Firefox 12 Finally Adds Silent Updates, Mimics Chrome

\"FirefoxFirefox 12 Released

I just upgraded to Firefox 12, and just like that there is another update. I just blogged about Firefox 11 and I described there how Firefox\’s market share is shrinking due to Chrome. Chrome is popular and widely used because it is very easy to use. Once you get used to it, you will stick to it. I still remember reading posts how people find the tab placement of Chrome awkward while ditching the title bar altogether. Now look at the top 10 browsers in the market. Everyone followed the direction of Chrome. I don\’t think Firefox is blatantly copying Chrome. I think Chrome just innovated more and now it\’s one of the leading browsers. Everything is a remix but I just wish Firefox is really doing things better.

Improvements and Hidden Updates

There are several hidden updates here, like when you change the entry browser.newtabpage.enabled to true in about:config, then enter about:newtab you will get what seems like 3 x 3 tiles of your most visited websites. We will see the complete \”speed dial\”  or \”new tab page\” feature in Firefox 13.

You don\’t see much improvement as an end-user but under the hood, there are more than 85 improvements to built-in developer tools.

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Silent Updates

The most important update here is the removal of user account control dialog so this is probably the last time you will see the UAC pop-up after upgrading to Firefox 12. The goal is to simplify the upgrade process and push the updates to all users. Instead of using UAC in Windows, Firefox now uses a background service in Windows to update the program when there is an update available — pretty much what Chrome for a long time already. This feature is now planned in Mac and Linux on version 14.

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Why did Mozilla only implemented this now? I could only reason add-ons being the major cause of delay.

If you don\’t know, Firefox needed to switch to a new add-on SDK to allow developers to create add-ons with greater compatibility with future releases of Firefox. This way developers do not need to worry that their add-ons will be incompatible to future versions. Switching to the new add-on SDK required convincing the developers to completely switch to the new SDK and it took time. I don\’t know the exact numbers of developers who switched to the new SDK but since I used Firefox 4 I saw more and more add-ons not requiring immediate update every time I upgrade Firefox and since Firefox 10 I don\’t remember having problems with add-ons at all. And because there is no need to worry about add-ons now, Firefox can automatically update the program without the risk of making installed add-ons incompatible. We will see how effective it is when Mozilla rolls out the next security update or major release.

Switch to Date-based Versioning Already

Speaking of major releases, it seems pointless to talk about version numbers now with the case of Firefox and Chrome but for me Firefox is a special case. I am still wondering if the rapid release cycle actually helps Firefox gain more users and made it easier to use. Looking back, Mozilla could have just called the rapid release cycle, rapid updates cycle — delivering noteworthy updates while keeping the major release number and still use the 6-week iterations. What if they just also use a major development wave every 6 iterations to mark a major release milestone just so we don\’t get ridiculous high version number like Chrome? I think Mozilla can do be better than Chrome here. Seriously, just switch to the data-based versioning already. It makes more sense to have Firefox 2012.04.24. They can go the Ubuntu way as well, say Firefox 12.4 which means that the software was released on April 2012. Makes more sense right?

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Firefox 11 Losing Market Share But Still Thriving

\"FirefoxI didn\’t notice that Firefox 11 was already out until yesterday so I immediately upgraded to Firefox 11.

Firefox 11 New Features

So what\’s new in Firefox 11? It can now migrate your bookmarks, history and cookies from Google Chrome. That\’s very helpful if you use Firefox and Chrome back to back but I cannot really imagine Chrome users migrating to Firefox. Firefox 11 can also sync add-ons across different computers where you enable Firefox Sync. Media controls for HTML 5 video was redesigned which looks better than Chrome. However, Firefox still do not support .mp4 (h.264 + AAC) out of the box. You just need to install a plugin for Firefox to support .mp4 so it\’s not really a problem.

Much of the additional features in Firefox 11 are developer features including the Syle Editor for editing CSS, HTML in XMLHttpRequest, 3D view of Web Page Structure and more.
You can see the 3D view in the demo below.

I think that the beta version \”Tilt\” is better because you have more options available. You can still install the add-on to test it out.

