According to InformationWeek, the latest version of the Firefox web browser is better than ever.
Here is a summary of the new features:
- Behind-the-Scenes Updates: No longer will you have to fuss over upgrades. It will happen in the background and “seamlessly implement the changes when the browser is next launched.” For those who rarely turn off their browser, this will be problematic, requiring a restart manually, but at least the annoying update announcements might be a thing of the past.
- Graphics Unleashed: For two years, Firefox has been strategically planning to grab the market as the best browser for gaming and 3D graphics and now they are here. Graphic enhancements in Firefox 15 are supposed to rock for full-screen support, HTML5, and an amazing multimedia experience.
- Improved Memory: While most software and web apps seem to get bigger and bigger, more demanding on the computer’s system, Mozilla’s team has been working hard to reduce the “memory footprint,” thus speeding up the browser and reducing the impact on the system. Memory crashes have continued to haunt Firefox for the past four years and it’s exciting to see the memory leaks finally dealt with. This is ideal for smaller laptops and notebooks without the processing and RAM strength of their big desktop brothers. A lot of work also went into shrinking down system leaks and weight for the new Android-based mobile version of Firefox.
- Opus Integration: One of the most frustrating changes to come to recent Firefox releases is the company’s dropping of support for MP3. Podcasters have been frustrated with the decision, having to change audio players and methods to allow their podcasts to be accessed through Firefox. With their support for Ogg and ACC formats, they are now adding support for the new Opus audio format, promising this free audio format has better compression and quality than traditional MP3 support. Currently, MP3 requires license payments by browser developers. Opus is free and a collaboration between members of the IETF Internet Wideband Audio Codec working group which includes major players in the audio industry.
- Improved Ongoing Support for HTML5 and CSS3: As a leader in meeting web standards, Firefox embraced HTML5 and CSS3 early on and has evolved as the specifications have changed and moved towards adoption.
In July this year, Firefox Add-ons surpassed more than 3 billion downloads, a record for any browser or web app with extension capabilities. According to their statistics, more than 85% of all Firefox users have at least one extension installed on their web browser, with an average of five add-ons, which led me to wonder which ones are the most popular.
- AdBlock Plus
- Personas Plus
- Video Download Helper
That list says so much about Firefox users.
You can read the full Firefox 15 release notes on their site. Even their release notes have been improved with simple visual clues as to what’s new, changed, fixed, part of HTML4, and part of the developer tools.
I did a little walk through my history with Firefox. I’ve been reporting on Firefox since it’s official release in 2004, falling in love in 2005 with its fantastic incorporation of web developer tools. I announced the alpha version of Firefox 2.0 in January 2006. Firefox 2.0′s full launch came in October that year, part of the then slow release cycle. Today, Mozilla has pushed their updates out at rocket speed to not just keep up with the browser market but to also push out fixes to those memory leaks and crashing issues that plagued Firefox 4 and 5 in 2010-2011. While Adobe Flash was the biggest culprit, Firefox had its own issues, too.
March 2011 saw Firefox version 4 released. Version 5 followed in June, and six in August, seven in September, and eight in November, racing towards version 15 less than a year later. Testing is ongoing right now in releases 16 and 17, and you can participate through their Firefox Aurora for Desktop program.
With Firefox plateauing in the browser wars, being throttled by the fast rise of Chrome, it must jump to stay relevant. This release makes it not only relevant but critical to savvy web users, especially those into gaming, multimedia, and web design and development.