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Firefox Friday Five

It's Friday AGAIN! Amazing how, like clockwork, Friday continues to occur every seven days. Incidentally, while on the topic of the day/night cycle, what part of the Earth is shown in the Firefox logo to the right? I presume that little lump is meant to be the United Kingdom, but the rest... I don't know!

News from Mozilla and Firefox has actually been pretty slow this week, probably because they're all in crunch mode and working around the clock to get Firefox 3.6 out of the door. Even so, I've done my best to collate the most interesting Firefox news from the past week!

1. Mozilla Prism nears V1.0 public release
If you're like me, you've probably not heard of Mozilla Prism before now. But it's neat -- maybe even very neat. It's just like Fluid, but this is for Windows and Mac, and supported by the full communist force of Mozilla and Firefox!

As Lee mentioned in his article on Prism, web browsers are still complex pieces of software. With Chrome there has been a push towards making things easier to use, but surfing the 'Net is still tricky and dangerous compared to standalone desktop applications. With Prism you can create desktop shortcuts for web apps and sites like Gmail and circumvent the browser entirely. Let's not forget how much malware could be avoided by staying away from 'live' web browsers...

2. Firefox 3.7 dropped in favor of smaller, incremental updates
The big news of the week! I think we all knew that Firefox was beginning to suffer a little from 'feature creep', where major releases are pushed back by the steady and gradual inclusion of new functionality. The removal of 3.7 is intended to speed up smaller, feature-rich releases.

We can now expect to see 3.6 soon, followed by 'Lorentz' and other smaller, 'behind the scenes' updates throughout the year. Firefox 4.0 is still slated to arrive before the end of 2010.

After 3.6 arrives (with Personas!!), the first patch will feature...

Dubbed 'content processes' and codenamed 'Electrolysis' by Mozilla, this is the big change scheduled for release in March as a minor patch to Firefox 3.6.

Its primary purpose is to provide faster UI responsiveness and better stability from slow rendering or crashes caused by content and add-ons. Later we may also see 'protected mode' processes that could add another layer of security. By virtue of each tab and add-on having its own process there is apparently a significant performance boost for multi-core processors -- I've never thought about it before, but it would begin to explain why Chrome feels a lot snappier than Firefox when I have 15 tabs open.

4. Lots of pretty Firefox artwork to celebrate its fifth anniversary
That Firefox is now five years old is stale news, I know -- but the celebratory poster competition that Mozilla held isn't! Just like the Firefox for Mobile competition, it took the form of a 'challenge'. Lots of people entered some beautiful artwork, votes were cast and the winner decided!

The Firefox community, being the creative geniuses that they are, produced a lot of pretty artwork for the competition though. Head over to the gallery of competition entrants -- there's 18 pages, each with 12 entries on! If nothing else, I'm sure you find a suitably pretty desktop wallpaper.

5. Mozilla bigwig Asa Dotzler speaks out about the future of Firefox add-on development (and JetPack)
We didn't cover this here on Download Squad, but we should have. Basically, add-ons for Firefox are great, but very high-maintenance. It wouldn't be such a problem if Firefox releases were slow like Internet Explorer, but due to its open-source status and the sprawling developer base, it's hard for add-on developers to keep up.

Dotzler doesn't comment himself, but by quoting two Firefox developers, it's clear that the future of Firefox extensibility needs a better system -- like JetPack! Mozilla don't intend to withdraw support for the existing system (AMO or 'Addons.Mozilla.Org'), but they are now putting an equal amount of effort into JetPack. I would expect to see it ready in time for Firefox 4.0 at the end of the year, or even as one of these new 'minor patches' to Firefox 3.6.

Tags: add-on, artwork, competition, content processes, ContentProcesses, electrolysis, firefox, jetpack, mozilla, prism, roundup