Firefox 29: New Features at a Glance

Earlier today, Mozilla officially released Firefox 29 for desktop as well as mobiles. Although the rapid release cycle has accustomed us to small incremental changes, this release contains several significant user-facing changes to make it interesting. Mozilla has made a determined effort to make Firefox more consistent, intuitive, and personal. This release is the culmination of more than two years of work on project Australis. Here are the most noticeable changes in Firefox 29 for desktop.

New Theme

The pillars of Australis are: consistency, precision and refinement. Mozilla has attempted to evolve and polish the existing user interface, while eliminating idiosyncrasies, and unifying various aspects of design including borders, colours, and spacing. With this re-skinning, Firefox now looks even more like Chrome, but that’s not really a bad thing. The Firefox button has been nixed in favour of a menu button in the address bar. The tab bar has been redesigned so that the active tab is now more prominent, while the others recede into the background. However, unlike Chrome and Opera, Firefox has retained the separate ‘Search Bar’.

Firefox-29

New Menu

The new menu bar houses all the commonly used options, but looks a lot cleaner and is undoubtedly a lot easier to use. It’s also entirely customizable, but I’ll discuss that a little later.

Firefox-Menu

New Bookmarks Manager

Once again, taking a leaf out of Chrome’s book, Firefox has simplified its bookmarks manager. Now you can open, delete, move and perform most of the stuff you want to do with your bookmarks without having to open the Bookmarks Library.

Firefox-Bookmarks

Customization Mode

One of the many reasons, I used to love the old Opera was the flexibility of its user interface. While Opera ditched all of its strengths during the migration to the Chromium engine (Blink), Firefox is building on top of its solid foundation. Firefox always had a ‘Customize Toolbar’ option, but it was pretty limited. Firefox 29 replaces that with an extremely powerful and intuitive customization mode. Once in this mode you can easily add or remove buttons from the address bar as well as the menu. Buttons available include the ones that are bundled with Firefox, as well as the ones added by extensions.

Firefox-Customization-Mode

Sync with Firefox Account

The Firefox Sync option has passed through many iterations. With Firefox 29, you get the ability to set up Firefox Sync by creating a Firefox account. All you need to create a Firefox account is to enter your email address and set a password. This is a lot simpler than the previous mechanism which forced you to use a random sequence of characters as your identification.

Firefox-Account

Of course, these five are the biggest and the most visible changes in Firefox 29. There are a bunch of other changes including a new Gamepad API and multiple developer oriented enhancements. Firefox 29 is undoubtedly a major step forward for the browser, which was once dubbed as the ‘Internet Explorer killer’. However, it might have to move faster than it has in the recent past if it hopes to catch up with Chrome – the current market leader.

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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.