Feeds

Latest Firefox boosts video chat, 3D graphics, JavaScript performance

WebRTC and asm.js support enabled by default

Build a business case: developing custom apps

The Mozilla Foundation has shipped Firefox 22 to the release channel, bringing with it improved support for web-based real-time communications and a significant performance boost for some JavaScript applications, among other features.

The new version comes with support for the nascent WebRTC API enabled by default for the first time. Technically still a work in progress at the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C), WebRTC is a proposed standard that enables browser-based voice calling, video chat, and peer-to-peer data sharing.

Other than Firefox 22, only the latest versions of Chrome OS and the desktop Chrome browser support WebRTC so far, but other browsers are expected to incorporate it as the standard matures.

In February, Google and Mozilla showed off a cross-browser video chat session between a beta version of Chrome and a nightly build of Firefox. As of Tuesday, those same capabilities are available in the stable branch of the Firefox browser.

Also new in Firefox 22 is OdinMonkey, a module for the browser's JavaScript engine that provides special optimizations for code written using asm.js.

Not technically a W3C standard, asm.js isn't really a new web language, either. Instead, it's a subset of JavaScript designed to strip away some of the cruft and questionable features, leaving only a lean, restrictive form of the language that's much easier for compilers to optimize.

Because asm.js code is still 100 per cent valid JavaScript, it will run in any modern browser. But with OdinMonkey's special optimizations enabled, Mozilla claims Firefox can execute asm.js code with performance only about twice as slow as the equivalent native code – which is saying something, for a JavaScript engine – and it plans to do even better in future.

The main downside to asm.js is that its syntax is so sparse and its coding standards are so strict that it's not very human-friendly. Instead, programmers are expected to write their code in some other language – such as C or C++ – and then compile their source into asm.js code for execution in the browser using tools like Emscripten.

To demonstrate the technique, last August Mozilla offered BananaBread, a demo that took advantage of Emscripten, asm.js, and Firefox's then–newly enhanced WebGL graphics capabilities to deliver a fully interactive 3D gaming experience based entirely on web standards.

Incidentally, Mozilla has improved Firefox's WebGL rendering performance yet again in version 22, with the introduction of asynchronous canvas updates.

The new release also includes a number of minor new features, bug fixes, and improved developer tools – for the full skinny, you can check out the official release notes, here.

As usual, current Firefox users can get the new release via the automatic update feature. Those who would like to try out the open source browser for the first time can download version 22 for Windows, OS X, or Linux from the official Firefox website. ®

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

More from The Register

next story
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
Put down that Oracle database patch: It could cost $23,000 per CPU
On-by-default INMEMORY tech a boon for developers ... as long as they can afford it
Google shows off new Chrome OS look
Athena springs full-grown from Chromium project's head
Apple: We'll unleash OS X Yosemite beta on the MASSES on 24 July
Starting today, regular fanbois will be guinea pigs, it tells Reg
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.