Details about the next version of Firefox are slowly emerging. The browser will receive significant UI revisions and feature updates that will make Firefox more social and adopt several features that are already working well in Google’s Chrome browser.
Firefox 5 is currently published as Firefox 4.2apre and there isn’t anything new to see yet. It will take at least another 4 weeks until we will be having a much better idea how the refreshed interface will look like and what new features will make it into the browser. The browser is currently scheduled to go into its second of four development stages on April 13, while the anticipated release date of the final is around June 29.
The Firefox UX planning pages are revealing nine different feature that are planned for Firefox 5 (while we believe that some of those may actually slip to later versions – 6 or 7, both of which are due this year.) The new features are:
1. Tab multi-select similar to a feature that has recently become available in Chrome nightly builds (Chromium) as well. Users can simply select more than one tab and close or move them – or convert them in app tabs.
2. There will be a new tab page (no public mockups yet)
3. Add-ons will get standardized toolbar support
4. There will be a file upload indicator
5. The Home button will completely disappear. Instead, Mozilla will be adding a permanent Home app tab. This appears to be an evolving feature and Mozilla is exploring ways how to get rid of the home button, while not damaging the usability of the browser.
6. In-browser preview: Firefox will also get an integrated PDF viewer (like Chrome) and will extend this capability to more popular file formats, including MP3.
7. Taskbar web apps: We have discussed this feature already previously, but have not seen any more developments around it. Tabs will get their own context menus that can be configured by website owners. Websites will act much more like traditional apps and core features as well as navigation items will be accessible via the site tab.
8. Identity management: We have also written about this feature before. Firefox 5 will be able to keep you signed in to websites via an integrated identity manager and even support multiple sign-ons at the same time.
9. The sharing features appears to be the big deal in Firefox 5 – there will be a new paper plane logo in the URL bar that provides access to your social media accounts, such as Facebook, Twitter and we assume other services such as Reddit, Digg or StumbleUpon as well. You can add social accounts and “share” websites directly from your URL bar. there is no need for clicking a “Like” button.
We are hearing that Mozilla keeps a close eye on its schedule and is more than likely to stay exactly within this new plan. A browser in development will move into a new phase every 5-6 weeks, while a new final version of a browser should be released every 16 to 18 weeks. That gives Mozilla three new browser releases every year, which is up from the previous theoretical two releases and the actual one release per year. Google, by the way, is in a 6-week release cycle, while Microsoft’s IE8 and IE9 were released in 2-year cycles.