Want to Help Shape Firefox's Future? Join the New Test Pilot Program!
Article by George Norman
On 12 May 2016
Firefox isn’t the most popular or most used web browser out there, that honor has long been held by Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and, more recently, by Google’s Chrome. Yet, it is used by more than half a billion people around the world.

Firefox isn’t perfect, it has its fair share of bugs and problems, just like any other software application. Still, it is my favorite browser and I absolutely love it. Consequently, I am quite interested in Firefox’s future. I want the browser to get better over time and attract millions more users with its cool new features. Speaking of which...


Mozilla is inviting you and all the hundreds of millions of Firefox users out there to join the new Test Pilot program and text experimental new features.

"It's our mission to give you more freedom while you fly the Internet skies. Your mission, should you choose to accept it: test our limits,” says Mozilla in an email sent out to Firefox users. "With our new Test Pilot program, you'll get first access to our rainbow launchers, teleportation devices, security sphinxes, invisibility cloaks - all our best ideas for making the Internet more awesome. All you have to do is play around and let us know what to launch, what to tune up, and what gets the ejection seat."

On a more serious tone, Vice President of Firefox Product Nick Nguyen explained that "when building features for hundreds of millions of Firefox users worldwide, it’s important to get them right. To help figure out which features should ship and how they should work, we created the new Test Pilot program. Test Pilot is a way for you to try out experimental features and let us know what you think. You can turn them on and off at any time, and you’ll always know what information you’re sharing to help us understand how these features are used. Of course, you can also use Test Pilot to provide feedback and suggestions to the teams behind each new feature."

If you want to become a Firefox Test Pilot, you’ll be glad to know that getting started with this program is a very simple 3-step process.
  • Step 1 – visit the Test Pilot website and sign into your Firefox account (create an account if you don’t already have one).
  • Step 2 – you’ll have to install the Test Pilot add-on.
  • Step 3 – enable whatever experimental feature you want to test.

Three experimental features are available for testing right now via the Test Pilot program:
  • Activity Stream – easily navigate through your browsing history and find important websites and content faster.
  • Tab Center – a vertical panel on the left hand side displays all your tabs.
  • Universal Search – aims to offer better recommendations by blending together the Awesome Bar history with the Firefox Search drop down menu.
Thanks to Activity Stream, whenever you open a new tab, Firefox will display your top sites along with highlights from your bookmarks and history.

Thanks to Tab Center, you can view all your open tabs vertically, on the browser’s left hand side.

And thanks to Universal Search, you’ll get site recommendations the moment you start typing something into the Awesome Bar. Recommended results include more info about the suggested site, sites you haven’t visited before are clearly highlighted. That should make it easier and less time-consuming to sift through search results.

The mandatory word of caution

By joining the Firefox Test Pilot, you’ll get to test experimental new features, with the emphasis falling on the word experimental. There might be bugs, there might be issues that break your experience, you might lose some of the polish from the general Firefox release. If that happens, you can always disable the problematic experimental feature.

Remember these guys?

These are the Test Pilot mascots of old.

You see, this isn’t the first time that Mozilla asks the user community for help. The Test Pilot program has been around for quite some time. Mozilla introduced it in January 2009 and officially launched it in August 2009; but it took until July 2010 for it to reach version 1.0.

What’s the difference between the old and the new Test Pilot program? The old one asked you to answer some questions in a confidential and anonymous manner. The new one asks you to help test experimental new features for the Firefox web browser.

In related news...

Austin Evans, full time geek and tech video producer, recently rolled out a video that asks "What's the Best Web Browser?" Check it out below.

Firefox will reach version 50 by the end of 2016. Check out a complete release schedule here.

Tags: Mozilla, Firefox, Test Pilot, browser
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
You can follow him on Google+, Facebook or Twitter

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