Firefox 4 gets fast

Mozilla adds hardware acceleration to its latest beta release

September 12, 2010
Firefox 4 gets fast

It’s not entirely a surprise but Mozilla has included hardware acceleration in its latest beta release, beta 5. It’s not a surprise because the previous beta had the capability built-in but it wasn’t enabled. 

Hardware acceleration is fast becoming one of the new standards in browser technology. The process allows the browser to offload certain processes to the graphics processor to add some power to the rendering of the web pages.

The usual process is to process text elements on a page using the standard browser while offloading intensive processes such as graphics and video to the graphics processor. Graphics processing units, or GPUs, are increasingly powerful and yet are often not used to their full capacity.

For now the hardware acceleration capabilities in Firefox 4 are limited to the Windows version of the beta release although the capabilities will be included in future releases for other platforms.

Microsoft’s forthcoming Internet Explorer 9 browser also has hardware acceleration built-in. That browser is expected to be released as a beta release later this month. Google also recently added hardware acceleration to its latest developer release, and Apple’s Safari already includes hardware acceleration.

Audio API

Aside from the hardware acceleration features, Firefox 4 beta 5 also includes one other notable inclusion: a new audio API.

The new audio features put to work the new HTML 5 audio tag and allow developers to read and write raw audio data within the browser. This opens up opportunities for developers to apply filters to audio, create visualisations of audio content and manipulate it in a variety of ways using the new HTML canvas tag. A demonstration of the capabilities of the new audio tag can be seen in this video

The final release of Firefox 4 is expected in November this year.

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