Mozilla plans to launch new Firefox testing program feature

Mozilla FirefoxMozilla plans to launch a new Firefox testing program feature this following month, that will let Firefox users try out potential changes to the web browser.

According to documents published by the open-source developer, this feature was dubbed the “Idea Town”. The opt-in program is expected to launch in August 11 this year. It comes with a teaser in the web browser’s new tab page, inviting users to register, with extra elements added over the next three months until the testing infrastructure is finished and operational.

The goal of Idea Town is to get feedback from users for its most-stable build channel, called “Release”, to help it decide whether to implement the new features and User Interface alterations before adding them to the usual 18-week development cycle.

Mozilla said in a Github page that “Idea Twon is an opt-in platform for Firefox that facilitates controlled tests of new high-visibility products in the general release channel.” They added that “Idea Town will allow [them] to make informed and user tested product decisions quickly and without compromising user privacy or experience.” User privacy, by the way, has been one of the most valued principle that Mozilla stands for.

Usually, companies such as Microsoft would run a Windows Insider program. Then when developers and designers decide on a new feature, they add it to early builds, where the changes track through several iterations to patch the bugs in the code. However, Idea Town’s approach will be different. It will target the “average” Firefox user; preliminary builds will be mostly run by early adopters, whose judgment may not reflect the general user base. This is a different approach than what Mozilla currently uses.

Mozilla said in one planning document that “Idea Town is not intended to replace [release] trains for most features, nor is it a testbed for concepts [they] do not believe have a strong chance of shipping in general release. Rather, it is reserved for features that require user-feedback, testing and tuning before they ship with the browser.”

According to Mozilla, the primary objective of Idea Town is to “let [them] take larger risks with product concepts, giving [them] a cheap avenue to test and validate product concepts.” It would likewise permit Mozilla to gauge interest in potential Firefox features.

Mozilla will make use of the tag line, “The future of the Fox” to allure users to register to Idea Town.

When Idea Town is complete, which is expected to happen on Novermber 3, Mozilla will have made and distributed a Firefox add-on that manages the potential new features and changes, in which they are packaged into discrete “experiments”, and will be shipped in an experiment bundle. It will be arranged in ways where users can effortlessly add themselves to the testing program or opt-out without having to roll back to a different build of the web browser.

Included on Idea Town’s experiment list, are vertical tabs, tabs badging — where a browser tab offers extra information, like the quantity of new tweets when the tab represents Twitter.com — and tab snoozing that lets users put off tabs until later and returns them to the browser automatically.

Despite the fact that the Idea Town planning document did not make it explicit, the idea is obviously one piece of the changes that a Mozilla official outlined earlier this month. Dave Camp, director of Firefox engineering, also said that Mozilla needs to shorten “the time that new features reach users” and speed up the web browser’s release periods.

The present plan is to ship Firefox 40 (expected to come out on August 11) with the Idea Town teaser on its new tab page, then add segments to Firefox 41 on the September 21 release and finish the process by Firefox 42, which is scheduled on November 3.

The present version, Firefox 39 for Windows, OS X and Linux, can be downloaded from Mozilla’s website.

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