What you can expect from Firefox 14 to 17

Martin Brinkmann
Jul 10, 2012
Updated • Jul 12, 2012

In ten days, Mozilla is going to release Firefox 14 to the release channel, Firefox 15 to the beta channel, Firefox 16 to Aurora, and move the Nightly channel to Firefox 17. What can users expect from these releases? This is what I'm trying to find out in this little guide to the next versions of the Firefox web browser.

Keep in mind that changes may happen during development, so that some features may not make it in the version that Mozilla intents to release them for.

Before we start, I'd like to quickly write down the release dates of the coming versions so that you know when the new versions are going to hit the channel of the browser that you are working with.

Firefox Release Schedule

  • July 17, 2012: Firefox 14 Stable, Firefox 10.0.6 ESR, Firefox 15 Beta, Firefox 16 Aurora, Firefox 17 Nightly
  • August 28.2012: Firefox 15 Stable, Firefox 10.0.7 ESR, Firefox 16 Beta, Firefox 17 Aurora, Firefox 18 Nightly
  • October 10, 2012: Firefox 16 Stable, Firefox 10.0.8 ESR, Firefox 17 Beta, Firefox 18 Aurora, Firefox 19 Nightly
  • November 19, 2012: Firefox 17 Stable, Firefox 17.0 ESR, Firefox 18 Beta, Firefox 19 Aurora, Firefox 20 Nightly

Firefox feature overview

Firefox 14

Firefox 15

  • Silent Updates: Background Updates - Updates the browser in the background, so that the process is faster and not as intrusive to the user's experience.
  • In content preferences - A switch from the separate options window to an "about" page that is listing all preferences of the browser. You can read more about it here.
  • Incremental garbage collection - Less slow downs due to incremental garbage collection.
  • Social integration - This integrates social touch points into the browser, including persistent social notifications into the Firefox toolbar, news feeds, tickers and stuff in the Firefox sidebar, integration of voice, chat, video into docked or floating windows, and integration of share and recommendation services into the Firefox toolbar. Please note that these components appear optional, and will only be available for users who want to use them. You find a mockup below.

firefox social integration

Firefox 16

  • Opt-in activation for plugins - This is actually one of my most requested features of all time. Plugins are automatically enabled in the browser right now which for obvious reasons is a security issue. While it is possible to remove plugins from Firefox, and configure the browser to stop the automatic plugin installations, it is nothing that regular users are familiar with. Asking the user if plugins should be enabled provides anyone with the means to make that decision.
  • OS X 10.7 Support - Plan to support the new features of OS X 10.7 (full screen mode, new scroll bars)
  • Panel based download manager - Replaces the old separate download window with an unobtrusive panel that is integrated into the main browser window. Currently, there is an option to restore the old download manager if it is preferred.
  • Speedy Session Restore - Make session restore the default state for all Firefox users.  This feature tries to make session restore browsers start up as fast as browsers that do not restore sessions. This is achieved by a number of features, including tab loading on demand.

Firefox 17

  • Not now prompt for silent updates - The idea here is to give users a 10-day grace period when incompatible add-ons are found during updates. Instead of updating right away and breaking extensions, Firefox will now wait for ten days to see if add-on updates resolve the situation. After that first grace period, you can select to wait another ten days before the browser gets updated automatically.

When you look at the features page you will notice that the majority of features are not listing a target Firefox version yet. Since some of them sound really cool, I'd like to list them here so that you know what's also coming your way in the future:

  • In-browser translation
  • network installer
  • Multi-search
  • Improved missing plugins experience
  • Plugin-check functionality in add-on manager
  • Sync settings
  • low-rights Firefox (whole process sandbox)
  • Tracking alert that informs users when they are tracked
  • Fingerprint minimizing in private browsing mode
  • improve authentication state transparency
  • Super Reload (clear cache, reset zoom, reload page)
  • Network down page to distinguish server not found error message from misspellings

Are you a Firefox user? If you are, is there a particular feature that you are most interested in?


Tutorials & Tips

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  1. coriandreas said on August 21, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    “One Click” start menu: configuration option to start entries without sub menus, i.e. “last closed tabs/windows”. Even as a transparent layer over window. No more “OK”-/Close-Buttons. Optional (configuration): Even no more warnings with blocking window and OK-/Close-Buttons, better with buttons, but automatic fade out after xy seconds.

  2. coriandreas said on August 21, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    bandwidth control for each tab, even for the whole window like Opera Turbo.

  3. Xyzzy said on July 17, 2012 at 10:33 am

    You mentioned that the social features look like they’ll be optional, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not loaded & present to slow the browser down, just that we can opt to use the bloat or not. I think that the developers have forgotten that this was supposed to be a nimble anti-bloatware browser that lets the users choose features by adding extensions, or that a lot of those users have old computers.

    I’ve been using Firefox since it was 3-4 months old, but if the future versions are half as slow on my computer as I suspect they will be, I’ll have to abandon it. Hopefully a few talented coders will react to the Firefox Future Bloat List by forking a lightweight Mozilla-based browser project to add compatibility with Firefox extensions; the result would probably be more popular than Firefox within the year.

  4. danwat1234 said on July 17, 2012 at 5:41 am

    Hmm, I thought FFox 14 was supposed to be the ‘big’ update, not version 15. Oh well it’ll come soon enough.

  5. Thunderbird said on July 15, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    Please Mozilla, don’t sacrifice the development of Thunderbird just because you need more developer resources for Firefox and Firefox OS.

    The email client has come a long way. With continued improvement, one day it will be a viable replacement for Outlook. Once that happens, the last fig leaf covering Microsoft’s nakedness falls off.

