Mozilla Unleashes Firefox 6

New browser release boosts performance for users and expands under-the-hood features for developers. 

At Mozilla the trains run on time. The open source group is out with its second rapid release browser today, providing users with improved functionality and performance.

Firefox 6, which is being officially released by Mozilla today, follows Firefox 5, which debuted in July. Both Firefox 5 and 6 are part of Mozilla's new rapid release cycle, which aims to deliver more browser updates with incremental features. Previously Mozilla had released major browser update on a less predictable cycle with long with development cycles of a year or longer in between releases.

While the new rapid release cycle does not present the same volume of new features as the longer release cycles, Mozilla is confident that the process is working.

"We’re refining our own process constantly and are seeing dividends with smooth transitions as a release moves from Aurora to Beta to release," a Mozilla spokesperson told InternetNews.com

The Aurora channel is Mozilla's development release for Mozilla and is followed by the beta and then finally the release. Work is often done in parallel on Aurora and Beta channels as part of the rapid release cycle methodology.

One of the key improvements in Firefox 6, which will further be expanded upon in Firefox 7 and 8, is performance improvements.

"With Firefox for Windows, Mac and Linux, Panorama users will enjoy faster start-up times because tab groups are only loaded when selected," Mozilla's spokesperson said.

Panorama is a feature that debuted in Firefox 4, enabling users to group tabs. The Panorama feature began its life as a Mozilla Labs project known as Tab Candy.

Firefox 6 is also being released for Android users. The new Android release offers faster zooming, crisp text and reduced pixelation due to enhanced image rendering.

"There are even more improvements coming in Firefox Beta and Firefox Aurora," Mozilla's spokesperson said.

For developers, Mozilla is including a new tool called Scratchpad that is intended to make it simple to quickly enter, execute, test and refine JavaScript snippets in Firefox without needing to work in a one-line console.

"Scratchpad is a simple tool, and we want it to stay that way," Mozilla's spokesperson said. "We’re planning a handful of improvements to Scratchpad that will show up in Firefox over the coming months, but the simple text editor that runs JavaScript core will remain."

Firefox 6 will also support the Event/Source specification that is an emerging standard at the W3C.

"This specification defines an API for opening an HTTP connection for receiving push notifications from a server in the form of DOM events," the W3C specification draft states. "The API is designed such that it can be extended to work with other push notification schemes such as Push SMS."

Mozilla isn't the first browser to implement Event/Source. Both Chrome and Opera already support the draft specification.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

Tags: browsers, Mozilla Firefox, open source apps

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