Mozilla gave developers a heads-up Monday on its plans to release a new version of Firefox featuring advanced HTML5 capabilities. Reacting to the recent market-share success of Google's lightning-fast Chrome browser, Mozilla said one of the priorities for its forthcoming Firefox 4 release is to make the next-generation browser "super-duper fast."
With Firefox 4, the ultimate aim for Mozilla is to develop a technology base that is fast, secure and optimized, noted Firefox Director Mike Beltzner. "For users, we want to build a product that is fast, friendly and empowering," Beltzner told the Mozilla developer community on Monday. "For developers, we want to give them tools for capable, fast Web access."
Overcoming Flat Growth
However, it's not just the next version of Firefox that needs to be fast. The Firefox development team needs to hustle because Chrome growth in the global browser market has been outpacing all its rivals for the past several months.
According to the latest data from Net Applications, Chrome increased its market share to 6.7 percent in April -- which is about five percentage points higher than it was a year ago. Moreover, Google Chrome has been the major beneficiary of Microsoft's weakness in the browser market over the course of the past 12 months, a role that Firefox used to enjoy.
The global market share held by Internet Explorer hit a 12-month low of 59.95 percent at the end of April, and over that period Chrome received the lion's share of Microsoft's percentage slide. Meanwhile, Mozilla's share of the browser market in April continued to hover at 23.8 percent, up only slightly from April 2009.
Beltzner hopes the addition of advanced capabilities to Firefox 4 like HTML5, 64-bit computing support, and reduced I/O operations on the main thread will help. However, none of these advancements will do anything to help Mozilla counter one of Chrome's major strengths apart from sheer speed -- the advertising and web-promotion power of Google.
Firefox 4 Milestones
With Firefox 4, the product's development team aims to deliver a sleeker and simpler user interface as the default, performance optimizations, and faster navigation. To speed things along for users, Firefox 4 will add dedicated application tabs. Users also will be able to install add-ons without having to restart the browser.
Mozilla's plan right now is to have Firefox 4 available in a beta release next month and as a release candidate by October. However, Beltzner cautioned that both the new features and milestone dates for Firefox 4 are fluid and likely to change.
"As with past releases, we use dates to set targets for milestones, and then we work together to track to those targets," Beltzner wrote in a blog. "We always judge each milestone release against our basic criteria of quality, performance and usability, and we only ship when it's ready."
A major new browser release is no guarantee that Firefox will be able to return to the market growth it enjoyed until Google Chrome started picking up steam. If past results are any indication, the release of Firefox 4 will likely be market-share neutral, according to Net Applications Vice President Vince Vizzaccaro.
"I just did a quick review of Firefox major release dates, and the browser usage market share before and after those release dates," Vizzaccaro said. "There appears to be no correlation between Firefox major releases and changes in usage market share."
Posted: 2010-05-12 @ 11:00am PT
I wonder if Firefox is becoming irrelevant. IE is the standard for PCs (and best IMO), Chrome is now the lightweight, fast contender, Safari is only useful for Macs (slow on PCs) and the rest of are just footnotes. So where does FF fit into all of this? Not really sure... maybe FF will become mostly a Linux browser?
Walter Meding Jr.:
Posted: 2010-05-12 @ 7:20am PT
I had Firefox for some time. About 1 year ago, I got rid of it because on start up it was very slow. When you started it a second time, it was was pretty quick. But after the computer was first turned on, and when you wanted to start Firefox, you had to wait 30-40 seconds to turn on. I hope they fixed that problem. Other than that, it ran fine.