Last week, Mozilla's Firefox planning meeting revealed that the company intends to launch a Modern UI version, aka Firefox Metro, on December 10. But as shown on the Mozilla start page upon loading Firefox, it's actually available now in the Nightly channel, and the company is currently calling on Windows 8 customers to help fine-tune the browser before it's merged into the Aurora channel (Aurora 26) on September 16.
"We’ve been working hard to bring the Firefox experience to Windows 8 and have an early version we'd like to share," the company states. "This Firefox is an experimental touch-friendly version optimized for Windows 8. Of course, you can always enjoy the stable, desktop version of Firefox in the traditional, desktop mode."
According to Mozilla, the Windows Aurora Firefox build featuring the Modern UI interface will be publicized as the Metro Preview Release next month. All Aurora features will then be merged into the Beta channel on October 28, thus making the Windows 8 touch-based version available to the Beta audience. After that, Firefox Metro is scheduled to be released as Firefox 26 on December 10 if all goes well.
For now, Firefox Metro appears in the Windows 8 Start screen as a blue "Nightly" tile. This build must be set as the default browser in order for the tile to not kick users back into the desktop version. Even after confirmation and the Firefox Metro version still fails to load, users will need to go into the browser's Options/Advanced/General panel and manually set Nightly as the default program.
As with all other Windows 8 apps, Firefox Metro consumes the entire screen. It can also be docked to the left column, docked to the right column, or dragged to another screen to consume its entire visual space. A "plus" sign sits to the right so that users can open another tab, and a left arrow on the left which serves as a back button.
To view all tabs, users simply right-click anywhere on the current page; the horizontal Tabs bar enters from the top of the screen and the address bar from the bottom. A back button is also present on the address bar as well as the usual bookmark star, pin button and find in page/view on desktop button. The Charms bar plays host to the settings, share button and so on.
News of the impending Firefox Metro arrives after Mozilla said that ZTE will begin selling phones using Firefox OS on eBay "soon" for $79.99 USD ($59.99 on eBay UK). There won’t be any local apps or features because these devices are general, unlocked global variants targeted at developers and early adopters around the globe. As the devices are open market devices, they are not optimized for specific networks, the company said.
Just recently, Web measurement company Net Applications revealed that Firefox has lost more than 11 percent of its user share over the last two months. At the end of July, Firefox owned 18.3 percent of the desktop browser market, whereas Chrome's market share was 17.8 percent, up two points since May. If the numbers continue, then Chrome will likely surpass Firefox by the end of the month.