Firefox Friday: net neutrality and free speech edition
Next up we have the UK's rushed-through-dying-parliament Digital Economy Bill. I know Americans find it hard to get worked up by things happening outside their border, but please, just think about it: the Internet is only as free as its most restrictive point. Consider the Internet from a Chinese or North Korean point of view -- do you think they see the Internet in the same light as Americans or Europeans?
The United Kingdom's passing of the Digital Economy Bill, along with the gradual tightening of copyright and censorship laws throughout the EU to satisfy European Directives, is the beginning of the end for the English-language Internet. In a few weeks, months or years, the British -- or Comcast's customers -- might simply disappear from the Internet.
All it takes is the decision of an ill-informed, lobbied or whipped judge or lawmaker to sign on the dotted line. I urge you, wherever you live, that next time such a court case or bill comes up for review, please write to your local representative. In most cases, the representatives simply don't know enough about the Internet to make an informed decision -- you can change that!
With that out of the way, let's get stuck into some Firefox-specific news!
If you haven't been following the 'meta' development of Firefox add-ons, take a look at Jetpack. While, outwardly, things have been very quiet at Mozilla, there are some very cool projects like Jetpack going on behind the scenes. Jetpack is Firefox's next extension paltform -- and the Single UI Element is simply the latest development. Rather than having to hunt-and-peck for add-on configuration, developers are given the option of putting a single button in the extension bar (as you see above). You'd be forgiven for thinking it looks like Chrome.
In other Jetpack news, there's a neat article on Mozilla Labs comparing Jetpack Page Mods to (Greasemonkey) User Scripts. It looks like Jetpack will be able to execute both, and they'll each have different primary uses. There's definitely been a lot of movement away from on-every-page-load extensions towards on-demand user scripts, and Jetpack definitely looks set to cover the whole gamut of necessary functionality.
This is all developer stuff tho' -- so let me move onto something for the end-user!
It's definitely not flawless -- and it's labelled 'experimental' for a reason! -- but PixelZoomer is a fantastic, time-saving tool for all web-designers. Ultimately, it takes a screenshot of the site you're currently on, and lets you zoom in. Once zoomed in, you check the Hex colour of a given pixel, or work out the pixel width of a given element.
Basically, it saves you having to copy/paste a screenshot into Photoshop before performing your analysis -- hooray!
Despite only turning their focus towards stability at the tail-end of 2009, Mozilla has already squeezed out a 40% improvement in Firefox's stability. Improvements have been made in three active branches -- 3, 3.5 and 3.6 -- but the changes are most pronounced with the newest release.
As to why Firefox itself is 'more crashy' than other browsers, Firefox product lead Mike Beltzner comments: "A funny thing happened between Firefox 3 and Firefox3.5. We climbed over 20% market share, and all of a sudden a bunch of 3rd party software started building on top of Firefox. They were calling deep within our APIs, and when we changed the code in Firefox 3.5, that resulted in crashes. We had taken our eyes off the statistics, and didn't see this happening early enough."
The 40% reduction came from the Firefox team taking a long, hard look at where in the codebase 3rd party apps were causing crashes... and fixing them! Voila. There are bonus points if you can work out what caused the huge spikes, though.
Has the community at large noticed the huge reduction in Firefox crashes? Let us know in the comments -- and I wonder if anyone's produced similar 'crash graphs' for other browsers. Maybe Firefox doesn't deserve its moniker of the least stable browser...!