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May 11th, 2016

Firefox Lets Users Try New Features With ‘Test Pilot’

Mozilla seeks user feedback with a new project that gives users a chance to take planned features for a test flight.

On Tuesday Mozilla announced a new program for Firefox that allows users to try features that are in the works but not yet ready for prime time. The news of the new program, called Test Pilot, came by way of a Mozilla Blog post by Nick Nguyen, the organization’s vice president of Firefox product. He said that the program will not only allow users an early look at yet to be implemented planned features, but will give Firefox’s developers a chance to get feedback from the community.

Mozilla Firefox Test Pilot logo“When building features for hundreds of millions of Firefox users worldwide, it’s important to get them right,” he wrote. “To help figure out which features should ship and how they should work, we created the new Test Pilot program.”

It’s likely that not all of the features offered for preview in the Test Pilot program — Nguyen refers to them as “experimental” — will end up being included in any mainstream release of Firefox, which is part of the project’s purpose.

“Feedback and data from Test Pilot will help determine which features ultimately end up in a Firefox release for all to enjoy,” he explained.

As the program begins, it includes three test features:

Activity Stream: This feature uses the user’s browsing history as an aid for quicker navigation while on the web. “Each time you open a new tab, you’ll see your top sites along with highlights from your bookmarks and history. Simply browse the visual timeline to find what you want.”

Tab Center: A feature that allows user to display tabs vertically along the side of the screen, not unlike Ubuntu’s Unity launcher.

Universal search: According to Nguyen, this “[c]ombines the Awesome Bar history with the Firefox Search drop down menu to give you the best recommendations so you can spend less time sifting through search results and more time enjoying the web.” In this feature, suggested sites a user has visited before are highlighted and results “include more information about the site suggestion, like top stories on the news page or featured content.”

Because the Test Pilot features are still under development, they might be buggy and also might interfere with a browser’s performance, even when not being used. To compensate for this, users can enable and disable features at any time.

On Reddit’s Linux subreddit, the response so far has been positive, with many users already finding Test Pilot features they find useful. Redditors are also supportive of Mozilla’s efforts to gain feedback from their users.

“I’m really glad that Mozilla is doing more to get feedback on how to improve Firefox,” forteller commented, “and I’m also glad that they now try to take more advantage of the ‘new tab’ area.”

At present, Test Pilot is only available in English, but additional languages will be added later in the year. To download the program, go to the the Firefox Test Pilot webpage.

3 comments to Firefox Lets Users Try New Features With ‘Test Pilot’

  • jelabarre59

    How about they just make Firefox not suck? Might be a better use of resources. Granted, it seems these days ***ALL*** web browsers are useless and broken, and I’ll grant that Google Chrome is significantly more broken than FF, but that’s still no excuse.

  • tracyanne

    TAB Center is actually useful, especially on the current crop of wide screens. The other two no, they both send data to an external server, in addition I’ve never liked “smart” search, or type ahead, where the application tries to guess what I’m going to type. The Activity Stream is just the New Tab page on steroids, and I don’t use the New Tab page feature, I turn it off, so I have no use for it on Steroids.

    I like TAB Center so much I left it activated when I removed the Test Pilot Addon.

  • JL

    When a new version of Firefox is installed I always have to go through it undoing the new features. So I have set my OS ‘no updates’ for Firefox. Not secure? Stiff. No valuable data on this machine.