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What Else Is New In Firefox 4?

Web Browser Grand Prix 4: Firefox 4 Goes Final
By

Firefox Sync

With Firefox 4, Mozilla now has the ability to sync data from different installations of Firefox on separate machines. This is similar to the sync feature in Google Chrome, Opera Link, and the popular multi-browser add-on XMarks. Let's compare the syncing services of the three Web browsers:


Chrome Sync
Firefox Sync
Opera Link
Platforms
Windows, Mac OS X, Linux
Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Android, iOS
Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Android, iOS
Features

Apps, Autofill, Bookmarks, Extensions, Passwords, Preferences, and Themes

Bookmarks, Passwords, Preferences, History, and Tabs

Bookmarks, Bookmarks Bar, Typed History, Speed Dial, Notes, Search Engines, and Content Blocker Rules

Security
Password
Password and Activation Code or Decryption Key
Password
Ease-Of-Use
Multiple Chrome Installations
Multiple Firefox Installations, and physical access to an already synced machine or decryption key file (per installation)
Multiple Opera Installations


For the number of supported platforms, it's a tie between Firefox Sync and Opera Link. The winning service in terms of features is also debatable. By looking at the chart, Chrome and Opera (you can download Opera 11.01 here) each tout seven features, and Firefox only lists five. But not really. Apps are unique to Chrome and ChromeOS, so that's not really an important staple to Web browsers. Also, themes are extensions in other browsers; they'd be the same thing elsewhere. That brings Chrome's comparable feature set down to five. Opera's Notes feature is unique to Opera, and can be accomplished with add-ons in any other browser. And since the bookmarks bar is affected by the actual bookmarks in the bookmarks bar folder in any other browser, listing them both is somewhat redundant. Typed history and the Speed Dial both factor in to the history, but put together only add up to a portion of a full browsing history. That takes Opera down to 3.5 comparable features. The five features of Firefox Sync are all valid and comparable to any Web browser. This means a split between Chrome Sync and Firefox Sync, where the deciding factor is based on the preference of extension sync (Chrome) versus tab sync (Firefox).

Perceived security is definitely stronger with Firefox Sync, which relies on a decryption file for activation. However that same security measure causes Firefox Sync to struggle with ease-of-use. Chrome and Opera both win in that department, requiring only a single installation per computer, along with a password. Besides additional installations and a password, Firefox Sync also requires the decryption file (or access to an already-synced installation) in order to get set up on each additional system.

Overall, Firefox Sync comes out on top. It has the multi-platform support of Opera, the competitive feature set of Chrome, and heavier security than them both. The only real downsides to Firefox Sync is the added hassle required to configure it, and the lack of sync for add-ons.

Under The Hood

Firefox 4 debuts the second version of the open source Gecko layout engine. This is the engine that powers Firefox, SeaMonkey, and Epiphany, just to name a few. Also making its first appearance is the new JaegerMonkey JavaScript engine. As previously stated, HTML5 and WebGL are both supported by Mozilla's latest browser.

Overall, Firefox 4 comes off more like a Web browsing platform than a traditional Web browser. The UI is sufficiently minimalist, without burying the most used browsing controls in hidden menus. Meanwhile, the new Firefox menu logically consolidates all the other functions into one place. The search bar is still present if you want it, but the address bar does double duty if you don't. Despite the change in direction, the toolbars are still fully customizable and the old-style UI is only a few check boxes away. Firefox is now cloud-friendly with the addition of Firefox Sync, and every facet of the tab organization scheme is phenomenal. But with so much focus on new features and drastic changes in design, how well does it perform? Let's find out.

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Top Comments
  • 14 Hide
    LuckyDucky7 , April 4, 2011 4:18 AM
    Adblock Plus, Adblock Plus, Adblock Plus.

    That pretty much sums it up. No amount of optimization will help you when it comes to loading web pages if you have a large amount of adframes and such to slow you down.

    So have your super-fast IE9: I bet the ads will appreciate loading quick too.
Other Comments
  • 5 Hide
    reprotected , April 4, 2011 4:13 AM
    Because people can't wait for half a second. I never had a single rendering problem with any of my browsers.
  • 14 Hide
    LuckyDucky7 , April 4, 2011 4:18 AM
    Adblock Plus, Adblock Plus, Adblock Plus.

    That pretty much sums it up. No amount of optimization will help you when it comes to loading web pages if you have a large amount of adframes and such to slow you down.

    So have your super-fast IE9: I bet the ads will appreciate loading quick too.
  • -4 Hide
    Anonymous , April 4, 2011 4:34 AM
    @ericburnby

    you must enjoy all those ads, in real world the difference in speed is negligible, but i sure has hell appreciate a rock stable browser, which is not what IE is, now saying that i have to say IE9 is definitely light years ahead of it's predecessor

    have used all 3 browser and found FF to be the most stable by far
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , April 4, 2011 4:43 AM
    @ StableBrowser,

    You must enjoy being an ignorant Fx fanboy. IE9 comes with adblocking features without needing any extensions.
  • 0 Hide
    nd22 , April 4, 2011 4:44 AM
    IE9 is indeed fast, but my question relates to Safari, a browser created specifically for Mac, not for Windows. On Mac Safari is incredible fast, why Tom’s did not tested Safari on the platform which it was designed for?
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , April 4, 2011 4:44 AM
    @luckyducky7

    "Adblock Plus, Adblock Plus, Adblock Plus.

    That pretty much sums it up. No amount of optimization will help you when it comes to loading web pages if you have a large amount of adframes and such to slow you down.

    So have your super-fast IE9: I bet the ads will appreciate loading quick too."

