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Mozilla claims 25 per cent JavaScript speed boost with Firefox 18

Retina display support and Android malware checking included

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Mozilla has released its latest Firefox build, version 18, and claims the new version offers a 25 per cent speed boost thanks to a new JavaScript compiler dubbed IonMonkey.

"IonMonkey is a huge step forward for our JavaScript performance and our compiler architecture," said compiling engineer David Anderson. "But also, it's been a highly focused, year-long project on behalf of the IonMonkey team, and we're super excited to see it land."

Previous engines have just run a straight JavaScript to machine code conversion, but IonMonkey adds in a stage where algorithms optimize the translated data before making the final upload. These improvements include shifting instructions outside of loops, scanning register allocations, and dumping redundant code.

Mozilla's claiming a 26 per cent speed increase in the Kraken benchmark on finished code, while Google's V8 benchmark grades the new browser as 7 per cent faster than Firefox 17, and 20 per cent faster than Firefox 15 for JavaScript performance.

A brief check here at El Reg using Google's RoboHornet benchmark, which factors in JavaScript and other web functions to test overall responsiveness, saw results improve around 8 per cent. RoboHornet Pro, which is Redmond's response to the Google's benchmark that Microsoft claims is more realistic, showed a six per cent rise.

Also included in the new release is support for retina displays for Apple hardware running at least OS X 10.7 or above. Mozilla's at a disadvantage in the fondleslab market, since Apple, Google and Microsoft all make their own, but the rapidly increasing browser time coming from tablets has some on the Firefox team concerned.

The Mozilla team has also thrown an interesting jab or two in Google's direction, as the Android version of Firefox now includes search autocomplete and suggestions via a secure connection, something Google considers itself best at. It's also adding malware scanning capability: let's hope this feature performs better than Google's own attempts to deal with the growing Android malware problem.

There's the usual round of bug fixes or near-fixes in this release, tabbing functions have been speeded up and Mozilla says preliminary support for WebRTC communications standard that the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is currently drafting has been added. The new build is now available for Windows, Mac, Linux and Android. ®

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