Early design concepts for Mozilla Firefox indicate that the browser continues to bend toward the light emanating from Google Chrome. Designs released for the interface-focused branch of the nightly version of Firefox reveal a look that brings the browser even closer to looking like its Google competitor, although it definitely has its own approach.
The most notable changes come to the search bar, tabs, and add-ons. The search-specific search box, long a staple of Firefox, finally has been removed. Most likely this is because the designers have merged the search feature into the location bar. Mozilla told CNET when Firefox 4 launched in March that it has been slow to adopt the combined function search-and-location bar because of privacy concerns. While the combined functionality is available through add-ons now, it's hard to tell whether the unified search and location bar will be ready when the currently nightly, version 8, goes stable.
The designs also show that the in-focus tab will get rounded corners, practically identical to tabs in Chrome. However, background tabs will not look like their Chrome counterparts, instead retaining the current rectangular approach.
Add-on implementation will also develop closer to Chrome's icon-based approach, with add-on icons appearing next to the Home button on the left of the browser, and in a drop-down menu that's hidden behind a machine gear icon. That's cribbed directly from Google as it looks now, so that can be expected to change.
More importantly than how add-ons land in the interface, the mock-ups also show the ability to search for add-ons without opening a new tab, and the ability to drag-and-drop add-ons directly into the manager. That functionality does currently exist in Firefox, in that you can drag add-ons from your desktop into Firefox to install them, but this would be a fairly big under-the-hood change that would allow the feature to be extended to add-ons that aren't stored locally.
Full-screen Firefox would also get a refresh under the new designs. It would sport a single interface bar that would contain the location bar, Home button, tabs, and menu buttons. The Firefox design team, which published the screenshots, noted that they were designed to spark discussion and that, "Some of them are already out of date."
While the designs might be nothing more than a work in progress, they do indicate two things about the current state of browser development at Mozilla. For one thing, the design team has not been inactive and continues to refine the browser's look and feel. However, it also indicates that more than three years after its launch, and with a market share percentage that has yet to stop growing, Google Chrome continues to influence browsers beyond a mere need for speed.