Browser optimize

Firefox 3 Beta 3 offers numerous features for developers

Firefox 3 Beta 3 expands its already robust support of Web standards while adding its own features. Take Firefox 3 Beta 3 for a test drive today to get a better idea of what to expect.

There was a common thread to the reader feedback about my article on Safari 3: Developers are loyal to Firefox. Firefox's support for customization and standards, along with plenty of add-ons, has made it a favorite among developers; however, this support has been strained as other browsers have caught up.

Firefox 3 Beta 3 is now available, and there are plenty of new features that will interest Web developers.

Web development

When you support multiple browsers, it means knowing what browsers can and cannot do. The next version of Firefox adds support for a variety of Web standards, as well as its own extensions.

Firefox 3 Beta 3 is built on top of Gecko 1.9, which is the new version of Firefox's HTML rendering engine. Furthermore, Gecko 1.9 can pass the Acid 2 test.

The latest version of Firefox includes many changes of interest to developers. The following list provides an overview:

  • Animated PNG (APNG): The animated PNG image format is now supported.
  • Canvas changes: You may draw text in a canvas, as well as use transform-related events.
  • Cross-site requests: Supports the W3C standard for allowing cross-site requests via the XmlHttpRequest object.
  • CSS: A variety of CSS features that were previously not supported are now supported.
  • DOM: Notable DOM features are now supported.
  • EXLST: XSLT extensions are now supported.
  • JavaScript 1.8: The browser supports version 1.8 of the default client scripting language. A notable change is discontinued support for the non-standard Script object. Notable changes to the JavaScript engine are a native JSON parser and Web-based protocol handlers.
  • Microformat support: The browser now includes a data manager for the Microformat standard.
  • Partial HTML 5 support: Certain aspects of the HTML 5 standard are supported, including WHATWG support, which encompasses offline/online support. This provides online and offline events in the <BODY> element, as well as more features. Also, the new activeElement and hasFocus attributes and drag-and-drop events are supported.
  • Enhanced XUL support: A variety of new XUL elements have been added and existing features have been enhanced.
  • The introduction of the Places API: It replaces the history and bookmarks APIs in previous versions, making it possible to develop add-ons that interact with bookmarks and browsing history.

Firefox's add-on architecture is the feature that pushes it to the top of the browser heap. The list of add-ons is overwhelming -- there's something for everybody. A good example is Firebug. On the other hand, the proliferation of add-ons has added to the performance issues.

There are a variety of improvements in Firefox 3, which include the following: Enhancements to Cross Platform Component Object Model (XPCOM) that includes a cycle collector to address memory leaks; additional improvements include a way to secure add-on updates; a new thread manager; and a new approach to localization.

Performance

Firefox 3 promises a smaller memory footprint and plenty of performance improvements. When I loaded Firefox 3, I noticed the drastic performance improvement over version 2. I was impressed with the quick application startup, as well as pages loading without delay.

On the memory issue, I use a system with 2 gigs of RAM, so noticing a memory problem would be hard. However, I did monitor memory usage, and Firefox 3 Beta 3 consistently consumed more than 80 MB of memory when browsing via multiple tabs. I would like to hear your feedback concerning memory usage and whether there are noticeable improvements in the current Beta version.

Another improvement is the download manager, which is a main feature for Web developers who are often downloading new software and applications. The download manager now supports searching and includes more information on the download such as a timestamp and where it was saved.

I love the Firefox feature of maintaining multiple tabs when closing, so the tabs appear the next time you open the browser. This is a great feature for developers who rely on the Web for research, testing, and so forth.

Choose your platform

Another great feature of Firefox is its support of multiple platforms. Firefox 3 Beta 3 is available as a free download for Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X. Once the download is complete, the installation is as easy as point-and-click and then choosing your options and the installation directory.

Go for a test drive

Beta programs provide an avenue to examine software before its final release. It is interesting to peruse the list of bug fixes through the alpha and beta phases of Firefox 3.

Mozilla has taken its time with Firefox 3 Beta 3, which is another sign that it's trying to work out all of the bugs. The company plans to release Beta 4 before a final commercial version.

Firefox 3 Beta 3 expands its already robust support of Web standards while adding its own features. Take Firefox 3 Beta 3 for a test drive today to get a better idea of what to expect.

Are you currently using the current Beta or a previous version of Firefox? Do you foresee yourself adopting Firefox 3 when it is released? Post your comments in the Web Developer article discussion.

Tony Patton began his professional career as an application developer earning Java, VB, Lotus, and XML certifications to bolster his knowledge.

