Tag Archive: browsers


Almost exactly a month ago, Microsoft launched Internet Explorer 11 as part of the Windows 8.1 preview and today, it is also launching a developer preview of IE11 for Windows 7.

Sandeep Singhal, Microsoft’s group program manager for IE, told me earlier this week that IE11 for Windows 7 will bring all of the advances of IE11 for Windows 8.1 to users of Microsoft’s older operating system. One area Microsoft has focused on with this release is speed, including a much-improved JavaScript engine and a stronger emphasis on GPU hardware acceleration for 2D and 3D content, including fonts, JPG images and WebGL-based experiences.

IE11 is Microsoft’s first browser to embrace the WebGL standard for accessing the computer’s GPU for rendering advanced 2D and 3D experiences. As Microsoft’s senior program manager for IE Frank Olivier told me, his team has worked hard to ensure that WebGL in IE (both on Windows 7 and 8.1) is as safe as possible and can’t crash the system (it does, after all, allow very low-level access to your hardware). Indeed, Olivier showed me a demo that stressed IE11 s WebGL implementation to the point where it crashes. IE11 handles this situation gracefully and simply restarts its WebGL core as needed.

To show off IE11 s WebGL features, the company teamed up with GlacierWorks, a site that aims to raise awareness about the effect of climate change in the Himalayas, to add more WebGL content to its site.

Fast, But Not SPDY On Windows 7

All of these features will also be available to Windows 7 users and Singhal expects the Windows 7 version to offer virtually the same performance as on the new operating system. One feature Microsoft doesn’t bring to Windows 7, though, is support for Google’s SPDY networking protocol.

As for Windows 8, Microsoft tells me that it will ship IE11 with the free Windows 8.1 upgrade. Microsoft clearly expects most Windows 8 users to upgrade to 8.1 and it doesn’t look like it plans to make IE11 available as a standalone download for 8.

With today’s update for Windows 7, Microsoft is also updating modern.IE, its site for tools and resources for developing for IE. The site now features virtual machines for testing IE11 on Windows 8.1 and Windows 7, as well as a new screenshot tool that lets you see how your sites look across different browsers and devices. For a limited time, Microsoft is also offering developers a 25 percent discount on Parallels for Mac so they can run these virtual machines. IE11 itself, it’s worth noting, also includes a number of updated developer tools.

Google is showing off its speedy browser synchronization kung fu using a new browser-based game called Chrome Super Sync Sports. There’s a trio of cyberathletic contests, and you can take them on solo or challenge your friends in an online multiplayer session: run, bike, or swim your way to victory!

To get started, you have to sync your mobile device to your desktop or laptop. You don’t even have to use Chrome, though Google’s obviously pitching that as the preferred browser. Fire up a session on your computer, then point your mobile browser to g.co/super and punch in the unique code Google provides, and you’re ready to go.

Your tablet or smartphone becomes the controller while the game plays out on your big(ger) screen. The concept itself isn’t a new one — it’s very much like the dozens of Smart TV, Blu-ray player, and set-top box remote control apps that you can install from Google Play and the App Store. There are two key differences, however.

Compared to the remote app for my Sony network player, for example, Google’s Chrome Super Sync demo is much smoother and more responsive. Sports manages to track rapid pattern gestures in Safari on my iPhone and zap them instantly to the cloud and back over to my laptop where they’re interpreted as gamepad input to move my avatar around the track.

chrome super sync safari ios

And while the speed is impressive, it’s even more impressive that this is happening entirely in the browser. It would be even cooler if I’d managed to get Super Sync to work with a non-WebKit browser — both Firefox and IE10 on my desktop failed to make the necessary Websockets connection required to start the game. Nevertheless, Super Sync Sports remains an impressive demonstration of where we’re headed.

The web is already capable of enabling some pretty amazing experiences, and they’re only going to get better with companies like Google, Mozilla, and yes, even Microsoft pushing things forward.

Over at TheNextWeb, it’s been reported that Mozilla has “quietly killed” the 64-bit build of Firefox for Windows. There has never been a stable release, however. The 64-bit build has been limited to Mozilla’s Nightly and branch builds — like the Firefox UX build where the new Australis theme first appeared. TNW’s Emil Protalinski noted in his post that Firefox engineering manager Benjamin Smedberg ”had declared that the 64-bit version of Firefox for Windows would never see the light of day,” but that’s not actually the case.

Indeed, the title of the related Bugzilla item tells a different story: “Disable windows 64 builds for now” (emphasis added). Mozilla hasn’t come out this week and said that there is no future for 64-bit Firefox on Windows. Instead, it’s a question of whether or not there’s enough return on the investment to continue offering the x64 Nightly builds to testers.

According to some in the community, as much as 50% of Mozilla’s testing base was browsing with the Windows x64 build. Those folks can, of course, move safely back to the 32-bit build as long as they don’t need a browser that can address more than 4GB of memory. That should only pose a problem if you keep a massive number of tabs open in any given browsing session, say 50 to 100. Those with more mundane needs that just want early access to bleeding-edge features in Firefox should be able to run the 32-bit nightly builds without noticing any real difference.

Smedberg notes several reasons that the decision was made. Plug-ins are currently a major headache — some common ones lack a stable 64-bit build, and some of those that do aren’t working correctly because Firefox lacks certain required features. That’s leading to additional freezing and crashing. Mozilla’s crash stats system also can’t easily tell which reports are from 32-bit users and which are from 64-bit users, which causes additional grief for coders who are trying to correct issues.

“The needs of the many must outweigh the needs of the few or the one,” said a wise, pointed-eared man. Mozilla needs to focus on 32-bit builds of Firefox for Windows because that’s the biggest, most critical piece of its user base.

Firefox x64 isn’t dead, it’s just going to disappear from the nightlies at some point in the near future. It will be back some time later in 2013, but in the meantime Windows users should know that there’s an alternative which doesn’t require leaving Mozilla in the lurch. Check out WaterFox or Palemoon: both are 64-bit custom builds of Firefox for Windows.

More at TNW, Bugzilla, and Google Groups

Firefox users with a penchant for discovery, take heed! Mozilla has just taken the wraps off a new Prospector add-on that brings site suggestions to your new tab page (NTP). It’s called, unsurprisingly enough, Site Suggest.

The change is unobtrusive enough. Once installed, Site Suggest will replace a single tile on the new tab page alongside your frequently visited site thumbnails. Beneath the suggestion, you’ll see a rotating banner that displays both the site’s name and the reason it was chosen. There are only a handful of sites in the Suggest database right now, so don’t expect any truly unexpected revelations. After refreshing the NTP, Firefox showed me very logical choices like PC World, Google, Ars Technica, and even the Foundation’s own home page. Over time, these suggestions will improve as more Firefox users opt in and Mozilla perfects its code.

As you’d expect from Mozilla, end user privacy is a primary concern with Site Suggest. While Site Suggest does need access to your browsing history, it only does so to match sites with categories from the Open Directory Project. Your most-visited category is then piped to Mozilla’s server, which then selects another site from the same category and sends it back to your browser. Cookies are never used, and it’s a one-and-done thing — Mozilla doesn’t hang on to the information.

And like the rest of Mozilla’s efforts, you can take a look at the code yourself if you’re so inclined. Site Suggest and the other Prospector initiatives are available from Mozilla over on GitHub.

It seems inevitable that Site Suggest will make its way to a future Firefox build, but that’s likely a few versions off. Even when it does, you can be certain that you’ll be able to shut suggestions off if you decide they’re not your cup of tea.

via Mozilla

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