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28 September 2011, 11:04

Firefox 7 released, uses less RAM

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Firefox Logo On Tuesday (27 September), the Mozilla Project released version 7 of Firefox. According to its developers, the update to the open source web browser addresses an issue that users have been criticising for years: the application's memory usage.

The MemShrink project, which is responsible for the reduced resource requirements, is said to have also made the browser faster and more stable. Firefox developer Nicholas Nethercote says that memory usage has been reduced by between 20 and 30 per cent, in some cases as much as 50 per cent.

When using suitable graphics cards, 2D graphics rendering with Canvas under Windows 7 and Vista is said to be noticeably faster than before, which can, for example, make a difference when playing games in the browser. The technological basis for the improvement is the Azure API, which works with Direct2D under Windows and is expected to be used for 3D graphics acceleration in the future.

Zoom Firefox 7 now requires less RAM than the previous version
Source: Mozilla
During the update process, Firefox 7 asks for the user's permission to submit anonymised memory usage and performance data to Mozilla. The data collected by this new "Telemetry" system, including memory usage, CPU core count and startup time, should provide the developers with more information to help them optimise future releases. Mozilla emphasises that no data will be stored that could allow users to be identified. This feature is based on a similar feature in Chrome; the same is also true for the way that URLs are now being displayed without the leading http:// in the address bar by default (https:// will still be displayed).

A new addition is the browser's support of the Navigation Timing specification, which is designed to help with measuring web site and browser performance. Firefox 7 now accepts the text-overflow CSS property for clipping word endings when text doesn't fit into a container; this feature, which was first introduced in Internet Explorer 6, was implemented in other browsers quite some time ago.

Minor improvements have been made to MathML, DOM and WebSockets. Scripts are no longer able to resize browser windows that weren't opened by the script. As usual, Firefox 7 also fixes various bugs found in previous versions. The developers note that version 7 also addresses "several security issues"; however, at the time of writing, the Security Advisories for Firefox web page has yet to be updated with details of the fixes. Mozilla has also issued an update to the 3.6.x branch of Firefox, version 3.6.23, to address the same security problems and improve its overall stability. There is also a new version, 2.4, of the SeaMonkey "all-in-one internet application suite" which only includes changes to the underlying Mozilla Gecko platform.

A new version of the non-profit organisation's mobile Firefox browser for Android has also been released. It includes improvements to copy and paste, built-in language protection and support for the WebSockets API.

More details about the browser update can be found in a post on the Mozilla Blog and in the release notes. Firefox 7 is available to download for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux from the project's web site. Alternatively, users can upgrade to the new versions, either by waiting for the automated update notification or by manually checking.

Firefox binaries are released under the Mozilla Firefox End-User Software License Agreement and the source code is released under disjunctive tri-licensing that includes the Mozilla Public License, GPLv2 and LGPLv2.1.


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