Mozilla has spent a year now on bringing Firefox on par with Google Chrome, starting with Firefox 4. There have been plenty of improvements since Firefox 4 and plenty of standout features, but Mozilla's been in catch-up mode for the most part, even if it's not something it wants to admit.
But the big work is done, Firefox is pretty much as fast as Chrome, even if that's partly because Chrome is suffering from feature creep. The UI is fairly similar and just as lightweight.
HTML5 support is on par, WebGL, SPDY it's all there. Lightweight extensions built with web technologies are possible, even if they're not as popular as Chrome's. Even the hectic six-week release schedule, also borrowed from Chrome, is going well.
It's about time Firefox started differentiating itself and it looks like Mozilla is on the right path. Mozilla has been saying how Firefox is different since it puts the user first.
That's all well and good, but a browser is a browser and has to work properly before people care about their privacy options and so on.
One way that Firefox is taking the lead is with a new look
. Granted, it's only a slight refresh, a browser UI is too minimalistic these days to be able to stand out too much.
But it's not the desktop UI refresh that is worthy of notice, it's the fact that Mozilla applies the same design ideas to the desktop and the phone and tablet browsers, going for a unified look.
Google Chrome for Android has only just launched and is still in beta. Granted, the mobile Firefox has plenty of work ahead of it, but the race is pretty tight.
Speaking of mobile devices, the simple fact that Mozilla pushed to have one browser across as many devices as possible is a great hint that it is considering the long run.
Finally, Mozilla is also working on a unique browser authentication and identity service, dubbed BrowserID but which will be called Persona as far as the regular users are concerned.
It could be argued that this isn't wholly original either, but it is the only service of its kind that is not owned by a large website with monetary interests.
There's more, Mozilla is working on a mobile operating system, dubbed Boot 2 Gecko. Users can already test-drive the OS and Mozilla has partnerships with carriers and phone makers. That's a long way from saying that B2G will gain any sort of traction, but it's a start.
Mozilla is working on its web app platform, an interesting approach as well, similar to Facebook's, which leverages the web as much as possible for mobile apps in particular.
All of these efforts may not mean much and most still have to prove themselves, but they show a very determined organization with a long-term plan. Hopefully, it will be able to pull it off.