Firefox 5: New, but improved?

Firefox 5: New, but improved?

Summary: Yes, there's already a new version of Firefox out. Hurray! But, is there anything really "new" in it? Not so much.

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TOPICS: Browser, Microsoft
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I've liked Firefox since it first showed up. But, this new Firefox 5 concerns me. Oh, it's a fine browser. But, it's not a major new release. At most, I'd call it Firefox 4.1, but really it's little more than Firefox 4.02.

The Mozilla Foundation, following in the footsteps of Google's Chrome Web browser, seems to believe that if they keep popping out new "major" releases every six weeks, they'll convince people they're better than the competition. That seemed like a dumb idea to me when Microsoft went from Word for Windows 2.0 to Word for Windows 6.0 back in 1993. The idea hasn't improved any with age.

Download.com: Firefox 5

At least, in the case of Google Chrome, though, there usually have been significant updates. Chrome 12, didn't deserve its new major release number either though. In upcoming versions of Chrome that may change. For example, We can look forward to Google building Skype-like video and Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) right into the browser. Firefox? Not so much.

As for Firefox 5 itself... well, let's see... uh. The Do Not Track feature, which makes it easy to keep advertisers' cookies under control, is easier to find in the Firefox Preferences section. Oh, and they finally got rid of the HTTP idle connection bug. That's good. Let me leaf through the rest of the Firefox 5 release notes.

Ah, let's see now, Firefox has also added extra security to its WebGL (Web-based Graphics Library), a Google-sponsored software library that brings hardware-accelerated 3D graphics to browsers, implementation. Mozilla developers did this by blocking cross-domain WebGL elements. In light of Microsoft's recent attacks against WebGL on security grounds, I count that as an important improvement.

On the other hand, in the few days I've played with the beta and few hours I've been working with the final version, I have to say that what I find most annoying about Firefox--its lack of stability, especially on Linux, and continued hunger for memory-doesn't seem to be improved much, if any.

Put it all together, though, is this enough to call this version of Firefox a major new release? No. It's not even close. Microsoft's IE programming crew got it right when, instead of a cake, they sent the Firefox developers a cupcake for this new release.

Page 2: [Standards and Performance] »

Standards and Performance

Alright, let's see if Firefox can earn its 5.0 in performance.

I've been working with Firefox 5.0 on both my Linux and Windows PCs. For benchmarking, I used my Gateway DX4710 running Windows 7 SP1. This PC is powered by a 2.5-GHz Intel Core 2 Quad processor and has 6GBs of RAM and an Intel GMA (Graphics Media Accelerator) 3100 for graphics. It's hooked to the Internet via a Netgear Gigabit Ethernet switch, which, in turn, is hooked up to a 60Mbps (Megabit per second) cable Internet connection.

On this system, I ran not only Firefox, but Chrome 12 and Internet Explorer (IE) 9. Here's what I found.

First, Mozilla claims that has "Improved standards support. That's not what I found. On the Acid 3 compatibility test, which checks out how well a browser complies with various Web standards such as CSS, JavaScript, and Extensible Markup Language (XML), Firefox had a score of 97. Chrome had a perfect score of 100, and IE had a 95. Let's give Firefox a good, but not great mark here.

On the HTML5 Test, which checks to see how compliant the Web browser is with the HTML5 Web page standard, Firefox came in with 255 points out of a possible 400. Chrome did significantly better with a score of 291 out of a maximum of 400. IE's way in the back with 130 points.

Moving on to performance, I first tried the browsers out on Mozilla's own Kraken 1.0, which is their update of the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark In Kraken, the lower scores are best. Here, Firefox showed well with a respectable 7028.5ms, but Chrome 12 still held the lead with 5449.8ms. IE really shows poorly on this test wit a score of 17,051.9.

With Peacekeeper, where higher scores are better, Firefox really fell behind with 4,492 points. On this benchmark, IE finally wins one with a score of 8,343 to Chrome 12's 7,939.

According to JavaScript Google's V8 Benchmark Suite, where higher scores are better, Firefox does a mediocre job with a showing of 3,332 compared to Chrome 12's 7,797. Still, that's better than IE way, with its 2,193.

On old reliable, the oldest JavaScript Web benchmark, SunSpider JavaScript 0.9.1, where lower results are better, Firefox shows well with 302.7ms. This time though not only is Chrome 12 better with a score of 278, but IE 9 is better still with a result of 252.6.

What I can I say? I want to like Firefox. I've used it for years. But in terms of both features and performance, Firefox 5 is, at best, Firefox 4.02, and with Chrome getting every faster and better and even IE 9 showing there's life in Microsoft's developers after all, this new Firefox just doesn't cut the mustard.

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CNet Firefox 5.0 Review

Google building Skype-alike software into Chrome

More Google Web Browser goodness: Chrome 12

Topics: Browser, Microsoft

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79 comments
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  • Steve, I don't think you are being fair or realistic here.

    This is the first iteration of Agile programming.
    Mozilla are off to a good start and it was sufficient for them to make this a bug fix release with a smattering of enhancements. Even one small update to their Java jit compiler has now made Firefox officially faster than Chrome by about 30ms.

    The point here is, they've succeeded in making a switch to Agile and are doing quite well. *That* is a major accomplishment.

    There will be ensuing revisions with major changes and good luck to the competition who will have to keep up with them. At least Google have a fighting chance, but MS, doubtful.

    So, please, cut Mozilla some slack here.

    Congratulations to the Mozilla Developer Team are in order!

    w00t
    Dietrich T. Schmitz, *~* Your Linux Advocate
    • RE: Firefox 5: New, but improved?

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz, *~* Your Linux Advocate
      Add that first section compares ff5 to ff4 but when it comes to performace ff5 is compared to chrome and ie. Or you focus on ff5 as new iteration of ff or you focus on ff5 as competitor.

      Atricle do 1/2 of iteration 1/2 of competition.
      przemoli
      • RE: Firefox 5: New, but improved?

        @przemoli
        Oh and Acid3 is probably tooo old to be reliable benchmark. There are simply some things in upper 5 points that are never used, have replacements. So top5 is for broad compatibility.
        przemoli
      • RE: Firefox 5: New, but improved?

        @przemoli

        You are absolutely right. Many of the things in Acid3 have been deprecated. A 95 *is* a perfect score. One could argue that getting *over* a 95 is a sign of imperfection...
        x I'm tc
      • RE: Firefox 5: New, but improved?

        @przemoli Thank you. This made no sense: "First, Mozilla claims that has Improved standards support. That?s not what I found" and then Firefox is compared to Chrome rather than the previous version!
        jgm@...
    • RE: Firefox 5: New, but improved?

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz, *~* Your Linux Advocate

      If you read a bit about Agile development process, it means delivering fully shippable products every iteration. In a twisted way, you can even call minor tweaks a shippable product, but I doubt if any self respecting development org would do that. This is precisely what SJVN is questioning if this is all they have to show for this release. In my opinion, Mozilla's days are numbered. They can do Agile or Spiral or waterfall or whatever, they are going down fast.
      mm71
      • RE: Firefox 5: New, but improved?

        @mm71

        Your Opinion is a grain of salt. While Chrome is enjoying dramatic success. Firefox is not going away, and neither is IE, IE with IE9 and upcoming IE10 , they will always stay in the game. What many of us do ( lots of people in fortune 500 companies whether a manager or a software engineer ) Is use IE for the intranet , for local testing / business work and then Firefox for certain things. Then Chrome HAS been for research and surfing.... For play!!! Thus Chrome gets a lot of surf time!!!! I started trying and using it for banking and it mostly works. 2 years ago it was laughable. So it has come a long way. However a co-worker was so mad a few months ago trying to use Chrome with his Wells Fargo online banking..... You have a very skewed view of things. The pie will shift but as I have the 3 browsers on my desktop / laptop I use them for different purposes.
        tazmanrising
      • RE: Firefox 5: New, but improved?

        @tazmanrising

        I suspect that is more a problem with Wells Fargo, than a problem with Chrome (and I don't even like Chrome). Wells Fargo has long had a bit of a bad reputation for (lack of) standards support.
        bswiss
    • RE: Firefox 5: New, but improved?

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz, *~* Your Linux Advocate
      Most users have no idea what "Agile" is. So to the users (who are the ones making the decision to use Firefox) we could care less! This release looks and feels identical to 4.X. In fact, in normal browsing I don't see any speed difference at all. I don't care what benchmarks say, how it acts and feels in real world use is what counts.
      ctleng76
      • The speed difference in testing was measured as 30 milliseconds

        @ctleng76
        Substantially, no difference, but, technically FF came out on top for the first time as the fastest browser.
        Dietrich T. Schmitz, *~* Your Linux Advocate
    • RE: Firefox 5: New, but improved?

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz, *~* Your Linux Advocate

      Agreed. Exactly .... AGILE !!
      tazmanrising
    • RE: Firefox 5: New, but improved?

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz, *~* Your Linux Advocate
      I agree. SJVN, you fail to understand the underlying scores...and the SunSpider JS 0.9.1 scores show an alarming variance of up to 15-20% normally. I wouldn't endorse the results of that test even if you had only compared it to FF4.x

      Honestly I believe that above all else you didn't really think SJVN.

      I ran these benchmarks myself and I was stunned at how different my scores came out on FF5. :<

      I suppose you forgot to say "Your results may vary" and I know these benchmark sites don't forget it but I also think you're complaining over nothing. Sure it's annoying that they unpredictably bumped things up a major version number, breaking many addons that didn't address that possibility...and I'm sure most of those "disabled addons" still work, but the developer set them for no later than FF4.
      ZazieLavender
    • RE: Firefox 5: New, but improved?

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz, *~* Your Linux Advocate
      I loved FF for years from 2.x to 3.x even taking memory leaks while watching youtube videos which everyone assumed to be a problem with flash (was not since did not happen in Safari or Chrome!)

      Then I (sadly) "upgraded" to 4 and that's when I stopped using FF. #1 Not all users will be happy when 90% of their extensions will no longer work in FF. #2 The same problems with stability remained present and there was no real benefit for me to go 4.x

      Now I use almost exclusively chrome and when I have problems there, my backup is Safari... then if safari can't pull it off I would try Opera and only if Opera fails to I give FF a try.

      I hope FF will become once again as good as it was when it came out. For now I put it on the shelf because it made me run out of patience as I have no time to be spent in fixing browsers problems... I have plenty problems to solve on of my own so when it comes to surfing the web my browser has to work, period.
      freakqnc
      • RE: Firefox 5: New, but improved?

        @freakqnc

        Mozilla doesn't make the extensions -- 3rd-party devs do. If you're going to upgrade Firefox, but insist on all your add-ons carrying over, you're just going to have to give them a little time to catch up.

        The web won't come to a screeching halt, if you only up-grade your browser a few weeks after the latest version comes out.
        bswiss
    • RE: Firefox 5: New, but improved?

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz, *~* Your Linux Advocate <a href="http://cupu.web.id/pulauweb-web-hosting-murah-indonesia/">Pulauweb Web Hosting Murah Indonesia</a>
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      upinson
  • RE: Firefox 5: New, but improved?

    Working OK here so far
    MoeFugger
  • RE: Firefox 5: New, but improved?

    Stop the presses SJVN not praising an open source project!!!
    jatbains
    • Surprised too

      @jatbains I was surprised to read the title in the feed and find out it was SJVN. Scheduled major releases are one thing when there is enough new content to warrant the major revision. However, incrementing the major version based on an arbitrary timeline was truly not warranted here. It signals the slow death of the Mozilla foundation and firefox. Google will bleed off their support of Mozilla. This will only leave Chrome and IE standing as the major browser versions within a few years.
      Your Non Advocate
      • RE: Firefox 5: New, but improved?

        @facebook@...

        Eh, it's the new new thing. Everyone is doing it. HP Networking is doing it, either despite or because of their customers never upgrading the code on their switches. I haven't decided yet.
        tkejlboom
      • RE: Firefox 5: New, but improved?

        @facebook@...

        Eh, it's the new new thing. Everyone is doing it. HP Networking is doing it, either despite or because of their customers never upgrading the code on their switches. I haven't decided yet.
        tkejlboom