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What Else Is New In Firefox 4?

Web Browser Grand Prix 4: Firefox 4 Goes Final
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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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  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 4 April 2011 19:04
    I think the conclusion table is wrong in the HTML 5 compliance results. You list Chrome as weak but in the test you say it scored highest. Unless I misunderstand something.
  • 0 Hide
    Silmarunya , 4 April 2011 21:52
    DadiggleThere's 1 test missing security


    Security, UI and features are things that matter enormously, but you can't just run a benchmark and get a fancy graph to measure them. This is a speed test, not a subjective look and feel review.

    On topic: no surprises here. We all knew FF wouldn't really suprise when it comes to performance.
  • 0 Hide
    mi1ez , 5 April 2011 00:46
    Quote:
    around the time OS X 1.7 "Lion" launches.


    1.7? Are you sure? 10.7 perhaps...

    I've actually just gone back to FF from Opera (after just 3 weeks). I'll stick with Opera at work where our quirky proxy server dictates what browser is quickest more than anything. I've missed Firefox, and Have disabled a load of extensions and regained a fair bit of speed.
  • 0 Hide
    forum1234 , 6 April 2011 22:48
    I did some math based on the total scores. If you award 5pts. for 1st. place, 4pts. for 2nd. place etc., Chrome comes out on top and IE 2nd. Imo it's a better ranking sytem
    1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
    Chrome
    5 4 3 2 1
    12 7 6 3 7
    60 28 18 6 7 119
    Firefox
    5 4 3 2 1
    5 10 9 6 5
    25 40 27 12 5 109
    Internet Explorer
    5 4 3 2 1
    13 6 4 6 4
    65 24 12 12 4 117
    Opera
    5 4 3 2 1
    8 3 12 5 5
    40 12 36 10 5 103
    Safari
    5 4 3 2 1
    4 9 1 11 8
    20 36 3 22 8 89
  • 0 Hide
    acer0169 , 7 April 2011 18:01
    I still use IE. I have no issues and it's never crashed, only thing it lacks is a few nice plugins and chrome shows more animation on google and youtube etc.
  • 0 Hide
    mi1ez , 7 April 2011 21:52
    Quote:
    I did some math based on the total scores. If you award 5pts. for 1st. place, 4pts. for 2nd. place etc., Chrome comes out on top and IE 2nd. Imo it's a better ranking sytem
    1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
    Chrome
    5 4 3 2 1
    12 7 6 3 7
    60 28 18 6 7 119
    Firefox
    5 4 3 2 1
    5 10 9 6 5
    25 40 27 12 5 109
    Internet Explorer
    5 4 3 2 1
    13 6 4 6 4
    65 24 12 12 4 117
    Opera
    5 4 3 2 1
    8 3 12 5 5
    40 12 36 10 5 103
    Safari
    5 4 3 2 1
    4 9 1 11 8
    20 36 3 22 8 89


    Yeah, but no sport would ever award points like that! (except nascar it would appear...)

    The margin is normal higher closer to the front.

    F1:
    1st : 25 points
    2nd : 18 points
    3rd : 15 points
    4th : 12 points
    5th : 10 points
    6th : 8 points
    7th : 6 points
    8th : 4 points
    9th : 2 points
    10th : 1 point

    BTCC:
    1st = 15 pts
    2nd = 12 pts
    3rd = 10 pts
    4th = 8 pts
    5th = 6 pts
    6th = 5 pts
    7th = 4 pts
    8th = 3 pts
    9th = 2 pts
    10th = 1 pt

    Indycar:
    1st 50
    2nd 40
    3rd 35
    4th 32
    5th 30
    6th 28
    7th 26
    8th 24
    9th 22
    10th 20

    DTM:
    10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1
  • 0 Hide
    wasabi-warrior , 11 April 2011 07:22
    can i just say it appears to be a complete turnaround for IE versions in the past, which used to be pathetic. It looks like Microsoft lifted their game.

    Just out of curiosity, i wonder what firefox 4 performs like after FasterFox is used. . .
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 12 April 2011 03:07
    For me, ie9 keeps crashing a lot...
    any ideas why? W7SP1...
    really love its load speed though..

    [Avid FF fan!]
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