Tag Archives: Firefox

Internet Explorer 9 Is The Fastest Browser On Windows

According to a study conducted by New Relic which measures browser speeds on both mobile and desktop platforms, Internet Explorer 9 takes the cake for the fastest browsing experience on Windows with load times of around 3 seconds, while Firefox 14.0 and Chrome 17 tied at 3.5. Safari for Windows 5.1 took 4 seconds to load the same page.

On the Mac side, Chrome is the winner with Chrome 13 reporting load times of 2.4. Chrome 19 on the other time has load times of around 2.7, tying it with Safari 5.1. In the survey, a total of 7 Chrome versions were tested. Firefox 11 for Mac took 2.8 seconds.

The mobile browser speed results are quite interesting. Apparently, Blackberries are in fact good for one thing; BlackBerry Opera Mini 6.5 took around 2.6 seconds to load pages, compared to Safari (iPad) 5.1’s load time of 5 seconds, and Safari (iPhone) 5.0’s load time of 6.2 seconds. The load time for Safari (iPhone) 5.1 was around 6.6 seconds. Opera Mobile 12 for Android’s load time was around 7.3 seconds.

The study was conducted in March 2012 over the course of one week, in which New Relic surveyed and measured the speed of 5 billion global page loads across PC and mobile browsers.

In conclusion, here’s a statistical tidbit: This year’s average page load is 5.5 seconds, compared to last year’s time of 6 seconds.

Firefox 14 to Come with Built-in PDF Support

With all the recent changes in the web technology stack and the advancements in web-browsers, third-party plugins are becoming a thing of the past. A decade ago, Adobe thrived on a business, which was based around providing an extra layer on top of the web. Adobe provided us with PDF readers and flash for web. However, with HTML 5, videos do no need a flash container to run inside a browser. When it comes to PDF files, Google Chrome has already devised a way to display PDF files in a web browser and now, Firefox has deployed its own solution to display PDF files in the browser.
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PDF.js is a well-known script that renders PDF files with HTML and JavaScript successfully. It can be installed as an extension. However, the good news is that the latest nightly version of Firefox 14 ships with PDF.js built in. This is a major improvement as it adds a default PDF support in Firefox. Although the PDF rendering from Pdf.js is not as smooth as Adobe Reader, it is worth the freedom.

Dr. Andreas Gal, the Director of research t Mozilla writes about the benefits of the PDF.js extension, saying,

The traditional approach to rendering PDFs in a browser is to use a native-code plugin, either Adobe’s own PDF Reader or other commercial renderers, or some open source alternative (e.g. poppler). From a security perspective, this enlarges the trusted code base, and because of that, Google’s Chrome browser goes through quite some pain to sandbox the PDF renderer to avoid code injection attacks. An HTML5-based implementation is completely immune to this class of problems.

Adobe plugin have attracted security vulnerabilities for too long, and with Flash losing ground, finally, we are moving towards a truly open web without any proprietary layers on top of it. The PDF.js project is developed openly and can be found on Github.

Firefox 11 Arrives with Add-on Sync, Google Chrome Migration and a Look at What 2012 Holds for Firefox

Today, Mozilla announced the release of Firefox 11, the next version of the popular web browser. The new version brings in quite a lot of new features for end users and web developers alike.

For the end user, Firefox 11 introduces add-on sync. Add-on sync uses Firefox’s built-in sync feature to ensure that all your Firefox installations are in sync with the installed Firefox add-ons, in addition to the bookmarks, open tabs, history and passwords.

Firefox sync

Add-on sync has been a much-requested feature and personally, I’ve been resisting from moving away from Chrome to Firefox for the sole reason that sync is such a seamless and painless experience in Chrome, as compared to Firefox. Another feature Mozilla’s brought in, no doubt targeting Chrome users, is the the ability to import browsing data – including Cookies, Bookmarks and Browsing History from Chrome. Till this release, such an import was possible only from Internet Explorer.

Firefox Importing Google Chrome Data

 

For web developers, Firefox 11 brings in a new Style Editor allowing for on-the-fly-editing of stylesheets. The Style Editor features a two-pane UI, with the file listing on the left and the plain-text editor on the right. The plain-text editor also features syntax highlighting to make it easier.

Firefox 11 also features a new 3D vizualization of the webpage’s DOM tree. Initially introduced as an add-on called Tilt, the 3d visualizer makes use of WebGL to build a multi-layer representation of the webapge’s DOM tree. While it looks gimmicky, it might help few people who’ve been trying to analyze and fix the annoying layout bugs.

Firefox Tilt

For Enterprise users, Mozilla will backport security fixes in the current version of Firefox to a separate point patch, as part of Mozilla’s Extended Support Release proposal.

What’s in the future?

