Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Firefox 4: Planned Features

Absurdly large Firefox logo.Mike Beltzner, Mozilla's Director of Firefox, yesterday presented an early product plan for Firefox 4 to the Mozilla community. He followed up with a blog post outlining the presentation and linking to some resources. He is careful to regularly state in his post and throughout his slide presentation that these are just plans, nothing is built and everything may change. He links to the OGG version of the presentation video and also embeds the slide presentation from SlideShare on his. Which I am reposting here:

To quote his primary goals for Firefox 4:

  • Fast: making Firefox super-duper fast
  • Powerful: enabling new open, standard Web technologies (HTML5 and beyond!),
  • Empowering: putting users in full control of their browser, data, and Web experience.

His plan puts Firefox 4 arriving around October 2010 (with the beta arriving around June). Firefox 3.7 was going to include out-of-process plug-ins, but those are being moved into 3.6.4, essentially removing 3.7 from the lifecycle.

Today the Mozilla Hacks blog has a post on the new HTML5 parser coming in Firefox 4. Gecko's old (current) HTML parser dates back to 1998, well before HTML5 was even on the drawing board. There are four key improvements in the new parser, according to Mozilla:

  1. You can now use SVG and MathML inline in HTML5 pages, without XML namespaces.
  2. Parsing is now done off Firefox's main UI thread, improving overall browser responsiveness.
  3. It's improved the speed of innerHTML calls by about 20%.
  4. With the landing of the new parser we've fixed dozens of long-standing parser related bugs.

The rest of the post goes into detail with SVG and MathML examples. It's worth reading if you're... me, I suppose.

All of this is fine and dandy for developers, but not much of these new features interest end users. Unlike Internet Explorer and, to some extent, Safari, Firefox users tend to be a bit more savvy and are interested in upgrading the browser when new releases come out. Because of that, adoption of Firefox 4 should move along pretty well.

End users will benefit from planned security enhancements, stability improvements, and speed enhancements, and this should be enough to pull most users along into the upgrade path. There are also plans to add more personalization features into the browser. All of this, however, is up for grabs. The only certain item so far is the progress that has already been made on the HTML5 parser, which will be a boon to users if more companies move away from Flash, proprietary video, or just start to use HTML5 and CSS3 more on their sites. iPad and iPhone users, however, won't benefit from a browser they cannot install.

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