Firefox in 2011 – Firefox plans for 2012

A lot of people are interested in Firefox, the progress that is being made and what we plan to do. Therefore, I’d like to outline the things we accomplished with Firefox in 2011, and what we have already done, and plan to do, in 2012.

Firefox in 2011

The major things we did with Firefox in 2011 were:

Rapid releases
We moved into new releases every 6 weeks of Firefox, to ensure both new features and fixes got out there faster to end users, instead of having to wait up to one year before – enabling a better web for end users and web developers alike. A concern was raised was about enterprises and releases, and therefore we established the Extended Support Release for Organizations. There were also questions about add-on compatibility and update approach, that is covered below for 2012.
Performance work
During 2011, we saw the latest Firefox release that year being up to 7 times faster than Firefox 3.6!
Memory usage
A lot of work went into this area, and there were improvements resulting in up to 50% less memory usage.
Firefox release channels
To give web developers more options to test new features, we introduced the Firefox Aurora channel. Together with Firefox Beta and Firefox Nightly, that means a lot of ways to try new things.
Firefox for Android
We released Firefox for Android and have some exciting features lined up, available for testing in the Firefox Aurora and Firefox Nightly channels.
Privacy
Firefox introduced Do Not Track to the industry, something that was quickly followed by others. In 2011, the adoption for Firefox was 17.6% on mobile and 6% on desktop.
Improvements and features
In 2011, we made 10 881 enhancements/changes to Firefox, together with 83 new features and 135 new APIs.
Add-ons
A staggering 480 000 000 add-ons were installed!

Firefox and version numbers

With rapid releases and new version numbers, we have had questions about what they mean and communicate.

Version numbers will play a lesser and lesser role for users, but they will still matter to web developers, IT administrators and similar. The reason for having major version number bumps (e.g. version 6 to 7, 7 to 8, etc) is that new versions have had cases of non-backward compatible APIs, and the version number have been there to signal that it is not a minor release or maintenance update.

From a branding perspective, it will likely more go into being just Firefox, and that versioning will be more transparent.

Firefox in 2012

To continue to build on our progress and momentum for 2011 we evaluated what the next steps would be, and have already started implementing a number of them. Outlined below are some of the most important ones.

Add-on compatibility
To address the issue of people updating Firefox but having their desired add-ons stop working, from Firefox 10 add-ons were made Compatible by Default. This means that all add-ons that were marked compatible for Firefox 4 and higher will automatically be enabled in Firefox 10 and later.
Add-on sync
Firefox Sync are being used by a lot of people, and in 2011 there were 25 billion items synced. To complement that, from Firefox 11 you can now also sync add-ons.
Silent updates
To cater to update fatigue, updates will now be downloaded and installed silently in the background. It means that startup and shutdown of the web browser won’t be affected by installation routines. Additionally, the What’s New page displayed after an update can now be displayed depending if there is important information needed to be displayed to the end user. Silent updates are currently planned to land in Firefox 12, and some supporting enhancements including background updates will land after Firefox 12 (the silent update mechanism is broken down into several parts, described in detail in the Silent Update planning).
Developer Tools
Our Developer Tools in Firefox continue to evolve, with a number of features outlined in the Developer Tools roadmap.

All Firefox plans are available in the Firefox roadmap.

Web platform updates

When it comes to the web platform, we have a number of exciting new features in store:

WebRTC
Support for real time audio, video and data communication between two web browsers. The implications of this are huge and it will enable a lot of interesting real-time communication solutions, richer web games and overall take the web to the next level!
Completing Web Sockets
Make Web Sockets match the W3C protocol and API parts. Web Sockets are an interesting solution to offer bi-directional and full-duplex communications over TCP, and it enables pushing things from web servers without the need for a web page to constantly poll it and ask. Low-latency.
SPDY
Allows for multiplexing and connection sharing, described more in detail in SPDY Brings Responsive and Scalable Transport to Firefox 11. It’s SSL only, and will offer faster page loads and better scalability for SPDY-enabled web servers. The goal is for end users to have a much faster web experience with all kinds of content, from more regular web sites to high-performing ones in the form of games and media.
HTTP Pipelining
Offers a significant performance gain, in particular in regards to high latency connections. Will also help in those cases where SPDY is not enabled/an option and build on existing infrastructure.
HTTP Pre-connections
Opening HTTP connections before page loads to improve performance, and is based on the assumption that users will go back to the same sites. A complement to SPDY and HTTP Pipelining in offering a faster user experience on the web.
DASH WebM
Brings adaptive streaming of WebM video with DASH, and is outlined in Matroska/WebM in MPEG DASH. Offering proper streaming of video on the web could vastly improve user experience, and allows Firefox to adapt to changing network conditions and resolution changes (for instance, to/from fullscreen viewing).
Web Apps improvements
A huge number of features to make Web Apps more integrated into Firefox, to offer users a seamless integration and to complement the Mozilla Marketplace. All improvements are listed in the roadmap for Apps in Firefox.
Uploading directories and accessing to Local Media Storage
Gives access to entire directories through File API or to upload them, with their subtrees intact, and additionally gives access to upload, sync or other actions with Local Media. This is intended to give a richer integration with devices out there and make the web platform and experience richer for users.
CSS Flexbox and CSS Grid
Implementing support for the latest versions of CSS Flexbox and CSS Grid, where the idea is to offer a number of improved ways of doing layout on the web.
Capturing keys in fullscreen mode and Mouse Lock API
With fullscreen support in web browsers, the next step is improve the gaming and interaction experience for building more advanced web sites with key input in fullscreen mode and also being able to use the mouse as a controller instead of as a pointer.

