Firefox 7 shipped today as part of Mozilla's rapid release schedule of launching a new update to the browser every six-weeks.
The updates for Windows, Mac and Linux are all about speed: opening tabs in the browser and menus and buttons on websites are faster because of the way memory is handled. Heavy users will notice the increase in speed when they have many tabs open for extended periods of time.
Users can now opt-in to "Telemetry" a Mozilla tool that provides anonymous browser performance data to the company. Telemetry transmits data about memory usage, cycle collection times and startup speeds to Mozilla, which will then use that data to supplement internal benchmarks. The Telemetry program is supposed to be "lightweight" and not have an effect on Firefox's performance.
Google Chrome only collects this type of browser information from user submitted crash reports. "Crash reports contain system information at the time of the crash, and may contain web page URLs or personal information, depending on what was happening at the time of the crash," according to Chrome's FAQ. Users can set up Chrome to automatically send usage statistics and crash reports by updating their privacy settings.
"I’m very excited that Firefox finally joins the ranks of cars, airplanes and other software projects in making performance decisions based on real evidence gathered in the wild," writes Taras Glek, Firefox developer, on a Mozilla blog.
LAUNCH has contacted Mozilla regarding the Firefox 7 launch and Telemetry.
Mozilla volunteers, who take on the responsibility of tagging bugs in the early versions of the product, have criticized the rapid release program for moving too fast and not addressing issues users identify [ see our story ].
Mozilla shifted to the faster launch cycle in March in response to Google Chrome's six-week release schedule that began in July 2010.
Mitchell Baker, chairperson of the Mozilla Foundation explained the reason for the increase in speed of launches was because sometimes the company would develop new capabilities but would not be able to launch them for almost a year waiting for an official product launch.