Firefox 4 preview and ARIA report from CSUN

I am forwarding an article I got from the blind-mozilla list about Firefox 4. It does not address accessibility specifically, but offers some interesting comparative information about competing browsers today.


This topic also made me think about the ARIA-related sessions I attended last week at CSUN, and I thought that some of you who were not able to attend, yourselves, may be interested in a report. For whatever it's worth, there seemed to be a consensus among experts in WAI-ARIA (the ARIA accessibility standard of the W3C, which is currently a candidate recommendation) that the latest JAWS and NVDA provide the best screen reader support for ARIA apps at this time. Companies doing a lot in this space with attention to accessibility include IBM and Adobe. WebAIM includes much nonprofit expertise in this area.

Jamal

-------- Forwarded Message --------
Subject:        [blind-mozilla] Firefox 4 to debut on March 22nd and looks
mighty impressive!
Date:   Fri, 18 Mar 2011 11:35:01 +0000
From:   chris hallsworth <christopherh40@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Reply-To:       blind-mozilla@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
To:     blind-mozilla@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx



*10 Things to Drool Over in Firefox 4
PC World

– Thu Mar 17, 5:54 pm ET

Mozilla's Firefox 4 is now officially expected to debut on Tuesday March
22, following hard on the heels of Google's Chrome 10 and Microsoft's
Internet Explorer 9.

With so many new browser releases coming out in such rapid succession,
it stands to reason that at least some users are going to need some help
figuring out which now works best for them.

Toward that end, I had a chat earlier today with Johnathan Nightingale,
Mozilla's director of Firefox development, to get a sense of what the
final release of Firefox 4 will bring. Here are some of the highlights
of what we can expect.

1. More Speed

With its new JägerMonkey JavaScript engine, Firefox 4 delivers huge
performance enhancements, Nightingale told me, including faster startup
times, graphics rendering and page loads. In fact, in performance tests
on the Kraken, SunSpider and V8 benchmarks, for example, Firefox 4 blew
away previous versions of the browser, with performance results between
three and six times better.

Firefox 4 also outdid Chrome 10, Opera 11.1 and Internet Explorer 9 in
the Kraken benchmark, as GigaOM recently noted. Bottom line: It's
blazingly fast.

2. Less Clutter

Tabs are now given top visual priority in Firefox 4 so as to enable more
efficient and intuitive browsing. In addition to its new "tabs on top"
layout, however, the software now also offers a number of other features
to make it simpler and more streamlined.

A Switch to Tab feature, for instance, helps reduce tab clutter by
automatically calling up an already-tabbed URL rather than duplicating
it all over again. "It took my tab list from 80 to 90 down to 50 or 60,"
Nightingale said.

"The slowest part of browsing is often the user," he explained. "If you
have 200 tabs open and you can't find the right one, that's the slow part."

Then, too, there are App Tabs, which allow the user to take sites they
always have open--such as Gmail or Twitter--off the tab bar and give
them a permanent home in the browser. Then, no matter where the user
visits, those tabs are always visible on the browser's left-hand edge.
Not only that, but each App Tab's icon glows to indicate when there's
been activity on that site, such as new mail coming in.

When Firefox gets reloaded, it boosts loading speed by focusing first on
the active page and App Tabs, and then loading other tabs in gradual
succession after that, Nightingale explained.

Further reducing clutter is Firefox 4's Firefox Button, meanwhile, which
displays all menu items in a single button for easy access.

3. Panorama

Though it began as an add-on, Firefox 4's new Panorama feature is
another one designed to battle tab clutter. Using it, Web surfers can
drag and drop their tabs into manageable groups that can be organized,
named and arranged intuitively and visually.

In previous versions of the browser, users with 20 tabs, for example,
didn't have an easy way to separate out the ones that were related.
"Some people would put tabs in different windows, but that just moves
the clutter," Nightingale explained.

Panorama, on the other hand, now provides a visual canvas on which tabs
can be logically organized into groups representing work, home, hobbies
or research, for example.

4. Sync

Another new feature that started life as an add-on is Sync, which
synchronizes an individual's multiple copies of Firefox across various
platforms. So, a user might look up directions to a restaurant from
their work computer, for example, and then be able to easily find and
pull down those same directions from their Android phone on the road,
Nightingale explained.

"Wherever you are, Firefox knows you," he added. "It gives you so much
freedom."

For privacy, all such information is bundled on the user's local machine
and encrypted before it goes onto the network, he added.

5. Do Not Track

With a single check box, Firefox 4 users can ensure that any time the
browser requests a Web page, it will send along a header specifying that
the user does not want their browsing behavior to be tracked.

In theory, advertisers and Web sites could disregard such requests,
Nightingale noted--as they could equivalent mechanisms in other browsers
as well. On the other hand, enforcing them is not a technical problem,
he noted. "It's a matter of trust--enforcing on the technical side
doesn't help."

What Nightingale hopes is that advertisers and Web sites will use the
new capability as an opportunity to show respect for consumers' wishes
and to demonstrate leadership when it comes to privacy. In beta versions
of the software, he noted, most wanted to learn more about how to comply
and get involved.

"I'm keen to see how ad networks and content sites respond," Nightingale
concluded. With the new technology enabled, "everyone you're interacting
with knows your intent."

6. Under the Hood

A number of other features--some visible to users, others not--will also
appear in Firefox 4, including support for the WebM format for
HD-quality video; 3D graphics via WebGL; elegant animations through the
use of CSS3; and multitouch support.

Then, too, there's super-fast graphics acceleration with Direct2D and
Direct3D on Windows, XRender on Linux, and OpenGL on Mac enabled by
default on supported hardware.

7. Improved Security

With HTTP Strict Transport Security, or HSTS, sites can now make sure
information is always encrypted, thereby preventing attackers from
intercepting sensitive data. Previously, a hacker sitting in a Starbucks
store, for example, could potentially watch Web surfers enter a bank's
home page, which is not encrypted, and hijack them from there,
Nightingale noted.

With Content Security Policy, or CSP, meanwhile, Firefox 4 ensures that
cross-site scripting attacks can't infect a site such as through its
comments section, he added.

I should also note that because Firefox's code is open, it's not subject
to any vendor's preset patch schedule. Rather, its security is
constantly being reviewed and improved.

8. HTML5

Firefox 4's new HTML5 parser and full support for Web video, audio, drag
& drop, and file handling mean that it's capable of supporting the
latest Web environments.

9. Multiplatform Support

Whereas Microsoft's IE9 can be used only on Windows--and only Vista and
Windows 7 at that--Firefox, as always, is multiplatform. So, whether
you're on Windows, Linux or a Mac, you can enjoy its powerful new features.

10. The Community Touch

Last but not least, whereas proprietary browsers such as IE9 are
developed by Microsoft's team of paid developers to reflect their own
vision of what users want, Firefox has been shaped significantly by the
people who use it. In fact, between 30 percent and 40 percent of its
code was developed by the community, Nightingale told me. It's hard to
imagine a better way to make sure a product delivers what users want.

With so many exciting new capabilities, Firefox users have a lot to look
forward to in this new release. So, for that matter, do the legions of
Internet Explorer users who will sooner or later make the switch.

Follow Katherine Noyes on Twitter: @Noyesk.

*

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