Mozilla starts dropping features from Firefox 4

Released Beta 5 last week, now pushing to lock in features for final

Mozilla, which launched the latest beta of Firefox 4 last week, has started to drop features from the still-under-construction browser.

Firefox 4 Beta 5 shipped Sept. 7, and included support for a new audio API (application programming interface) that allows developers to tap raw audio data from within the browser, as well as support for HTTP Strict Transport Security, a Web security protocol that lets site designers force Firefox to automatically use a secure connection.

The latter is meant to help stymie "man-in-the-middle" attacks, in which hackers essentially eavesdrop on users' Web traffic -- most often at public Wi-Fi hotspots -- in the hope of snatching clear-language transmission of passwords or credit card numbers.

Firefox 4 also switched on Windows hardware acceleration by default in Beta 5; Mozilla had included the technology in August's Beta 4, but had left it turned off, requiring users to edit the browser's "about:config" file if they wanted to try it out.

Firefox 4, like rival Microsoft 's Internet Explorer 9 (IE9), relies on Windows' Direct2D API to boost browser performance by shifting some chores from a computer's central processor to the graphics processor.

The hardware acceleration switched on in Beta 5 requires Windows Vista or Windows 7 ; the more popular Windows XP lacks the necessary graphics infrastructure, a fact that's prompted Microsoft to drop XP from IE9's supported operating systems.

Mozilla isn't going to that extreme. Although Firefox 4 won't boost content rendering in Windows XP, Mozilla does plan to increase the speed of "compositing" -- the process of assembling the various pieces of a site -- in the nine-year-old operating system by leveraging the Direct3D API in a future preview.

But as Mozilla's self-imposed deadline for building a feature-complete beta nears, the company has also started dumping features it once hoped to squeeze into the upgrade.

First to go was Account Manager, which Mozilla ditched late last month.

The beefed-up password manager was supposed to take full responsibility for site sign-ons, relieving users of the chore of remembering and then entering various usernames and passwords. An experimental add-on is still available, but only works with a limited number of sites, including Google , Facebook and Yahoo !

Mozilla has also dumped "Inspector," a tool aimed at Web designers and developers who want to drill down for more information on each element in an HTML page.

"Given the number of outstanding bugs and some widget-related problems, there was no telling how many additional bugs would be discovered during the run up to final release," explained Mozilla developer Rob Campbell last Friday about the decision to pull Inspector.

"Making that decision now allows us to focus on shoring up the Web Console..., [which] is the one that will most-likely affect Web site developers the most," Campbell added.

Another feature, silent updates , may also get the axe, according to progress notes posted on Mozilla's site last week. Silent updates would be Mozilla's answer to Chrome's behind-the-scenes patching practice, at least on Windows.

As late as August, the feature was "on track" for Firefox 4, but has been tagged as "at risk" by Mozilla for the past two weeks.

The departure of Account Manager and Inspector, and the possible loss of silent updates won't mean Firefox 4 is devoid of new features. Currently on track to make it into the final build are several notable adds, including a new user interface, the applauded "Panorama" tab manager , and the significantly faster JaegerMonkey JavaScript engine.

Mozilla now plans to freeze Firefox 4's features -- locking in what will be included, dropping what won't -- on Wednesday, Sept. 15 in preparation for delivering Beta 6 later this month.

A final version of Firefox 4 is to ship before the end of this year.

Firefox 4 Beta 5 can be downloaded for Windows, Mac and Linux from Mozilla's site in 35 different languages.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Microsoftbrowsersinternetsoftwareapplicationsmozilla

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?