Firefox 5

Jun
21

Today was the release of the first Firefox update as part of it's shortened release cycle. The release of Firefox 5 does highlight what is currently wrong with the browser.

Extensions -  as you have to specify what versions of the browser the extension is compatible with when you're creating one a developer will typically go for 4.0.x for example, though this means unless extension developers update their extensions as regular as Firefox (and ahead of the releases) it means that the extensions will disable themselves when you update. Other browsers that use extensions, such as Chrome do not do this - they continue to work without a required update.

Installer - whilst Google Chrome silently updates itself, Firefox still requires an installer be run and the browser restarted. There are arguments that Google Chrome doing this is annoying if for example you're a web developer and need to test on a particular version, but even having an option there for it to be a non-intrusive update would be nice.

Performance - the performance has improved quite a bit since Firefox 4, and even more so since Firefox 3.5 - but from a cold boot it is still quicker to launch Google Chrome or even the ancient IE6 (forget IE7+ they have far slower load times). Whilst I put this down as a negative, I am quite pleased with the improvements they have made to the start up time, even JavaScript performance is faster.

The features added in Firefox 5 are:

  • Added support for CSS animations
  • The Do-Not-Track header preference has been moved to increase discoverability
  • Improved canvas, JavaScript, memory, and networking performance
  • Improved standards support for HTML5, XHR, MathML, SMIL, and canvas
  • Improved spell checking for some locales
  • Improved desktop environment integration for Linux users
  • WebGL content can no longer load cross-domain textures
  • Background tabs have setTimeout and setInterval clamped to 1000ms to improve performance
  • The Firefox development channel switcher introduced in previous Firefox Beta updates has been removed

Out of these the CSS3 Animations is the most interesting point, and may produce some interesting results. Hopefully we'll start to see a lot more innovation with Firefox in future releases.

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