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Firefox 4 Beta 1 Released (mozilla.com)
83 points by ssclafani on July 6, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 54 comments

The big deal with Firefox 4 is support for Jetpack:


Like with Chrome, and more recently Safari, we can now write Firefox extensions using HTML/CSS/Javascript.

My obligatory http://xkcd.com/386/

Jetpack has been around since May 20, 2009 https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/12025/version...

What's new in Firefox 4 is that it is integrated instead of being an extension.

That's what I meant by "support" for Jetpack. We as developers can comfortably build extensions for it, knowing that it'll have a broad user base.

I didn't say "introduction" of Jetpack.

Yeah, Jetpack is so much better than Greasemonkey. Firefox 4 beta is whole lot better and feels faster too.

So Jetpack obsoletes GreaseMonkey?

Yes, though GreaseMonkey will always be available to those who choose to (know to) install it.

It's Greasemonkey, not GreaseMonkey.

Greasemonkey is a third-party extension. It wasn't created and isn't maintained by Mozilla, so it can't be officially obsoleted by Jetpack.

That said, if Jetpack supported transparently installing Greasemonkey scripts (the way Chrome does -- http://mashable.com/2010/02/01/google-chrome-greasemonkey-2/), it would effectively obsolete Greasemonkey because there'd be no need to install it.

Until then, there are 40k user scripts on userscripts.org that still need Greasemonkey installed in order to work: http://userscripts.org/.

Users decide whether something is obsolete, not creators. "Obsolete" refers to something that is antiquated, even if it is still in good working order. From Wikipedia: "Technical obsolescence may occur when a new product or technology supersedes the old, and it becomes preferred to utilize the new technology in place of the old."

As far as I know, Greasemonkey essentially runs user-selected javascript on a page automatically. The impression I get is that Jetpack does the same thing. Therefore, there will be no need for a third-party extension to achieve this functionality. Therefore, Greasemonkey will be "unnecessary," rendering it obsolete, regardless of any special edge cases. (Even 40K user scripts can be considered special edge cases - the set of actual implementation is much smaller than the set of possible javascript implementations.)

"Obsolete" may be an overloaded term, but this is the plain English usage, and it's the usage I'm using.

EDIT: I misunderstood that Jetpack was originally an extension and not just a codename for a new feature.

Fair enough. I misinterpreted your question to be "So, Mozilla says that this replaces Greasemonkey?", and wanted to clarify the situation (and also snark about the capitalization, a long-time peeve that I should really let go, but never quite can).

I really dislike the orange thing at the top with the menu being gone - if at least you could somehow access the said menu by the orange tab, it would make sense. Right now, I predict a lot of confused users.

Oh you want to change X? Click show menu bar on the orange thing! Notice the menu? Notice that your orange bar disappeared? Wonder how to get it back? It's in view, uncheck menu bar!

So NOT intuitive.

Also, their feedback thing was down when I tried to report this :(

The single feature that forever ties me to Chrome is tabs on top.

On top of the address bar isn't the point. It's a nice touch that emphasizes the metaphor for "real" tabs, like on a paper folder, but it doesn't have the huge usability bonus of Chrome's implementation.

The important thing is that in Chrome, the tabs are on the very top pixel of the screen (in Windows or a Linux UI with no top bar). Since I browse with a hand on the mouse, this means that I can switch between tabs by chucking the pointer at the top of the screen and scrubbing left and right, instead of having to pay attention to vertical alignment.


It's not implemented in beta 1, but Firefox 4 will also have tabs extend to the top of the screen when maximized. See http://bugzil.la/572480 by Alex Faaborg (Principal Designer on the Firefox UX team) for details.

OTOH, now with larger and larger monitors, how many people really browse full-screen? If you aren't full-screen, Fitts law doesn't help.

I never browsed full-screen because it's too "wide" but with Windows 7's new "snap" feature (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/products/feature...), I can now have 2 browsers comfortably side by side. Helpful tip - it won't "snap" to the inside edge of a multi-monitor setup using the mouse, but Win+<arrow key> works (that's the keyboard shortcut for "snap").

