Mozilla has posted the first beta of Firefox 4 for people to download and try. There are numerous changes in Firefox 4 including a new look similar to Opera (Why does everybody rip Opera features off?) and WebM support. The feature I am most looking forward to playing with is one that isn’t even on by default and that is hardware acceleration with Direct2D for Windows 7 and Windows Vista users with DirectX 10.0 or better, a feature that Microsoft has been playing up as much as they can with IE9.
I’m not sure if it is because the Direct2D support is disabled by default, but according to some benchmark tests over at WebWorkerDaily, the speed improvement over the current version of Firefox is quite small and comes nowhere near the performance seen by Opera 10.6 and Chrome 5 (Note: They tested using a Mac so I expect PC performance to vary a bit). Below is the graph showing the Peacekeeper benchmark that they ran.
To check out the rest of the benchmark tests and how Firefox 4 beta 1 stacks up to other browsers like Safari, Opera and Chrome, check out the post over at WebWorkerDaily.
Firefox seems to really be falling behind in the speed wars and they need to do something if they don’t want to give up marketshare to other browsers. They may have a ton of users and a thriving plugin community but if you can’t keep pace with the evolution of the web, you will fade into the background rather quickly.
To download the beta of the popular Firefox browser, you can get it over at Mozilla.com. A list of the major changes is listed below to help you decide if it is worth trying but be warned, this is beta software so there are likely to be numerous bugs still to be worked out.
- Tabs are now on top by default on Windows only – OSX and Linux will be changing when the theme has been modified to support the change.
- On Windows Vista and Windows 7 the menu bar has been replaced with the Firefox button.
- You can search for and switch to already open tabs in the Smart Location Bar
- New Addons Manager and extension management API (UI will be changed before final release)
- Significant API improvements are available for JS-ctypes, a foreign function interface for extensions.
- The stop and reload buttons have been merged into a single button on Windows, Mac and Linux.
- The Bookmarks Toolbar has been replaced with a Bookmarks Button by default (you can switch it back if you’d like).
- Crash protection for Windows, Linux, and Mac when there is a crash in the Adobe Flash, Apple Quicktime or Microsoft Silverlight plugins.
- CSS Transitions are partially supported.
- Full WebGL support is included but disabled by default at this time.
- Core Animation rendering model for plugins on Mac OS X. Plugins which also support this rendering model can now draw faster and more efficiently.
- Native support for the HD HTML5 WebM video format.
- An experimental Direct2D rendering backend is available on Windows, turned off by default.
- Web developers can use Websockets for a low complexity, low latency, bidirectional communications API.
- Web developers can update the URL field without reloading the page using HTML History APIs.
- More responsive page rendering using lazy frame construction.
- Link history lookup is done asynchronously to provide better responsiveness during pageload.
- CSS :visited selectors have been changed to block websites from being able to check a user’s browsing history.
- New HTML5 parser.
- Support for more HTML5 form controls.
Tell us in the comments what you think about Firefox 4 and if you have tried the beta!