All posts tagged ‘mozilla’

File Under: Browsers, Web Apps

Mozilla Shows Off Plans for an Open Web App Store

Mozilla LabsMozilla has released more details about its soon-to-arrive Open Web Applications platform.

There are two key components: a directory where users can browse available web apps, and a new dashboard that will be baked into the browser interface, where users can install and manage their favorite apps.

The company published some technical documentation for developers so they can get to work retrofitting their apps with the code necessary to make them work with the new dashboard.

We first heard mumblings from Mozilla about this “Open app store” for the web back in May, only one day after Google announced its own app store for its Chrome browser and web-based Chrome OS. Google’s store is expected to make its full debut soon. The apps in Google’s store will be optimized for Chrome and may not work in other browsers, but Mozilla’s approach will list apps that work on “any modern browser with support for basic HTML technologies” — including mobile browsers. Mozilla says it will let each browser vendor dictate how it presents the app dashboards and management features.

So, app stores for web apps?

It doesn’t make much sense when coupled with what we’ve seen of “traditional” app stores — the ones popular in the mobile world, like those for Apple, Android and BlackBerry devices. But unlike those app stores, which actually involve downloading a package and installing it for offline use, a web app store is simply a directory of apps that are hosted on web servers.

In Mozilla’s model, users browse the app listings, where everything is categorized and rated. Developers can also host their own apps. Users click “install” on the ones they want, and those apps are added to a dashboard inside their browser.

It’s been mocked up for Firefox, and it looks something like this:


In the dashboard, you can manage how apps access your personal information, or uninstall them. Users don’t have to use the dashboard. They also have the option of saving a link on their desktop or mobile home screen for a single-click launch.

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File Under: Browsers, Mobile

Firefox for Android Is Growing Up Fast

Fennec Firefox MobileThe newest nightly builds of Firefox Mobile for Android phones are fast, stable, and — unlike the previously released alpha we told you about last month — actually usable.

Development on Firefox for Android is progressing rapidly, and there are a lot of small tweaks and changes to be found in the new nightly builds. But the big news is that everything actually works now. The browser’s performance is much improved, especially in responsiveness, scrolling and zooming.

You can download it here. But be sure to read the release notes, which cover the system requirements (Android 2.0 and up) and the known issues.

This little browser called Fennec (as the mobile version of Firefox is still known at this point in its life) first arrived on Android phones earlier this year. I took it for a spin when the alpha was released in August, and while I noted it had already come a long way in a short time, I was both perplexed and disappointed after a spending a couple of days with it.

I was left wanting because, having seen just about every iteration of Firefox over the years, and having had a wonderful experience testing the Maemo Linux release of Fennec on a Nokia smartphone, I was used to Mozilla shipping alpha versions that were fast, innovative and left you really pumped about the final product.

Not so with this little guy. The first alpha version of Firefox for Android was slow. Really slow. And buggy. Zooming and scrolling were choppy. The Wired home page would mysteriously reload every 20 seconds, and some sites wouldn’t load at all. I double-checked my Nexus One’s system settings, thinking something must be wrong. Since it was alpha code, I planned to revisit it later and measure the changes.

Then I saw this tweet by Mozilla’s Mike Beltzner Friday morning, and I decided it was time.

This most recent nightly build of Firefox for Android fixes most of the performance issues. Wired.com still doesn’t fare too well (probably our fault), but surfing the rest of the web is much more pleasant in the new Fennec. Scrolling and the pinch-zoom gesture are about as fast as Android’s stock WebKit browser. Page rendering is a touch slower in Fennec than in the Android browser, but we can expect that to improve.
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File Under: JavaScript

Zaphod Gives JavaScript Developers Two-Headed Power

What’s become so complicated you need two heads to figure it out? JavaScript of course.

Mozilla Labs recently launched a new project dubbed Zaphod, named for the two-headed President of the Galaxy in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Zaphod is a Firefox add-on that has two “heads” of its own.

Zaphod’s primary head, in this case, makes it simple to switch JavaScript rendering engines. Zaphod’s other “head” is the Narcissus JavaScript engine, which is a JavaScript engine written in JavaScript. Narcissus is great for experimenting with JavaScript, but it lacked an easy way to run your code within the browser, which is where Zaphod comes in.

The add-on lets you run the Narcissus engine instead of SpiderMonkey, Firefox’s default JavaScript engine. Just install Zaphod and put some “application/narcissus” script tags in your page, and Firefox will render your scripts using Narcissus.

