APRIL 2011 IN
RICK ASTER’S WORLD
I wrote a month ago about web sites that have been streamlined after developers gained insight into simpler design approaches while working on mobile versions of the sites. I hadn’t imagined the same process would also happen with a web browser, but that is exactly what has happened with Firefox 4, which was just released days ago.
Many of the design ideas in Firefox 4 for Mobile, which was released almost at the same time, were incorporated into Firefox 4, creating a cleaner, less confusing user interface. Firefox 4 for Mobile has to be streamlined to run in the small screens and limited memory space of mobile devices, and many of the changes that made that work were also incorporated into the regular computer version of Firefox 4. The result is the same kind of improvement in the web browser that we are seeing in web sites that are being redesigned to work better on mobile devices.
As an aside, there is another point worth mentioning about the Firefox 4 release. The Firefox 3 release three years ago was a breakthrough in download server performance, with 8 million copies delivered in the first 24 hours. At the time, there were questions about whether the servers could possibly keep up with the demand. (For the most part, they did.) The Firefox 4 release has been a much bigger event, with 8 million downloads in each of the first two days and around 5 million per day since. The Firefox download numbers are larger because there are twice as many Firefox users now. They are more spread out because there was not a big promotional push for release day. But the larger release is hardly a server breakthrough; a release of this size is all in a day’s work now. This is one measure of how much the Internet has matured in just the last three years.
Firefox has cemented its status as the standard web browser by supporting web standards better and sooner than other browsers and supporting a wider range of computing platforms than most of the competition. With the new version, it is also arguably the fastest web browser. It’s an impressive accomplishment, made all the more impressive for the fact that it is a free product created almost entirely by volunteers.
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