Mozilla Issues Firefox 29 Update With A Whole New Design
April 29, 2014

Mozilla Issues Firefox 29 Update With A Whole New Design

Peter Suciu for - Your Universe Online

This week Mozilla has apparently put the unfortunate matter of dismissing its former CEO in the rearview mirror and is moving forward with a new focus for its Firefox web browser. Today the company debuted the new Firefox 29 update, which features a wholly new design, but also offers users much greater customization.

In fact, the customize button is now always present in the new Firefox menu to the right of the screen. A click of that button will switch users to a customization mode where just about all of the user interface elements can be moved around. While this may sound complicated – it is actually meant to be as easy as “drag and drop.”

“We reimagined and redesigned Firefox to reflect how you use the Web today and we are excited to introduce many features including an elegant and fun design, new menu, customization mode and an enhanced Firefox Sync service powered by Firefox Accounts,” the company posted on its official blog on Tuesday.

In all this is the single largest update to Firefox since 2011, and numerous media reports have noted it provides a “much-welcomed modernized look with a collection of new customization features.”

Mozilla, which undoubtedly has been somewhat distracted by its CEO debacle, is moving past it – and at the same time is introducing these new features to compete with other browsers, notably Google’s Chrome. It offers a cleaner aesthetic with round tables and a three-bar menu, while at the right hand corner the major controls, features and add-ons have all been placed together to provide easier access.

The new Firefox also features integration with Mozilla’s Firefox Accounts, which can be used to sync settings and bookmarks between machines and devices. This is accomplished through Mozilla’s own cloud-based services.

“The new Firefox Sync service is a safe and easy way to take your Firefox everywhere,” Mozilla noted in its blog. “Firefox Sync gives you access to Awesome Bar browsing history, saved passwords, bookmarks, open tabs and form data across your computers and mobile Android devices. It is powered by Firefox Accounts and simplifies the setup and device syncing process.”

It is the customization mode that makes it easier for users to personalize the experience that has gotten the most attention following today’s announcement.

“The primary value of customizability for users is the ability to create a more personalized browser experience that extends across multiple devices, platforms and operating environments,” Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, told redOrbit. “Today, it isn’t uncommon for consumers and business users to own/interact with multiple devices and OSs on a daily basis – using a Windows PC at work, an Android phone and an iPad at home, for example with a combination of mouse/key-based and touch-enabled processes.

“Previous versions of Firefox are available for all those platforms (and more) but notably differed from one another. With Firefox 29, users can customize the browser to highlight some features, submerge others in the background and synch a final version across all their devices,” King added. “Overall, it’s an intriguing and highly flexible feature that could help Mozilla solidify its market position and also possibly allow it to gain share in areas like Android where it’s found little success.”

Mozilla also noted that new web platform and developer tools have been added to this latest version of Firefox. These include WebRTC, which enables video calls and file sharing between browsers; WebAPIs, which allow developers to unlock more functionality and features in the web platform; and a new Mozilla-pioneered subset of JavaScript – asm.js – which can run at near-native speed for games and other performance-intensive applications.

In addition, the new version offers Web Audio API, which allows for more robust audio engines; CSS Flexbot, which allows for elastic layouts while making it easier for developers to build user interfaces that adapt to the size of the browser window; and a new App Manager feature that brings the Firefox Web developer tools to mobile app developers.

While Mozilla hasn’t made it clear why this debate was so long coming, TechCrunch reported that previous versions of Firefox featured designs that were hardcoded, and in order to make the customization features work the design team had to essentially rewrite large parts of the interface in order to make it more flexible.

As far as the comparisons to Google’s Chrome, Johnathan Nightingale, Mozilla VP for Firefox, simply told TechCrunch, “Google didn’t invent simplicity. We do lots of things differently.”

Mozilla’s new upgrade also comes just a day after a major security flaw was discovered in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.