Mozilla’s Firefox internet browser gets a massive facelift in its 29th version, which is now available for download and is said to emphasize customization and consolidation among various platforms. The redesign of the open source browser marks its first since 2011 and aims to attract users of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. The announcement Tuesday comes on the heels of controversial support for California’s anti-gay marriage law from Mozilla co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Brendan Eich. Eich was named CEO in late March then resigned eleven days later amid the controversy.
The browser, which reportedly mimicks Google’s Chrome web browser, boasts improvements which include rounded tabs and a menu icon in the upper right-hand corner. The result is a sleeker menu, which gives the user fewer functions—i.e. opening a new window, toggling full screen mode, an options menu, developer tools and add-ons. Changing the default menu is done by clicking the customize button at the bottom of the menu, which directs the user to a tab where options, such as opening a file, emailing a link or an RSS button can be added. Although the toolbar’s drag-and-drop editing feature is nothing new, the ability for the user to edit the menu is. The Australis menu, as the interface is being called, gives the user the option to show or hide toolbars or title bars found at the top of the window.
According to Mozilla Firefox vice president Johnathan Nightingale, the browser provides the user a bigger number of tools which enables the customization of the web experience like never before. Nightingale added that the new browser also takes cues from mobile applications and introduces a touch, icon-based menu.
“Most desktops are do not utilize touch technology, but they’re moving towards it” he said. “It could be said that the [browser] is borrowing design ideas from mobile technology or it could be said that it’s just well-designed.”
Nightingale also said that Firefox has always touted its add-ons, but the customization part of the experience needed revamping. The ability to now drag-and-drop, he said, in order to customize the menu is a perfect example of the many enhancements that were made. The redesigning of the tabs, he said was another critical detail. Rather than shrink them to allow more to fit on the screen, they were kept the same size, emphasizing readability and a smooth look.
“We decided not to reduce the size of the tabs, which would in theory allow more of them on the screen,” said Nightingale. “We concluded it is more logical for the animation to be smooth while keeping some content which would give the eye something to look at.”
Firefox came on the scene in 2004, replacing Netscape as a faster and more secure substitute for Internet Explorer. The browser met with success as a strong alternative, but was blindsided by the release of Google’s Chrome browser in 2008, which won over users with an even more simplistic approach. Firefox is reportedly now the number three browser behind Internet Explorer and Chrome. The new browser is reported to be available for download from Mozilla.org beginning today.
Commentary by Rick Sarlat