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About

Tony Patton has worn many hats over his 15+ years in the IT industry while witnessing many technologies come and go. He currently focuses on .NET and Web Development while trying to grasp the many facets of supporting such technologies in a productio...

13 comments
krkvak
krkvak

In Opera I have 33 tabs open, memory usage is 140 MB. I'd like to see the same from firefox, then I will be happy, because in firefox 3 tabs could consume the same memory. :(

Ukitin
Ukitin

Firefox - 40 tabs open with google.com open. Memory Usage 49, 862 kb; Virtual Memory size 39, 424 kb. A lot of improvement! Opera - 40 tabs open with google.com open. Memory Usage 40, 300 kb; Virtual Memory 71, 064 kb. What the f***? What happened? If both added (VM and Mem Usage) Opera - 111, 364 kb Mozilla - 89,286 kb Mozilla Wins! But I' not changing just because of that :) I'm a loyal Opera user!

krkvak
krkvak

Love firefox for web development though

magillj
magillj

Just last night I noticed FF2 taking up about 400,000 KB. That was browsing with several tabs over the course of the full day.

brett.casto
brett.casto

Whoa! Wait a minute! HTML5??? Erm, don't you mean xHTML?

daniel.iveson
daniel.iveson

From what I understand in terms of HTML5 and XHTML the 'X' is optional. But that may be a very simplistic view or even wrong ...

Tavis
Tavis

I think that the W3C and the WHATWG have got together and are developing both HTML5 and XHTML in parallel, under a wider HTML umbrella.

Justin James
Justin James

Yes, this is correct. XHTML is now inside the HTML 5 draft spec. Basically, it says, "take this spec and turn it TML and there you go." J.Ja

David Blomstrom
David Blomstrom

It's heartening to know that Microsoft's Internet Exploder isn't even ranked among the three best browsers by people who really understand web browsers. I dreamed of escaping Microshaft for years. First, I began using an ever greater variety of open source software. Then I abandoned Internet Explorer for Firefox (my default browser) and Opera. Then I finally scraped together enough money to get a Mac, and I'm now using THREE browsers (Firefox, Opera and Safari). They all have their pros and cons. Though Firefox remains my default browser on my Mac, it is a bit of a memory hog on my PC and Mac both. In fact, I've been using Opera a lot and am on the verge of designating it my default browser instead. At any rate, I began working on a series of articles about browsers, which required me to learn more about them. They're truly amazing pieces of engineering. Of course, I'm looking forward to Firefox 3.0, though I probably won't upgrade immediately. I usually wait until a new software program has been out for a few weeks to make sure most of the bugs have been ironed out. On a humorous note, Internet Explorer 8.0 may stop Microslaves from backgrading from IE7 to IE6, yet it will probably seem primitive compared to Firefox 3.0. And when is Opera's next version due? Your article disapointed me in that I was hoping to see Firefox 3.0 released very soon. On the positive side, it's to learn it's being thoroughly tested. Unfortunately, I'm not enough of a geek to even understand some of the features you mentioned in your article, but they sound intriguing. As a web publisher/designer, I've long promoted Firefox on my websites. I recently began promoting Opera, as well. I wish more web designers would take charge of their profession and stop letting Bill Gates jerk them around. Thanks for an informative article.

Ukitin
Ukitin

Firefox doesn't have something like Opera's Dragonfly, right? It still has some problems opening. It takes some time for it to open. And it still uses a larger hard drive space compared to Opera. (Mozilla-25.01 mb; Opera-5.79 mb) Plus, everytime I try opening Mozilla it keeps on saying Software Update Failed. I tried configuring the firewall's setting and still no progress. But aside from that they both are good browsers (Just checked Mozilla :) But I'm not changing...lol)

Ukitin
Ukitin

I believe that Opera is an amazing web browser. And from my experience, I like it a lot! I experienced lesser crashes!

DnlCY
DnlCY

Some year ago, even before firefox, I changed from IE to Opera, and I love it. But I stop using it because there were too many web pages that didn't work in Opera. Now I use firefox all the time, and to suppress compatibility problems I'm using IE Tab add-on:) I don't know how is going Opera now a days, but I'm not thinking in changing. Even for a new firefox release. For what is stated in the main article, I don't see crucial upgrades.

Ukitin
Ukitin

Don't give up. Try opera again, you might just like it. And you really can't blame Opera for not rendering sites correctly. It could also be possible that the source code has errors, right? There's no harm in trying.