Surprises in Firefox 29
The Firefox browser is updated so frequently that a new version barely makes the news cycle anymore. Usually, updates are minor tweaks and bug fixes. But the latest release, Firefox 29, startled users and pundits with a major makeover. Will it be enough to propel Firefox past its rivals, or will it turn loyal users away? Here's what's happening...
What's Up With Firefox 29?
People don’t like surprises when the surprise is in a tool they’re accustomed to using without thought, so Firefox 29 is drawing lots of criticism – most of it unearned. Here's what all the fuss is about.
The truth is that Firefox has gone stale over the past few years, and has lost market share primarily to Google Chrome. I'm one of those who jumped the Firefox ship in favor of Chrome, due to the way Firefox hogged memory on my system, and because Chrome just seems faster. (I wrote about this a year ago, in Chrome 27 and the BLAM! Factor.)
Firefox Version 29 shakes things up by making Firefox look more “standardized;” that is, more like its two major competitors -- Internet Explorer and Google Chrome.
First, the main pop-open sidebar has moved to the right side of the screen, as it appears in Chrome and IE. This icon composed of three horizontal lines (sometimes called the "hamburger") is also becoming the standard for many mobile apps.
The grid layout of icons on the sidebar looks a lot like Google’s layout of its various apps, too. Users are complaining that their apps and settings are not where their eyes automatically look. (Personally, I never liked the big orange Firefox button on the top left. It's actually one of the reasons I stopped using Firefox as my everyday browser.)
The forward and back buttons are no longer greyed out ambiguously when their functions are unavailable; instead, a button disappears completely if you can’t use it from where you are. That should save wasted clicks but instead people are wasting time looking for something to click.
Under the Hood and On the Dashboard
In the mobile market, Android’s native browser leads with just over 25%. Apple's iOS browser (iPhones and iPads) powers about 21% of mobile devices. Both of those are declining over the past year, as a result of the rising number of users opting to install Chrome. In the past year, Chrome has risen from 3% to almost 16% mobile marketshare.
Bookmarking got cooler, with one-click bookmarking of the current page and an animated confirmation that the bookmark was saved. A second click opens the bookmark manager where you can edit the bookmark’s title, categorize it, and add tags for searching later.
Under the hood are new customization options; the ability to set up Firefox Sync by creating a Firefox account; HTTPS connections for Yahoo! searches; and a built-in interactive tour of changes to help you make sense of all of this. See the Firefox Releases Notes for details. (http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/29.0.1/releasenotes/)
Of course, the changes to Version 29 are not all entirely cosmetic. A slew of security issues have been cleaned up https://www.mozilla.org/security/known-vulnerabilities/firefox.html as well.
All of the howling to “bring back the old Firefox” has not gone unheard. You can get the best of both worlds – enhanced security, easier bookmarking, Firefox Sync, etc. – while retaining the familiar look-and-feel of Firefox 28. Just install the Classic Theme Restorer add-on https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/classicthemerestorer/
Are you using Firefox? If so, what do you think about the new look? Are you considering a browser switch? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 27 May 2014
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Surprises in Firefox 29 (Posted: 27 May 2014)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved