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Firefox 7 Has Arrived: Faster and Leaner

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Mozilla today launched the latest stable version of Firefox. While some enterprise users are not very happy with the new, faster release schedule for Firefox (this is the fourth stable release this year), every new version has brought worthwhile advantages and Firefox 7 is no exception. This new version doesn’t just include many developer-centric enhancements, but if you are a regular Firefox user, you will be happy to hear that the new Firefox now uses significantly less memory. It’s also faster, especially if you tend to keep many tabs open at the same time.

Other speed enhancements include support for hardware-accelerating some HTML5 functions that will make games and other interactive graphics run faster and smoother.

Calling Home

In addition to all of this, Firefox 7 is also the first stable release to support Mozilla’s new telemetry feature. With this, users can opt in to report their anonymized usage data back to the developers. This, says Mozilla, will allow its developers to measure Firefox performance in the real world better and help them optimize future releases. Before you worry about this, though, it’s important to note that Mozilla will only collect some very basic information about your system: memory usage, CPU core count, cycle collection times, Firefox startup speed.

Getting the Update

If you are already using Firefox, your browser will update itself soon (or take a look at the About menu and see if the update is already ready to be applied there). If you want to download the latest version manually, just head over here.

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5:42 pm


Firefox 7 Promises to Use Up to 50% Less Memory

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A few months ago, Mozilla started a project called MemShrink that aims to make Firefox a leaner browser that uses less memory. Now, it looks like Firefox 7, which is scheduled to arrive as a beta version later this month, will be the first version of the popular browser to see the benefits of this technology.

According to Mozilla developer Nicholas Nethercote, Firefox 7 uses about 20% to 30% less memory than its predecessors, and sometimes as much as 50% less depending on individual usage patterns. The Firefox team also managed to clamp down on memory leakage and the browser’s memory usage will now remain stable, even if you leave your browser open over night.

With the arrival of Google’s Chrome, Firefox – which was long the forerunner in terms of browser innovation – suddenly looked rather bloated. Indeed, according to Nethercote, Firefox 4 added so many new features and technologies that its memory usage increased and slowed the browser down. memory_usage_firefox

It’s About More Than Just Cutting Down on Bloat

It’s important to note that this is not just about reducing memory usage, though. There are a number of other benefits to this project as well, as using less memory also means fewer crashes and speed enhancements. This, says Nethercote, is especially important for users who are running Firefox on 32bit Windows systems, where applications are “typically restricted to only 2GB of virtual memory.”

Now that Mozilla has switched to a more Chrome-like rapid-release cycle for Firefox, the benefits of projects like MemShrink can make it into the final product a lot faster. If you can’t wait until the release of Firefox 7 – or if you feel especially adventurous – you can always run the Aurora and Beta channels, of course, and get an early look at the next version of Firefox.



4:00 pm


What's Next for Firefox in 2011? Faster Updates, Shinier Interface and More

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Now that Firefox 4 has already been downloaded more than 8 million times, it’s time to look ahead and see what Mozilla has in store for Firefox for the rest of the year.

The Chrome Model: At Least Three More Version of Firefox This Year

While it took twelve public betas and two release candidates before Mozilla shipped version 4, the organization expects to ship at least three more versions over the course of this year, thanks in large part to a new development process that resembles Google’s method for regularly pushing out new stable versions of Chrome. These new versions will ship roughly every 16 weeks (with the option to ship even faster) and will be developed in a number of separate branches, just like Chrome.

Mozilla Firefox Development Process

What’s on the Firefox Roadmap for 2011?

Thankfully, we don’t need to resort to guesses when it comes to what’s next for Firefox this year. Mozilla’s roadmap for 2011 lays out the group’s plans in detail. Besides the faster update cadence, Mozilla plans to ensure that there is never more than a 50ms delay between a user action and the application reacting to it. The group also plans to “shine the primary UI until it gleams,” with a focus on making the interface more polished and adding more animations to the user interface.

Are we Pretty Yet

For users, this also means that the next versions of Firefox will bring integrated support for Mozilla’s sharing tool (currently known as F1) and account manager, which is meant to give users more control over their online identities and make signing in to web apps easier.

