Mozilla Firefox 5.0 Emphasizes Do Not Track, Performance Tweaks

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 privacy.

"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 rampant data-mining.

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 JavaScript engine, JagerMonkey. In eWeek's testing, Firefox 4.0 proved between four and eight times faster than Firefox 3.6.15, depending on the JavaScript benchmarks used.

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 speed up.

Net 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 faster," read 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 building Firefox."

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?

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