Firefox 6: Is it really faster?

Firefox 6 rolled out this week as part of Mozilla's "rapid release" schedule. So how does Firefox 6 stack up to Chrome, IE9, and Firefox 5?

Firefox 6 has arrived. Here, a photograph that shows neither Firefox 6, nor any kind of Firefox at all – just a regular fox, in a field, in England.

Firefox 6 launched quietly yesterday, just a couple of months after the release of Firefox 5. (Firefox 7, meanwhile, is already available in beta format – a testament to just how seriously Mozilla is taking its new "rapid release" schedule.) So how does the latest version of Firefox stack up against competitors such as Google Chrome and Internet Explorer? Pretty well, for the most part.

Over at PC World, Michael Muchmore notes that major new features are minimal. "But that's not to say Firefox 6 brings nothing to the party. In fact, a look at its complete change log reveals a significant total of 1,300 changes and fixes," he writes. "One that end users may notice include URL highlighting, which, like Internet Explorer 9 and Google Chrome, shows the domain name in darker font than the rest of a page's address."

There are also plenty of nice security tweaks on Firefox 6, notes Robert Strohmeyer of Information Week. Among them: Advanced site security block and site-specific permissions. "A new permissions manager, accessible by typing 'about:permissions' in the address bar, lets users set site-specific permissions to control acceptance of cookies, location sharing, pop-ups, and password and data storage," Strohmeyer writes.

That functionality, he adds, should allow "users to set their overall security settings to be highly restrictive, without sacrificing usability on trusted sites. IT pros will want to spread the word about this feature to their users, since it doesn't appear in the standard menus."

Meanwhile, Laptop magazine's Dan Howley takes full stock of the speed of Firefox 6, which was rumored to be substantially faster than Firefox 5. "In Peacekeeper, a benchmark that measures a browser’s capabilities using Java, Firefox 5 scored 4,733. We then ran Firefox 6 on the same system using Peacekeeper, and recorded a similar score of 4,572," Howley writes. (Higher scores are better.)

Worse yet, Howley says Firefox 6 lagged behind its main competitors on the same Peacekeeper scale. "Both IE9 and Chrome brought in better scores than either version of Firefox [on Peacekeeper]. Using Peacekeeper, IE9 pulled in a score of 4,830, while Chrome managed to score a 8,400," Howley writes. Bottom line: Firefox 6 isn't quite as speedy as some analysts had hoped. But hey, maybe Mozilla can correct that in the next major update, due in about 6 weeks.

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