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Nowadays I seldom use Firefox as my primary browser because most of the extensions that I use are available in Chrome already, or it is only available in Chrome. That\’s the main challenge for Firefox to be on top of their game again. Before, Firefox is the only browser that offers add-ons which extends more features in the browser. Today, Chrome supports extensions and its extensions do not have compatibility problems regardless of the version you are using. Firefox is still in the process of converting all add-ons in using the new add-on SDK which means that its add-ons will be forward compatible with all the future versions of Firefox and the browser won\’t need to be restarted anymore.

Memory Leak, Chrome 17 vs. Firerox 11

If you are still thinking that Firefox is still a memory hog, think again. On this test, I tested Firefox 11 and Chrome 17 with about a dozen of add-ons or extensions installed.

I have opened 11 tabs and I calculated the total memory that Chrome used and I was surprised it was using almost 2 Gb of memory! I have 8 Gb of memory available but for other users with less RAM available in their computers, that would be too much. I opened the same 11 tabs in Firefox and spent the same time working on those tabs in Firefox 11 and it only took about 600 mb memory.

I will worry about Firefox 11 being more crash prone than Chrome as it crashed several times during my test.

Market Share

On the 2011 Q1, Internet Explorer share was 58.61%, Firefox23.06% and Chrome 11.56%.

In comparison on 2012 Q1, Internet Explorer market share shrunk to 52.32%, Firefox slide down to 22.10% and Google Chrome continued to eat the market share of both IE and Firefox. Now,  Chrome is around 18.43%. according to Net Applications desktop browser market share.

Firefox should be really alarmed by now due to continued popularity of Google Chrome. While I am still looking forward as more useful features come in the future versions, I am afraid that more and more users will turn away from the Firefox to Chrome if the most important problem such as frequent crashing and plugin compatibility is not addressed soon enough.

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Firefox 10 Released, Includes New Developer Tools

Firefox 10 is now available. Boy, that was fast. It\’s less than 10 months since Mozilla formally announced the new rapid release cycle and since then we have seen 6 major Firefox releases starting Firefox 5.

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What\’s notable in Firefox 10 is the improved add-ons compatibility, Anti-Aliasing for WebGL, CSS3 3D-Transforms and developer tools such as Full Screen APIs, IndexedDB APIs and new inspect tool with content highlighting and new CSS Style Inspector.

See the video demo:

I  think it resembles Opera DragonFly style inspector in some degree.

There\’s also new element for bi-directional text isolation, along with supporting CSS properties. Also, the forward button is hidden (or grayed out?) until you hit the back button. See Firefox 10 release notes and the complete list of the bug fixes.

 

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Firefox 9 Released, Up to 30% Faster

Firefox 9

I just upgraded to Firefox 9 and according to Mozilla, Firefox 9 ships with a major JavaScript enhancements which makes Firefox 30% faster.

You can see the comparison of Firefox 9 against the earlier version.

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Firefox for Mac OS X Lion also ships with two-finger swipe gestures as well as improved theme integration giving Firefox a better look and feel in Mac OS X Lion.

Mozilla also added support for querying Do Not Track status via JavaScript and font-stretch. Support for text-overflow, HTML5, MathML, and CSS were also improved.

Firefox Add-on Compatibility

One of the major complains for die-hard fans and veterans like me is the add-on compatibility. Add-ons keeps on breaking one upgrade after another. I have switched to Chrome primarily because it feels faster and I don\’t have to worry about Chrome Extensions. I still use Firefox in parallel with Chrome and if you are using an extension that breaks after an upgrade, you may used the Add-on compatibility reporter to enable all plugins that are incompatible. If the add-on is not working or still broken, you can report them. Very handy add-on.

Firefox 9 for Android

As for mobile version of Firefox, Firefox 9 for Android is now optimized for tablets. Finally. I feel that it should have been optimized for tablets from the very first release but it\’s better late than never.

Firefox 9 for Android also has a faster start-up time and camera input support that developers can use.

I still prefer the native Android browser but it\’s good to have handy alternatives just like Firefox.

Last Release in 2011, More to Come Next Year!

I know it is less exciting to upgrade to a major release of Firefox nowadays because of the shorten release cycle.  If you look at Firefox Nightly you can see that Firefox 12 alpha (Aurora) is already available. At this rate there will be 8 releases next year with the 6-week release cycle.

I bet you can\’t even remember what\’s the difference among Firefox 5, 6, 7 and 8.

