Dec 18, 2015

    Mozilla launches its first 64-bit Web browser

    AT A time when 8GB of RAM is becoming common on desktops and laptops, Firefox remained a 32-bit affair as maker Mozilla did not join Google and Microsoft in shifting to 64-bit Web browsing. Up until now, that is.

    Mozilla has just launched Firefox 43, which finally includes a 64-bit version for Windows, along with improved security features.

    While 64-bit open-source Web browsers based on Firefox - like Waterfox and Pale Moon - have been around for some time, this marks the first time that an official build is available from Mozilla itself.

    Users on 64-bit versions of Windows can look forward to improved performance in the new Firefox browser, thanks to the ability to utilise more than 4GB of RAM. This means that you can run Web apps larger than 4GB of RAM, including certain cloud-based development tools and 3D Web games.

    The larger address space also helps increase security, making it harder for malicious Web content to exploit vulnerabilities in Firefox.

    The 64-bit Firefox browser is also reportedly faster because it can access new hardware registers and instructions, which means that JavaScript code can run a lot quicker and execution time is cut down.

    Firefox 43 adds new features that are not limited to the 64-bit version. For instance, Private Browsing with Tracking Protection enabled now allows you to block all known trackers - derived from an open-source block list from Disconnect - instead of just some of them.

    This mode is known as "strict protection", as opposed to the regular "basic protection", but Mozilla warns that some sites may not work properly when this feature is on.

    The search bar, which Mozilla calls the Awesome Bar, can also now display search suggestions, something that was lacking in previous versions of Firefox. The drop-down menu will show matching sites from your browsing history and bookmarks, as well as sites that you tagged (if you would rather keep your bookmarks private, you can opt to exclude it from the suggestions).

    Mozilla has designed the search bar to get better the more you use it, working off data on how frequently and recently you visit each site, and what result you clicked for specific words or characters.

    Other improvements include support for .m4v video playback and an onscreen keyboard when you select input fields in Windows 8 and later.

    There's just one caveat - the 64-bit version of Firefox 43 still has limited support for plug-ins.