The current version of Firefox brings in preliminary support for SPDY, Google’s alternative for the HTTP protocol. Future releases will undoubtedly improve upon SPDY support. Upcoming releases of Firefox will make addon compatibility less of a hassle. Previously, add-on authors would have to manually update their add-ons when a new version of Firefox was released. Mozilla’s proposal to move to a rapid release schedule caused a lot of anguish to developers and end users alike. Going forward, Mozilla will make all-ons compatible with Firefox 4 and higher, automatically enabled.

Firefox 13 is expected to bring in silent updates – all updates will be automatically & silently downloaded in background and will not be interrupted if the browser is shutdown.

From the Gecko platform point of view, Mozilla will bring in support for a whole lot of new web technologies, including

  • WebRTC for real time audio & video conferencing
  • Web Sockets will be completed to match the W3C specs. Incidentally, Mozilla has dropped prefixes for Websockets starting from this release of Firefox
  • SPDY, HTTP Pipe lining and HTTP Pre-connections
  • DASH and WebM support
  • Support for key input in fullscreen mode
  • Possible support for H.264 & MP3 decoding using codecs present on the OS

Download links

Firefox should automatically update your Firefox to the newest version soon. You can also download the latest version from Mozilla’s website.

SPDY Gains More Acceptance with Twitter and Firefox

SPDY is an Open Source alternative to the HTTP protocol, and is being seen as a potential replacement for HTTP. Google has already implemented SPDY across its servers and if you are on Google Chrome browser, you are using SPDY to access Google services. SPDY is required on both the browser and the web-server for speed improvements. The current version of HTTP, HTTP 1.1, is almost a decade old and it was built for the requirements of websites that were a decade old. With SPDY, the web will get faster and will cater to the needs of faster web-applications.
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SPDY is at its core an application-layer protocol for transporting content over the web. It is designed specifically for minimizing latency through features such as multiplexed streams, request prioritization and HTTP header compression.

SPDY was announced two years ago, and it was also invited to be a part of the HTTP 2.0 standard. With this recent acceptance, it probably got the much-needed attention. Recently, FOSS enthusiast and Google employee, Ilya Grigorik, has spotted that Twitter is using SPDY on its servers and has given ample proof of it.

It is interesting to note that Twitter is not the only going for SPDY. Recently, Firefox has started shipping its browser with SPDY and it can be turned on Firefox nightly of version 11 and 12 via the “network.http.spdy.enabled” key.

Google is working to speed up multiple layers on the network protocol stack. SPDY speeds up the application layer, it has plans for hacking TCP to speed up the transport layer and internet layers, and Google fiber speeds up the underlying physical medium. Although slow, the next internet upgrade is coming, and clearly, Google is driving it.

Mozilla Reveals Firefox’s Roadmap for 2012

Yesterday, we reported that Mozilla is working on a Metro-fied version of Firefox for Windows 8. Today, we are going to take a look at some of the other major stuff Mozilla has in store for Firefox fans in 2012. The Firefox roadmap, which was published yesterday, offers a pretty detailed look at all the major new features that are planned for Firefox. Here are the features that appealed to us the most.

  • Chrome Migration: Firefox can already import user data (such as cookies, history, and bookmarks) from Internet Explorer, Opera, and Safari. The only notable exception is Chrome, which is currently the most popular browser after Internet Explorer. However, this will be fixed soon with the addition of support for data migration from Chrome.
  • Add-ons Sync: Firefox Sync (previously Weave) is a perfectly capable sync tool; however, it has one major limitation. It can’t sync add-ons. Again, this will also be fixed soon.

Firefox-New-Tab-Page

  • New Tab Page: Opera’s speed dial has really really caught on, and almost all major browsers have already implemented it in some form. The only one that is yet to properly utilize the default tab page is Firefox. There are quite a few extensions that do a great job of plugging this shortcoming, but Mozilla will baking in speed dial like visual bookmarks soon.
  • Home Tab: In addition to adding a new tab page, Firefox will also get a new “Home” tab that will essentially behave like a pinned tab. It will be a locally hosted, highly personalized and customizable page that will provide quick access to websites, downloads, and apps.
  • Panel Based Download Manager: Currently Firefox’s Download Manager exists as a separate window. Most other browsers like Chrome and Opera offer a much more integrated experience. In the future, Firefox will allow management of downloads from any existing tab, through a panel.
  • Firefox Share: Social media is now mainstream, and millions of users regularly share and discover content through services like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest. Although extensions and bookmarklets are available for sharing content on various social media websites; Mozilla hopes that offering a single, integrated location for sharing and commenting on links will improve user experience.
  • Log into Firefox: An evolved version of the Firefox Account Manager feature that we had first seen a couple of years back will finally make it into Firefox. Users will be able to automagically sign into various connected accounts by simply logging into Firefox Sync.
  • Integrated Translation: Firefox will be taking a leaf out of Chrome’s book, and automatically translate foreign language websites.
  • Add-on Performance Indicator: Faulty add-ons have long been a cause of headache for users, as one bad add-on can bring Firefox on its knees. Mozilla wants to empower users by providing stats on the performance impact of each add-on. We imagine that this will be similar to what Internet Explorer 10 does.
  • Firefox Focus: Users will be able to manually trigger a special “Focus” mode that will strip away advertisements and redundant formatting from webpages, and present the actual content in an easy to read format. This feature will be similar to Instapaper or Safari Reader.
  • IonMonkey: IonMonkey is Firefox’s next-gen JavaScript that is expected to be introduced towards the end of the year. Although, all modern browsers have outstanding JavaScript performance, IonMonkey should bring tangible performance benefits.
  • Inline PDF Viewer: Firefox will be getting out of the box support for PDF document rendering. Instead of relying on plug-ins, Firefox will be opening PDF files inline using a JavaScript library.