You may be wondering why in the world anyone would want to run JavaScript code through a JavaScript Engine written in JavaScript (you may also be thinking that “the Escher” would have been an equally compelling name for the project). The answer is because you can change how the actual interpreter and compiler work. Sure you could re-write SpiderMonkey in your spare time, but that’s quite a task compared to modifying a few lines of JavaScript in Narcissus.

So, why modify the actual rendering engine? It could help the community reach decisions about what new features should be added JavaScript, what those features should look like and how they should behave. Or perhaps you’d just like to experiment with the JavaScript language itself, rather than what you can do with the language.

If you’d like to experiment with Narcissus, just add this meta tag to your HTML page:

<meta http-equiv="Content-Script-Type" content="application/narcissus" />

Then install the Zaphod add-on and reload your page. From there you’re just a few experiments away from revolutionizing the web. If you’d like to see a few of Mozilla’s experiments to get some idea of what you can do, head over the Narcissus page and take a look.

Don’t Panic photo by Jim Linwood/Flickr/CC

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File Under: JavaScript, Web Standards

The Kraken Awakes to Test Your Browser’s JavaScript Powers

Mozilla has unleashed the Kraken, a new JavaScript benchmark test.

It joins similar efforts like Google’s V8 and the WebKit project’s SunSpider tests, which are widely used to measure browser performance. However, unlike V8 and SunSpider, which are more general stress tests to measure overall capability, Mozilla’s Rob Sayre says Kraken focuses mainly on “realistic workloads and forward-looking applications.”

Among the real-world things Kraken tests are Mozilla’s new beat detection scripts, which uses experimental audio APIs, and image processing tools like the ones that apply a Gaussian blur or desaturate a JPG using JavaScript.

“These are the things that people are saying are too slow to do with open web technologies today,” Sayre writes, “and we want to have benchmarks that reflect progress against making these near-future apps universally available.”

While real-world tests are important and Kraken offers a way to measure browser performance in ways that aren’t really possible without it, in terms of an overall performance benchmark test, Kraken seems unlikely to supplant V8 or SunSpider.

Of course, supplanting doesn’t seem to be the goal of Kraken. Rather, Mozilla wants to shift focus from generalized benchmarks to tests that reflect what’s actually happening on the web — both today’s web apps and those that are pushing the boundaries and paving the way for a new generation of apps.

The goal of Kraken is less about proving how “fast” a browser is overall and more about offering a way to test actual, everyday tasks that mirror the things we all do with web browsers.

To test Kraken you can head over to the new site and run it yourself. In Mozilla’s testing Kraken shows that Firefox 4 (with its new JaegerMonkey JavaScript engine) is already more than 2.5 times faster than the current release of Firefox 3.6.

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File Under: Browsers, JavaScript

Mozilla Asks, ‘Are We Fast Yet?’

The above charts show the performance of JavaScript engines across different architectures. The tests shown are the common SunSpider and V8 JavaScript benchmarks, with output measured in milliseconds. The tests are run once a day, and the graphs show the last five weeks or so of results.

Go to the real site and click on all the clicky bits.

The green line is Google V8, the red line is Apple Nitro, and the orange and black lines are Mozilla’s two engines, JaegerMonkey and TraceMonkey, respectively. The purple lines reflect Mozilla’s new approach of running the engines concurrently. As you can see, it speeds things up.

But the answer to the question being asked by the URL is “No” — Google is currently either on par with Apple Safari or slightly better, depending on the test and the architecture. Mozilla is improving, but still has a lot of catching up to do.

This testing tool is maintained by Mozilla’s JavaScript team. I found out about it earlier today when John Resig, the guy behind jQuery and a Mozilla employee, tweeted the link. It’s an effective motivational tool, especially since it shows how slow Mozilla’s engines were only a month ago, and how quickly the team is gaining on the leaders.

A couple of caveats: The tests aren’t run in the browser, they are run from the command line. Also, a Mac Mini in doing the testing, so Internet Explorer isn’t represented. From what we’ve seen of IE9′s pre-release code, the browser is incredibly fast. We’re curious to see how its JavaScript engine stacks up.

Also, no Opera. Opera’s Carakan engine is also blazing fast, but it’s not represented here.

Check out the page’s FAQ for more details. Also, the code for the test is open source, so if you have philosophical issues with these methods, build your own testing environment.

Update: Here’s a much more detailed post about Mozilla’s performance on JavaScript benchmarks by Rob Sayre.

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