Web Apps

Firefox 13 Tweaks Tabs, Home Pages, Speed and Security

Mozilla released Firefox 13 Wednesday, which it says is a speedier, safer version of the open source web browser.

The newly launched Firefox also boasts a new home page and tab page layout similar to those of competing browsers such as Google’s Chrome.

Before the upgrade, when Firefox users clicked to open a new tab, they saw simply a blank page, unlike browsers such as Chrome, Safari or Internet Explorer, which provide users with links to recently opened or favorite sites. Now, the Firefox homepage will feature icons that enable quick access to bookmarks, history, settings, add-ons and downloads. Additionally, when users click for a new tab, they’ll see thumbnails to their most recently and frequently visited sites.

The new tab experience is also part of an overall redesign that will make the browser faster. Firefox 13 now loads tabs on demand first for the tab that a user is currently viewing, and then the background tabs when they’re opened, allowing the browser to start faster.

In another potential improvement to speed, Firefox 13 now by default supports the SPDY protocol, which can be speedier than HTTP. Mozilla said it would significantly reduce load times on websites that support SPDY.

The new version will also be available to an additional 15 million people around the world, according to Mozilla, since Firefox 13 supports the Khmer language. The browser now supports more than 85 languages worldwide.

Current Firefox users will have an automatic upgrade next time the start the browser.

New Perks

Apart from design, one of the most significant changes to Firefox 13 is its improved speed, said Pascal Rettig, co-owner of Cykod Web Development.

“I think personally the nicest thing about the new Firefox is the effort they’ve put into speeding it up,” he told TechNewsWorld.

The upgrade also focuses on safety, a key component in any Web development as security breaches and cyberattacks become increasingly common.

“I think the browser vendors are realizing that because people don’t understand how bad things can be, they need to be more proactive in making sure users are protected,” Mike Kaply, chief consultant at Kaply Consultant, told TechNewsWorld. “That one of the reasons that Mozilla switched to the new silent update, so they could ensure users are updated no matter what.”

Keeping Up With the Competition

In addition to speed and security, the most significant changes to Firefox 13 was its design. The new home and tab pages more closely resemble those of competing browsers, particularly Chrome, a browser that’s gaining significant momentum, especially in the tech world, said Rettig.

“I think Chrome has the lead and has over the past year and half replaced Firefox as the de facto developer browser — nearly every developer I know has switched from Firefox to Chrome by now,” he said.

Mozilla isn’t necessarily mimicking Chrome in its design, said Kaply, but the leading browsers are becoming more and more similar, he said.

“I think that the three main browsers now are all moving towards the same place — minimal UI, very fast JavaScript, quick updating and full support of Web standards,” he said. “So in a sense, it’s not that Firefox is playing catch-up, it’s that it’s aiming for the same goal. I do think there is a perception that Firefox is playing catch-up to Google, but I’m not sure it’s a deliberate thing. I think the end goal is to make the browser less important so that users can focus on the content and not the browser.”

Part of keeping up means Firefox is releasing relatively quick updates, said Rettig and Kaply. Although the average user might not be able to keep up with the constant updates, it’s better than users ditching an old version for a newer, faster competitor, said Kaply.

“They want to make sure that users don’t have to wait months or years for new features,” said Kaply. “So it’s not really a question of need. They are doing what is best for the project and what they believe is best for the end users.”

Mozilla didn’t respond to our request for comment.

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