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Firefox 2.0 To Stress Tab, Bookmark, Extension Changes

Firefox 2.0, expected by early in the third quarter, is adding features and improvements to make sure that its browser stays ahead of Microsoft.
Also in the works for 2.0 are changes to tabs, which is one of the most popular features in Firefox. Developers are sifting through a number of options to improve tab browsing, and the user interface in general, said Schroepfer. "We'll probably end up with a lot of [new] small features," he said. Among the changes under consideration are placing a close button on each tab, a close undo, and perhaps a session saver-style feature that would return the browser to pre-shut down or pre-cash status.

Many of these features are already available in multiple extensions to Firefox. "That's one of the beauties of extensions," said Schroepfer. "They're like an advanced R&D lab, and an indication of what users may want in the browser."

Mozilla regularly surveys all existing extensions to see what types of additions people have dreamed up, and monitors those with the most downloads. "We'd like to distill the extensions to those that attract the largest audience, the ones that 90 percent of the users use," Schroepfer said, then consider them for roll-up into the browser itself.

Speaking of extensions, Firefox 2.0 will take a step toward extension security by adding a blacklist feature that will allow Mozilla to disable an extension in everyone's copy of the browser.

"The idea would be to disable an extension, by us, from a central location so that we can immediately remedy a problem," Schroepfer said. "We need an easy way to disable an extension [for everyone]."

Although Schroepfer thought that blacklisting is aimed at non-malicious extensions that cause browser instability accidentally, it's also a partial answer to Firefox critics who have pointed to loose extension security. Unlike Microsoft's Internet Explorer, which blocks unsigned ActiveX controls, Firefox doesn't require that extensions be digitally signed.

"All a signature would prove is that the person who wrote [an extension] is who they say they are," downplayed Schroepfer. He went on to say that Mozilla has no plans to require extensions to be signed, and added that the current review process before plug-ins are posted to the Firefox Add-ons site are sufficient to protect users.

Firefox 2.0 will also add a search engine removal tool, said Schroepfer, to make it easier for users to dump unwanted engines from the Search Bar. (Currently, the only way to remove an engine is with extensions such as SeachPluginHacks.)