Mozilla: Web apps faster with Firefox 3.1

Logo Mozilla FirefoxFirefox 3.1 will run many Web-based applications such as Gmail faster through incorporation of a feature called TraceMonkey that dramatically speeds up programs written in JavaScript, Mozilla said.

JavaScript has been very broadly used to add pizzazz or flexibility to Web pages over the years, but in recent years, it's also become the plumbing for many rich Internet applications. However, because JavaScript has been hobbled by pokey performance, Web-based applications often struggled to work as responsively as "native" software running directly on PCs, and programmers writing Web applications have often turned to other options, such as Adobe Systems' Flash and Flex.

Now Mozilla hopes to change the balance of power in JavaScript's favor.

"TraceMonkey is a project to bring native code speed to JavaScript," said Mike Shaver, Mozilla's interim vice president of engineering, adding that JavaScript performance nearly doubles compared to Firefox 3.0, based on the SunSpider test of JavaScript performance. That speeds up many basic tasks, but it also brings image editing and 3D graphics into JavaScript's abilities, he said.

On Thursday, Mozilla programmers built TraceMonkey into the latest developer version of the open-source Web browser, and it will appear in the next released test version, which likely will be the first beta of Firefox 3.1, Shaver said. Firefox 3.1 is due in final form by the end of the year, though Mozilla is willing to let the schedule slip a bit, if necessary.

JavaScript execution speed can make surfing the Web snappier, so naturally, it's a key part of the resurgent browser wars between Microsoft's Internet Explorer, Mozilla's Firefox, Apple's Safari, and Opera. "We're as aware as anybody that the market is competitive again," Shaver said.

The SunSpider JavaScript test shows a boost of 83 percent, according to programmer and JavaScript pioneer Brendan Eich, who has worked on TraceMonkey and blogged about it on Friday. However, that speed test is an artificial benchmark that is an imperfect reflection of actual JavaScript applications such as Yahoo's Zimbra e-mail software.

Another illustration of TraceMonkey speed is a video of photo editing. Contrast and brightness adjustments take about 100 milliseconds instead of more than 700.

Source: CNET

Tags: Firefox, Mozilla

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