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11/16/2010
05:22 PM
Jim Rapoza
Jim Rapoza
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Firefox 4 Speed Increases In Beta 7

With most of the interface and feature work complete, Mozilla turns its attention to improving performance.

As Mozilla has slowly moved toward the release of the next version of its Firefox browser, the company has continued to revamp the interface and add features. But what about the most common complaint against Firefox, namely its lagging performance?

Well, with the recent release of Firefox 4 beta 7, Mozilla (www.mozilla.com) appears to have taken some serious steps toward fixing the browser performance. Probably the biggest new feature in this beta of Firefox 4 is its inclusion of the JagerMonkey JIT compiler, which provides a boost to the browser’s JavaScript performance.

In tests using a variety of browser benchmarking tools, including Futuremark’s Peacekeeper, I saw pretty good performance with the latest beta of Firefox 4. Based on these tests, Firefox 4 beta 7 is showing significant improvement over Firefox 3.6 and even displayed a good boost over the previous Firefox 4 betas. In many of the tests, Firefox 4 beta 7 is grouped solidly with -- even sometimes ahead of -- the latest versions of browsers, such as Opera and Safari and is not far behind performance leader Google Chrome.

If your system has OpenGL-capable graphics hardware, you should also see a performance increase on some websites due to WebGL now being enabled by default in this release. From an interface standpoint, not much has changed from the previous betas. On Windows systems, the upper-lefthand Firefox button from which most menu functions are accessed has changed in appearance.

Also, the Sync feature, which makes it possible to sync browser information across systems and devices, is now enabled by default. One somewhat cool new feature in this beta is an implementation of what was called Firefox Panorama. It is now possible to see a screen with large thumbnails of all open tabs (in many ways similar to the new tabs screens in most competing browsers), making it easy to view them at a glance, combine them into groups or bookmark them. Like most modern browsers, this beta of Firefox 4 also adds support for HTML 5 technology, including new features for video and for browser history.

Supposedly this beta of Firefox 4 is feature-complete, meaning any subsequent betas will likely include only fixes and that this will probably be what the final product is like. To try out the new beta 7 of Firefox 4, go to www.firefox.com/beta.

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