Firefox 48 beta splits UI and content processes

Written by bit-tech Staff

June 8, 2016 // 4:08 p.m.

Tags: #firefox

Companies: #mozilla #opera

There's a couple of interesting software news morsels today concerning the popular Firefox and Opera web browsers - Firefox has implemented 'Electrolysis' and Opera has added battery saving features.

We'll start with Firefox - the browser is gearing up to a big change. Actually, it’s said to be 'the largest change [...] ever made to Firefox,' reports The Register. The most recent beta implements a feature called 'Electrolysis', named after the chemical process which can split water molecules into its constituent parts; hydrogen and oxygen. The feature splits Firefox into a UI process and a content process. 'Splitting UI from content means that when a web page is devouring your computer’s processor, your tabs and buttons and menus won’t lock up too,' explains Firefox developer Asa Dotzler on his personal blog.

Firefox beta testers have been comparing the Electrolysis-enabled Firefox with the vanilla software for a number of weeks. Apparently, the stability, responsiveness, memory usage, and other metrics measured are positive, and it has recently met all the usual release criteria. Even so, because this is a very big change, the final version rollout with this split process feature will itself be split.

In six weeks' time or thereabouts, Firefox 48 will start to roll out to regular (non-beta) users. To start with, just one percent will have Electrolysis switched on. About 10 days later the software stability and feedback will be reassessed before a full rollout with 'Electrolysis' enabled.

In other Firefox news, Firefox 47 started to roll out today with more support for HTML5 video and smarter syncing/interactivity between smartphones and computers.

Meanwhile, over at camp Opera, the battery-saver mode has moved out of beta into the mainstream release of this web browsing software. In Opera's own testing of this low-power mode it managed to provide 50 percent longer battery life compared to tests with Google Chrome on the same Dell and Lenovo laptops (with 11 tabs, including YouTube, open). You can read the laptop hardware specs and further test details here.

To minimise power usage, once a user toggles the battery-saver feature to 'on', Opera says its browser software 'reduces activity in the background tabs, automatically pauses plug-ins you don’t need and pauses browser theme animations until you can charge the laptop'. Thus the changes shouldn't have a great impact on the usability, speed and functionality of the Opera browser.

Everyone wishes for longer laptop battery life when there's no power outlet nearby to top up, so this could be a valuable feature for frequent travellers and the like.
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