Firefox 4 Beta 7: Moving Toward Completion, Updated Extensions On Deck

by Ostatic Staff - Nov. 11, 2010

The open source arena is currently loaded with good battles to watch, with both operating systems of various stripes and applications fighting fiercely for dominance, but my favorite open source battle of all is the one going on between open source browsers. Although the majority of users still use Microsoft's Internet Explorer, its market share has tumbled from where it was a few years ago. We've made the point many times that Firefox and Google Chrome are setting the innovation bar for browsers. That's why it's exciting to see Mozilla arrive at Beta 7 of Firefox 4, which you can download now or which you'll be automatically updated to if you're testing the betas, and which is loaded with challenges to Google's fast-growing Chrome browser.

Javascript routines and new forms of hardware acceleration are both built into Beta 7 of Firefox 4, and typically when Mozilla arrives at a beta this late in the game, you can go ahead and test it without worrying too much, although the browser is not totally free of bugs yet. According to Mozilla's blog post:

"This release boosts performance in some important ways: it adds the JägerMonkey just-in-time (JIT) JavaScript compiler; adds more support for hardware-accelerated graphics, as well as hardware acceleration for Windows XP and Mac OS X; and enables 3D capabilities, without the need for plug-ins, with WebGL."

Mac OS users should find it substantially faster than previous versions. Usually with beta versions of Firefox, the problem becomes that you can't run your favorite add-ons, but that looks like it will change quickly. Mozilla reports:

"Also, the Add-ons APIs for Firefox 4 are now stable, so if you are an add-on developer, now is the time to update your Firefox 3.6-compatible Add-ons to support Firefox 4."

No doubt, many extension developers will quickly heed that call. I don't know about you, but I use both Firefox and Google Chrome. Chrome is currently faster than previous versions of Firefox, but I'm going to put the new Firefox beta through the paces in actual usage and see how it stacks up. I care less about the benchmark charts (which are available) than what I experience as I actually use the browsers. 

One thing's for sure: We're on the cusp of a final version of the next major release of Firefox, with full support from extension developers, and that's good news.