WebRTC World Feature Article

March 13, 2017

Firefox 52 Improves Complex App Performance


As one of the major browsers in the marketplace, Firefox has a large user base that appreciates the free and open-source platform. While it is far behind Chrome's almost 63 percent share of the market, Firefox is ahead of Internet Explorer at close to 15 percent, according to the February 2017 numbers from StatCounter. The popularity of Firefox is driven by the organization’s ability to make quick updates, provide reliable security and introduce new technologies faster than or just as fast as its competitors. Firefox 52 has been upgraded to run complex apps with greater speed in the browser, but Google Hangout fans may be disappointed because it is not being fully supported in this version as of now.

The audio and video features of Google Hangouts are not going to be available because Firefox has disabled the Netscape Plug-in API (NPAPI). This will disable all plug-ins that use NPAPI except for Flash, resulting in Google Hangout users having access only to chat. This is a temporary glitch, as Google is in the process of making Hangouts available on Firefox without a plug-in.

While the news about Hangouts did grab the headlines, the addition of WebAssembly to Firefox 52 was more important because it is going to be much easier to run complex apps. As a low-level assembly-like language, WebAssembly runs with near-native performance and provides languages such as C/C++ with a compilation target so that they can run on the Web.  This is a game changer for browsers, because it is going to make it possible to run code written in multiple languages on the Web at near native speed. Client apps which couldn't run on the Web will now be able to do so.

Apps such as 3D video games, computer-aided design, video and image editing, and scientific visualization, which were considered too complex to run in browsers, can perform better. Developers can create apps for the Web without having to worry about the resources needed to run them effectively, whether it is video playback or games. This will be a platform that is going to create more opportunities for developers across all sectors as WebRTC and other real-time applications use the browser as a delivery tool.

Other additions in Firefox 52 include automatic captive portal detection, for easier access to Wi-Fi hotspots; security warnings for non-secure HTTP pages with logins; implementation of Strict Secure Cookies specification, so HTTP sites that are not secure can't set cookies with the “secure” attribute; and improved sync users, allowing users to send and open tabs from one device to another.

You can see all the release notes for Firefox 52 here




Edited by Alicia Young




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