Mozilla's Firefox 5.0 and Firefox for Android emphasize Do Not Track and performance tweaks. But coming so soon after Firefox 4, will users be willing to upgrade?
Mozilla's new Firefox 5.0 for PCs and Firefox for
Android hinge much of their appeal on a simple concept: That users will want to troll the Web in relative
"Firefox for Android includes the Do Not Track privacy
feature in this release, making Firefox the first browser to support Do Not
Track on multiple platforms," claimed a June 21 posting on Mozilla's
Website. "Mozilla created Do Not Track to give users more control over the
way their browsing behavior is tracked and used on the Web."
That's not the full extent of new features in Mozilla's
latest browser, which supposedly includes more than 1,000 improvements and
performance enhancements (including add-ons to adjust Firefox's look and
functionality), but it could help attract users increasingly leery of the Web's
Despite those tweaks, Firefox 5 doesn't seem to offer a
radically different experience from its predecessor, at least after a few
hours' worth of testing. The browser supposedly patches a variety of security
concerns from Firefox 4, whose life essentially ends with this latest release.
Consumers and freelancers likely won't pay the transition much mind-it takes
only a few minutes to download and install Firefox 5, with your history and
bookmarks preserved in the process-but larger companies still deploying Firefox
4 could become annoyed at having to switch so soon.
Indeed, Firefox 4 had presented a variety of reasons for
consumers and companies to make the upgrade. In
addition to Do Not Track, the browser (Mozilla's first full-point release in
nearly three years) offered a newly integrated Firefox Sync for synchronization
of user data and passwords between Firefox and Firefox Mobile, and a speedier
Firefox 4 also boasted a streamlined design that placed Web
content front-and-center, shrinking icons and eliminating the "status" bar that
ran on the bottom of previous Firefox versions. Those elements have been
preserved in Firefox 5.
But with Mozilla facing determined competitors on two
fronts-Microsoft's Internet Explorer continues to hold a healthy percentage of
the browser market, while upstarts like Google Chrome and Safari have been
making inroads-it seemed inevitable that the cadence of Firefox releases would
Applications currently estimates Firefox's overall share of the browser
market at 21.71 percent, trailing the Internet Explorer franchise at 54.27
percent but ahead of Chrome at 12.52 percent and Safari at 7.28 percent.
Moreover, Firefox's share has declined slightly from a high of 22.97 percent in
September 2010, even as its smaller rivals enjoyed gains.
"Following the amazing release of Firefox 4, Mozilla Firefox
is moving to a rapid release development cycle to deliver new features,
performance enhancements, security updates and stability improvements to users
an April posting on Mozilla's blog. "We are making a change to deliver new
releases of Firefox faster and give users more opportunities to participate in
The release of Firefox 5.0 and Firefox for Android seem the
fruits of that strategy. But will users be willing to follow Mozilla's
newfound, speedier cadence?
Nicholas Kolakowski on Twitter
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.