Catching up to Chrome is just part of the Firefox roadmap for 2012. Mozilla's Asa Dotzler has updated the strategy and roadmap for desktop Firefox in 2012. While the Mozilla folks have several original ideas and goals, there's a lot in the first half of the 2012 roadmap that looks very familiar to Chrome users as well. The really interesting features come in the second half of 2012, and relate to user privacy and account management. Third party cookie management and tracking could be a killer feature for Firefox later this year.

If you have a look at the desktop feature roadmap, you'll see that Q1 and Q2 have quite a few features that are either already in Google Chrome. For example, there's sync for add-ons, assuming add-ons work across releases, silent update and a redesigned new tab page.

If you're running the Aurora builds, you should be able to see the new tab page now. It's basically a take on the Speed Dial concept that was initially expressed in Opera 9.2, and has analogs in Google Chrome and Safari. It doesn't allow you to create buttons manually, they're pulled from the most frequently visited pages. You can zap pages that you don't want displayed, or hide the page alttogether.

The Mozilla folks are also planning to add a Chrome migration tool, so they can move users from the Google browser to Firefox. Firefox is also targeting inline PDF view and in-browser translation for the second half of the year.

Did somebody say Apps? Firefox could also have a Web App integration in place by the release of Firefox 13. (That's the targeted release, but the feature page is not fully spec'ed out yet.) Mozilla is aiming for an app store launcher in the Home Tab that would make it easy to see new Web apps on offer.

User Privacy and "Log into Firefox"

The second half of the Mozilla roadmap is where it really gets interesting, at least for folks concerned about privacy, security and control of their data. While Mozilla has been championing the Do Not Track (DNT) stuff, I'm less than convinced that DNT is a good answer to privacy concerns given that it's voluntary for sites to implement.

One of the ideas that's on the roadmap, but without an accompanying feature page, is tracking map and 3rd party cookie management. According to the roadmap, this would let users "visualize how they are tracked as they move around the web and be empowered to easily block that tracking." I'd really like to see this one implemented, sooner rather than later.

Users could also be seeing a site-based permissions manager. The roadmap says "users manage their permissions on a per-feature basis: cookies, passwords, history, etc. This is confusing. A site-based permission manager will empower people to edit all of the permissions associated with any particular site."

For the record, I'm not sure that users will find managing permissions on a site-by-site basis less confusing than doing so on a per-feature basis. However, it's not entirely clear what Mozilla has in mind here because the site-based permissions manager feature is also without a feature page.

Firefox is also concerned about search hijacking. Basically this is a set of techniques that are "used to circumvent browser search defaults to funnel search revenues to third parties." Obviously, this is a big deal for Firefox not only because it undermines user choice, but also because much of Mozilla's revenue comes from its search deal with Google.

Another feature slated for later in the year is the sign in to Firefox, which would provide the ability to sign into Firefox with BrowserID credentials (and create a BrowserID account if the user doesn't have one). That would open up the identity features that Mozilla is targeting with Sync and BrowserID.

Performance, Performance, Performance

According to the 2012 roadmap, Mozilla is planning on paying a lot of attention to performance. According to the strategy section, "In 2012 strengthened and dedicated teams will wipe out any and all Firefox responsiveness issues users face and guarantee the rock solid stability at low memory costs that developers demand for their apps." This includes performance improvements for tabs, start-up improvements and work to improve Firefox's page caching.

Firefox is also going to be introducing a new Just-in-Time (JIT) compiler for JavaScript called IonMonkey.

Concerned that add-ons are harming performance? There's a proposal for a new policy about add-on performance and tools to detect add-ons that hamper performance.

A Bright 2012

If the Mozilla team can hit most of the features on the roadmap for 2012, they might be able to reverse the trend of losing users to Google Chrome. I'd really love to see the tracking map and third party cookie management in Firefox. That has a lot more potential than the DNT efforts.

What do you think of the roadmap for 2012? If you're a Firefox user now, does this look like a good direction for Firefox? If you're not, do you think you'd be likely to switch?