Head over to the roadmap webpage for the full list of planned new features, as we have only covered the more exciting ones. One thing that is clear is that there’s plenty in store for Firefox in 2012. However, a rather disappointing aspect is that most of the new features planned for Firefox are simply stuff that we have already seen in other browsers. If Mozilla really wants to turn the tides and outsmart Chrome, it will probably have to be more innovative.

Mozilla Announces Firefox on Metro for a Touchscreen Optimized Browsing Experience

FirefoxMozilla took way too long to bring Firefox to smartphones, and suffered as a result. It had a go in 2004 with Minimo, but users had to wait until 2011 to get a version of Firefox Mobile that wasn’t slow as a cow and didn’t crash on a whimsy. Not wanting to repeat its earlier mistake, Mozilla has begun working on a Metro-fied version of Firefox for Windows 8 months ahead of the release of Microsoft’s next major operating system.

Firefox on Metro will be a full-screen, touch optimized app built on top of the same Gecko engine that powers Firefox classic. It’s still early days for the project, and Mozilla isn’t providing a lot of information. However, here is what we do know.

  • The feature goal here is a new Gecko based browser built for and integrated with the Metro environment.
  • Firefox on Metro, like all other Metro apps will be full screen, focused on touch interactions, and connected to the rest of the Metro environment through Windows 8 contracts.
  • Firefox on Metro will bring all of the Gecko capabilities to this new environment and the assumption is that Mozilla be able to run Firefox as a Medium integrity app so that it can access all of the win32 Firefox Gecko libraries avoiding a port to the new WinRT API for the bulk of the code.
  • Firefox on Metro is a full-screen App with an Appbar that contains common navigation controls (back, reload, etc.,) the Awesomebar, and some form of tabs.
  • Firefox will have to support three “snap” states — full screen, ~1/6th screen and ~5/6th screen depending on how the user “docks” two full screen apps. The UI will to adjust to show the most relevant content for each size.
  • In order to provide users with access to other content, other apps, and to Firefox from other content and apps, it will integrate with the share contract, the search contract, the settings contract, the app to app picking contract, the print contract, the play to contract, and possibly a couple more. Firefox on Metro will be a source for some, a target for some, and both for some.
  • Mozilla might offer a live tile with user-centric data like friends presence or other Firefox Home information updates
  • Ideally Mozilla will like to be able to create secondary tiles for Web-based apps hosted in Firefox’s runtime.

Mozilla is hoping that Microsoft will allow it to run Firefox as a medium integrity app (like Internet Explorer 10 Metro App). Medium integrity apps typically have more privileges and can load old school Win32 libraries. This will make Mozilla’s task simpler. Even then, Firefox on Metro is expected to hit alpha and beta stages only in the second half of the year. A preview should be ready by the second quarter of 2012.

Mozilla is Working on a Push Notification System for Firefox

If you are a Google Chrome user, you must have seen how notifications work for Gmail. Google created the Desktop Notification system based on HTML5, and proposed its inclusion in the W3C web standard. The draft for the notification can be seen on this page at W3C.
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Notifications is designed to allow brief messages to be sent to a user however they are connected. Somewhere between email and IM lies Notifications.

Push notifications are a way for websites to send small messages to users when the user is not on the site. iOS and Android devices already support their own push notification services.

Recently, Mozilla has brought out a similar notification system called Push Notification, using a JavaScript API. However, it has also improved on Google’s implementation, and will push notifications for all websites, irrespective of whether they are open in a tab or not. Currently, Chrome shows notifications only for websites that are open in a tab.

With this feature, Mozilla wants to bring the web-application closer to the desktop application. A similar experience on a desktop browser is a good start. Native mobile clients on Android have used push-notifications successfully, for a long time. However, the Push Notification system will also help developers send notifications to their mobile users, without investing in a separate mobile client.

