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Firefox's 2012 Browser Roadmap: The Year of Catching up to Chrome

Firefox in 2012 will look a lot like Google Chrome in 2011 according to a product roadmap introduced by the Mozilla Foundation on Sunday.

The Mozilla Foundation has big plans for Firefox in 2012 that can be summarized in two words: Google Chrome. That's not to say the Firefox browser won't have some unique features, such as a tool that lets you see how you're being tracked across the Web, a new online identity system for passwords management, and a customized Metro-style interface for Windows 8. But some of Firefox's biggest features we'll see in 2012 are already found in Google's Chrome and other Web browsers.

Here's a look at the five biggest catch-ups features announced by Mozilla's recently updated 2012 roadmap.

App Store

Mozilla is moving forward with its take on a Chrome-style app store for web applications. The Firefox maker has been talking about a glorified bookmark repository since 2010 when it announced early plans for an "Open Web App Store." Mozilla's goal was to develop an app store that wouldn't create little application silos like you have on mobile phones, and, in some cases, web apps designed specifically for Google Chrome. "Supporting the needs of Web developers in their efforts to develop websites and apps that aren't bound to a specific browser and work across the web is core to Mozilla's public benefit mission," Mozilla said in May 2010.

Firefox has yet to launch its web store, but it looks like 2012 will be the year as current plans point to integrating a web apps marketplace into Firefox before the summer.

Silent Updates

Mozilla wants to bring silent updates to Firefox in the spring. Just like Chrome, and soon Internet Explorer, Firefox wouldn't notify you every time an updated version of the browser came along. Instead, it would just install the update in the background and the browser would be refreshed the next time you restarted it. The move to silent updates would also further Mozilla's current trend of making version numbers irrelevant to the user.

Translation

Mozilla plans to build a translation feature into Firefox during the second half of 2012 that lets you view a foreign-language web page in your own tongue. Chrome in 2010 introduced a similar feature allowing you to translate almost any page on the web into English with the click of a button.

Add-ons Sync

Firefox already syncs your bookmarks, browsing history and open tabs, and before March, Mozilla plans to add the ability to sync add-ons as well. A handy feature for anyone running Firefox on multiple computers.

Inline PDFs

Forget about downloading PDFs and opening them up on your desktop or struggling with a buggy plugin to view them in the browser. Firefox will get Chrome-style native PDF viewing during the second half of 2012, according to Mozilla's plans.

Looking past Firefox's Chrome catch-up, Mozilla also has some other interesting ideas for 2012. Firefox during the second half of 2012 will be getting an Instapaper clone codenamed "focus mode" that will allow you to a simplified text-only version of an online article. Apple in 2010 launched Reader for Safari that offers similar functionality.

Firefox Readies for Windows 8

Mozilla is also getting ready for Windows 8 by developing a touch-friendly Metro-style version of the browser that should be ready during the second half of 2012. Mozilla says the browser well get a top-to-bottom revamp in order to more closely match the Metro-style tiled and touch interface.

Finally, Firefox will be getting search hijack prevention so that add-ons, toolbars and other desktop software can't reset the default search provider in your browser.

These are just some of the highlights for Firefox in 2012. You can check out the complete list of features and improvements on Mozilla's 2012 roadmap.

Connect with Ian Paul (@ianpaul) on Twitter and Google+, and with Today@PCWorld on Twitter for the latest tech news and analysis.


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