Like Matthew Humphries over at Geek.com, I was a big Firefox user back in the day. Before I had any care in the world about what a Mac was and before Google Chrome was in the pipeline, your three options were Opera, Firefox, and I.E. Firefox was great — I used it at home, loaded a portable version on a thumb drive so I could bypass the firewall at my high-school (yay proxy settings), and found it much more stable than Internet Explorer at the time. While I’ll occasionally return to Firefox, Chrome and Safari have dominated my work life, and unfortunately I’ve move on after slow browsing sessions and not wanting to deal with the memory hog Firefox has been (even after the quick turnaround in updates). Mozilla wants to change this perception however, and have started a project called MemShrink to deal with the runaway memory issues present in Firefox. According to Humphries,
Mozilla knows this problem exists and aims to fix it. By the time we see Firefox 7 available for download it will use as much as 50% less memory than any version that has gone before, as well as having those problematic memory leaks fixed.
Posting on his personal blog, Mozilla developer Nicholas Nethercote has stated that Firefox 7 will be noticeably faster. You will be able to leave it running overnight without issue, and closing tabs will free up memory.
Mozilla wants to do three things: improve speed, stability, and perception. Perception is important — while you don’t want to mask problem areas, making the user feel more engaged (instead of stalling) would be a terrific boon in usability. My problem with Firefox is that it feels like I’m always waiting for a webpage to load or for something to happen — maybe it’s slight and not as significant as I’m making it sound, but compared to Chrome (where everything loads as soon as I start typing), the difference is noticeable. Firefox 7 is slated for a 2011 release, so it shouldn’t be too long before we have a solid build in our hands. I’m looking forward to a faster and leaner Firefox.
[Mozilla Blog: Nicholas Nethercote via Geek.com]
Like Google’s Chrome browser, Mozilla announced earlier this year its intention to move to a fast release cycle for new major versions of its popular browser for Windows, Linux and Mac, Firefox. Following the launch of Firefox 4 in March – which brought major design changes from Firefox 3 – Mozilla moved up its schedule and released Firefox 5 in June, just three months after the previous upgrade, adding a “Do not track” feature for all browsers and platforms, as well as other HTML5 and CSS improvements, although the UI design remained largely unchanged from Firefox 4. As part of Mozilla’s new channel-based alpha and beta testing, Firefox 6.0 is already available as beta, whilst Firefox 7.0 has been made available as early developer preview (or alpha) in the Aurora channel. You can read more about Mozilla’s new “every six weeks” policy here.
While waiting for the future Firefox 6.0 and 7.0, Mozilla’s Product Visual Designer with the Firefox team, Stephen Horlander, has posted some mockups of what the future Firefox could look like on Windows and OS X machines. The images, posted as a presentation on Mozilla’s website, don’t necessarily reflect any upcoming feature in the next versions of Firefox, but they provide some kind of insight into the kind of discussions the team is having in regards of what could come next.
As you can see from the image above (more here), the proposed solution unifies Firefox’s top bar to accomodate tabs, a Home button, a new tab button, as well as integrated add-on manager that has its own tab (much like Google Chrome opens its settings in new tabs, rather than windows). The mockups have been built on top of OS X Lion, as you can tell from the window texture and the traffic lights in the upper left corner. Speaking of which, Horlander has also played around with Lion’s monochrome and popovers, implementing monochromatic icons for cut/copy/paste, bookmarks and tab controls inside a settings popover accessible from a gear icon next to the address bar. Another screenshot shows native full-screen support with minimal chrome when browsing a website. On the PC side, the proposed changes are similar, but based on Windows’ default theme.
It’ll be interesting to see whether these Lion-inspired changes for Firefox on the Mac will evolve into an actual release in the coming months. Meanwhile, Windows users can install this fan-made theme that takes some of Horlander’s UI elements, and applies them to the current version of Firefox.
Lion users trying to use Firefox 5 have seen the browser crash when loading a website that uses downloadable fonts, but a fix will be “coming soon” according to the Mozilla team. The bug in question has only been affecting users on OS X 10.7 Lion and as a result there will be a Mac-only update that will bump up the Firefox build number to 5.0.1.
According to Christopher Blizzard, the Mozilla Web platform director, they had alerted Apple to the problem in Lion but Apple did not fix the problem in the GM build released on July 1. Consequently Mozilla has “changed the font APIs that [they’re] using to newer versions which appear to fix the problem. He notes that the bug is serious enough that it is causing “severe crash problems” for Firefox 5 users on Lion.
Mozilla will also be updating Firefox 3.6 to completely disable downloadable web fonts when the browser runs on Lion because of a similar issue. Blizzard also ntoes that under Lion, 3.6 also has “scrollbar rendering issues” and urges users still running that version (which is set to enter ‘retirement’ soon) to upgrade to Firefox 5. If you are already on Lion, you can help Mozilla test the fix by downloading the latest build from the Aurora channel that already includes the fix.
In line with its more rapid release schedule, Firefox 5 was released just three months after Firefox 4, which had arrived earlier this year. According to the Mozilla Security Leader, Daniel Veditz, it also means that Firefox 4 will no longer be receiving any more updates, including any for potential security issues.
Several people have repeatedly said in public places (newsgroups, planning meeting, Monday meeting; could not find a blog or wiki page) that Firefox 5 will be the security update to Firefox 4, and that there will be no 4.0.2
Effectively this means that if you use Firefox, you are expected to be running the latest major version; otherwise you will face safety risks with using a browser that will no longer be receiving security patches. With this kind of a strategy, Mozilla has taken more than just the rapid release schedule from Google Chrome; it is also following the Chrome idea of only supporting the latest releases.
