Recently, Mozilla announced that it will release Firefox 6 Beta on July 5, and the official edition will be also launched six weeks later. Meanwhile, its sequel Firefox 7 is currently in development, and the initial research and development for Firefox 8 has also begun. Historically, the Mozilla Corporation releases a major new version of their industry-leading Firefox browser about every two year, but in 2011, the release road map is going to undergo a drastic change.
Currently there are several new feautures or improvements on Firefox 6, but none of these are major update, and compared with Firefox 5, it seems that there are nothing special in the new version. Let’s firstly sum up these new things: it gets more control over permissions, Firefox 6’s new Data Management Window is a site-based permissions interface that lets users control how much access particular Web sites have to their browsing data, including cookies, passwords and location information. But apparantly this can be only seen as an improvement to the previous versions of Firefox, it enhances some of details but nothing else.
It will also have a faster startup time, the result is improved browser startup time and a better overall experience. This is actually an old issue which bothers Firefox for so many years, and every time it updated, the new version would be claimed as “faster startup time”, but that could never happen, as an honest Firefox users, personally I want to know whether it will be fixed this time. Speaking of speeds, Firefox 6 is the first version in which the browser’s newly achieved performance boost for Linux users is expected to be felt, bravo!
The new browser version quickly verifies the compatibility of installed plug-ins directly from the Add-Ons Manager thanks to a Plug-in Check feature. Ironically, this improvement makes Firefox slap on its own face. As the best open-sourced web browser, Firefox is famous of its thousands of add-ons, plug-ins and personalized themes and skins, however, every time it updates, a quite number of third-party add-ons will be eliminated due to the compatibility with the new version. The update is too fast to let the third-party developers make reaction, therefore, more powerful this feature turn to be, more users and developers will hate Firefox. Besides, these improvements do not provide a truly better experience for the users.
Although Firefox 6 isn’t even out of beta yet, expect to see Firefox 8 by year’s end. This is a radical departure, to say the least, but in many ways, in the war of numbers, it makes a lot of sense. Although Firefox 4 is easily competitive, feature-by-feature, with other browsers on the market, the likes of Internet Explorer 9, Opera 11 or Google Chrome 9 seem like they must be superior to Firefox 4. After all, they have bigger numbers attached!
The requirement of a product or brand to “fudge the numbers” to appear competitive with the competition is a pretty common occurrence in technology. Consider what Microsoft did with the Xbox 360: even though it’s only a second-generation console, the presence of the “360″ number makes the console seem like a third generation console. That’s not an accident: Microsoft was trying to compete with Sony’s PlayStation 3. Even Apple’s jumped a number just to make their product seem more advanced: the second-gen iPhone adopted branding that evoked a third-gen product with the iPhone 3G.
Now is Mozilla playing catch-up with the competition, not in features, but in numeric branding. That’s not to say they don’t have real improvements in mind for Firefox 5 through 7, but there are very little. Firefox 5, for example, will absorb the Account Manager and F1 Simple Sharing add-ons and become built-in features, as well as add 64-bit Windows 7 support. Firefox 6 will focus on the Web applications framework. As for Firefox 7, it’s not entirely clear what features are in mind.
Nowadays, internet appears to be a very peculiar business one in which companies might serially rise, fall, and disappear. It turns out that fast-moving technology, fickle user behavior, and swirling public perception are an extremely volatile mix, as the entrance of internet, browser plays a very important role, as almost all services, activities and transation are come across it like a bridge. Recently, projects like Firefox from Mozilla and Chrome from Google made major advances in the “under the hood” technology. It’s a testament to the fundamental importance of the browser that these invisible, but meaningful changes created major market share shifts. In the past 3 years an eye popping 500 million people have switched browsers. Now you can see how important browser is, for the internet, industry and the business.
In order to adapt the browser to the Internet evolution in future, the development for the browser should focus on those things: people, perhaps the most important change in the past five years has been the shift from a page-centric to people-centric Internet. Information flow, The modern web reverses the paradigm of getting information as information now flows to us. Search, everybody knows what Google is cooking. And Multiple Computing Devices, you can figure it out what happened and what changed these years, the desktop computer is no longer the only device able to access internet, tablet, gaming consoles, mobile phone, even your fridge.
In such a environment, when hundreds of millions of people around the world are living on your platform, you should be responsible for the users, and the development should be focus on the above-mentioned elements not to just simply catch up with the version number or some not that important new feature, the user is the thing that matters, other wise, you will be abandoned by them and finally get eliminated by the market.