Firefox 5 locks down, almost ready for release

The days of waiting years for a major version number update to Firefox are over as the first iteration of Mozilla's new rapid-release program moves Firefox 5 from beta to release candidate.

Although it's only been around for three months, don't get too comfortable with Firefox 4.

Today, Mozilla has updated the Firefox 5 beta to release candidate status (download for Windows | Mac | Linux), which includes improves support for "future-Web" technology, speeds up the browser, and makes multiple smaller tweaks to the browser.

Firefox 5 moves the Do Not Track preference.

(Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

Following the path cut by Google with Chrome's rapid-release program, the changes to Firefox 5 are several orders of magnitude smaller than those made in Firefox 4 yet are not insignificant. Most importantly, Firefox 5 release candidate makes multiple under-the-hood tweaks to improve performance. Memory management, JavaScript rendering, canvas, and networking performance have been enhanced, and background tabs will load faster thanks to locking down the setTimeout and setInterval timeouts to 1000 milliseconds. Standards support has also been updated for coding languages like HTML5, SMIL, and MathML, and the browser now supports CSS animations.

Firefox 5 also disables cross-domain elements as the source for WebGL textures as a response to security concerns involving hardware acceleration. This will break some Web sites and prevent them from resolving properly, although Mozilla says that it is discussing solutions with WebGL developers.

In a minor interface change, Mozilla's Do Not Track header preference has been moved in an effort by the company to make it easier for users to find. Do Not Track is an effort spearheaded by multiple browser makers to get advertisers to respect the desire of people who don't want ads to track them as they browse around the Internet. It works by adding a line to a Web site's meta tags.

Also, the development channel switcher that had been introduced to the About Firefox window has been removed. This was because Mozilla discovered that most of the people using the beta and Aurora channels were running multiple installs of the browser concurrently, Johnathan Nightingale, director of Firefox development, said in a blog post. You can change Firefox development channels at will by downloading and installing each build separately, but you won't be able to change them on the fly from within an already-installed version of Firefox.

The full release notes for Firefox 5 are available here.

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