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Festive Firefox Friday: 2009 review

As I write this, you're probably tucking into your Christmas dinner.

Actually... if you're reading this, you're probably peeling back the plastic of your microwave turkey and uncrispy 'roast' potatoes.

Of course, the other option is, in this day and age, that you simply don't celebrate Christmas. Here at Download Squad we want to cater for everyone, Christmassers, loners, nerds, Twitterers: the lot. This Festive Firefox Friday is for you.

Instead of bringing you Firefox-related news from the last seven days, this is an entire recap of Firefox in the year of 2009. It's been a big year for that cute little red panda and 2010 will be just as exciting if not more so!

1. Firefox 3.5 surpasses IE7 in market share

Perhaps the biggest news this year! Firefox finally passes Internet Explorer -- or one version of it at least. There's the usual cynicism, citing the combined percentage of IE6, 7 and 8 as far greater than Firefox -- and that's true! -- but if you combine Firefox 3.5 and 3.0's shares, you're talking about 30% of the Internet using Firefox. (Let's not forget its 100% market share in Antarctica!!)

That's quite a lot, and with the European Commission's ruling expect to see Firefox climb towards 40% in 2010 -- or even higher because...

2. Mobile Firefox -- Fennec -- is almost ready for prime time

Yup, as Paul puts it, with Firefox finally on the smartphone, all your apps in 2010 may well belong to Mozilla. Apple may never open up their iPod Touch and iPhone to third-party browsers, but we can hope for a 'mobile surfing revolution' in 2010 on the Android, Symbian and Windows Mobile platforms.

There was also news of Firefox making its way to the Sony PS3 -- maybe we'll see it on even more devices in 2010?

3. Multiple login sessions at last!

I don't know if it's because I'm a web developer, but there's something really frustrating about login sessions persisting between tabs in Firefox. Don't get me wrong, sometimes it's convenient -- for all your Google web apps, perhaps -- but most of the time it's just plain annoying.

What if you manage multiple email accounts? Or PayPal accounts? Or Ebay? Multifox is the answer.

4. The maturing (cough) of the Firefox Personas gallery

I don't think I'll understand the NEED to customize everything that we use and interact with. For some reason, despite corporations spending millions of dollars on specialized and optimized user interfaces, we just have to change it.

Thankfully, in the case of Firefox, you can't actually alter the UI itself -- all you can do is skin it with a variety of obnoxious images. But anyway, whether you love it or hate it, the Personas gallery is now full to overflowing with themes -- so if you're bored with grey, how about changing to LUMINOUS ORANGE??

5. Greasemonkey continues to be utterly awesome

Well, to be fair, it's the dominance of both Greasemonkey AND its huge repository at userscripts that has made this a bumper year for Firefox users.
If you use Firefox and use the Internet for anything other than simple surfing, Greasemonkey will probably revolutionize your experience. It enables, via some truly fantastic userscripts, functionality that you'll soon grow to love. You'll wonder how you ever used Flickr or Gmail without the Greasemonkey add-on. Most websites have a few annoying 'foibles' -- chances are there's a Greasemonkey script that'll fix it for you.


WebGL is almost here! Our reliance on Microsoft Silverlight and Adobe Flash is almost at an end: on one side we have HTML5 video and on the other we have WebGL, an in-browser version of OpenGL. What this means is that you'll finally be able to produce inline 3D elements in web pages -- and hopefully with a lot less CPU and memory usage. I assume Direct2D will also play a role in this 'next stage' of Web development.

As always, due to their open-source nature, Firefox and Chrome are leading the WebGL charge. Nascent versions are already in the beta builds, so expect to see some neat WebGL proofs of concept soon. As always, IE is just a little way behind...

7. Microsoft and Firefox grow (uncomfortably?) close...

Here's a turn-up for the books that no one expected: Firefox -- or at least one of its veterans -- prefers Bing to Google. If that wasn't enough, Bing then turned around and paid their respects to Firefox with a little homage.

Just for a moment, let's just imagine that Firefox falls out with Google in 2010. What if they jump into bed with Microsoft? What if some future iteration of Internet Explorer is based on Firefox? What if Firefox BECOMES Internet Explorer?

Hmm...

8. Firefox continues to burn a hole in your thigh

Firefox might've been out for five years now, but it still absolutely slaughters your CPU. Desktop users don't tend to notice it, but if you own a laptop or netbook, you've probably experienced either a) very hot genitals or b) about half the usual battery life when running Firefox.

Fortunately you can boost battery life -- and lower CPU usage -- with the army of ad-blocking add-ons.

9. Firefox nursed and bolstered its invaluable add-on developer community

Curious how there's so little negative news about Firefox, eh? Something about them always taking care of their community of developers, and giving back much more than it takes from the OSS movement.

2009 saw the debut of Firefox's Add-Ons Contribution system. Not only does this encourage add-on programmers to continue coding, but Mozilla don't even take a cut! The money you contribute goes straight to the community.

Also of note, in the 'charity' vein, you should install the new Browse for a Cause add-on. Why not donate a little money to charity while you surf? It's painless and free!

10. And looking towards 2010: Firefox 4!

I was thinking... how many of today's Firefox users actually used Firefox 1 or 2? For many people, Firefox 4 will be the first major revision of the world's most popular web browser -- and boy does it look pretty.

In comes the Ribbon UI made famous by Office and some more drop shadows on the other buttons for good measure. We're still only at a beta stage on Firefox 3.6 though, so I wouldn't expect to see Firefox 4 for a few months yet!

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As always, if you think we missed a 'seminal' moment of Firefox in 2009, don't hesitate to chime in in the comments!

Tags: 2009, addons, features, firefox, lists, retrospective, review, roundup

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