Software Programs

Firefox Goes to Eleven

Recently Mozilla released the 11th installment of their popular web browser Firefox. Since the start of the rapid release model the amount of changes is small, but there is the advantage of having something new every 6 weeks. The company is working to make updates more transparent and less cumbersome in the future.

The biggest changes in Firefox 11 are the option to migrate bookmarks, history and cookies from Google Chrome. With Sync it is now possible to keep add-ons in sync over installations as well. The media controls for HTML5 video got updated and there is added support for some new HTML features. For web developers there is a plethora of new features, like a CSS style editor, a 3D view for the page inspector, SPDY protocol support and some others. Lastly the usual bugfixes and security improvements got incorporated. The full list of changes is available in the Firefox 11 release notes.

Speaking of Chrome, this is possibly the biggest enemy for Firefox when it comes to browser market share. Chrome eclipsed Firefox in November last year and continues its march to the forefront. In the last weeks Firefox was able to modestly increase its share, while Internet Explorer is on a strong decline. The real winner though is Chrome – which already commands over 30% share of the market.

Source: StatCounter Global Stats - Browser Market Share

Of course the shares are not the same over different geographies. For example in Europe Firefox and Internet Explorer are about at the same level of around 30% slowly yielding to Chrome which is approaching the same figure. In North America both Firefox and Chrome are only a few points above 20% (with Chrome in the lead) and Internet Explorer dominates with 41%. In Asia and South America Chrome managed to be the most popular browser, in the latter geography it even approaches a 50% share.

This should provide you some color on the subject. We'd like to note that the data from StatCounter is based on actual visits of websites which include a certain web analytics plugin. So depending on the sites participating, the results may vary. There are other sources of similar data, but in our experience even if the numbers differ the general trends usually do not.

The email client Thunderbird also got updated to version 11. The full list of changes can be found in the release notes. Apart from bugfixes and security improvements it also got a small visual overhaul that sparked some controversy. The tabs have been moved above the menu bar "to facilitate navigation and make it more contextual."

Personally as a user of Thunderbird I have to say, that this change seems a bit odd at this point. Going forward the plan is to disable the menu bar by default. This is just what I did (right-click next to the tabs and untick Menu Bar). This is more convenient since I found myself rarely using the menu and if I ever needed it I can bring it up by pressing the Alt key. The whole change would feel a lot more natural if the tabs would be moved up to the title bar like it is the case with Firefox since version 4.

In the meantime the extended support releases (ESR) of both Firefox and Thunderbird got released. We explained the rationale behind them some time ago. They are aimed at organizations that can't update to a new version every six weeks for one or another reason. The downloads are a bit hidden and you have to browse through different pages explaining who the versions are for and why personal users should generally stay away from them. To make them more accessible to interested readers, we will provide links to the respective download pages:

Firefox ESR

Thunderbird ESR