While Firefox 3 pushes
the boundaries of a browser, delivering a cleaner graphical interface,
numerous security upgrades, and a variety of new features, it still is far from
the "perfect browser". Of course no browser on the market could
earn such a distinction, be it Opera's "Kestrel" 9.5 browser, which is
up to be very nicely, Microsoft's
Internet Explorer 8, which is sure to deliver
top end performance, or Apple's Safari v3.1 browser, which although plagued
with bugs of late is still one of the fastest,
most compatible, browsers around.
However, perfection is exactly what Mozilla wants for its Firefox 4 browser and
it intends to get it through outside
the box thinking. With the release of Firefox 3 imminent, Chris
Beard, VP of Labs for Mozilla, has started to talk Firefox 4. Beard is
working on many features which, while their underlying components might start
to pop up in Firefox 3, won't truly see the light of day until Firefox 4.
Beard's basic push is to un-isolate the browser. He
says that after 10 years the browser still remains isolated from your browser
on other machines and from your computer environment. This leads to the focal
point of Mozilla's efforts for Firefox 4. Mozilla is pushing strongly for
two very different new lines of research: Prism and Weave.
Prism is the main path of Mozilla's efforts to make the browser into almost a
virtual OS, with applications, workspaces, and more advanced resource
management and graphical abilities. Mozilla says the HTML 5 and Prism
will make Google Gears obsolete. Google Gears is a beta service from the
search giant which offers a way of accessing its online tools and applications,
offline via clever caching and scripting. Mozilla also claims Prism will
similarly be a death knell for Microsoft
Silverlight and Adobe Air, two programs similar to Google Gears, attempting
to meld online and offline applications together.
Mozilla's goal is to be able to take any website or application and turn it
into an application that can run directly from the desktop. While part of
the emphasis is removing the classic need to go into a browser to access these
applications, another focus is to make the applications available when you are
offline. HTML 5, the upcoming next standard of the classic internet
language will be updated to provide explicit support for offline/local
resources, which should significantly aid Firefox 4 towards accomplishing these
While little of Prism will appear in Firefox 3, Weave will see some of its underpinnings
crop up in Firefox 3. Weave moves to expand Firefox in the opposite
direction as Prism -- instead of expanding towards the desktop, this one looks
to expand the internet boundaries of what Firefox can accomplish. The key
emphasis of this drive is to provide a way of syncing a user's online
preference whenever they use a browser anywhere. Among the elements of
this are syncing bookmarks, home pages, favorites, and passwords. With
the increased mobility from improved internet on mobile phones, consoles, and
other devices, this becomes a particularly useful goal.
Firefox 3 implements the skeleton of this, with a new transactional database
for store bookmarks and favorites. In Firefox 3 this simply allows more
efficient and unique management of these items, but does not offer
inter-browser syncing. Beard hopes to have the extensions necessary to
provide syncing ready to roll out for Firefox 4. Firefox 3 will implement
some information being fed into the browser when online, which should pave
the way for this. In Firefox 3, streaming updates to malware signatures
will help shore up security by offering protection against new phishing and
drive-by download scams.
Aside from Weave or Prism specific efforts, Beard is trying to focus on making
the browser take effort off the users shoulders by helping them figure out web
addresses. Firefox 3 implements a basic version of this called the
"awesome bar", the new smart web-address bar. Most users of
Firefox 3's betas should already have noticed this feature. Beard wants
to go beyond this and allow for a basic "linguistic user interface"
in Firefox 4 which will allow users to type basic commands in plain
English. He cites Enso and Quicksilver as to utilities that implement
functionality similar to what he hopes to offer.
Aside from these core improvements, Beard warns that there may be some other
"crazy ideas" in store for Firefox 4. With such ambitious goals,
it should be interesting to see what Beard and his team can put together for
quote: Ah, when the browser reaches the point where it becomes your only interaction point with the computer, and all apps/functions are run through it, you don't need an OS anymore.
quote: This is what Microsoft feared from Google. This is why MS bought out a tiny web browser maker and turned it into Internet Explorer. This is why Microsoft is always making its own "standards" in direct defiance to the status quo.
quote: the browser still remains isolated from your browser
quote: the browser still remains isolated from your browser on other machines
quote: I couldn't be happier that there is a product that can compete with Internet Explorer.
quote: ...death knell for Microsoft Silverlight