Mozilla is Working on a Push Notification System for Firefox

If you are a Google Chrome user, you must have seen how notifications work for Gmail. Google created the Desktop Notification system based on HTML5, and proposed its inclusion in the W3C web standard. The draft for the notification can be seen on this page at W3C.
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Notifications is designed to allow brief messages to be sent to a user however they are connected. Somewhere between email and IM lies Notifications.

Push notifications are a way for websites to send small messages to users when the user is not on the site. iOS and Android devices already support their own push notification services.

Recently, Mozilla has brought out a similar notification system called Push Notification, using a JavaScript API. However, it has also improved on Google’s implementation, and will push notifications for all websites, irrespective of whether they are open in a tab or not. Currently, Chrome shows notifications only for websites that are open in a tab.

With this feature, Mozilla wants to bring the web-application closer to the desktop application. A similar experience on a desktop browser is a good start. Native mobile clients on Android have used push-notifications successfully, for a long time. However, the Push Notification system will also help developers send notifications to their mobile users, without investing in a separate mobile client.

You can visit the Mozilla Wiki for more technical information on notifications, or the Push Notification API in particular.

Firefox 10 Brings Major Behind the Scene Changes with Extended Support

Mozilla has recently announced the latest release of its browser, Firefox version 10. Although this release of Firefox does not sport many evident changes, it is Mozilla’s flagship browser for the year 2012. Mozilla has planned an “Extended Support” feature to prevent the rapid release cycle from affecting developers. Finally, Firefox 10 is the first Firefox version to get this feature, and it will live through 2012.

Changes and Improvements

Detailed information on changes in Firefox 10 can be found at the Firefox 10 Release Notes page. Though, some of the evident changes are the disabled forward button for pages where there has not been any backward navigation, support for full-screen API allowing application to run in full-screen, and a number of bug fixes. Moreover, Add-on compatibility has been taken care of, extensively.

Firefox 10 is the first “Extended Support” version of Firefox, ensuring it will get support and security patches for the next nine release cycles. The main aim of the Extended Support Release (ESR) is,

The shift to a new release process has been difficult for organizations that deploy Firefox to their users in a managed environment. We’ve heard 2 primary concerns:

  1. The release schedule doesn’t allow sufficient time for the organizations and their vendors to certify new releases of the products
  2. The associated end-of-life policy exposes them to considerable security risk if they remain on a non-current version past Firefox 3.6.

More about ESR can be found at this ESR proposal page. This Extended Support Release will be developed parallel to the regular release cycle of six weeks, which Firefox adopted as part of its rapid release strategy, last year.

If you are on the release channel already, your Firefox will be updated to version 10. Alternatively, you can download Firefox 10 at this page.

Finally, Mozilla Thinks of Redesigning the Firefox Home page and New Tab Page

A year ago, Mozilla revamped the development process of Firefox. They started the year with version 4 of Firefox, and released Firefox 9 by the end of the year. This was a giant leap for Firefox, and the improvements in speed and usability are evident in version 9. However, some critical things that matter for the user experience have remained unchanged, like the “New tab” and Home page on Firefox. Finally, after improving performance drastically, Firefox has started focusing on user experience, and the changes are beginning to show in the experimental channel of Firefox, named Aurora.

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The New Tab page on Firefox is similar to the new tab page of Chrome, where it will showcase your most visited websites in a Speed-dial like interface. This puts your most visited websites in a 3×3 grid where you can drag and re-position the tiles. Therefore, the New Tab page can show your nine most visited websites. However, the new tab is still not as feature-rich as Firefox New Tab King extension we talked about, two years ago.

firefox-new-home

Firefox has to get innovative about these features, if they want to stay ahead of the competition. Right now, it seems like these features are rip-offs of Chrome’s new tab, and Safari’s Home Tab. After seeing these user-experience changes, all I can say is, “better late than never”!

Although these changes were expected in Firefox 12, Mozilla has pushed the release of these new features to Firefox 13. The release date for Firefox 12 is April 24, and Firefox 13 will be released in May. However, you can try these new features before the release, by getting one of the Firefox UX Nightly builds.

(Images via: Extremetech)

Firefox Decides to Play the Version Number Game with the Right Moves

One of the primary reasons why enterprise systems stick to Internet Explorer or Firefox is that both these browsers are released slowly with considerable difference between two releases. However, over the last year, Firefox went from version 4 to version 9. It was rapid and new releases kept coming out, pretty much like in the rapid release cycle of Google Chrome. This endangered the enterprise love that Firefox enjoyed. Therefore, Mozilla has decided to release one Firefox version that will be supported throughout a year. This version will be called the Firefox Extended Support Release, similar to the Ubuntu LTS. The feature is due to appear in Firefox 10. It will have add-on compatibility turned on by default and will simply be called the Mozilla Firefox ESR.

We are pleased to announce that the proposal for an Extended Support Release (ESR) of Firefox is now a plan of action. The ESR version of Firefox is for use by enterprises, public institutions, universities and other organizations that centrally manage their Firefox deployments. Releases of the ESR will occur once a year, providing these organizations with a version of Firefox that receives security updates but does not make changes to the Web or Firefox Add-ons platform.

