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27 April 2012, 11:51

Firefox 13 beta gets SPDY

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Zoom Firefox 13 Beta sporting its new Home page
Mozilla has released the SPDY-enabled Firefox 13 to its beta channel. SPDY, the faster alternative to HTTP, has been incorporated in Firefox, but disabled by default, since the introduction of Firefox 11. Firefox 13 will be the first release with it enabled by default.

It takes multiple HTTP requests to get the content of a web page, each with a separate connection from the client to the server. With SPDY, all the requests for content are interleaved and compressed into a single connection making it much more efficient, especially with modern complex web applications. SPDY has been presented to the IETF as a possible future standard to complement the existing HTTP infrastructure and is already being deployed by Google and others such as Twitter.

A new home page will greet users of Firefox 13 too. Along with the Firefox logo and Google search field, a new dashboard of buttons populates the lower part of the browser window offering one click access to Downloads, Bookmarks, History, Add-ons, Sync and Settings.

Zoom New Tabs offer destinations in Firefox 13 Beta
Firefox 13 also activates, by default, a new "new tab" view. Previously when users opened a new tab, they were faced with an empty page. Now they will be met with a panel of nine views of the nine most visited pages. The behaviour can be toggled on and off by clicking a small grid icon in the upper right hand corner of the browser window. The tabs can also be rearranged, pinned in place or removed from view.

Another change which should make Firefox more responsive is its default tab-reloading behaviour. Previously, when restarting a session with open tabs, Firefox would attempt to load the contents of all the tabs. This could lead to a very slow restart when there were many open tabs, and many password dialogs popping up if those pages were password protected. There were options to tell it not to do that and to only reload the tabs when the user clicked on them to make them visible, but now the Mozilla developers have chosen to make that the default behaviour. Another option which has been off by default is smooth scrolling, which was introduced in Firefox 1.4; this has now been enabled by default.

Firefox 13 will be in beta for around six weeks before its planned promotion to the Firefox release channel on 5 June. Users can get Firefox Betas from the Beta download page. The release notes detail the changes and known issues.


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