According to recent news, the Firefox Web browser is about to get a major overhaul. An official report from Mozilla, the company which produces the browser, there are intentions to move away from XML-based languages for its user interface and to move toward clearer, more functional design elements.
One of the biggest problems that Firefox has inherited over the years is sluggishness. It once had a “snappy” feeling — a point which Dave Camp, the director of engineering at Firefox, points out — but has since lost that due to complexity with code and a lack of developer support. Ars Technica notes that, to remedy this issue and deal with a possible lack of quality in add-ons, Mozilla is making a series of broad changes that are the Three Pillars of the new browser.
Camp said in a recent email in the firefox-dev mailing list that those three pillars are Uncompromised Quality, Best Of The Web, and Uniquely Firefox. To begin, Uncompromised Quality means that the official browser development teams will only release new features if they are polished and ready for the limelight. This means that any halfway developed ideas will either be scrapped or pushed toward a polished state.
Electrolysis, a feature which will bring per-tab processes to the browser, is among the first on that list of features which reportedly will make its way toward a finished product. Camp said it is Electrolysis that can help make Firefox feel snappy again.
From there, add-ons and third-party apps will fall into the category, Best of the Web. This means that Firefox will be improving its API to allow outside vendors to create better apps for use with the browser. Along the way, both security and performance of apps should find themselves improved. This will also mean the dropping of the XML User Interface Language and the XML Binding Language that currently shape Firefox and therefore shape add-ons. It is unclear at this point, however, whether the future of the browser’s user interface will be coded in HTML5 or native user interfaces that fit desktop and mobile specifically.
Then there is Uniquely Firefox. This is more of a mindset rather than an actual feature. Mozilla wants to attract more users to its platform and make sure that it doesn’t lose any more market share to other software (mostly, we’re looking at Google Chrome). Camp noted that the company wants to focus on the reasons why Firefox became popular in the first place. An improved Private Browsing feature is expected to soon make its way to production versions of the latest releases.
While phrases such as Uncompromised Quality can often appear as managerial speak that have little basis in real action, there may actually be a purpose to what Firefox/Mozilla is saying. Camp and company appear to have some idea about why Firefox has lost users to other browsers and why the platform itself has become slow. It will take a lot of effort regarding both marketing and design to make these changes a reality and bring users back to the platform. I have my fingers crossed as someone who left for greener pastures but who wouldn’t mind seeing a return to greatness.
Image courtesy of Johan Larsson via Flickr.