by Bill Snyder

Firefox in 2012: What’s in Store for the Open-Source Browser?

Feb 15, 20124 mins
BrowsersInternetProductivity Software

A new, Windows 8-inspired look, an app store, better tab performance and privacy enhancements are on the Mozilla Firefox roadmap in 2012.

If you, like me, are a fan of Mozilla’s Firefox browser you’ll be glad to know that the tireless open source coders who build it have a basket of enhancements and new features lined up for 2012.

Among the most interesting are a Chrome-style app store, a built-in password manager, a Windows 8-compatible version, easier upgrades and a number of tweaks that should speed up Firefox for those of us who habitually keep open handfuls of tabs while working. You can get all the details on the Firefox 2012 Strategy & Roadmap page, but I’ll fill you in on the highlights.

Windows 8 and a Web Store

As you probably know, Windows 8 will have an entirely new look. It will be based on the Metro (tiled) interface with lots of provision for touch-enabled controls, depending on the device. That doesn’t mean that compatible applications will have to use a similar interface, but not moving beyond the style we’ve seen ever since Windows 95 changed the desktop would mean missing an important opportunity.

Mozilla’s developers will give the Windows 8 version of the browser a significant makeover, but until they get more information from Microsoft, neither they nor we will know what changes are actually in store.

Firefox Faceoff: Nightly vs. Pale Moon vs. Waterfox

One of the biggest changes in personal computing in the last few years was the rise of the app and the app store. Indeed, in some respects apps are challenging the Web itself to become the primary means through which users interact with the world. Chrome users have been able to find apps on Google’s Chrome Web Store for some time, and it’s good to learn that Mozilla, which has talked about starting its own store for some time, will finally do it. According to the roadmap, Mozilla is calling its store “Web Apps Marketplace” and it will debut sometime this spring.

¿Cómo Se Dice Firefox?

Here’s what Mozilla says about its upcoming integrated translation service:  “Firefox users, especially outside of the U.S., encounter a lot of content that’s not written in their native tongue. Firefox will offer an easy to use translating feature that makes reading a foreign language content a piece of cake.”

This is on the agenda for the second half of the year. It will be interesting to see how it compares to Google’s existing translation feature. No on-the-fly translation engines I’ve seen are particularly good — and they certainly won’t substitute for a language class — but getting the gist of a Web page written in a language you don’t understand can be very useful.

More Goodies

Tracking Map and third-party cookie management: “People are increasingly concerned about how they’re tracked on the Web. With Firefox’s tracking map feature, people will be able to visualize how they are tracked as they move around the Web and be empowered to easily block that tracking.” Due: Second half of 2012.

Silent Update: “The Firefox update process will be moved to the background and Windows admin passwords and/or UAC prompts will be removed. Also, users with the rare incompatible extension will have a gentler upgrade process.” Due: Second half of 2012.

Add-Ons Sync: “Firefox Sync makes it easy to move between computers and devices. In addition to syncing passwords, bookmarks, and history between Firefox installs, users are going to be able to sync add-ons. Due: By the end of March.

Tab Performance Improvements: “Most Firefox users have several tabs open in a session and background tabs can consume computer resources in ways that slow down the focused tab. There are several upcoming changes to Firefox that will better balance resources to improve performance for the focused tab.” Due: Second half of 2012.