The last few major releases have focused more on under-the-hood enhancements and quicker adoption of new web technologies, rather than sweeping changes to UI or functionality.
Mozilla is clearly adjusting to the new rapid development cycle. Firefox 6 and 7, both felt unfinished. Firefox 8 is more polished and complete. Like the iterative updates found in Google Chrome, it’s clear Mozilla is now focusing on refining performance and features and not reinventing the wheel.
Visually, Firefox 8 looks nearly identical to its predecessors. The one visual change is the addition of Twitter as an option in the search locales dropdown box. Users can now search Twitter from the Firefox search bar the same way that they can query Google, Bing, Amazon or eBay. It’s a nice touch and one we hope indicates Firefox is investing deeper native Twitter integration.
Firefox is also changing how add-ons from third-party programs are installed. These add-ons are now disabled by default. This is a good move, especially for users who are often faced with browser extensions they don’t even remember installing The first time you start Firefox after installing the Firefox 8 upgrade, you’re given the chance to enable or disable add-ons installed by other programs. In my case, I was able to disable a CS5.5 add-on from Adobe.
Firefox 8 also has better WebGL support. You can experience the new 3D rendering options by enabling Google MapsGL in Firefox.
One of my criticisms of Firefox 7 was that it was a memory hog — at least on my MacBook Pro — when compared to the latest version of Google Chrome.
Although Mozilla hasn’t highlighted improved Mac performance in its release notes, my tests in the past 24 hours with Firefox 8 show that Firefox has better performance, particularly with Adobe Flash content, than in previous versions.
This may be due to improvements in the Flash plugin itself, but in my unscientific tests, I saw that processor load was lower in Firefox (when playing back Flash content as well as with other open tabs) than in Chrome or Safari 5. Your individual mileage may vary, but Firefox 8 is certainly proving to be a better, more stable performer on my machine.
The Firefox 8 release coincides with the browser’s seventh birthday. In the past seven years, Firefox and the web browsing landscape as a whole have experienced fundamental shifts.
From the rise of web video, web apps and cloud services, to the growing importance of mobile browsing — surfing the web in 2011 is a different experience than it was in 2004.
Firefox’s biggest challenge isn’t competing with Internet Explorer for marketshare — or even fending off advances from Chrome. It’s the mobile and tablet space.
Just as Firefox fought to combat Internet Explorer as the default web browser on the desktop seven years ago, it battles the default WebKit-based browsers on the leading mobile platforms.
What do you think of the new Firefox 8? Has Firefox changed how you browse the web in the past seven years? Let us know.
Article source: http://mashable.com/2011/11/09/firefox-8-review/