Firefox 16: the browser’s future begins to take shape

Amber Sass

Amber Sass

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Mozilla recently released version 16 of its popular Firefox browser. The vast majority of changes and features that were added to this newest browser version were security fixes and other back-end tweaks that general users will likely not find noticeable.

However, this particular Firefox release is the beginning of a transitional phase, one that promises big changes in the near future.

I’ll show you what’s new in Firefox 16, as well as give you a sneak peak of what’s to come.

Firefox 16 features

Most of the new features in Firefox 16 are targeted toward developers, such as the addition of a new developer command line in the Developer Toolbar.

Firefox 16 also comes with initial desktop support for web apps, which helps bring it up to speed with Google Chrome, which already boasts the same feature. This will make it possible for web apps to be installed directly onto users’ desktops. This means web apps downloaded from the Mozilla Marketplace will act like desktop apps but will rely on Firefox’s backbone. While this is an exciting development, users still have some waiting to do since Mozilla Marketplace is only available to developers at the moment.

In addition, Firefox 16 comes with one small but significant new performance feature – incremental garbage collection. This feature lessens any performances lags associated with the garbage collector being used to clean up in the background while users are browsing the web.

Mozilla has also subsequently released an update in Firefox 16.0.1 to fix a security flaw with its initial release. I’ve experienced a higher frequency of browser crashes in both versions, however, which some users might find annoying enough to hold off on updating for the time being until the issue has been better addressed.

Firefox 17: a stylish new social browser?

It’s no secret that many people’s browsing time is divided among the web’s most popular social networks like Facebook and Twitter. In fact, these sites are where some users spend the majority of their time online (outside of work, hopefully!).

Mozilla seems to have recognized this and is in the process of improving its integration with social networks. Version 17 of Firefox looks set to include a new sidebar where you can see notifications from your social networks, and even “like” and comment on friends’ posts directly. Facebook chat is also expected to be available straight from your Firefox sidebar.

Of course, this really isn’t any different than what social browsers RockMelt and Flock (for which support was discontinued in April 2011) offered a few years earlier. You can also opt to install Firefox add-ons that will do essentially the same thing. Firefox 17 offers you the convenience of having such features already integrated into its UI though, something a lot of users will likely appreciate.

Firefox’s upcoming version will also bring with some changes to its user interface. Tabs and other edges within the browser will now be rounded, similar to what Chrome has now. There will also be an emphasis on fewer buttons for common functions, giving the UI a very minimalist and stream-lined appearance.

Web apps and the upcoming Firefox

The Chrome Web Store really breathed new life in web apps for internet users. Mozilla seems to have realized the importance of this and has been focusing on desktop support for web apps in its latest version of Firefox.

With Firefox 16, you can already “install” web apps, but you’re required to do so within the browser itself. Future versions of Firefox promise to allow you to be able to access web apps without the need to open your browser to do so. This will make your web app experience much more similar to running a traditional PC application, with a very simple and quick installation process.

To accompany this new feature, Mozilla plans to own its own app store, called Mozilla Marketplace, which will work as an OS with your Firefox web browser.

Firefox and Windows 8

The release of Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 operating system will change the way we use applications, particularly while making use of the Windows 8 Modern UI. Firefox offers a clear example of this with its recently released app for Windows 8. Firefox Metro Preview has two interface modes – a regular desktop version and one that is specifically configured for touch devices.

Although the new features that appear in version 16 of Firefox may not seem very outwardly impressive, Mozilla clearly has its eye on the future when it comes to making web browsing a more social and touch screen friendly experience. Are you impressed with the direction Mozilla Firefox is heading? What are some features you’d like to see in future releases of Firefox?

(via Softonic ES)

Amber Sass

Amber Sass

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