Firefox 12 Released
I just upgraded to Firefox 12, and just like that there is another update. I just blogged about Firefox 11 and I described there how Firefox’s market share is shrinking due to Chrome. Chrome is popular and widely used because it is very easy to use. Once you get used to it, you will stick to it. I still remember reading posts how people find the tab placement of Chrome awkward while ditching the title bar altogether. Now look at the top 10 browsers in the market. Everyone followed the direction of Chrome. I don’t think Firefox is blatantly copying Chrome. I think Chrome just innovated more and now it’s one of the leading browsers. Everything is a remix but I just wish Firefox is really doing things better.
Improvements and Hidden Updates
There are several hidden updates here, like when you change the entry browser.newtabpage.enabled to true in about:config, then enter about:newtab you will get what seems like 3 x 3 tiles of your most visited websites. We will see the complete “speed dial” or “new tab page” feature in Firefox 13.
You don’t see much improvement as an end-user but under the hood, there are more than 85 improvements to built-in developer tools.
The most important update here is the removal of user account control dialog so this is probably the last time you will see the UAC pop-up after upgrading to Firefox 12. The goal is to simplify the upgrade process and push the updates to all users. Instead of using UAC in Windows, Firefox now uses a background service in Windows to update the program when there is an update available — pretty much what Chrome for a long time already. This feature is now planned in Mac and Linux on version 14.
Why did Mozilla only implemented this now? I could only reason add-ons being the major cause of delay.
If you don’t know, Firefox needed to switch to a new add-on SDK to allow developers to create add-ons with greater compatibility with future releases of Firefox. This way developers do not need to worry that their add-ons will be incompatible to future versions. Switching to the new add-on SDK required convincing the developers to completely switch to the new SDK and it took time. I don’t know the exact numbers of developers who switched to the new SDK but since I used Firefox 4 I saw more and more add-ons not requiring immediate update every time I upgrade Firefox and since Firefox 10 I don’t remember having problems with add-ons at all. And because there is no need to worry about add-ons now, Firefox can automatically update the program without the risk of making installed add-ons incompatible. We will see how effective it is when Mozilla rolls out the next security update or major release.
Switch to Date-based Versioning Already
Speaking of major releases, it seems pointless to talk about version numbers now with the case of Firefox and Chrome but for me Firefox is a special case. I am still wondering if the rapid release cycle actually helps Firefox gain more users and made it easier to use. Looking back, Mozilla could have just called the rapid release cycle, rapid updates cycle — delivering noteworthy updates while keeping the major release number and still use the 6-week iterations. What if they just also use a major development wave every 6 iterations to mark a major release milestone just so we don’t get ridiculous high version number like Chrome? I think Mozilla can do be better than Chrome here. Seriously, just switch to the data-based versioning already. It makes more sense to have Firefox 2012.04.24. They can go the Ubuntu way as well, say Firefox 12.4 which means that the software was released on April 2012. Makes more sense right?