As early as 2009 Mozilla unveiled plans for a major overhaul of the graphical user interface for the next iteration of its open source browser. It became clear that the browser maker was planning to marry a variety of style concepts for the UI redesign of Firefox 4.0, including the Ribbon/Fluent look and feel of Microsoft’s GUI model for Windows 7 applications, Office 2010, etc. but also the placement of browser Tabs per the Google Chrome approach.

Alex Faaborg, User Experience Design at Mozilla took it upon himself to explain the UI revamping strategy that has been cooking for Firefox 4.0. Fact of the matter is that early adopters testing the pre-release Alpha versions of Firefox 4.0 already managed to get a taste of the new UI.

“In the Firefox 4 nightly builds, and in Firefox 4 Beta 1, we are changing the default tab position so that tabs are on top. This is a preference that users can change by right clicking on any of their toolbars. Moving the default tab position is obviously a significant and to some extent controversial change to the Firefox UI, which is why we made the video [below] to help explain our rationale,” Faaborg stated.

Just watch the video embedded at the bottom of the screen in order to get an idea of just what Mozilla has in stored with the delivery of Firefox 4.0. The first Beta of Firefox 4.0 is planned for availability by the end of this month, and Mozilla’s Director of Firefox Mike Beltzner revealed today that code freeze for the development milestone is imminent.

“Contributors who are active in the Mozilla community will know that this debate literally goes back for years. So in some respects this video will serve as quick summary of all of the different arguments both for an against the change. But the more interesting part isn’t about looking back, it’s about looking forward. Recently modern browsers have been transitioning to placing tops on top, and that decision isn’t arbitrary, it isn’t about fashion. The change to placing tabs on top isn’t about one browser versus another browser, it’s about the evolution of the Web as a platform,” Faaborg added.

Firefox 4.0 Alpha 1 (Mozilla Developer Preview 3.7 Alpha 5) is available for download here.

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