There was a time, not too long ago when Mozilla Firefox was the browser to be. Developers and users loved the speed, and the finish. Innovations were rife with new and efficient plug-ins. That though, seems a world away in the past year as Google Chrome has increasingly pulled away at the top.

The new Firefox 12 release has it’s merits, but since they moved to the rapid 6 weeks cycle, there’s a feeling, they’ve just tried to upgrade rather than innovate. Here’s what is new:

  • New auto-updater for Windows users, which no longer requires administrative privileges to install updates – you’ll be prompted once by the UAC the first time you install Firefox, and the browser will update silently after that. Un-check “Use a background service to install updates” in Firefox’s update preferences if you fancy reverting to the old behavior. This also aims to retire Firefox 3.6 for good.While the silent auto-updates are probably better than the annoying ‘restart your browser to see upgrades’ it’s yet to be universal and the jury is still out
  • Various updates to dev console like addition of line numbers to the Page Source window. Messages in the Web Console appear without a page reload. Certainly makes checking third party tags like Razorfish or Mindshare a lot easier!
  • Support for the text-align-last CSS property has been added. Not a world beating leap, but a nice little freedom for designers.
  • Allows line breaks in the “Title” attribute

Couple of gripes still remain. Besides the fact that some of these were obviously targeted to get on a more even ground with Chrome, some it’s best UX features are still amiss:

  • Automatic form filling and Click-to-activate plugin control are probably two of the most user friendly features which has found love for Chrome, conspicuously missing here
  • With each new version of FF, there were some Add-ons breaking, until now with a notification. Now with silent background upgrades, where does that stand? Especially for the non-techie users?
  • FF 7 was a good jump in terms of browser speed, but the Memshrink hasn’t quite kicked on from there. For the time lag between tabs, my favorite “Farmville” test – switching between tabs with 9/10 of them open while Farmville being on one or two of them, still has FF 12 choking on it.
  • Crashes when you try to start with a locked profile. To be fair, though, their release notes have quickly detected this as a known issue.
  • Java security risks are still not addressed – before running Java applets a little warning would be nice! (you can’t help comparing with Chrome, here!)

While it’s never a bad thing to improve, the competition has overtaken Firefox, and on current evidence it hasn’t yet brought out the mongrel to re-capture the throne out of Mozilla. Too soon to judge, if they’ve been unnerved – but Chrome is setting the benchmark, and Firefox updates are testimony to that.

Post filed under Test and tagged , , , , .