I realize that this feature has been in tiling window managers for quite some time, it's just nice to have it in Windows now.

I agree, and was elated to see them in Safari 4 betas. Unfortunately everyone hated them. I've searched for a way to put them back on top, but I have not found anything.

IMHO, there's a little too much "free space" on the top of Chrome's tabs, and Safari got it just right.

Frankly, I prefer them on the side: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/5890/

Either my eyes are playing tricks on me, or this thing is now faster at rendering HTML than chrome.

Any chance you can provide some measurements or link relevant data in an article, perhaps?

One thing I noticed: it now starts a separate app for running flash: http://grab.by/5iXg

I guess they are going to hide it before FF4 comes out of beta. You can force quit the bottom firefox and the misbehaving flash object will die: http://grab.by/5iXj

View > Toolbars to enable Tabs on Top on the Mac. Unfortunately, the current implementation looks terrible, as they're the same "underside" tabs as before, only now they're between the window controls and the toolbar. (They note that you should wait in Known Issues, so this should get better.)

They also need to adopt something like Safari's URL-field-as-progress-indicator, or at least an animating graphic to indicate loading. Simply switching the refresh button to an 'X' is way too subtle, and at first I didn't think it was actually loading anything.

Edit: Oh, that's weird. I fired it up again and saw the stopwatch graphic and other loading indicators. Now I'm wondering if these didn't work the first time around, or if I just wasn't paying attention to them given that I'm habituated to Safari's indicators.

I'm sure they will fix the tab style issues in OS X before release:

"OSX and Linux Themes: The new interface described above will soon be available for Mac and Linux users."

from http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/beta/features/

At the bottom of: http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/beta/features/ note, "The new interface described above will soon be available for Mac and Linux users."

Noticeably faster that 3.6.6, except none of my extensions work.

FF4b1 disabled: 1 Password, Delicious Bookmarks, Firebug, Greasemonkey, Google Toolbar, Stylish, YSlow and others...

Maybe it's just faster because none of your extensions are running? The ones you listed sound like they probably use lots of CPU time and memory, and if they are disabled I'm sure FF runs much faster / lighter.

I can't comment on how much the extensions might have affected things, but startup time was significantly improved: https://wiki.mozilla.org/Firefox/Sprints/Startup_Time_Improv...

Same reason.

You can set `extensions.checkCompatibility.4.0b` to false in `about:config`.

I agree definitly alot faster, but it's a shame almost no plugins work except for extensions/addons/plugins found at http://mozillalabs.com/

But just give it a little time, firefox 4 is definitly worth the wait.

Extensions normally don't work with new versions mostly because of the em:maxVersion requirement in the install.rdf file all extensions use for their metadata. You can probably unzip your favorite extension, modify the file, zip it back up and it might work just fine.

Looks more "Windows 7"-like on here, in that there's more of that smudgy glass effect. Looks prettier when active I think, although when not the glass becomes more transparent and since there's so much of it, toolbars from applications underneath it seem to show through a lot, which creates a lot of visual noise. That's not entirely Firefox's fault, and it looks okay when it has focus, so it could be worse.

Seems faster to start, although it's disabled every addon I had before, so hardly a fair test.

In general it seems to be more like Chrome. Which I think is probably a good thing - if Chrome has demonstrated a better way to do things, I don't have a problem with Firefox following their lead.

Still annoyed that I can't drag an image from Firefox to Photoshop via the OSX dock, despite the fact that it's been a known bug for ages.

Otherwise, it does feel faster, though I find it funny that Firebug currently doesn't work even though it's prominently listed as one of their main developer tools.

They worked really hard on making the add-on interface more intuitive and cleaner, but really the thing everyone wants is better memory management.

Beta is incredibly faster for me. Roughly takes around 1 sec to fire up, Chrome still "feels" faster & much more nimble.

It really feels like Mozilla is playing catch up now, trying to take things back to basics & fix some core issues (like startup times, plugins slowing things down, JS performance & so on).

