Mozilla is gearing up for a major user interface overhaul for the open source Firefox web browser. Code-named Australis, the new UI is likely to debut as part of Firefox 25, due out in October of his year.
The Australis overhaul will be the biggest UI change since Firefox 4, which became generally available in March of 2011. After Firefox 4, Mozilla changed its release approach, from having only one or two releases in a year, to a rapid release cycle with new browsers released every six to eight weeks.
“Australis is our internal code name for a set of UI changes that is about answering the question of how do we build a browser that fits today’s web user,” Johnathan Nightingale, VP of Firefox Engineering at Mozilla, told Datamation.
There are multiple pieces that are part of the Australis overhaul and not all of the pieces are landing in Firefox 25.
For example, Firefox 20, which was released in April of this year, included a new Download Manager component, which is part of the Australis refresh.
The bulk of the Australis update that is set to land in Firefox 25 involves two major changes. The first is a simplification of the main UI and the other pieces are improvements to the customization interface.
“Every part of the Australis interface is tuned to get rid of distractions,” Nightingale said. “Your tab titles and icons and titles are still there, it’s easy to get to something if you want to get to it, but really we only need subtle hints there, so simplifying the UI just makes good sense.”
From a customization perspective, Nightingale noted that to date, users have been able to customize Firefox through add-ons. With Australis, Firefox will have a more intuitive drag and drop approach for browser customization.
“It makes it easier for people to say, this is how I want to experience the web and these are the tools that I need,” Nightingale said.
The customization can include options for how a first level browser menu will look, which isn’t necessarily something all users will want to do. But the point is that Mozilla will now give users that choice.
Though Firefox 25 is currently targeted as the landing place for Australis, Nightingale stressed that Mozilla is listening very carefully to users about how they feel about the changes.
Mozilla now has a multi-channel approach to Firefox development that includes a stable release, beta and aurora channels as well as a bleeding edge, nightly release. The most recent Firefox release is Firefox 21, with Firefox 22 now in beta.
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Datamation and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.