The Seattle Post-Intelligencer just had a chat with Blake Ross of the Firefox team, talking over points such as the project’s success and how Microsoft motivated the whole project. Blake says that Microsoft’s lack of browser innovation in the absence of decent competition makes him “furious,” and that the Google tie-in is based more on the search engine’s quality than on any marketing agreement.
But while it’s a good read, the interview is short on future direction. Let’s take a look at the published plans to see what’s coming up in the next couple of major Firefox releases.
First, there’s Bon Echo, aka Firefox 2.0. We have reported on that version’s progress a few times already, so let me just point out a few corrections and changes to the earlier plans. It has been said that Windows ME support would be dropped, but apparently not in Bon Echo. The “priority 1” platform support list includes Windows Vista/XP/2000/ME (but not 98), as well as Mac OS X 10.2 and up, and Red Hat Linux (no specific version). Other Linux versions are P2, meaning they will probably be supported but there are no guarantees.
Support for themed or branded builds is high on the wish list, indicating a desire to branch out to more distribution partners. Some functions currently handled by elective extensions, such as session resume after restarts and crashes, or on-demand spell check functions, are slated for inclusion. Syndication feed handling needs more work, as does the fit-and-finish of the overall application interface. The stated goal is to make Firefox look and feel like a native application across Windows, OS X, and Gnome environments.
Otherwise, not much seems to be changing. There are no major code overhauls here, and a greater focus on bugfixing than on performance improvement. In addition, the new database version of the bookmark and history systems have been shelved for now. That system and overall performance improvements are scheduled for Firefox 3 at this point, along with greater standards compliance, better security, and i18n internationalization support.
In general, it looks like Firefox 2 is a spit-and-polish job, designed to look and feel as professional as possible, and leaving the really big changes for the next major release. Along with the marketing-friendly branding feature and the “sizable chunk of revenue” the Mozilla project has amassed from search engine deals and the like, I think I can smell a nice, big marketing push alongside the final release of Bon Echo. Will we all be sick of Firefox TV commercials soon?