There has also been some talk about creating support for site-specific browsers to Firefox, though the 2011 roadmap does not stress this anymore.

On the back end, Mozilla obviously plans to continue adding support for modern web technologies, but the Firefox team also plans to finally bring support for its multi-process project Electrolysis to its browser (a project it started in 2009). While Firefox currently sandboxes some plugins like Flash – meaning the browser won’t crash just because Flash crashed – the plan is to give a new process to every open tab. With this technology in place, if a web app in one tab crashes, just that tab is affected and the rest of the browser just continues to work.

Are we Pretty Yet site specific 1

With version 5, which should be available this summer, Mozilla also plans to finally ship a 64-bit build for Windows. Support for Apple’s OS X Lion will arrive in version 6. Given the renewed focus on the ARM platform, it doesn’t come as a surprised that one of the priorities for Firefox in 2011 is to ensure that its just-in-time JavaScript compiler performs well on ARM CPUs.

The Next 3 Versions of Firefox

Here are Mozilla’s plans for the specific versions it plans to release over the course of this year. This list is likely going to change, so take this with a grain of salt. Mozilla also notes that it plans to add anything that improves responsiveness and stability, as well as anything that enhances the interface to these versions whenever it is ready, no matter the current version number.

Firefox 5:[list]

  • Account Manager
  • Simple Sharing UI
  • UI Animation
  • 64 Bit on Windows[/list]

Firefox 6:[list]

  • Web Applications
  • FasterCache
  • OSX 10.7 system integration
  • JavaScript Optimizations[/list]

Firefox 7:[list]

  • out-of-process add-ons with e10s

[/list]



10:00 am


Firefox 4, 5, 6 and 7 Coming This Year: Shipping Updates in Small Bundles

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When it finally ships later this year, Firefox 4 will have gone through at least twelve beta releases since. The first beta was released in July 2010 and the final release is now set for around later this month. Going forward, however, Mozilla’s director of Firefox development Mike Beltzner envisions a very different release schedule. Indeed, if it is up to Beltzner, we will see Firefox 4, 5, 6, and 7 later this year as the organization changes the way it defines major versions and ships updates.

Faster Releases in Smaller Bundles

As Beltzner puts it, to stay relevant in this “newly competitive market” and gain market share back from competitors like Google Chrome (though he doesn’t mention Google’s browser by name), Mozilla has to be able to continue to deliver “a product that is compelling to users.” One aspect of this plan is redefining how the organization ships and defines updates to Firefox. Mostly, this means shipping smaller bundles of updates on a fast schedule and with a scope that is more akin to Google’s updates for Chrome.

Here is how Beltzner explanation for this new release schedule:

Changing the way we ship products will require the re-evaluation of many assumptions and a large shift in the way we think about the size of a “major” release. The criteria for inclusion should be no regressions, well understood effects for users, and completion in time for a planned release vehicle

“Shine the User Interface Until it Gleams”

There is a lot more to the Firefox roadmap that just a faster, more nimble release schedule. Priorities for Firefox in 2011 include an improved user interface (“Shine the primary UI until it gleams”) that makes the Firefox UI feel modern again and that is optimized for the most important user interactions like searching for restaurants. This will include more animations, building the F1 sharing plugin right into the browser, and introducing an improved account manager.

On the back end, Beltzner envisions a system that never takes more than 50ms to react to a user action, supports recent web technologies and runs on all modern operating systems, including mobile platforms like Android 3.0.

Summary

Here are the main items on Beltzner’s list:

  1. – Ship Firefox 4, 5, 6 and 7 in the 2011 calendar year
  2. – Always respond to a user action within 50 ms
  3. – Never lose user data or state
  4. – Build Web Apps, Identity and Social into the Open Web Platform
  5. – Support new operating systems and hardware
  6. – Polish the user experience for common interaction tasks
  7. – Plan and architect for a future of a common platform on which the desktop and mobile products will be built and run Web Apps

(Note: while the document says it was last updated in December 2010, the last edit was actually made on February 7)

Mozilla’s also published its plans for other areas over the last few days, including add-on development, Mozilla’s plan for a federated identity system and the future of its developer tools.



11:02 am