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Firefox Looks Inward For a Creative Boost

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Mozilla has appointed Aza Raskin as creative lead for Firefox. Raskin is one of the foremost experts in user interfaces and over the years has developed expertise in web user interfaces. Raskin joined Mozilla in 2008 when Mozilla acquired his start-up Humanized. Since then he has been working on various projects such as Ubiquity, the Concept Series, the Firefox Mobile, Geode, Privacy Icons, and Jetpack for Mozilla Labs, a quasi R&D arm. Raskin believes it is time to bring many of those technologies into the browser. In a blog post, he writes:

The web continues to evolve in the search and social domains. We are a new breed of info-vore meets webapp-ian. The average web user spends more time with their browser than with their family. Firefox has become faster, cleaner, and way more powerful (HTML5, canvas, streamable fonts, open video,…), but has yet to have the user experience paradigm shifts that gives users the new tools they need to accommodate the new web’s work flows. My hope is to work with and within the Firefox team in defining next generation browsing. To move towards you-centric browsing.

“My first project is to think about how to make the browser more social, spatial, and tabs more semantically meaningful,” he writes. Raskin, like most of Mozilla, is facing a tough road ahead. While they benefited from Microsoft’s (s MSFT) inertia early on, the world of browsers has been transformed over past few years. Firefox is now competing with Google’s (s GOOG) Chrome, Apple’s (s AAPL) Safari and a reenergized Microsoft Internet Explorer.

I downloaded Google’s Chrome browser on my Macbook Pro about two months ago. I have not used Firefox since — mostly because Chrome is much faster and less taxing on the computer. I rarely use Safari and when I do, it is to watch Netflix (s NFLX) movies, for Silverlight works well on Safari. In many ways, having all these browser options works as much against as much as in favor of Mozilla and Firefox. I might be on the extreme edge of the browser adoption curve, but who is to say that few years from now a majority of the people won’t jettison Firefox.

From that perspective, Mozilla has made a smart move. I have spent a lot of time with Aza talking about the web, browsers and where we are all headed. While we disagree on many things, I have come to admire his relentless focus on making the web simpler and easier to use. From multi-tasking within the browser to adding social context to content, he understands that the web is changing and Firefox has to change with it.

Photo of Aza Raskin courtesy of laihiu via Flickr

7 Responses to “Firefox Looks Inward For a Creative Boost”

  1. It’s true that Chrome is kind of more realible when you need to do something ASAP. But for eveyrthing else, firefox is still the king. I couldn’t even imagine living with things like downthemall, black youtube and google, save flv link, screencap, etc. Firefox has been kind of unstable lately. And last time i tried a nightly build i lost my profile. But its still the best, because you can adjust just everything.

  2. @Al

    “People seem to get upset if Firefox updates without telling them but that’s your other choice.”

    Developers love to make this assumption and without backing it with any evidence whatsoever. Chrome updates automatically and without notification, and it is awesome.

    My contention: “People” don’t even know, let alone care, that they’ve just been updated. Now, I have no evidence to support my contention either, except that I personally find it to be an excellent alternative.

    It is up to those who would willfully inflict a crappy user experience to justify (and support with solid evidence) their decision, not the other way around.

  3. Jason, if you don’t want to update, then you don’t mind if the Russian Mafia winds up using your computer as part of a botnet, right? The ongoing updates are for security improvements as issues or exploits are discovered. Chrome, Safari, and IE do it as well. People seem to get upset if Firefox updates without telling them but that’s your other choice.

    Peter, are you running 3.6? It’s dramatically faster than 3.5 and the current versions of the various browsers are not far apart (except for IE).

  4. Chrome may have killed Firefox, but then again that death may actually have been self inflicted. Case in point, when I do try to use Firefox, I am often presented with some sort of almost Adobe-esque update nagging. No, I don’t want to update, I want to use a browser. Yesterday I was setting up a person with Firefox 3.6, which promptly choked on an import script, leaving the install useless. Maybe sometime we will uninstall and reinstall, but until then Chrome it is. Used to love it, but too often the fox has chewed on my hand.

  5. I wish Firefox would focus more on performance. Memory leaks, hangs, and crashes have caused me to switch to Google Chrome. I’m also not alone in this. I get a lot of complaints about Firefox in my job as a network administrator and I tell them to just install Google Chrome. Google gets it in this regard.