What’s new in the upcoming Firefox 13

Latest additions that will be coming to Firefox 13 include performance improvements, new default tabs and improvements to the web developer tools.

Making Firefox “snappy” is a high priority for the Mozilla team. When loading tabs in a Firefox start-up, “only the active tab will load. Loading of background tabs is deferred until a tab is selected”, according to Lawrence Mandel on the Mozilla Hacks blog.

Mandel said that the “cycle collector is more efficient, spending less time examining memory that is still in use, which results in less pauses as you use Firefox”. Additionally, general performance improvements can be expected all-round Firefox.

A new “home tab” will be included. “Firefox will offer easy access to things users are familiar with today (Bookmarks, History, Settings, Downloads) as well as introduce the Apps Marketplace — a great place to discover exciting new content on the Web”, according to the Mozilla feature page.

As in the other modern web browsers, Firefox will include a “new tab” page. Currently, Firefox displays a blank page.

Mozilla is continuing with their improvements to the new web developer tools, as part of their 2012 desktop strategy they are including a “powerful and beautiful set of Web developer tools”.

Web developers will now have the ability to lock in a pseduo-classes such as :hover, making it easier to inspect the code. One of the most useful features will be the ability to edit CSS files in Firefox. Any changes will now be automatically saved if the CSS file stored locally (file://).

The expected release date is June 5 2012 and is currently available for download as a beta.

Mozilla Extends Google Contract for Default Search

Mozilla has extended their largest revenue source with an extension of the agreement between Google and Mozilla. The agreement stipulates that Google will be included as the default search in the Mozilla Firefox, the flagship open-source browser of Mozilla.

The contract expired last month, November 2011, and has contributed 86% (around 87.3 million) and  91% (around 76.08 million) of royalties revenue in 2008 and 2009. According to public Mozilla financial statements last year, Google contributed 84% of royalties revenue yielding around $102 million. Overall 82% of all revenue last year was from its search contract with Google.

In a FAQ for the 2010 Annual Report, Mozilla said it has “major search partners including Google, Bing, Yahoo, Yandex, Amazon, Ebay and others” and “we have every confidence that search partnerships will remain a solid generator of revenue for Mozilla for the foreseeable future”.

Mozilla’s blog post did not explain specifics of the contract and said “the specific terms of this commercial agreement are subject to traditional confidentiality requirements, and we’re not at liberty to disclose them.”

Reports from StatCounter, recently showed that Chrome made up 25.7% of the browser market-share compared to Firefox which had 25.23%.

Firefox 7 Beta To Slash Memory Usage

Firefox 7 Beta has been released today just days after a stable release of Firefox 6 under the Mozilla release schedule which pushes through versions quickly with smaller updates. The beta promises to “reduces memory use and improves performance areas including responsiveness, startup and page load time, even in complex websites and Web apps”.

Nicholas Nethercote from Mozilla said that performance improvements in memory were often 20% to 30% less but some systems would see a 50% improvement. The improvements come as part of the MemShrink project which aims to reduce Mozilla Firefox’s profile as a memory hog. MemShrink delivers better performance by using “more space-efficient data structures” and finding ways to avoid memory leak.

Firefox 7 also includes the web timing spec which helps developers find information related to navigation and page load time and a new way to “display CSS 3 text that overflows the layout area” with an ellipsis in CSS 3. The new HTML5 canvas element will also load faster with improvement to be seen in most canvas demos.

With the rapid-release schedule version numbers are becoming less important to Mozila who have taken to removing the version number, sparking an ongoing debate. Under the plan, the version number would be found in a new about:support page, users would be able to see if they have the latest edition by checking the about window which would could say “Firefox checked for updates 20 minutes ago,you are running the latest release”.

Mozilla Authenticates Users Using Browser With Sign-in Button

The Identity team at Mozilla has released Browser Sign In, an experimental add-on, which places a button to authenticate users using the browser in the address bar. The addition to the BrowserID project will make it easier to log in to websites by having a uniform location for the button.

Lloyd Hilaiel from Mozilla explained that the BrowserID experiment had several key design features including that it will use email addresses instead of usernames, no third party network transactions would be made,  authentication be browser-side and it would be easy for other browser vendors to add.

Hilaiel says “BrowserID is hoped to ultimately become an alternative to the tradition of ad-hoc application-level authentication based on site-specific user-names and passwords.” Developers are able to start using BrowserID by adding the BrowserID JavaScript and API library as detailed in documentation.

The Mozilla team have set-up a demo website called MyFavoriteBeer which allows users to test the add-on by clicking on the sign-in button in the toolbar and setting up BrowserID which will verify your email address.

Mozilla Building Mobile OS Codenamed “Boot to Gecko”

Mozilla has started planning for a new mobile operating system codenamed Boot to Gecko (b2G) in an attempt to remove proprietary systems used for application development. The open-source project is open for contribution though infrastructure required for the project is being set-up. The OS is expected to work on Android-compatible devices.

Mozilla wants to help bridge the gaps that web developers face and eventually wants them to be able to “equals of native apps built for the iPhone, Android, and WP7.” The project will develop new web APIs that are able to connect “OS capabilities to content” such as the camera and telephony. The new system will not support Android apps, though these may be used in the short-term if required if web APIs are not developed in time. Andreas Gal said that support for Android apps using a API “would be the same kind of temporary wart that plugins like Flash and Silverlight are for the desktop web platform.”

The plan has already drawn criticism over possible patent issues with ComputerWorld reporting concerns, though development has not started yet.

Mozilla Hits Milestone in Javascript PDF Rendering

Mozilla developers have reached their first milestone for PDF rendering using JavaScript.The in-house technology will be used in Mozilla browsers and is currently in development and can be seen in Github. Mozilla has licensed the JavaScript code under a 3-clause BSD license which they say is very liberal.

The latest improvements since that project’s first announcement include TrueType font support, masked images and the use of the HTML5 canvas element as well as other visual tweaks. The results were posted on the blog of Chris Jones from Mozilla. He said that ‘it renders the Tracemonkey paper perfectly’ and added that the end product would work in all HTML5 browsers.

Mozilla Firefox Publishes List of Slowest Add-ons

Mozilla has published a list naming and shaming the slowest Firefox add-ons blamed for causing Firefox to ‘slow … to a crawl’ and which ‘make it difficult to use for regular web browsing.’

Add-ons are ranked from the slowest which is now FoxLingo, a dictionary and translation add-on, and Firebug which both impact Firefox by a massive 74% slowdown. Other popular add-ons such as Adblock Plus (21%), FlashGot (50%) and NoScript(16%) have all been rated.

Mozilla has also published guidelines for the best practices in making faster add-ons which include using JavaScript modules and writing efficient CSS.

Firefox 4 Released

Mozilla has released the new version of Firefox on the internet today. The download is available at the official website.

The latest release includes faster browsing, new tab location and better CSS3 and HTML5 support. The release comes just weeks from the Internet Explorer 9 release which will later debut on Windows Update and Google Chrome 10.

Mozilla plans to push more frequent updates similar to the updating process of Google Chrome after Firefox 4. By the end of 2011, it is expected Firefox would have reached version 7, according to road-maps from Mozilla.