    Not if you use tracking protection.
  • 1 Hide
    adamovera , April 4, 2011 4:49 AM
    nd22IE9 is indeed fast, but my question relates to Safari, a browser created specifically for Mac, not for Windows. On Mac Safari is incredible fast, why Tom’s did not tested Safari on the platform which it was designed for?

    It is my hope that we'll be able to do that. Hopefully for the next major Safari release. If that's at the same time as Lion, then we might have to use the latest updated Snow Leopard for time reasons.
  • 1 Hide
    jsowoc , April 4, 2011 5:03 AM
    Re: Acid3
    This is why Firefox doesn't get 100:
    http://limi.net/articles/firefox-acid3/
  • 2 Hide
    stm1185 , April 4, 2011 5:07 AM
    I loaded up IE today because the Chase website gives me problems with Chrome, and I was surprised by how fast IE9 is now. Loading pages seemingly as fast or faster then chrome. I even thought of switching it to my primary browser, but the lack of Ad-block support killed it. It is a necessary feature and every browser should have it or something like it these days.
  • 2 Hide
    andy5174 , April 4, 2011 5:10 AM
    The latest Chrome is indeed pretty fast, but I just can't live without Tab Mix Plus which is only available to Firefox. Someone please write a similar add-on for Chrome!!!
  • -1 Hide
    dragonsqrrl , April 4, 2011 5:11 AM
    jsowocRe: Acid3This is why Firefox doesn't get 100:http://limi.net/articles/firefox-acid3/

    Good to know, thanks.
  • 0 Hide
    PreferLinux , April 4, 2011 5:45 AM
    You didn't mention "App Tabs" in Firefox!!!
  • 1 Hide
    lancelot123 , April 4, 2011 6:15 AM
    Are Firefox fanboys and others really too stupid to realize that IE9 (as well as other versions) have adblocking "addons" you can get? Too bad ie7pro will never work with IE9, I loved that addon.
  • 1 Hide
    epileptic , April 4, 2011 6:15 AM
    @stm1185 IE9 does support ad blocking. It's called tracking protection. You can write a tracking protection list that will block the ads you usually see or get a more thorough one from the web. Either way, that feature is there. I personally just converted my Opera list and rolled with it.

    @adamovera There's a mistake in your last chart. IE9 should be weak in HTML5 conformance and you're listing it as a winner.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , April 4, 2011 6:17 AM
    There's something terribly wrong in your test results regarding chrome.
    My 10.0.648.151 do much better, especially since I forced native OpenGL ES support rather than ANGLE.
    Psychedelic - 1709rpm (hd4670@cat11.2 &A64 X2 4400+ 2.3@2.8GHz)
    Aquarium - 58-60fps
    particles 58fps
    HWACCEL - 60+
    html5 vector 40+
    html5 bitmap 50+
    Please try to use
    --enable-webgl --ignore-gpu-blacklist --use-gl=desktop flags (and make sure you have canvas accel enabled by page about:flags too). Retake some of those test with that and see yourselves what it changes.
  • -2 Hide
    Tamz_msc , April 4, 2011 6:55 AM
    I've been a Firefox user since version 2, and Firefox is undoubtedly the best version yet.I use Firefox 4 because its fast, highly customizable, responsive, supports the latest web standards and technologies, has thousands of extensions and on my computer it(along with Opera) is the most stable browser, and as you yourself have stated:

    Quote:
    With that said, Firefox hasn't been a speed demon in a very long time. It's the rock-solid browser. During the 40-tab memory testing, we get see how reliably pages load. Firefox is the only Web browser that consistently loads every single element on every single page all at once, correctly. Each of the other browsers require at least one reload to fix a broken ad or or some other element. Also notice how few times Mozilla's browser is listed in the weak column. With version 4, Firefox is still the rock-solid browser. Which is what it needs to be with that kind of market share - the name of the game is stability over speed when you've got that many users.


    Here are my reasons why I don't use the other browsers:

    1. Chrome - Its true that its very fast, but speed isn't the only thing.It crashes on my computer when you have multiple pages open containing flash.It has the second best addon gallery(the Web store is also very nice), but many of its addons are poor copies of Firefox addons, and it has limited options for customizing.

    2. IE 9 - Its also very fast, but it also has crashed on me a few times and there are virtually no addons at present.

    3. Opera - Its a very good browser, but I find it a bit awkward to use.Its slowly catching up in terms of number of addons, but it cannot render some pages correctly.On my computer, it has problems with Tom's Hardware:

    https://ptjp4w.bay.livefilestore.com/y1pW7J0mRZlCb8T4BHygV4LS_TP-8Kjmljz2XOdMfJ-2tAI2uAQ3kcsFE_uHTv0UHcr1GJrBmuiuUSijne3vvdMF4Uv72_TbbdX/Capture.PNG?psid=1

    4. Safari - As a Windows user, I really don't care.
  • -2 Hide
    memadmax , April 4, 2011 6:56 AM
    FF4+NoScript addon and be happy...
  • -2 Hide
    aznshinobi , April 4, 2011 7:25 AM
    Why are all you guys hating on FF? Like Tamz, I've used FF for a long time, w/o any addons and it works beautifully. I though FF4 was a huge improvement over 3, though 3 was pretty solid. I have yet to use IE9, but I was never a fan of the IE browsers to be honest. I always felt... Like it lacked something. But FF4 has kept me on the FF train and I think I'll stay with it until otherwise.
  • -1 Hide
    yyk71200 , April 4, 2011 7:39 AM
    For the most part, speed differences are negligible. FF is a very well rounded browser. It is responsive and has lots of extensions: ad block, no script, this: http://www.downloadhelper.net/ , etc.
  • -1 Hide
    rainwilds , April 4, 2011 8:06 AM


    Exactly! There is just no comparison to the lovely FireFox addons. This test may test 'millisecond' speeds but misses the all important functionality features.
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