Take a Look at Firefox’s Possible Future

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In the future, Mozilla’s Firefox browser might look a bit more like Google Chrome.

That’s my main takeaway from a series of early mockups for future versions of Firefox. Designer Stephen Horlander shared the renderings on Mozilla’s website (via TechCrunch), with the disclaimer that they were created “for discussion purposes” and that some renderings may already be out of date.

But if this is the way Firefox is going, it’s hard to ignore the resemblance to Google’s browser. In many of the renderings, active tabs take on a curved shape, options have been relocated to the right side of the screen, and search and address bars have been merged into a single text field. (Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 9 uses a Chrome-like omnibar, making Firefox the last of the three biggest browsers to resist.)

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That’s not to say everything in these renderings are Chrome rip-offs. Mozilla is seen experimenting with a customizable “functionality” menu that uses big, bubbly icons to list popular commands such as “new window” and copy/paste along with apps and extensions. Inactive tabs blend into the background so it’s easier to tell which tab is currently open. And some of the mockups look more like Internet Explorer 9, with the URL bar and tabs squished onto a single line.

Over the last year or so, Mozilla has lost market share while Chrome has gained. While Firefox still has nearly double Chrome’s share worldwide, web metric firm Statcounter reported yesterday that Chrome has overtaken Firefox in the United Kingdom. As such, we’ve seen Mozilla take some drastic steps to spruce its browser, including a major redesign for Firefox 4 and a new development cycle that should result in faster implementation of new features. If the changes pictured here ever materialize, I’ll be interested to see how other browsers react and tweak their own interfaces.

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