Another rapid release of Firefox is now available, this time with a number of core new features, but not without its problems.
The problem first for relief to those suffering from it, currently builds of Firefox 7 have an issue that causes your installed add-ons to disappear. Mozillaassures that they are still there, along with all their data. In fact you can use this add-on in the meantime to recover them.
This release is significant in a number of ways, since it includes features that are a culmination of work that happened over multiple release cycles. Firstly we have the MemShrink effort that aims to reduce the memory requirement of Firefox. The result is that Firefox 7 is much more memory-efficient. It generally uses lesser memory than Firefox 6, and is much better at releasing unused memory when tabs are closed etc. The MemShrink effort isn't over, it will continue to have an influence in future Firefox releases.
Another major new feature is Azure, which is the rendering backend for Gecko. Azure performs much better than the previous Cairo backend. Azure is intended to be a stateless graphics API that closely maps to Direct2D. As a result it can give best performance improvements on Windows Vista / 7 systems with a good graphics card. Azure can take multiple backends for different 3D APIs such as OpenGL, Direct3D and Direct 2D. Currently Azure is only in use for rendering the 2D canvas using Direct2D (Windows Vista and above). Eventually Azure will replace the API Firefox uses to render all its content and will be accelerated on all platforms.
Thirdly, Firefox 7 now includes basic support for measuring the performance of the browser and reporting it to Mozilla so that this information can be used to improve future versions of Firefox. This new telemetry feature in Firefox will prompt the user to be enabled the first time it is launched, and after that it can be enabled from the Firefox options. No personal data will be collected in the process of course, only memory usage, CPU core count, cycle collection times, and startup speed.
The latest version of Firefox can be downloaded from the Mozilla website, although you might want to wait for an update that resolves the Add-ons issue before you update.