OPEN SOURCE software house Mozilla has set out its goals for Firefox in 2011, which include speeding up its release schedule.
Mozilla's Firefox web browser has been perceived as stagnating in the past year while Google has adopted aggressive marketing and shorter development cycles for Chrome. Given that Chrome recently reached 10 per cent market share, Mozilla's response apparently is to ramp up its pace of development by saying it will release Firefox 4 in 2011 and promising Firefox 5, 6 and 7.
Outlining its priorities for 2011, Mozilla said that its Firefox browser needs to be "responsive from click to render", setting itself a time of no more than 50ms between user action and application reaction. This will include optimisations to mask the underlying network latency and even recording data from users to test the infrastructure in place to achieve this goal.
Mozilla said it plans to establish a development framework allowing Chrome-like applications and to "implement missing pieces of CSS/HTML required for compelling web applications", but it admitted that this might have to wait until Firefox 6.
It also pencilled in improvements to reliability and storing application state so tabs are not lost when Firefox uses up all of the RAM in a computer. It also cited support for Windows 64-bit versions and integration with Mac OSX 10.7 and Android 3.0 as development objectives.
It elaborated a little, saying it will be working on hardware acceleration, CSS 3D transformation, a low power mode, and plans to improve just-in-time compilation on ARM chips. But perhaps the most widely appreciated feature will be its planned move to a process-per-tab model to isolate webpage crashes to individual tabs.
Mozilla also announced that it will re-evaluate what constitutes a major release, bringing up the possibility that 2011 will see the release of not just Firefox 4 but also Firefox 5, 6 and possibly even 7. Some broad strokes were outlined, although the outfit said the proposals should not be taken as final.
Mozilla's public statement of what it wants to do and where it wants to be in 2011 is commendable and might help maintain users' faith in the development team. Its decision to reconsider what constitutes a major release of Firefox might help it compete more quickly.
By Mozilla's own metrics, it has been well over two years since Firefox 3 was released, and while the outfit released Firefox 3.5 in the meantime, there is no doubt that Mozilla needs to pick up the pace. Google's seemingly random versioning scheme in Chrome is not the answer, but a middle road between Mozilla's stepwise approach and the frenetic pace that Google has set might be helpful.
So while talk of Firefox 5, 6 and 7 might be exciting, what Mozilla really needs to do is work on getting Firefox 4 out and tool up for Firefox 5. Mozilla needs to realise that it's not 2004 and its major competitors are far more capable, agile and much more competent than Microsoft. µ
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