Firefox 33.1, a 10-year birthday present to challenge Apple and Google

11 Nov 2014

What looked like PR spin on a decade of existence has in fact turned into Firefox’s latest venture, Firefox 33.1 – a browser with an added extra of a developer edition.

Consistently banging the privacy, security, big data and independence drums, Firefox is in constant competition with tech giants for its share of the browser market.

In anticipation of the Firefox 33.1 launch on its birthday yesterday, the company was at it again, lamenting the barrage of privacy and security attacks online.

“Let’s face it, most tech companies know more about us than we know about ourselves. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Firefox is different,” said the company.

“We’re not like them. We’re independent. We play by our own rules. We believe the web should be free, open and yours. We don’t answer to industry, shareholders or any other corporate interests. We answer to you.”

When Firefox was founded 10 years ago, Internet Explorer (IE) was the king of the browsers. Now there’s Safari and Chrome, but behind them there’s operating system behemoths Google (Android) and Apple (iOS), against which the company has Firefox OS, a browser-based operating system.

Recent research on showed just how worrying the reality is for Firefox right now. Having led the way in terms of browser use as recently as 2012, Firefox now trails Chrome significantly, with Safari growing and IE still there.

So that’s what Firefox 33.1 is up against, general decline while rivals strengthen. However that’s not to say this latest venture is not without its charms.

Firefox decline? ‘Forget’ it

“In October 2014, Harris Poll conducted an online global survey of more than 7,000 adults on behalf of Mozilla,” said Johnathan Nightingale, vice-president at Firefox. “It revealed that 74pc of respondents felt that internet companies knew too much about them, and more than half had done something online they wanted to ‘forget’.”

To help with this, Firefox has included DuckDuckGo as a pre-installed search option for anonymous browsing, as well as a ‘Forget’ feature. Its developer edition includes Valence, which lets you develop and debug your app across multiple browsers and devices by connecting the Firefox dev tools to other major browser engines.

Other elements include a responsive design mode, page inspector, web console, JavaScript debugger, network monitor, style editor, web audio editor and WebIDE – which allows you to develop, deploy and debug Web apps directly in your browser.

“One of the biggest pain points for developers is having to use numerous siloed development environments in order to create engaging content or for targeting different app stores,” explained Dave Camp, director of developer tools at Mozilla.

“For these reasons, developers often end up having to bounce between different platforms and browsers, which decreases productivity and causes frustration.

“Firefox Developer Edition solves this problem by creating a focal point to streamline your development workflow. It’s a stable developer browser which is not only a powerful authoring tool but also robust enough for everyday browsing. It also adds new features that simplify the process of building for the entire web, whether targeting mobile or desktop across many different platforms.”

Only time will tell if Firefox can still compete with its larger competitors.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic