FOSDEM: Fennec Beta Scheduled for End of February

Feb 10, 2009

Mozilla employee Marc Finkle used the two day open source conference in Brussels, Belgium, to reveal details of Mozilla's mobile browser, Fennec.

He gave an insight into changes the Mozilla Foundation has made to Firefox to make the browser suitable for mobile service. For example, the use of panels proved too slow for the mobile browser, so the Fennec project incorporated a vbox which vastly increased display speed. 100 milliseconds has also been cut from the URL bar. As Finkle explained, Firefox takes 10 milliseconds just to check if a file actually exists before opening it.

Designed very much with touchscreen technology in mind, Fennec uses a JavaScript helper object called WidgetStack to coordinate the panning of individual UI elements and to determine viewport size. Developers it seems, are so keen on the JavaScripts, they have included the JavaScript compiler Tracemonkey in the beta version, which according to Finkle, is scheduled for the end of February.

Writing extensions for the mini-browser could be problematic. Its big brother Firefox has no problem dealing with extensions starting simultaneously. Yet these multiple "load" events could lead to performance issues for Fennec. A fact not always considered by extension developers, so Finkle. To save resources, a lot of Fennec's processes run unseen in the background.
Mozilla first announced its plans for a mini browser in October 2007. The current download is a second alpha version from December 2008.

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