Mozilla's Firefox 5 browser was launched today, just three months on from the release of Firefox 4 on 22 March.
Mozilla is now aiming for a faster release cycle, after the huge 13-month gap between the release of Firefox 3.6 and Firefox 4.
The quicker release schedule for Firefox means that in version 5 there are few significant upgrades to the browser.
One reason Mozilla needs to up its release schedule, besides competing with Google Chrome's frenetic release schedules, is its falling market share. Mozilla's roadmap for Firefox also envisages versions 6 and 7 being released before the end of 2011.
Two sets of browser market share statistics from StatCounter and NetMarketShare show Firefox usage still slipping slightly compared with Google Chrome, which is the only browser rapidly increasing its market share.
From the period December 2010 to May 2011, NetMarketShare's stats show Firefox's market share down by about one per cent to 21.7 per cent, and StatCounter recorded a drop of about 1.5 per cent to 29.3 per cent.
In the same period, NetMarketShare's stats show Google Chrome gaining 2.6 per cent market share to 12.5 per cent since December, and StatCounter's registering a 4.5 per cent increase to 19.4 per cent.
The Firefox 5 install took less than two minutes. We reviewed Firefox 5 on our Fedora 15/Windows 7 Ultimate dual-boot OS Labs Dell OptiPlex 980.
Given the faster release schedule for Firefox, we didn’t expect the number of new significant features would match the number unveiled when Firefox 3.6 upgraded to Firefox 4.0, and this proved to be the case.
On the security front, Mozilla has stopped WebGL content from loading cross-domain textures because it is a security risk – if a user was viewing secure content in one tab and there were other website tabs open, scripts loaded in the other tabs from other websites might be able to read information in the secure tab.
The hacks.mozilla.org website explains the problem in more detail, and Mozilla is working on a fix for it.
With the SunSpider (version 0.9.1) benchmark, Firefox 5 recorded a less impressive result, actually recording a one per cent decrease (see picture - the lower the score the lower the performance).
Aquariums and fish tanks
We ran all the current versions of the top five browsers through Microsoft's IE Fish Tank webpage and Google's Aquarium – two fish-focused benchmarks.
The IE Fish Tank tests HTML5 and graphics hardware acceleration capabilities, while Google's Aquarium is set up to test WebGL performance, a feature that only Chrome and Firefox support.
With Microsoft's IE Fish Tank, we set up the web page with 1,000 fish and a browser window of 1200 x 800 pixels. IE9 came out on top with a frame rate of 34 frames per second (fps), Firefox 5 next with a frame rate of 26, Chrome with 11fps, and Opera next on 9fps. (see picture – higher frame rates mean better performance).
We couldn't rate Safari as it struggled with 10 fish, and when benchmarked with 1,000 fish, it slowed and halted.
Firefox is one of only two mainstream browsers supporting the WebGL standard, the other being Google Chrome.
When we ran Google's WebGL Aquarium, Chrome registered a frame rate of 48fps, while Firefox 5 registered 17fps (see picture).
(Given that the browser of the vendor who writes the benchmark comes out on top in that benchmark, we would suggest that Mozilla writes its own benchmark to showcase Firefox – may we suggest Mozilla calls it the Mozilla Oceanarium.)