Although the ESR version uses the same version number as the base Firefox version, there is a chance it will change later. Moreover, now that ESR has been finalized for Firefox, the Thunderbird team is also discussing an ESR version on their mailing list. However, Firefox mobile will not have an ESR version unfortunately. As if the new release process was not enough, Mozilla is bringing major changes into Firefox making it future proof. From being notorious for its memory leaks and slow speed, Firefox has emerged as the challenging browser it used to be. Now, it only needs to recapture the market it lost to Internet Explorer and Google Chrome. You can read this interesting discussion on Slashdot to get a better perspective on the matter.

Microsoft Releases HTML5 Version of Cut the Rope for Free

Even though the nitty gritty of HTML5 and related technologies are still being hammered out, they are already mature enough to be used for more than just nifty tech demos. Last year, Google brought the massively popular Angry Birds to the web by leveraging the power of HTML5, and now, Microsoft has followed suit. Microsoft has partnered with ZeptoLabs to release a browser version of the mobile game Cut the Rope.

Cut-the-Rope

Cut the Rope has already proven to be a big hit in mobile app stores thanks to its addictive gameplay, fluid graphics, and satisfying physics. However, the sophistication that helped it become a raging success also made it challenging to port it to the standard web stack. Cut the Rope for iOS was originally written in Objective C and consisted of about 15 kilo lines of code. JavaScript, which is often criticized for being heavy and slow, lacks many of the advanced programming constructs available in the object oriented programming languages used on mobile platforms. Microsoft’s stance on WebGL added further complexity to the project, as in order to be compatible with Internet Explorer, Cut the Ropes had to be rendered using Canvas. Even ZeptoLabs was not sure if web technologies had what it takes to pull off the physics computations demanded by the game in real-time. However, when the devs started building the basic framework, the common preconceptions about the “slowness” of JavaScript were quickly disproved. Modern browsers were found to have sufficiently optimised JavaScript engines to be able to do heavy number crunching with relative ease.

The end result of Microsoft’s collaboration with ZeptoLabs and Pixel Lab is pure gold. Cut the Rope for the web is as fun as the mobile version, and unlike Google’s Angry Birds, Cut the Rope is truly cross-browser compliant. It is designed to run on Internet Explorer 9 and above, but I played the game at length without experiencing any difficulty on Opera 12. Firefox and Chrome might have intermittent audio issues, but are otherwise capable of providing the desired experience. It’s inspiring to see that Microsoft not only resisted the urge to use browser sniffing to block other browsers, but also put in the effort to ensure that it was playable on all major browsers. Perhaps there is a bit of lesson in here for Google, which loves to trumpet openness whenever it’s convenient.

To begin feeding candies to Om nom, head over to cuttherope.ie.

Mozilla Set to Earn Nearly 1 Billion from Google Search Deal

Mozilla-FirefoxEarlier this week, Mozilla announced a new search agreement with Google that will ensure that Google remains Firefox’s default search provider for at least the next three years. However, Mozilla had declined to share exactly how much Google had agreed to pony up for this privilege. Now, Kara Swisher has managed to learn the juicy details.

Contrary to speculation from so-called pundits and analysts, the renewal of the search partnership got delayed not because of lack of interest from Google, but due to intense competition from Microsoft. Even Yahoo, which also uses Bing’s results, was in the race. As a result of Microsoft’s heightened interest, Google was forced to provide a minimum revenue guarantee of 300 million per year for three years, which is almost a three folds increase from the previous agreement.

Mozilla will continue to have search partnerships with Microsoft Bing, Amazon, eBay, and Yahoo. However, it is the default search engine agreement that yields the maximum benefits for both sides. Opera’s default search agreement with Google will expire at the end of March, 2012. It will be interesting to see how much Opera Software, whose desktop browser is estimated to have less than 10% of Firefox’s market share, will be able to extract from a search deal.

Mozilla Signs New Search Agreement with Google

FirefoxMozilla has signed a new search agreement with Google that will last for at least three years. Under this multi-year agreement, Google Search will continue to be the default search provider for hundreds of millions of Firefox users around the world,affirmed Gary Kovacs, CEO of Mozilla. This announcement comes three weeks after the existing agreement had lapsed. The delay had prompted many pundits to promptly speculate about the impending demise of Mozilla, which makes up to 84% of its revenue from Google.

Even though Google’s own browser is flourishing, having an agreement with Mozilla is still crucial for it. In case, Google and Mozilla had failed to reach an agreement, Microsoft would have almost surely stepped in and inked a deal for Bing. Mozilla Firefox is still mighty enough to be impossible for Google to ignore. Allowing Bing access to hundreds of millions of additional eyeballs is something that Google would hardly prefer. In fact, Google has search agreements with far smaller browsers like Opera, which has less than 100 million desktop users. Additionally, niche search engines like DuckDuckGo have also begun striking revenue sharing deals with browser manufacturers. While the nitty-gritty of the deal might have caused the delay, Mozilla’s future was never really in jeopardy.

