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Firefox 3.6 and me

Yesterday, the Mozilla Corporation has been released the brand new Firefox 3.6 which is the successor of Firefox 3.5 and has a couple of interesting new features and speed enhancements aboard. Let’s have a quick look at the release notes and checkout what makes it a shiny and brilliant new version:

  • With the Lightweight Themes support users will be able to skin their browser chrome without having to install Personas. Browse through the list of the most popular Personas and hover the different themes to see a preview directly pinned onto your browser. A click on “Wear It” will finally choose the skin.
  • The new outdated plug-in protection checks the installed plug-ins on your system and will warn you when a newer and safer version is available.
  • Enjoy full-screen playback for HTML5 video elements.
  • Improved start-up times, better responsiveness and faster Javascript execution which were a main focus for 3.6.
  • Support for new CSS attributes like gradients, background sizing, and pointer events.
  • Support for new DOM and HTML5 specifications including the Drag & Drop API and the File API.
  • Firefox 3.6 blocks unknown and vulnerable libraries to lower the risk of crashes. In the past a couple of 3rd party tools have been circumvent the official way in installing add-ons which lead to a significant number of crashes after an upgrade of Firefox.
  • Full list of features.

With a release cycle of only 7 months Mozilla has been shown that it’s possible to release a new major version of the Firefox browser in such a short interval. And that’s absolutely necessary when comparing Firefox with products of other browser vendors. Bringing the newest technology as fast as possible to our users will full-fill their needs and finally help the continuously increment of market share.

But all that work wouldn’t have been possible without the help of the overwhelming community around Firefox. Thousands of contributors spent hours of their spare time in developing, localizing and testing Firefox. We can always repeat: Thank you soo much!!

For myself it was the second Firefox release I have worked on as an employee of the Mozilla Corporation and each week has been shown that it is a pleasure to work with all those amazing people around the world. I’m feeling great to be able to spend all my time fully devoted to Firefox. It was a great experience and a path of learning new technology, improving social interactions, and making the web better.

Given Firefox 3.6 I was able to work on projects like:

  • DLL blocklisting / Components folder lockdown: 3rd party applications which install their own modules inside the components folder of Firefox or LSP’s (Layered Service Provider) which get bind to the Firefox process can crash Firefox. With DLL blocklisting those crashing or malicious modules will be blacklisted and not loaded anymore. On the other hand only known XPCOM modules will be loaded thanks to the components folder lockdown feature. Both features have been tested with various top100 3rd party applications.
  • Tab Network Prioritization: Restoring a Firefox session with a dozen of open tabs in one or multiple windows slows down the restoration process more or less. Until now there was no specification in which order those tabs get loaded. Means tabs outside of the visible tabbar or in underlying windows were restored in parallel. As result you had to wait longer until the currently selected tab has been finished loading. From now on the current tab has the highest priority, followed by visible tabs in the same window and tabs in underlying windows. As tests have been shown this feature works very well in Firefox 3.6. More improvements will come with the next version.
  • Crashkill: To lower the number of crashes for Firefox the Crashkill project has been initiated a while back. In the last quarter I was able to work on a couple of those bugs. Thanks goes to Chris Hofmann who showed me a couple of nifty tricks and tools regarding crash analysis.
  • Mozmill: As the lead of the Mozmill test automation process I had to put focus on Firefox 3.6. So all manual tests from the Smoketest and BFT testgroup, which have been already automated, can be used to run automated functional tests against Firefox 3.6. The same applies to the automated software update tests which make sure that update paths are working as expected. As seen for the previous 3.6 beta and 3.5.x security releases all those tests are very helpful and give time for QA to focus testing on more important areas.

Finally I can say that I’m feeling great with Firefox 3.6 as my daily companion but also looking forward to any upcoming work which has to be done for the next major version of Firefox…

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