More details on the web platform is available in the Web Platform roadmap.

Moving forward!

As you can see, we have, and continue, to work hard on Firefox and the web platform to offers users the best experiences and number of options we can!
Need help with something? Please check out the extensive Need Help With Firefox?

View full post on Mozilla Hacks – the Web developer blog

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20 thoughts on “Firefox in 2011 – Firefox plans for 2012

  1. Jean-Yves Perrier

    I’ve seen plans to implement the break features (not of CSS3 Columns, but of CSS2.1). If this is prioritized high enough, that certainly will means that the column-break features will be done at the same time.
    Also note that all the break features (CSS3 Columns, CSS 2.1, …) are refactorized in a new CSS Fragmentation module (First published working draft has been publishes earlier this very same month). This is really interesting to make them work well with all the new CSS layout features coming in the next couple of years.

    But there is more demand for CSS3 Flex and CSS3 Grids than for CSS3 Columns.

  2. Jean-Yves Perrier

    I’ve never heard any plan to have silent updates mandatory. Though they will be on by default on Windows if the installation is done with enough privileges to allow the Service to be installed, silent updates won’t be mandatory. Also Firefox will not bypass OS dialogs, the user will have to give the service the authorization once, at installation time, that’s all. Then the OS won’t throw other dialogs.

  3. kickass69

    It sounds like Silent Updates are going to be mandatory which I’ll easily switch to another browser if it doesn’t remain optional in options or About:config for advanced users. Part of that Silent Update mechanism entails Firefox needing to bypass OS dialogs (UAC in Windows Vista/7) as per your Silent Update Planning link. I actually want to know when a program is making or attempting any change to my system. I prefer manually updating anything I use for compatibility and other issues that can arise as well as to examine new features. Forcing updates in the background might come across as a great feature for some until something unsavory from the organization who makes said program gets passed on that can cause you problems or a botched update that causes system issues.

    Catering to update fatigue is the same excuse I hear from any other program that forces this upon it’s users, more like it caters to the lowest common denominator who uses their PC as an appliance instead of learning and knowing how to use it.

  4. Andrew Hime

    You have 64-bit versions for Mac and Linux, but can’t do one for Windows. You’ve been working towards a 64-bit version for what, years now? (I follow the tracking bug.) And yet there’s *still* no official plan for it? Hell, I run Nightly, and it works. This can’t be as hard as you make it out to be. If anything, it sounds like half the team wants it and half the team doesn’t. Don’t worry about the performance of it, just finalize it to a point where it’s ready, and release the damn thing. We want it. Give us what we fucking want.

  5. Al

    I understand.

    I simply need to be able disable any and all ‘automatic’ updates on my rig.

    Thank you for the reply.

  6. Hieu Le Trung

    I think firefox team should implement the multi-column of CSS3 completely in 2012, the column break feature is so important but have not implemented yet.

  7. Robert Nyman

    As with any options/preferences, the default choice will be to the one that most people will want and will gain from.

  8. Robert Nyman

    Feel free to elaborate on what you find disappointing? The lack of a 64-bit version?

  9. Robert Nyman

    That could help, but generally shouldn’t be faster. You should ask the people in Firefox Support as well for any tips and tricks. And I do agree, I think many people don’t know it’s a possibility.

  10. Oliver

    sorry for double post – I’ve just found out about a “hack” to improve speed – just add spaces and firefox instantly switches to google search. I guess other behaviour is hard to integrate from a developer’s point of view?!

  11. Oliver

    Thank you very much. I couldn’t change the behaviour significantly, though. Would be great if I find it faster in a next Firefox release (I still wonder how many even now about the search in the location bar!)

  12. Jean-Yves Perrier

    There is no one performance metric. The Snappy project aims at making the user interface reactive. There is no metric set as a goal, though informally any action should see a reaction in less than 150 ms, and every related bugs is prioritize according its impact. One of the main action is to remove any I/O from the UI thread so that the interface will stay reactive.

    Taras Glek, leading this effort, do post (almost) weekly report on the progress: http://blog.mozilla.com/tglek/category/snappy/

    Working this way proved very effective with memory management which is now far better than the competition (though there are still a lot of work in progress).

    The tab moving effect was removed as it lowered snappiness. It will come back in the future (no set date).

  13. Jean-Yves Perrier

    A Speed Dial-like tool is on the current Nightly of Firefox. It should be ready for public consumption around Fx 13-14. Upgrading add-ons without restart is really difficult as add-ons may be in use at some point.

  14. Jean-Yves Perrier

    Yes, it is opt-out. On Windows, there will be a service in the background downloading and installing the upgrade.

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