Mozilla on Monday announced a new roadmap for its flagship Firefox web browser and will deliver a Firefox 4 release before the end of 2010. However, these plans will likely change, given Mozilla's historic inability to meet publicly stated schedules. What is clear is that the company plans a major new release of its browser, which is currently stuck just south of 25 percent usage share. The goal, presumably, is to jumpstart usage growth in the wake of a suddenly strong challenge from Google's Chrome.

"I presented an early product plan for Firefox 4 to the Mozilla community \\[Monday\\] to share our vision for the next version of Firefox, and what projects are underway to realize it," Mozilla Director Mike Beltzner wrote in a blog post announcing the plans. "Please understand that these plans are fluid and are likely to change. As with past releases, we use dates to set targets for milestones, and then we work together to track to those targets .... And we only ship when it's ready."

According to Beltzner, Mozilla has three primary goals for Firefox 4:

Performance. Firefox 4 will be "super-duper" fast, according to Mozilla, and this is an area where Chrome has been winning converts.

Powerful. Firefox 4 will support "HTML 5 and beyond" in a bid to out-standardize the competition.

User in control. Users will be able to "fully control their browser, data, and web experience."

A closer look at Beltzner's presentation reveals some more details. Firefox 4 is adopting a cleaner new user interface that will look particularly good in modern OSs like Windows 7 and Vista, with fewer interface controls and no startup interruptions. (Current Firefox versions install add-on updates as the browser starts up, which can be annoying.) And add-ons can be installed without restarting the browser, another current annoyance. The browser will support touch and multitouch and some form of hardware-accelerated display—two more nods to modern Windows users—as with Internet Explorer (IE) 9.

As for the schedule, Mozilla currently plans to deliver a beta version of Firefox 4 in June (July/August in Mozilla-speak) and ship in October/November (January 2011 at the earliest). Along the way, it will also deliver interim updates to its current browser, Firefox 3.6.