In some ways it does make sense, both Firefox 6 and Firefox 7 are expected to arrive this year. Supporting older versions would become very difficult whilst wasting resources that could be going into developing new features.
After a number of months in Aurora and Beta testing, the public release of Firefox 5 is expected to come sometime today, but ahead of schedule the downloads are already available now for all platforms.
Although the Firefox page has not yet been updated, notable new features in Firefox 5 include improved support for HTML5, MathML, XHR, more support for CSS animation, a ‘do not track’ option in the privacy pane and general speed and perfomance gains. There is also improved sync support, better add-on updates and improved spell checking for many languages.
You can download Firefox 5 here for Mac, Windows or Linux.
Update - Federico Viticci 5 PM GMT +1: Mozilla has announced the official release of Firefox 5, the first browser to enable the “Do not track” feature on multiple platforms. A full list of detailed changes to the browser can be viewed here.
The latest version of Firefox includes more than 1,000 improvements and performance enhancements that make it easier to discover and use all of the innovative features in Firefox. This release adds support for more modern Web technologies that make it easier for developers to build amazing Firefox Add-ons, Web applications and websites.
Here’s a direct link to Firefox 5.0 for Mac.
Firefox 6, also referred to as Aurora, has just begun its development cycle and a rough alpha release is now available for testing and feedback. As with any alpha, it is in a very unfinished state at this point, but there are some notable new features that are included.
You may be scratching your head wondering why Aurora has gone into alpha when it was only in the past week or so that Firefox 5 went into Beta – that is all due to Mozilla’s development cycle where three major versions must be in active development at any one time. As a result, Firefox 4 is the mainstream and stable release build whilst version 5 is in Beta and now version 6 is in development as an alpha (or Aurora) build. You can download the Firefox 6 alpha here.
A few days later than originally expected, Mozilla updated the beta channel earlier today to include the first public beta of the next major version of Firefox, dubbed Firefox 5.0. Available for Mac, Windows and Linux PCs, the new Firefox comes with performance and stability enhancements, as well as support for new CSS animation standards. A detailed list of changes is provided in the Beta channel release notes:
- Added support for CSS animations
- Added support for switching Firefox development channels
- The Do-Not-Track header preference has been moved to increase discoverability
- Improved standards support for HTML5, XHR, MathML, SMIL, and canvas
- Improved spell checking for some locales
- Improved desktop environment integration for Linux users
More importantly, the new beta allows users to quickly switch between Aurora, Beta and Stable channels from the About menu of Firefox to “test features at various levels of development, quality and polish.” No visible interface changes made their way into the 5.0 beta, though from a first series of tests the speed and memory optimizations when dealing with dozens of open tabs seem remarkable. Aurora, the new release channel launched by Mozilla a few weeks ago, aims at following the path traced by Google Chrome with the Canary builds in offering users a way to get access to early builds a step above the so-called “nightly” builds. Today’s beta release marks the debut of Firefox 5. in the public beta channel.
Firefox 5.0 beta can be downloaded here. Read more
Officially released on March 22, Firefox 4.0 has been a success for Mozilla with hundreds of millions of downloads worldwide as seen on the official Glow page, but the transition process from older versions to the latest one hasn’t been as smooth as the Mozilla team hoped. As noted by 9to5mac, users still running the old 3.5 version of the browser have become a real problem for the company, which is struggling to find a way to EOL (end-of-life) the product by somehow forcing or promoting a recommended update to Firefox 4.0 for desktop machines. With around 12 million users still running Firefox 3.5, this means Mozilla has to take care of security and stability updates for an old version, and on the other hand users (who might still be unaware of the update or simply don’t have the permissions to run a software update on an office computer) can’t enjoy the latest features and additions to the browser. Either by generating buzz on blogs and tech websites about the new release or simply displaying a popup on screen asking to opt-in for the update, Mozilla is moving forward on its plan to kill the old 3.5 version.
We need a plan to obsolete Firefox 3.5 as we can’t support it into perpetuity. We have been frustrated with our efforts to move users off of old releases and are worried too many people do not upgrade and are on vulnerable and unsupported versions of Firefox.
In the meantime, things are quickly evolving on the Firefox 5 side. Mozilla is adopting a release cycle similar to Google Chrome, with major updates coming out every few months instead of years. After launching Aurora, a channel for releases between “nightly” and “beta” status to give users a rather stable glimpse of new features to come in Firefox, Mozilla has announced the milestone update will come out on June 21st, with the 5.0 version moving to the beta channel today. Firefox 5.0 is still available in the Aurora channel at the moment of writing this, and we expect the beta to officially go live later today. Among several stability improvements and performance enhancements, Firefox 5.0 will let users “pin” websites, with the browser generating app-specific links for websites like Facebook. The update system for add-ons will go under a major update, and the address bar is also rumored to receive new social sharing functionalities.
Yesterday we featured a unique Kickstarter project, Hive. Today we’re featuring the first type of browser-based Kickstarter Project we have featured on MacStories and it’s called Dialoggs by Drew Wilson, a popular designer/developer from California. Drew is best known for his Pictos icon sets and Valio, a web application development company. He also has a few new projects up his sleeve too, one being a Mac app called Screeny.
Dialoggs is set to be a new network for better communication, “filling the gap between Twitter, iChat and Tumblr” – it is NOT a client for any of the previously mentioned networks.
It’s realtime, has invites for open and private discussions, and all posts are saved and have their own page. You can attach media and code as well in each post. There’s even an option to “follow” and “unfollow” other Dialoggs users. Recommend users, browse others and “mention” people in posts like Twitter/Facebook; it’s more than just status updates, and it’s much more than a static blog with comments. Drew calls it “the best of both worlds. It’s realtime communication that is permanently stored and (optionally) publicly available.”
Video and screenshots after the break.