Kudos to Google for giving the browser that once we all used something to aspire to.


Sometimes the min/max/close buttons do not appear. Making me have to go to the "firefox" button and hit exit.

Why does the "firefox" button take up all that space? If they are going to copy Opera and add the "firefox" button, then copy Opera and make it look good. (talking about maximized window)

Moving the tabs is still really bad. Chrome and Opera both have really smooth transitions and opera even adds nice preview windows.

On the flip side

It feels much more responsive. I don't care about the actual numbers just the feel.

The new addon manager that they copied from chrome looks much better, then the previous and even chromes.

The loading circle on the tabs is really nice touch. Its nice being able to see how far along a tab is in its loading phase. This is a feature I see all browsers copying very soon.

Lots of cool stuff to come in the next beta as well:

Electrolysis (even more process seperation) merged with trunk recently: https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=571166

Hardware accelerated graphics should be turned on by default soon as well.

And of course, the continued iteration of the new theme, many platform featured to be added...

I want to know if Taskfox makes the final cut: http://geektechnica.com/2010/06/5-exciting-changes-coming-to...

I'm more concerned about memory leaks.

It is almost solved with the memory fox plugin, but I still need to restart Firefox 3.x every month instead of every week.

I hope that Firefox 4.x will address this problem.

Is it faster and/or less of a memory hog?

Two years ago I really would have love this firefox and I'd have talk to everyone about it. However, now that I'm used to chrome, it kind of look "big" and "sad". Maybe it's the brown/gray color at the top and the fact that when I type g it doesn't automatically complete for gmail.com or n for news.ycomb... and that tab aren't as movable as chrome.

The autocomplete learns based on your past browsing habits. Give it some time and it’ll get there.

I know but this isn't exactly the same. On firefox, it suggests idea with a dropdown.. on chrome, it autocompletes them. Also, if it's not found, it automatically search on google.. and by pressing [tab], you can search directly from a known site. That's 3 features I really use.

To get autocomplete in Firefox, go to about:config, search for "autofill" and set browser.urlbar.autofill to "true".

not to mention how bad bookmarks are on FF (and Opera) compared to Chrome.

Really nice summary of the features in the beta, and coming soon to Firefox 4: http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/beta/technology/

When I look through the new features spotlighted (http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/beta/features/), it seems to me that the vast majority are already in Chrome, some copied directly from it (tabs on top).

I'm genuinely curious why that is. Options I can think of are a) they are spotlighting features that take away a perceived edge that Chrome has, b) they really are playing feature-catch-up and letting other browsers determine the roadmap, or c) some features (the web console?) are far more ambitious than I've given them credit for.

Can anyone shed some light on what is really going on here?

Are you trolling?

The three highlighted features are 'new addons manager,' webm support, and fixing the :visited privacy issue. NONE of these are in any released Chrome, although the early early preview of Chrome 6 has WebM support.

Of the three UI elements highlighted, tabs on top is the only one in Chrome (or did I miss the Chrome button in some developer preview?).

From my view, the highest highlighted feature was the tabs, followed by the 3 you mention. I counted WebM as Chrome, given that it is Google's codec, but I'm not sure its in Chrome 5 either :(.

Looking further down, I was thinking that WebSockets, Indexed DB, Crash Protection, and the key feature of JetPack (Add-Ons not requiring restart) were all pioneered by Chrome. That leaves The Web Console, which I have not yet tried so can't really comment on either way, and the two givens (HTML5 and CSS3). To my eyes this seemed odd. But I take it you disagree?

Ok, if you want to know all the features, I think the best way is to read this: http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/beta/technology, and then try it out to get a feel for all the UI changes.

According to wikipedia, Chrome 5 does not support WebM: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chrome_%28browser%29

WebSockets: Yay, you're finally right, Chrome did pioneer WebSockets. Sadly, it did not update its implementation to reflect the changes to the standard based on feedback from the numerous other browser vendors that actually implemented it but chose not to release it because of it volatility.