    You have a beautiful thing in your hands, please don’t give up now.

  6. Fitoschido said on July 15, 2012 at 10:56 am

    I hate the inline autocomplete in the address bar, it’s really annoying.

  7. Chris said on July 11, 2012 at 11:32 pm

    Firefox ESR 17 will be released at the same time as the “regular” Firefox 17. Hence the same major version number:

    The ESR 10.0.X versions no longer match the proposal because of unplanned security/stability updates (10.0.1 & 10.0.2)

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on July 11, 2012 at 11:38 pm

      Chris you are right, have corrected the issue.

  8. marius said on July 11, 2012 at 10:40 pm

    Firefox improves with every version,the only thing I don’t want to happen is broken addons,hope that those,Firefox 4,5,6 addon non-compatibility,days are long gone!

  9. ilev said on July 11, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    Regarding Firefox.
    Wonder if today’s Flash Player 11.3.300.265 update fixed those Firefox crashes.

  10. AC said on July 11, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    The most important patch for performance improvements is the one that landed in bug 695480.

    This means that add-ons will no longer suffer from memory leaks.

    Memory problems in the Firefox browser have been fixed about 6 months now. It’s got to the point where there aren’t really any issues worth talking about.

    Part of the reason Firefox still has a reputation for being a memory hog is the fact that the add-ons leak memory. Most people won’t realise this and continue to blame Firefox for the horrendous memory consumption, instead of the add-ons which aren’t built by Mozilla.

    This single fix resolves all those problems with countless add-ons, so the effect will be that perceived Firefox memory problems will vanish for anyone using Firefox 15 or higher.

    Thing is, this fix isn’t even on the ‘major new features’ list, and so not many people are talking about it. The effect however will be massive. Everything else is simply icing on the cake of this and other performance related bugs.

  11. Fox said on July 11, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    How about Pdf Viewer almost fully funcional?


  12. Roman ShaRP said on July 11, 2012 at 11:46 am

    I’m interested only in performance and memory consumption improvements.

  13. Tom C. said on July 11, 2012 at 9:19 am

    I recently switched to Firefox ESR on our (about 200) clients …
    The way Firefox is spreading releases is a PITA for every administrator!

    1. Midnight said on July 11, 2012 at 10:12 am

      Well, at least Mozilla updates it’s Browser(s) and patches the bugs very fast, unlike IE who. after so many years is still buggy and has more security holes than a sieve!
      No ActiveX in Firefox!! :)

      Best to be safe than sorry, I always say!

  14. xenosilvano said on July 11, 2012 at 1:59 am

    I look forward to Firefox releases.

  15. Sina said on July 10, 2012 at 11:25 pm

    Thanks for the article Martin.

    Q: Is “Panel based download manager” same as “Download Statusbar” add-on ?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on July 10, 2012 at 11:31 pm

      No, it is an icon in one of the upper toolbars.

  16. Tom said on July 10, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    Might worth to mention that according to the linked Wiki page Hang detector and reporter won’t be available in the release builds anytime soon since it relies on data that compiled into the nightly testing builds only…

  17. Midnight said on July 10, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    Currently using Firefox UX 16.0a1, with daily updates, so looking forward to future developments!!
    The promised improved features look interesting, for sure! :)

  18. ilev said on July 10, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    And Chrome 21 beta just added a “Kinect” like getUserMedia API which activates Camera and Mic let the users control application, Games… with hand movements with no need for plug-ins.

    check : http://www.soundstep.com/blog/experiments/jsdetection/

    1. ilev said on July 11, 2012 at 7:34 pm

      P.S Flash in Chrome 21 id FULLY sandboxed :
      “Today’s Chrome 21 beta release has *fully* sandboxed Flash on *all* versions of Windows,” Schuh, a member of Google’s security team, said on Twitter yesterday.

      1. Martin Brinkmann said on July 11, 2012 at 8:00 pm

        That’s great. I also read that you soon get to change Flash settings in Chrome and no longer on the Adobe website.

    2. Victor said on July 11, 2012 at 10:49 am

      But they still can’t put in a bookmark sidebar …. o,O

    3. Fine citizen said on July 11, 2012 at 7:18 am

      and in Firefox as well (some of these future version)

  19. Genious said on July 10, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    The only thing that seems interesting there is the In-browser translation.

    The social integration is more than bloat. I don’t want that shit in my browser.

    1. Jim said on July 10, 2012 at 10:32 pm

      Have to agree with you there. Something like that would be best left to an add-on. Putting it in the browser means extra code that I’m not going to use. That is the definition of bloat.

  20. Peter (NL) said on July 10, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    Firefox 14 will move to Release channel on July 17, not the 27th.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on July 10, 2012 at 6:50 pm

      Upsa, you are right, corrected.

  21. ilev said on July 10, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    Firefox Dev : Everybody hates Firefox updates

    …..Credit where it’s due: the way Google handled Chrome updates was very, very smart. They recognized that updates are one of the hardest things to get right, so they solved that problem first, before releasing version 1. The first release of Chrome was little more than an empty box of a browser, but it was wrapped around an excellent updating system. This let them gradually transform that empty box into a full-featured browser, without the users ever realizing they were getting updates….

    ..Ironically, by doing rapid releases poorly, we just made Firefox look like an inferior version of Chrome. And by pushing a never-ending stream of updates on people who didn’t want them, we drove a lot of those people to Chrome; exactly what we were trying to prevent.

    We assumed our users loved Firefox enough that they would put up with the irritation of updates in order to have a better product…


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