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Firefox Friday Five

After last week's positively snooze-worthy releases from Mozilla, this week has been much more exciting. Not only do we have tons of news from Mozilla Labs, but we also have new versions of Firefox to play around with AND some cool new add-ons!

Let's start with the hot news that Lee broke earlier today:

1. Firefox 3.7 (or 4) will have a sexy new add-on manager

It seems like there's a huge focus on taking Firefox back to basics at the moment. I don't mean that functionality is being cut out -- more that Mozilla is trying to bring Firefox back to their original vision of a fun, safe, extensible browser. Along the way Firefox has bloated out of control, becoming slow and unstable. With Firefox 3.7 we will see better add-on management, out-of-process plug-ins and a cleaner UI -- basically, where 3.6 fails to deliver (yay, Personas!!), FF3.7 will finally close the widening chasm created by Chrome (and even Opera!)

If you want to give the new add-on manager a go (it opens in its own tab!), grab the latest nightly build of 3.7. If not, read on for more Firefox Friday tips and news!

2. Jetpack continues its surge forward, SDK reaches version 0.3!

If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say that Jetpack is receiving a lot of attention from Mozilla at the moment. Development is fast and codebase check-ins consistent! Jetpack still isn't ready for prime time or enterprise use, but it's getting there! If you're new to Firefox extension development, use Jetpack instead of the old framework! This new version of the SDK lets add-ons access the context menu on Web pages -- so expect to see some cool Jetpack add-ons that manipulate links, or translate text in real-time.

Jetpack will be an important part of the necessary speed, stability and security requirements for Firefox 3.7 (or 4.0, as the case may be). Jetpack will also mean no restarts after installing add-ons...!

3. Firefox 3.7 will have fully-customizable navigation and tab bars

Seriously, look at the screenshot! Isn't that one of the sexiest things you've ever seen? Tabs, navigation buttons and AwesomeBar all together! When Lee covered this change he forgot to remove one of the bars so it didn't look quite so pretty -- but just look at it...

If the new add-on manager in 3.7 wasn't enough reason to install a nightly version, surely these customizable buttons are enough to tip you over the edge? Also, compelled by a bunch of email death threats, I must tell you that Opera had this feature before Firefox.

4. Firefox for Mobile pre-alpha for Android emerges, sadly not very functional

A couple of days ago a pre-alpha Android version of Fennec emerged. According to the kind folk on our Facebook page, the build apparently isn't very functional. If you have a Droid or Nexus One you might be able to get it to work though!

There's also an experimental build of Weave for this version -- pick it up by visiting https://mozillalabs.com/weave/ on your Android device.

It's funny how I said things were a little bit too quiet at Mozilla a few weeks ago... and now there's a flurry of activity! We might yet see working versions of Firefox for Mobile on Maemo, Windows Phone and Android before the end of the year!

5. The Firefox Account Manager will change how we use the Internet... in a good way

Both Erez and I reported on this story earlier in the week, and there's still a lot more to say! If this is the first you've heard of it: basically, Firefox wants to manage your online identity. Rather than logging into every website you visit, Firefox will handle your login credentials -- it will generate secure passwords that, in all likelihood, you will never know. Web developers, please follow this guide to enable Account Manager interaction with your website.

It sounds wild, and you're right to be cautious; after all, investing so much trust in one application or service is rarely a good idea. But the benefits of such a system -- it would make the Internet so much easier to use! Faster! Ultimately safer, too.

If I had to put all of my eggs in one basket, I don't think I could do much better than Mozilla. I can't wait to see the Account Manager rolled into Firefox 3.7 later this year.

Tags: account manager, AccountManager, add-on, alpha, android, fennec, firefox, firefox 3.7, firefox 4.0, Firefox3.7, Firefox4.0, identity management, IdentityManagement, jetpack, sdk

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