IndexedDB: Google was actually pushing for Web SQL Database, which got rejected. Learn more here: http://hacks.mozilla.org/2010/06/beyond-html5-database-apis-...

Crash Protection: IE8 was the first browser with this feature.

Jetpack: Ok, this one is important right? So for bonus points, let's look at the first jetpack release: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/12025/version... (scroll the to bottom: May 20, 2009)

Now for Google's launch of their great extensions platform: http://techcrunch.com/2009/12/08/chrome-extensions-live/ (December 08, 2009). Darn, guess Google stole that one from Mozilla's playbook (and yet, still no powerful extensions :().

WebConsole: Everyone and their mom has been using Firebug since the dawn of time. Chrome wasn't even an inkling in Google's eye then.

HTML5: Firefox 4 is STILL the only browser to support HTML 5 parsing. Previous versions of course supported other features such as video and audio, but since you didn't go into details here, I'll leave it at that.

CSS3: No details again? Ok, well rounded corners has been in Firefox so long I can't even remember (1.5 or 2?). Lots of these features were around before Chrome existed. But no more for this since you only mentioned it in passing.

Call me a fool for taking the bait (http://xkcd.com/386/), but with all due respect please stop trolling, and learn about what you're talking about before you speak.

You are comparing the first mass-market release of Chrome extensions with the first alpha release of Jetpack, which isn't fair. A better comparison would be the first dev channel release of Chrome with support for extensions. That was May 14 2009:


... which is slightly before the first Jetpack alpha which was May 20 2009.

In any case, the issues that both extension systems try to address have been well-known for some time. It isn't surprising that multiple people came up with similar ideas on how to fix them.

ninja edit: Got timelines mixed up first time 'round

Interesting catch. Reminds me of Mercurial and Git births (in that they both were independently created around the same time to solve the same problem).

I'm sorry you think I was trolling, as I really was asking an honest question, and I appreciate your responses.

  > ... and learn about what you're talking about before you speak.
I have an interest in browsers and browser technology, but I don't develop any of them, no. That doesn't mean I am not allowed to discuss them, however.

  > Ok, if you want to know all the features ...
Please don't mistake me here. I am not at all trying to slight or belittle Firefox 4. As I dig into it, I think it has a great feature set, and I'm excited to see it come out. My question was specifically about the features chosen for the spotlight page.

Now, back to the discussion.

WebM: You are correct, Chrome 5 does not support WebM, although it is in the dev version of Chrome 6. I do think, however, that the perception of the feature is it was Google's first, considering its their codec.

WebSockets: Please don't try to pretend Chrome is ignoring the standards changes. The new version is in Chrome 6 for you to try, if you're interested. My point is that this is a feature they drove to market, and got everyone else to support, hence my perception of it.

IndexedDB: Again, the specific technology is beside the point. Google has been pushing for offline storage since Gears, and now everyone else is implementing it (albeit a slightly different backend). You see where I'm going with this.

Crash Protection: I stand corrected. I always think of Chrome being the browser pushing the segregated processes, better plugin separation, etc, but it appears IE8 was first. Still, Firefox is definitely not leading the market on this one.

JetPack: as per aboodman, I will call this a wash.

WebConsole: It is a bit specious to give Firefox credit for a 3rd party extension (FireBug), but regardless, this feature doesn't support my point, and I never pretended it did.

HTML5/CSS3: Every browser coming out has been touting these two technologies for ages, most of the time without a clear consensus on what they even entailed. At this point you couldn't not put them on a feature list. So I don't particularly consider it valuable or surprising to see them.

What IS your point then? Making arguments about who did what first sounds like the basics of a middle school browser holy war argument. Ask a coherent question, and I'll give you a straight answer.

Same question I've been asking all along. Why did Mozilla choose to spotlight these specific features? I assume there is a strategic answer, but I don't know what it is.

In that case, you're better off either talking to people who work there, or filtering through their meeting notes. Mozilla is a very open company, so you shouldn't encounter too much resistance. Although in all honesty, it was probably just a marketing person who chose what to highlight. Good luck with your endeavors!

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