March 29, 2008

Mozilla Developer Reveals What Firefox 4 Holds in Store


With the release of Firefox 3 imminent, the rest of the Firefox team is cooking up some crazy ideas for Firefox 4
While Firefox 3 pushes the boundaries of a browser, delivering a cleaner graphical interface, numerous security upgrades, and a variety of new features, it still is far from the "perfect browser". Of course no browser on the market could earn such a distinction, be it Opera's "Kestrel" 9.5 browser, which is shaping up to be very nicely, Microsoft's Internet Explorer 8, which is sure to deliver top end performance, or Apple's Safari v3.1 browser, which although plagued with bugs of late is still one of the fastest, most compatible, browsers around.

However, perfection is exactly what Mozilla wants for its Firefox 4 browser and it intends to get it through outside the box thinking. With the release of Firefox 3 imminent, Chris Beard, VP of Labs for Mozilla, has started to talk Firefox 4. Beard is working on many features which, while their underlying components might start to pop up in Firefox 3, won't truly see the light of day until Firefox 4.

Beard's basic push is to un-isolate the browser. He says that after 10 years the browser still remains isolated from your browser on other machines and from your computer environment. This leads to the focal point of Mozilla's efforts for Firefox 4. Mozilla is pushing strongly for two very different new lines of research: Prism and Weave.

Prism is the main path of Mozilla's efforts to make the browser into almost a virtual OS, with applications, workspaces, and more advanced resource management and graphical abilities. Mozilla says the HTML 5 and Prism will make Google Gears obsolete. Google Gears is a beta service from the search giant which offers a way of accessing its online tools and applications, offline via clever caching and scripting. Mozilla also claims Prism will similarly be a death knell for Microsoft Silverlight and Adobe Air, two programs similar to Google Gears, attempting to meld online and offline applications together.

Mozilla's goal is to be able to take any website or application and turn it into an application that can run directly from the desktop. While part of the emphasis is removing the classic need to go into a browser to access these applications, another focus is to make the applications available when you are offline. HTML 5, the upcoming next standard of the classic internet language will be updated to provide explicit support for offline/local resources, which should significantly aid Firefox 4 towards accomplishing these ends.

While little of Prism will appear in Firefox 3, Weave will see some of its underpinnings crop up in Firefox 3.


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