Another six weeks or so have passed and a new version of Firefox has yet again been released, thanks to the development schedule that Mozilla has now set into overdrive. As mentioned in my article about the Firefox 6 release, the developers over at Mozilla are hard at work making the browser more efficient, with a primary goal titled Project MemShrink.
As Project MemShrink has existed for a while now, Firefox 7 brings the first fruits out of the effort. Mozilla claims that with the improvements in Firefox 7 alone, memory consumption is brought down by as much as 50%. Compared to the notorious way Firefox used to consume memory in older versions, this is a ridiculously vast improvement, and suddenly makes Firefox extremely competitive against Google Chrome in this area.
Windows: New “Canvas” Rendering Backend
Those using Windows will also be happy to hear that the rendering backend for the Canvas element has been replaced with a better, self-developed alternative. Apparently this was necessary to speed up rendering of websites that make use of the Canvas element, so if you already updated, you can test it out on a number of sites. If you can’t find one, I’d recommend Microsoft’s IE Test Drive page. While there’s a lot of advertisements for Internet Explorer, you can use the demos to test out Firefox’s new speed.
If you’re a user of Firefox Sync, then I have some great news for you! In Firefox 7, Firefox Sync has been modified to sync bookmark and password changes almost instantly. While I personally haven’t had any problems with the synchronization capabilities before, I believe this will be a major convenience for people who are on multiple devices at the same time.
The address bar has changed (slightly) as well. While everything else has stayed the same, the usual http:// prefix is now gone. The change was made in order to simplify the appearance of the address bar, and to complement the shading of all URL parts except the domain name. Whether or not the www prefix will at one point be removed is still uncertain. I’m not sure about you, but personally I’d like to keep it.
Send Performance Data to Mozilla
The final major feature that I would like to point out is a new reporting feature. Before you freak out about data being sent, don’t worry. This service is opt-in and won’t send a single bit without your confirmation. When enabled, the option, which is found in the General tab under Advanced in your Preferences, allows Firefox to send performance data back to Mozilla. Among other items, they mention memory consumption data as some of the things that would be sent. Enabling this shouldn’t compromise your privacy whatsoever, and will help Mozilla make Firefox even more efficient in a number of different performance categories.
Aside from major changes, Mozilla included some other behind-the-scenes changes. These are the usual stability and security fixes and support for new web standards. By upgrading to the latest version, you can be ensured that Firefox will work with more websites than ever before.
Overall, Firefox 7 is a massive improvement compared to what Firefox 6 brought to the table, and is a highly recommended update for anyone. With all the optimizations and new features, Firefox has reapplied some massive competitive pressure on its rivals, Internet Explorer and Google Chrome. So go here to download Firefox, or if you already have it installed, go to Help –> About Firefox to update to the newest version.
Do you think Firefox could regain some performance edge compared to Google Chrome? What other features or improvements would you like to see in future versions of Firefox? Let us know in the comments!