This means pages load faster, interactions with websites are snappier and the Web is just a lot more fun. For developers, this means you can build richer high-performance Web applications and explore the world of 3D graphics, inherent to the Web.
Also, the Add-ons APIs for Firefox 4 are now stable, so if you are an add-on developer, now is the time to update your Firefox 3.6-compatible Add-ons to support Firefox 4.
For more details, see Firefox Engineer David Mandelin’s blog post.
Boosting Graphics Performance
This update to Firefox 4 Beta incorporates hardware-accelerated graphics into the final rendering of a website — referred to as “compositing.” This enables websites to load and respond faster to rich and interactive content like Web games, apps or photos. On Windows (including Windows XP), hardware acceleration is done using DirectX technology; on Mac OS X, it’s done using OpenGL.
Not all graphics cards and/or video drivers support hardware acceleration. Read these blog posts from Firefox Developer Joe Drew for more details on the latest improvements in hardware acceleration and to check if your hardware supports this functionality.
Bringing 3D graphics to Firefox with WebGL
Firefox 4 Beta enables developers to render 3D graphics using WebGL. Web developers can now create spectacular games, vivid graphics and brand-new visual experiences for the Web, without requiring users to install plug-ins! This means that 3D graphics can be mashed-up with other Web technologies to provide amazing experiences that seamlessly integrate with the rest of your website. WebGL in Firefox 4 Beta requires an OpenGL-capable graphics card on Windows or Mac OS X. Additional support for other graphics cards on Windows (specifically Intel GPUs) and Linux will come in future beta releases.
Support for Exquisite Fonts with OpenType
Get ready for websites with layouts as elegant as you would find in a typeset book. With support for OpenType font features in Firefox 4 Beta, designers and developers can create sophisticated effects by controlling ligatures, kerning, alternative glyphs, small caps and more. To learn more, read this blog post from Firefox Platform Engineer John Daggett.
Improved HTML5 Forms
Firefox 4 Beta also improves HTML forms. Detailed HTML5 forms are a snap to create with auto-complete, HTML5 form validation and the new Form API. For more information, see this blog post from Firefox Developer Mounir Lamouri.
Features and Performance
Firefox 4 is shaping up to be the fast and fun browser to experience the Web the way you want it. This release is a great step and combines a lot of features that make your travels around the Web fun, smooth and personal (Firefox Sync, Panorama, App Tabs and the new Add-ons Manager, just to name a few) with excellent performance. It’s really great.
Thanks to everyone who has tested the beta so far. Please keep your feedback coming. By participating in our Test Pilot studies (more than a million of you already have!) and using the Firefox 4 Beta Feedback Button (hundreds of thousands of responses so far!), you’re helping us make Firefox better all the time. Tell your friends. Together, we all make Firefox great.
If you’re already testing Firefox 4 Beta, you will be automatically updated to the latest version. There will be additional betas as we approach the final release, so stay tuned for the next release in the coming weeks.