San Francisco — Famed open source web browser, Firefox, looks to have a bit of a change of plans. Mozilla’s next outburst in the browser wars originally intended to be released before the end of 2009, but now it would not come quite as soon as the company previously promised. Mozilla has pushed back the release of future Firefox versions.
Mozilla is forcing back deadlines for new versions of Firefox, estimating that consuming a bit more time to deliver new software will be worth the risk.
Firefox 3.6, which was originally planned for release this month, would not be available until sometime during the first quarter of 2010, and the release of Firefox 4.0 has been pushed back, as well. More time for the Firefox releases will allow Mozilla to perfect features, but may also allow Microsoft to gain more market share for Internet Explorer 8.
Given how intensified the browser competition has come into force in recent months, the delays represent an interesting choice (and/or failure) on Mozilla’s part. Unlike the past, when Firefox was the only serious, free alternative to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, the browser landscape is especially crowded these days, and browsers that fall too far behind the upgrade race risk losing substantial market share.
The next version of Firefox 3.6 is currently in the final stages of beta, but now that would not see the day of light until at least the first quarter of 2010. That short delay is pushing the next big update, 4.0 into late 2010 or early 2011. Firefox 4.0 will move the browser to being more like Chrome.
That minor delay could be good news for Microsoft, says Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT. Recent figures indicate Firefox 3.5 with a larger percentage of users than either Internet Explorer 7 or 8, but the trends also show a relatively rapid transition to Microsoft’s latest browser due to market adoption of Windows 7.
“With the delay of the next version of Firefox, Microsoft has a window to take back some market share,” King said. “A lot will depend on how well Microsoft gets the word out about IE 8 — how different and better it is than IE 7 and the current Firefox offering.”
With the introduction of Chrome, and the actions Mozilla is taking for Firefox 4.0, the new browser rivalry look to be quite exciting. Google seems to be pushing the others into doing improving their browsers in a variety of ways. Multiple processes for multiple tabs can be a great idea so you do not lose anything inside a tab that is not causing the problem. Hopefully Apple and Microsoft can update their browsers in much the same way and provide browsers that are as nice as Firefox 4.0 could be and Chrome is.
In Firefox 4.0, users will witness major interface changes as Firefox does away with the old-fashioned menu bar in favor of some sort of pop-down menu. Mozilla designer Stephen Horlander blogged that the current thinking is an “App Button” similar to the approach taken by Microsoft in its native Windows 7 apps.
The interface as of now is on track to be changed to mimic that of Google’s browser. It will also feature an update to the Gecko rendering engine that will bring greater HTML5 and CSS3 support. Jetpack and possibly Weave will also be built into Firefox 4.0, as well as a new project called Electrolysis. Electrolysis will give each aspect of the browser a different process, making it so individual tabs will not crash the browser just like Chrome.
Version 4.0, which is supposed to arrive in late 2010 or early 2011, should introduce “significant user interface changes,” too.
It will be interesting to see what Google and Microsoft can accomplish with Chrome and IE by then.