Mozilla is working on a redesign of the Firefox interface to keep up with the increasingly changing ways advanced users are using the Internet and the browser. The new look is already making its way through various stages of debugging, so it should be ready for prime time by this October. (In fact, you can download the latest developer’s build of Firefox 25 now, but do so at your own risk.)
Since users are no longer just browsing but accessing “sophisticated web apps, web-based productivity tools and social networks,” as vice president of engineering Jonathan Nightingale told TechCrunch, the modern Web browser needs to give users the features they need while keeping it easy to use. He asked his team to come up with a design that takes into account how users are actually using their browsers, and the result is codenamed Australis.
Judging by some of the early screenshots posted on TechCrunch and TheNextWeb, Australis basically makes Firefox look like Chrome. You can see the Chrome resemblance by the rounded tab corners, especially when you stack the current design on top of the new one, like the below image from TheNextWeb.
In addition, the orange “Firefox” menu button will move from the top left corner to the right, just like the “hotdog” menu button in Chrome. (That’s the button that opens a menu, giving you access to your settings or enlarge the text.)
When you have a bunch of tabs all opened at the same time, Chrome likes to shrink each tab down to the point where the page icon disappears, which makes it hard to find the tabbed webpage you’re looking for. With Australis, Mozilla will set a minimum tab width, and each tab will remain visible via a scrolling tab bar once a certain number of tabs have been opened, according to TechCrunch.
The Mozilla crew also wants to make the browser interface completely customizable, but is struggling with how to make these powerful tools easy to access for users. After all, if these add-on tools are too clunky to use or too hidden for most users to find, they might as well not exist. If Australis’ icon-oriented customization and tools menu looks familiar, it’s because it’s similar to the one in the Firefox for Android app.
In an extreme effort to keep the Australis interface super svelte and out of the way of webpages, Mozilla is putting some classic features on the chopping block, as detailed in its Add-Ons Blog last week. The Add-on Bar may become more hidden or disappear completely, while the custom toolbars, like our beloved bookmark bar, will be gone for good. According to the blog post, “the main toolbar will have a dedicated area for add-on buttons and widgets” but they will hardly replace user-created toolbars.
October is still a long time away, so Australis will continue to evolve as Mozilla zeros in on the final design of the next-generation Firefox. We’re bound to find out more about the inner workings of Firefox 25 over the course of the next few months, so stay tuned.