Firefox Friday: Firefox 5, HTML5 games, WebM DRM, and beta updates
Mozilla has been incredibly silent since November, with the only real news being the adoption of two adorable red pandas (firefoxes) at Knoxville Zoo, Tennessee. The entire engineering team has been in crunch mode, churning through as many bugs as possible to get Firefox 4 into shape for late-February or early-March release, and thus, except for beta releases, not a whole lot has happened. Beta 11, incidentally, should be here in the next few days and beta 12 will be a week after that. Then, ladies and gentlemen, a week after that, we may have a release candidate on our hands.
Things have been a little more exciting at Mozilla Labs, however. It continues to churn out excellent (restartless!) add-ons like Home Dash and Instant Preview that will no doubt end up as built-in features of Firefox 5.
Yes, Firefox 5.
A sly little rumor sneaked out last week: instead of the usual, steady stream of dot releases (4.1, 4.2, 4.3.), Firefox will be moving to a much faster major release cycle (4, 5, 6) -- just like Chrome. We could be playing with Firefox 5 as soon as May.
But what are the implications? Rapid iteration certainly has it perks, especially in a sector like the Web where everything moves so damn fast. As we've seen with Chrome, the addition of new features does seem to come a lot faster -- but at the same time, while Firefox is adding Panorama and a completely re-jigged UI, Chrome hasn't had a significant UI change since its inception. You can only maintain breakneck speed for so long!
For a browser that has had an annual release cycle for the last five years, a 3- or 4-month release cycle would definitely shake things up. I just hope this is a move to make the lumbering dinosaur more agile, and not merely an attempt to play catch-up with Chrome.
The celebration of HTML5 Open Web technologies known as Game On 2010 finally drew to a close this week. The overall winner was Marble Run, which is exactly what it sounds like. Personally, I'm not a huge fan, but technically it's very well executed -- and of course, if you're a developer, you can view the source! The lucky winner will receive a trip to GDC and a ton of other goodies.
Game On 2010 winners
Our personal favorite, Favimon, picked up the Most Original award, and the truly awesome touchtypetastic Z-Type managed to get the Community Choice award! Take a look at the complete list of winners if you're looking for a time waster this Friday afternoon.
WebM DRMAccording to Mozilla's Asa Dotzler, while WebM could theoretically have DRM technologies strapped to it, it's unlikely that any of the major Web browsers will ever natively implement it.
Instead, Flash, which is slated to support VP8 (WebM's video codec) in an upcoming release, will probably provide the DRM that publishers require.
It's important to note that H.264 and VP8 aren't technically all that different. They're both high-quality MPEG-4 codecs. H.264 doesn't include DRM, or any other feature that makes it more desirable to content providers. Really, the only significant difference is that H.264 is a closed-source and patent-encumbered version of VP8.
Put simply, once Flash supports VP8, there doesn't seem to be a reason for the continued existence of H.264.