is broken.

Posted by: wiredog | May 11, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

In my opinion, I think all browsers should support both H.264 AND Ogg.

Any browser released that doesn't do so should never hope to accomplish world wide saturation.

Posted by: MikeFalcor | May 11, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

It sounds like a difficult road for mozilla go. However, I think if they can maintain at least a 15-20% user base, it will force websites to be compatible with Firefox. I think it's in the customer's (the user) best interest that a large corporation doesn't monopolize their viewing experience - we have already seen where that leads. As a loyal firefox user, I hope they succeed.

Posted by: lightdee | May 11, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Saying that the proposed Firefox 4 would offer a "streamlined interface with a thinner frame around each page" is not particularly accurate. By eliminating toolbars of marginal value my current Firefox view is at least as streamlined as the image shown as an example of the FF 4 display.

I will be disappointed if the tab icons move to above the address bar. Having them adjacent to the window, rather than separated by the address bar, better ties them to the tabs they represent. And having the tab bar appear only when multiple tabs are open within a single window is a better use of the display than what FF4 apparently would offer.

Posted by: sage5 | May 11, 2010 5:10 PM | Report abuse

I don't like the new interface. Firefox seems to be trying to emulate Internet Explorer and Chrome instead of being innovative. The GUI is less useful. Where are the reload and print buttons? Looks like at least one extra mouse click away for many features. Why not make use of the space between the Firefox button and the minimize button? What's the difference having the address bar above or below the tabs? I personally don't like it below because it disassociates the tab from its window.

I have to hope for an add-on that will make the interface more useful for browsing; otherwise, I'll stick to the older version.

Posted by: MrScrotums | May 11, 2010 5:26 PM | Report abuse

I'll stick with Opera. As a web designer, I use all the major browsers regularly. None of them (for me, at least) compare with Opera. It's fast, configurable, and I really miss mouse gestures when I'm using another browser.

Posted by: timmdrumm | May 11, 2010 8:17 PM | Report abuse

I don't know much about theora, but much of the commentary i've seen about it here and elsewhere smacks more of religion than anything else. I'm more interested in standards body and big vendor support than i am about any concerns about "open" vs "proprietary".

Posted by: eboyhan | May 12, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

MS and Apple use H.264 exclusively because they gain royalties. They are trying to force web sites to use H.264 so they can make money. If they drop their royalties, maybe one could give credence to their technical arguments.

Ogg is royalty free; so why can't MS and Apple support it? Royalties are the only logical answer.

Posted by: david08054 | May 12, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse


@david08054: I don't know how much Apple makes on H.264 patents, but Microsoft says it loses money on that format. IE product manager Dean Hachamovitz blogged last week that "Microsoft pays into MPEG-LA about twice as much as it receives back for rights to H.264"--mostly, he wrote, because of video-playback software Microsoft includes in Windows.

- RP

Posted by: robpegoraro | May 12, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

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