Firefox Graduates to Version 9 Silently, Official Download Coming Tomorrow

Over the last year, Firefox has been pushed around, bashed and ridiculed for its losing market share, crispness and fans. However, Mozilla released one Firefox version after another, without deviating from their original plan. Finally, we are at the end of 2011, and in this version-number rat race, Firefox went from version 4 to version 7, as laid out in the plan for the Firefox 2011 roadmap. However, what excites me is that Mozilla has gone an extra mile, ahead of the roadmap and has released Firefox version 9, just before Christmas! Firefox 9 is crisp, smooth and has a better user-interaction. It is the perfect gift from the Mozilla Firefox team to all Firefox fans.


Perhaps the biggest improvement in Firefox 9, is the implementation of type-inference in JaegerMonkey, the JavaScript rendering engine of Firefox. This improves Firefox’s JavaScript rendering engine by 20% to 30%, putting it back in the game.  Apart from this, Firefox 9 has added stability fixes, 2-finger swipe-navigation for Mac OS X Lion, better theme support in Mac OS X Lion and improved HTML5 and CSS3 support.  Some users are also claiming a smaller memory footprint, though I have not been able to verify that in my 30 minutes of usage. In the roadmap  proposed at the beginning of this year, the plan was laid out into seven points.

  1. Ship Firefox 4, 5, 6 and 7 in the 2011 calendar year
  2. Always respond to a user action within 50 ms
  3. Never lose user data or state
  4. Build Web Apps, Identity and Social into the Open Web Platform
  5. Support new operating systems and hardware
  6. Polish the user experience for common interaction tasks
  7. Plan and architect for a future of a common platform on which the desktop and mobile products will be built and run Web Apps

With a rapid release and development cycle, Firefox has come a long way from being sluggish. For more details on the new features, take a look at the  Firefox Version 9 changelog.  The download page for Firefox will be updated with Firefox 9 tomorrow, but you can grab it ahead of the release, for Windows, Linux and Mac.

(via: slashdot)

Microsoft Finally Makes Internet Explorer Updates Automatic and Seamless

Internet-ExplorerInternet Explorer users have proved to be extremely stubborn when it comes to updating their browsers. Internet Explorer 6, which was released more than 10 years ago, still commands 8.3% of the market share. Millions of users have clung on to outdated releases in spite of the fact that many modern websites don’t even work on them. One of the main culprits behind the slow adoption rate of newer versions of Internet Explorer has been the update system.

Google automatically and seamlessly updates Chrome whenever a new version is available. Mozilla Firefox and Opera also does the same. However, updating Internet Explorer requires manual intervention. Now, this is finally going to change.

“With automatic updates enabled through Windows Update, customers can receive IE9 and future versions of Internet Explorer seamlessly without any update fatigueissues”, wrote Ryan Gavin, General Manager of Internet Explorer Business and Marketing.

Going forward, Microsoft will be automatically updating users to the latest version of Internet Explorer for their system. Enterprise users and others who don’t want to be automatically updated can use the Automatic Update Blocker toolkits. Users who have declined previous installations of IE8 or IE9 through Windows Update will also not be automatically updated. Browser settings including favorites and search preferences will be retained between updates.

Even this won’t solve the issue completely as Microsoft has refused to support older operating systems in the recent versions of Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer 9 ditched Windows XP, while Internet Explorer 10 will drop Vista compatibility. However, it should at the very least help us in getting rid of Internet Explorer 6 and 7. Microsoft plans to begin the Automatic Update procedure with Australia and Brazil in Janurary, and then move on to the rest of the world.

Chrome Overtakes Firefox Globally

Ever since its launch, Google Chrome has been gaining market share at a steady rate. Now, StatsCounter is reporting that Google Chrome has finally managed to surpass Firefox globally. Chrome’s worldwide market share rose to 25.69%, while Firefox slipped to 25.23%. Microsoft Internet Explorer also continued its slide and fell to 40.63% at the end of November.

Browser-Market-Share-Nov

Google Chrome gained 21% over the past two years, while Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Opera lost 15.94%, 6.98, and 0.2% each. Safari also managed to gain 2.255 market share since November 2009. In India the figure are slightly different as Indian users have typically been more reactive to market changes than Americans. Only 26.9% Indians surf using Internet Explorer, while 34.29% and 34.75% rely on Firefox and Chrome respectively. Opera controls a shade above 2.5% of the market share in India.

Browser statistics tend to be wildly inaccurate and inconsistent. However, they are still good enough to gauge the market trend, and in this case the trend is clear. Google Chrome’s rise in popularity has been nothing short of spectacular. Introduced in late 2008, it has won the hearts of millions of web users with its focus on speed, security, and simplicity. Although Chrome is undoubtedly benefiting from Google’s deep pocket and wide reach, the Chrome team needs to be applauded for getting their priorities right. Within a short span of time Chrome has made its presence felt with its innovative drive and commitment to web standards.

Firefox on the other hand struggled to ship the ambitious Firefox 4 update, lost out in the browser speed wars, and seems to perennially lag behind Chrome. Many fans believe that Mozilla’s lack of vision is hurting Firefox, which was once the darling of the alternate browser crowd.