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Firefox 8 Download Celebrates 7 Years of Firefox Goodness

Firefox 7th Anniversary

Happy 7th  birthday to Firefox and  congratulations on making it this far. I can still recall my experience with Firefox 1.0, also about 7 years later, and it was awesome.

I\’m very glad that Mozilla foundation exists because without them we will not have one of the most popular open-source browser that started serious revolution in pushing Internet Explorer market share down and rethink what web browsers can do.

Firefox 8 Released

Firefox 8 is the latest version of Firefox and Firefox 8 download is available in the stable channel since yesterday.

For the first time, Firefox prompts user to enable or disable add-ons after installation. Add-ons installed by third-party programs were disabled by default but users may wish to enable them manually. Those add-ons installed by users were enabled by default. Historically, those add-ons installed by 3rd parties were problematic so Firefox 8 gives user the opportunity to fix 3rd party add-ons that might be causing poor performance on Firefox.

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Twitter Search is also added in the search bar for some languages. It brings Twitter search closer to anyone using Firefox but I don\’t see the benefit of  using it because I can just use Twitter search right when I\’m in Twitter website.

Firefox 8 also added preference to load tabs on demand, improving start-up time when windows are restored, CORS support for cross-domain textures in WebGL, support for HTML5 context menus and insertAdjacentHTML.

It also improved performance and memory handling when using <audio> and <video> elements, CSS hyphen for many languages and websocket. Of course, there goes the usual stability and security issues.

Imagine a world without Firefox. We might still be using Internet Explorer 6. Let\’s hope that for future releases there will be more visible changes and improved user-experience. These are all needed to get more support from average users and get some lost market share from other web browsers like Chrome.

So go ahead and download Mozilla Firefox 8 for your computer and let\’s celebrate Firefox\’s 7th birthday!

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Firefox 6 Mobile and Desktop Officially Out

Few days earlier Firefox 6 is already available in Mozilla FTP but today is the official roll out of the online update for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux as well the mobile version in Android, exactly 8 weeks after the previous version.

Let me go straight ahead to what\’s new in Firefox 6. There isn\’t much actually. Aesthetically Firefox 6 feels and looks like Firefox 4.2 but there are some useful things added and tweaked in this new version.

The first noticeable change in Firefox 6 is the highlighting of the domain name. As you can see below. The domain is in black while the sub-domain and the page address are in gray.

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There is also more streamlined look of the site identity block and there is a new Web Developer menu too where development related items are all put together in one single place. If you are a web developer, this is a great addition. I really like the new Scratchpad tool because it makes debugging and refining  JavaScript easier.

Firefox Sync is now available in the main menu as well to make it even more easy to discover.

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I believe one of the more significant addition is the about:permissions data management window. Ghacks has a review about this new tool.

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Firefox has also improved the start-up time when using Panorama. I don\’t use this feature personally because I don\’t load a bunch of grouped tabs on start-up. For power users, this may come in handy and improve the overall experience.

Mozilla has also added support for the latest draft version of WebSockets with a prefixed API, EventSource / server-sent events and window.matchMedia and improved Web Console usability. If you haven\’t noticed it yet, most of these are targeted for web developers. You can take a look on the long list of changes for web developers in Mozilla Developer Network.

Of course on top of all these, Mozilla fixed several stability issues and security issues with Firefox 6.

Here\’s a bonus review on the mobile version of Firefox 6.

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It has a new look that is more consistent with the Android UI. It comes in black background instead of gray. It also has improved compatibility with SwiftKey keyboard, better page load speed and faster panning responsiveness. The  fonts and buttons are now optimized for tablets as well.

I also noticed that when you touch a link you will get a bright yellow highlight marking what you have just touched similar to the Android internet browser.

To end this, I think web developers should be happy that this release is very much targeted to them since most of the changes are related to web development features that will propel further development in Firefox. I tested the memory consumption which is the number one problem for me right now. It remains high after this update but it is expected that Mozilla will optimize the memory consumption of Firefox for the next iteration. In the next update, we will see more version number inflation.

Up next is Firefox 7 which is expected to be released on 27th of September this year.

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Browser Wars Illustrated

For someone who likes to watch the market share of internet browsers, I find this art compelling beyond words.

So Chrome is brawling with Firefox aggressively while the nonchalant Internet Explorer is eating glue? Hilarious and  it\’s so true. What more can I say. Thanks Shoze for making this cool illustration.

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If you would caption this illustration, what would it be?

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