Gordon discusses the browser wars, security, extensions, speed and Webkit with the company's European chief executive.
Some might say past versions of Windows have been that already, though I must warn you I am a big fan of Windows 7. Moving onto security there has been a new approach to this seen in Chrome whereby Google automatically updates users to a new version, the process is invisible to them and takes the responsibility of upgrading out of their hands. Could we see something similar from Firefox in future?
“I think a balance has to be found. We tend to be very, very fast in patching Firefox. Sometimes in less than two or three days vulnerabilities are fixed and a new version has been shipped. We have gone halfway by downloading the new version in the background and saving their session between upgrades but we like to notify the user and give them choice. Google has made a decision that is not ours.”
“Why? It is important to be up to date but for us allowing the user to remain in control essential. Updates can sometimes remove features as well as add them and sometimes third party extensions are not immediately compatible with new versions (something Google will have to consider when extensions become available in Chrome) so we remain on the side of choice.”
There has been suggestion that a move from the Gecko engine to Webkit might be a good move for Firefox?
“I think Webkit is a really good browser engine, but I think Gecko is superior to Webkit. People who choose Webkit have to sit around a table with Google and Apple and decide what are the future features to get inside Webkit – it is not exactly a very comfortable position to sit next to those two giants. From a technological standpoint there are good reasons to stay with Gecko and I think there is also still a lot of potential for it in terms of optimisation. We have seen that Firefox 3.5 will be much faster than Firefox 2 (up to 10x) and it can go a lot faster yet. (Users can discuss the speed of Firefox 3.5 at Mozilla’s Show Us Your Speed website).”
Finally Tristan, if you don’t mind me ending the review with a suggestion rather than a question?
“Not at all.”
Extensions are the heart and soul of Firefox for many but they can weigh the browser down, especially if poorly coded. I know many users spend a great deal of time trying to identify these bloated add-ons and I think it would greatly help if a tool was included in Firefox which would show the resources taken up by each installed application. Perhaps even written on the add-on’s page itself, so a user can make an informed decision about whether each extension is worth its performance footprint or not.
“The cost of using an extension is usually very small but you are right, they can add-up. This is a very interesting and smart idea. I am going to write this down now and take it to our head developers. Thank you, you have just contributed to the Firefox development programme.”
Fingers crossed, eh guys…
”Note Tristan was unable to speak about the bundling of Internet Explorer with different versions of Windows since Microsoft is currently involved in legal proceedings with the European Commission concerning anti-competitive behaviour.”