What’s New in Firefox 7

Craig Buckler
Craig Buckler

Where did the last six weeks go? Following the launch of Firefox 6 on August 16, Mozilla released Firefox 7 on September 27, 2011. Auto-updates have not been initiated at the time of writing but you can download the latest version from www.mozilla.org/firefox/.

I experienced several problems with Firefox 6 and its resource hogging on OS X was especially worrying. Like many, I considered switching to Chrome full-time. Mozilla is promising better performance and reduced memory usage in Firefox 7 across all platforms:

Firefox manages memory more efficiently to deliver a nimble Web browsing experience. Users will notice Firefox is faster at opening new tabs, clicking on menu items and buttons on websites. Heavy Internet users will enjoy enhanced performance when lots of tabs are open and during long Web browsing sessions that last hours or even days.

I’ve been using the browser for a few hours and it does feel faster. Memory usage on Windows 7 seems better, i.e. 10 tabs required 280Mb compared to 380Mb on Firefox 6. However, a longer period of testing is required to truly evaluate progress.

Mozilla is collecting performance data and you’ll be asked whether you want to anonymously opt-in when launching the application for the first time.

What’s New for Web Developers?

A few interesting enhancements have been delivered:

  • The CSS text-overflow property now supports ellipsis so “…” appears when the text exceeds the space available.
  • Canvas rendering is faster.
  • WebSockets is enabled on Firefox Mobile.
  • Navigation Timing has been implemented. This allows web applications to measure real-world performance factors and optimize the user’s experience.

It’s also no longer possible to resize a window with JavaScript code unless it was created with window.open and doesn’t have two or more tabs. Are developers still creating sites which try to open full-screen? I thought the practice had died out but Mozilla has buried it.

Vexed Versions

I’ve discussed Firefox’s version numbering chaos many times but — so far — Firefox 7 seems less problematical than its predecessors. Add-on developers understand the issues and none of my extensions were disabled. I can’t promise you’ll have the same experience but the situation appears to be improving.

Mozilla is rapidly losing ground to Google Chrome. Firefox 7 is good and I suspect it will convince many to stick with the browser. Whether it’s enough to persuade disillusioned users to return is another matter.