Though version numbers are fairly meaningless at this point, I am happy to announce that Firefox 12 has been officially released. There are two major changes: Moving forward, Firefox (on Windows) will automatically (and silently) update, and — praise be — the Find function is now a lot better at centering the page on any matches.
The ability to silently update very closely mirrors Chrome, and really it’s a surprise that Mozilla has taken so long to introduce this key feature, after switching to the six-week rapid release cycle almost a year ago, with Firefox 5. While making the update process opt-in sounds like the right thing to do, it has basically resulted in a very fragmented install base. When Chrome updates, almost everyone immediately moves to the new version — Mozilla, on the other hand, now has lots and lots of users spread out across a huge range of browsers, dating all the way back to Firefox 3.
When you install Firefox 12, Windows UAC will ask you to approve Firefox Software Updater — and after that, you should never see an update dialog ever again.
Updated @ 14:55: You can disable automatic updates by going to Options > Advanced > Updates.
Unfortunately, despite what we previously reported, neither the New Tab Page or Home Tab made it into Firefox 12. Both features should arrive with Firefox 13, however — in just six weeks from now!
In other news, the latest Nightly version of Firefox 14 has removed favicons from the address bar; the icon will now simply display a globe, or a padlock if the site is SSL-secured — just like Chrome. This is primarily a security fix: Nefarious websites could use a padlock favicon to trick users into thinking that the site is secure.