Mozilla has revealed its plans for Firefox over the next year, giving us a clearer idea of what to expect from the browser in 2012.
"As a non-profit organization, Mozilla is uniquely positioned for putting users first, and in 2012 Firefox will do just that with features to help users manage how they're tracked on the web, make sharing across multiple social networks quick and easy, bring privacy and control to the site sign- in process, and much more," the company announced on its Firefox Roadmap website.
How will it affect you?
One new feature arriving in the first few months of 2012 will make it easier for you to move your bookmarks and passwords from Chrome to Firefox if you want to switch browsers. Also, you'll soon be able to synchronize your add-ons across different devices. This means you'll be able to use your favorite tools, regardless of what computer or phone you're using, in the same way as you currently can with bookmarks.
Later in the year, Mozilla plans to preview a version of Firefox designed to work on Microsoft 's next operating system, Windows 8, with a beta scheduled for release shortly afterwards. Also arriving in 2012 will be privacy tools that help you see when you're being tracked online, such as by advertising firms, and a way to sign into Firefox that then automatically logs you into sites you have registered with. "Users will finally be able to say goodbye to remembering countless passwords," said Mozilla.
The ability to post links and status updates to social networks will also be built in, making it faster to share content, while a new visual theme called Australis will keep Firefox looking fresh and modern. Overall, Mozilla has promised dozens of tweaks to make Firefox more stable, saying "pauses and hangs will be a thing of the past ". Web apps will also continue to be a focus for more on Mozilla's plans for an app store - as will support for HTML5.
Although Mozilla is updating Firefox more often than before, its plans aren't written in stone, so if you're particularly excited by a promised update, you may have to be patient.
Updates will be more like those in Chrome, so don't expect any big announcements about new features being added; they'll simply start to work, following an update and message from Firefox saying that you're now on a new version.
Mozilla says it's improved how add-ons work, so most of them should continue to function in updated versions of the browser.
What do we think?
Mozilla is right to focus on stability. Browsers are essential for our everyday computing, so anything that prevents Firefox from crashing or stalling will be much appreciated by all of us.
It's also good to see that security and privacy remain important in Firefox. The latter gives the browser one big advantage over Chrome, but whether it will be enough to help Firefox regain its second-place ranking from Google's browser remains to be seen.
Recent figures from StatCounter put Chrome's global share at 28 per cent, with Firefox at 25 per cent. Even if Firefox doesn't win back users, taking a strong stance on protecting our privacy could help push rival browsers, such as Internet Explorer and Chrome, to do the same. And that is good news for everyone.