SourceThe Firefox web browser has come a long way since the project was announced as a fork from the open-sourced Mozilla project. Version 1.0 was released in 2004 and quickly won critical acclaim for its speed, compatibility with web standards, and features. In a couple of years, Firefox managed to reach a milestone that its predecessor never quite reached: hitting 10 percent market share worldwide. Version 2 of the browser recently hit Release Candidate 2, but the team is already making plans for 3.0. The Mozilla organization has set up a feature brainstorming web site that allows everyone to enter their favorite wish lists for the open source browser.
The wish list is long indeed, and it provides an insight into the desires of the browser community, and a look at the open source development process. While closed-source projects often ask their user community for feedback on requested features, the process is not usually open to the public. For Firefox 3, anyone can both suggest new features and comment on other people's suggestions.
The feature requests are divided into categories, such as browser customization, privacy features, security, history, download manager, and other areas. There are suggestions for features found in other competing browsers, such Safari, IE 7 beta, and Opera. IE7 seemed to be featured most prominently, with requests for "low-rights mode," as well as more cosmetic features like skins that mimic Microsoft's browser.
Customization seems high on the list: floating menu and toolbars, tabs that are draggable to other sessions of Firefox, and the ability to add tag notes to web pages are all present.
As an Opera fan, I feel compelled to point out that many of the most useful feature requests have been present in that browser for some time now, such as the ability to save text entered in forms so that the user can hit the back button to return to a form entry page without losing all the text.
One interesting request appears near the end of the list: the wish for Firefox to be the "fastest browser on the market," even in low-memory configurations such as PCs with only 256 MB of RAM. This may seem an impossible goal when taken alongside the long list of wanted features, but the poster has a plan: make most browser features optional. Dedicated Firefox fans will recall that many "new" features in the browser were once available via user-written plugins. As more and more features are added to the core build, there will undoubtedly be some users who yearn for a smaller browser that takes fewer system resources (such as RAM) to run.
The feature suggestion web site showcases both the advantages and disadvantages of the open-source development model. The ability for the public to get involved in the feature request process allows the users to have their voices heard. However, too many features can sometimes spoil a good product, as everything and the kitchen sink get thrown in and the program starts to take up more and more resources.
For those adventurous folks who want to take a sneak peak at Firefox 3's progress, early alpha builds are now availible for download.
Sounds good, will be suggesting a few features.