You can visit the Mozilla Wiki for more technical information on notifications, or the Push Notification API in particular.

Firefox 10 Brings Major Behind the Scene Changes with Extended Support

Mozilla has recently announced the latest release of its browser, Firefox version 10. Although this release of Firefox does not sport many evident changes, it is Mozilla’s flagship browser for the year 2012. Mozilla has planned an “Extended Support” feature to prevent the rapid release cycle from affecting developers. Finally, Firefox 10 is the first Firefox version to get this feature, and it will live through 2012.

Changes and Improvements

Detailed information on changes in Firefox 10 can be found at the Firefox 10 Release Notes page. Though, some of the evident changes are the disabled forward button for pages where there has not been any backward navigation, support for full-screen API allowing application to run in full-screen, and a number of bug fixes. Moreover, Add-on compatibility has been taken care of, extensively.

Firefox 10 is the first “Extended Support” version of Firefox, ensuring it will get support and security patches for the next nine release cycles. The main aim of the Extended Support Release (ESR) is,

The shift to a new release process has been difficult for organizations that deploy Firefox to their users in a managed environment. We’ve heard 2 primary concerns:

  1. The release schedule doesn’t allow sufficient time for the organizations and their vendors to certify new releases of the products
  2. The associated end-of-life policy exposes them to considerable security risk if they remain on a non-current version past Firefox 3.6.

More about ESR can be found at this ESR proposal page. This Extended Support Release will be developed parallel to the regular release cycle of six weeks, which Firefox adopted as part of its rapid release strategy, last year.

If you are on the release channel already, your Firefox will be updated to version 10. Alternatively, you can download Firefox 10 at this page.

Finally, Mozilla Thinks of Redesigning the Firefox Home page and New Tab Page

A year ago, Mozilla revamped the development process of Firefox. They started the year with version 4 of Firefox, and released Firefox 9 by the end of the year. This was a giant leap for Firefox, and the improvements in speed and usability are evident in version 9. However, some critical things that matter for the user experience have remained unchanged, like the “New tab” and Home page on Firefox. Finally, after improving performance drastically, Firefox has started focusing on user experience, and the changes are beginning to show in the experimental channel of Firefox, named Aurora.

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The New Tab page on Firefox is similar to the new tab page of Chrome, where it will showcase your most visited websites in a Speed-dial like interface. This puts your most visited websites in a 3×3 grid where you can drag and re-position the tiles. Therefore, the New Tab page can show your nine most visited websites. However, the new tab is still not as feature-rich as Firefox New Tab King extension we talked about, two years ago.

firefox-new-home

Firefox has to get innovative about these features, if they want to stay ahead of the competition. Right now, it seems like these features are rip-offs of Chrome’s new tab, and Safari’s Home Tab. After seeing these user-experience changes, all I can say is, “better late than never”!

Although these changes were expected in Firefox 12, Mozilla has pushed the release of these new features to Firefox 13. The release date for Firefox 12 is April 24, and Firefox 13 will be released in May. However, you can try these new features before the release, by getting one of the Firefox UX Nightly builds.

(Images via: Extremetech)

Firefox Decides to Play the Version Number Game with the Right Moves

One of the primary reasons why enterprise systems stick to Internet Explorer or Firefox is that both these browsers are released slowly with considerable difference between two releases. However, over the last year, Firefox went from version 4 to version 9. It was rapid and new releases kept coming out, pretty much like in the rapid release cycle of Google Chrome. This endangered the enterprise love that Firefox enjoyed. Therefore, Mozilla has decided to release one Firefox version that will be supported throughout a year. This version will be called the Firefox Extended Support Release, similar to the Ubuntu LTS. The feature is due to appear in Firefox 10. It will have add-on compatibility turned on by default and will simply be called the Mozilla Firefox ESR.

We are pleased to announce that the proposal for an Extended Support Release (ESR) of Firefox is now a plan of action. The ESR version of Firefox is for use by enterprises, public institutions, universities and other organizations that centrally manage their Firefox deployments. Releases of the ESR will occur once a year, providing these organizations with a version of Firefox that receives security updates but does not make changes to the Web or Firefox Add-ons platform.

Although the ESR version uses the same version number as the base Firefox version, there is a chance it will change later. Moreover, now that ESR has been finalized for Firefox, the Thunderbird team is also discussing an ESR version on their mailing list. However, Firefox mobile will not have an ESR version unfortunately. As if the new release process was not enough, Mozilla is bringing major changes into Firefox making it future proof. From being notorious for its memory leaks and slow speed, Firefox has emerged as the challenging browser it used to be. Now, it only needs to recapture the market it lost to Internet Explorer and Google Chrome. You can read this interesting discussion on Slashdot to get a better perspective on the matter.