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Android, Nokia N900 receive Firefox mobile alpha

Aug 30, 2010 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 7 views

Mozilla has released the first alpha version of its Firefox Mobile (“Fennec”) browser for Android and the Nokia N900 smartphone. The Fennec alpha provides Firefox sync with Mozilla's desktop browser, and adds a new Electrolysis feature, allowing the browser interface to run in a separate process from the one rendering Web content, says Mozilla.

Mozilla officials said the Alpha release of Fennec is now available for Android and Nokia N900 users to download and test.

In an Aug. 27 blog post, Stuart Parmenter, director of mobile engineering at Mozilla, said Fennec is the first mobile browser to offer add-ons and is built on the same technology that powers desktop Firefox. The latest version of Fennec builds on the rich set of features from the previous pre-alpha release and makes it easier to bring your Firefox experience with you anywhere, he said.

Firefox Mobile for Android main screen, showing left-handed tabs (left) and "awesome bar" (right) shown on Mozilla demo video

Lauding the openness of Android, Parmenter said this first alpha release of Fennec for Android is "an exciting first step in bringing browser choice and customization, along with a seamless Web experience across devices, to a leading open mobile platform. Now, developers have the power to use the latest Web technologies like HTML5, CSS and JavaScript to build fast, powerful and beautiful mobile apps and add-ons that can reach many millions of devices."

And as with the latest update of the Firefox 4 beta for the desktop, "Fennec Alpha now creates one fluid Web experience between desktop and mobile devices by providing Firefox Sync built into the browser, which provides seamless access to Awesome Bar browsing history, bookmarks, passwords, form-fill data and open tabs," Parmenter writes.

Fennec browser screen (left) and export to social networking sites such as Facebook (right)

Describing the key points in this alpha release, Parmenter writes, "The main focus of this release is to increase performance and responsiveness to user actions. This is being implemented using two major technologies, 'Electrolysis' and 'Layers.' This Alpha release includes Electrolysis, which allows the browser interface to run in a separate process from the one rendering Web content."

"By doing this," Parmenter continues, "Fennec is able to react much faster to user input while pages are loading or CPU intensive JavaScript is running. The upcoming beta release will start taking advantage of Layers to greatly improve performance in graphic intensive actions like scrolling, zooming, animations and video. We're also working to optimize these actions using the hardware-accelerated graphics rendering capabilities showing up in today's mobile devices."

Meanwhile, on Aug. 24 Mozilla announced the latest update to the Firefox 4 beta, which includes Firefox Sync and Panorama, formerly known as Tab Candy. With a single keystroke, Panorama provides an overview of all a user's tabs to easily organize the tabs into groups, name them, prioritize them, and quickly switch between tabs or tab groups, Mozilla said.


The Mozilla blog announcing the Firefox Mobile ("Fennec") alpha release for Android and the Maemo Linux-based Nokia N900 may be found here. The release notes may be found here.

Darryl K. Taft is a regular contributor to our sister publication eWEEK.

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