Firefox 3 Gran Paradiso Another milestone for Firefox 3, Alpha 2, is planned for later in this month with an estimated release date of January 29. Even with Firefox 3 Alpha 1 we didn’t see much in the way of new features, and Alpha 2 will be similar except that it will pass the Acid 2 test. There is no need to worry because there are new features planned for Firefox 3 as Mozilla Links points out. The list of features below is gathered from Firefox 3’s Product Planning Guide (Firefox 3’s codename is Gran Paradiso).

Mandatory features that will make the cut as long as there are no unexpected delays (I’ve added my own notes/opinions to each of the features):

  • Make it easier to use extensions and add-ons by requiring less than 3-clicks to install. Also notify users when add-ons have new updates that should be installed (sounds similar to when Firefox has a new update).
  • Have a Restart Firefox button always available
  • Synchronize bookmarks with a remote service. With the Google/Mozilla partnership I wouldn’t be surprised to see the service work with Google Bookmarks.
  • Improved search, retrieval, and startup performance.
  • The print preview should look like the actual print layout, and the layout should be zoomed/cropped to fit the page. Internet Explorer 7 does a really good job of this.
  • Firefox shouldn’t remember passwords if a login fails. The identity management user interface will also be simpler and the password manager will be more useful.
  • Better identification methods for identifying the trustworthiness of websites. Users will be given information like encryption, identity, previous interaction/knowledge of the site, and the overall level of trust. This sounds like it is an extension of the Safe Browsing that Firefox 2 already offers. They are trying to take a new approach to gathering information on phishing sites instead of just using a blacklist or URL’s like they currently do.
  • Google’s Airbag service will replace Talkback which is Mozilla’s error reporting tool.

Highly desirable features that they would like to implement, but I would guess they won’t have time to do:

  • Private browsing mode which probably means that browsing history and cache are deactivated.
  • Easily archive Web pages by doing things like saving them as PDF’s. Sounds like a pretty cool feature and possibly useful if you could do it in just one-click. If you had to choose a “Save As” destination each time I think it would defeat some of its usefulness by making it more of a hassle.
  • Upgrade the phishing protection to also block malicious websites.
  • Allow downloads to be paused/resumed even across browsing sessions. I think they need to upgrade the download manager in general. There are a lot of features that they could add to it to satisfy more users.

Nice to have” features that will probably only get implemented if they have some spare time…I’m sure that will happen. ;)

  • Allow add-ons to be installed without needing to restart Firefox to begin using them. This would be really awesome and I wish it was a high priority. :D
  • Ability to use a search engine temporarily and then have it automatically restored back the the default. I really like this feature and it almost reminds me of how Flock’s Search Box works.
  • Group similar tabs together.
  • Enable a Tab Expose feature that will tile all of your open Windows. Internet Explorer 7 already does this and so do many extensions for Firefox. I definitely don’t think this one will make the Firefox 3 release.

Firefox Places (bookmarks, subscriptions)

There is also some concern that Places (pictured above) might have been removed from Firefox 3 because under the “Nice to have” features it mentions a “Unified bookmark/history/subscription manager.” That is essentially what Places is supposed to be, but I would still expect to see it implemented in Firefox 3. They had completed a lot of work on it during the Firefox 2 development cycle and have continued to fix bugs in it. It was removed from the Firefox 3 nightlies because there were some conflicts with the new theme, but they said once the kinks were fixed it would be back in.

Let’s also not forget to mention the nice anti-aliased corners that Alpha 1 of Firefox 3 already produces. That feature was demonstrated in my last post I made about Firefox 3 features that are expected…which did indeed include Places. I for one won’t be disappointed if Firefox 3 doesn’t include a lot of new features simply because it already has significantly improved the rendering speed and quality of websites. I see having new features implemented as being a welcomed bonus.

On a little bit of a sidenote, it looks like Paul Thurrot finally got around to writing up a full review on Firefox 2. I can sum it up real quick by saying he was hardly impressed. Here are some of the key points from his article:

As a long-time Firefox user–I was using the product back when it was originally called Phoenix–you might have expected me to jump all over Firefox 2.0. But the truth is, Mozilla really let me down with this one. Unlike its major competitor, Internet Explorer 7 (see my review), Firefox 2 doesn’t include any truly major new features. And its graphical overhaul is ugly, especially in Windows Vista. Most egregious, however, is Firefox’s pathetic new anti-phishing feature, which is almost laughably bad.

A lackluster Firefox upgrade doesn’t signal the end of times. But coming as it did right as Windows Vista development was winding down, Firefox 2 was a bit of bad timing for me. The problem was, I needed to test Vista features like IE 7 regularly, and since IE 7 was so good, I had little reason to jump ship to a new version of Firefox that, frankly, was rubbing me the wrong way. Had IE 7 been a dog like previous versions, or had Firefox 2 been a bit more exciting, things would have gone differently. As it was, I was surprised to see myself evolving into an IE user over the last few months of 2006.

While Internet Explorer 7 might be a good browser, I think that one also has to look into the future before making a switch. Mozilla should have another milestone release of Firefox by the middle of 2007, but Internet Explorer 8 isn’t expected for 18 to 24 months. The slow development cycle of Internet Explorer is something that has always turned me away from the browser, and one of the big reasons I have always looked at alternatives like Opera and Firefox. I do believe that Internet Explorer 7 does some things better than Firefox, like handle feeds, but there are also things that Firefox does better like support a large range of user-created extensions. I think Paul’s review has some very good points and acknowledges things that Mozilla should look at, but none of the things would warrant a switch in browsers for me.

Thanks to “Jack of all Trades“, “Claus“, and “Fx Extension Guru” for pointing this out!