Mozilla, Opera, and Flock Release VP8 Ready Browsers

The latest wares of three popular browsing applications were released this week reflecting a changing Internet. Open formats are taking center stage at Mozilla, Opera, and Flock as lock-in (or freeze-out), security concerns, and performance issues fuel the drive toward the VP8 video format.

Mozilla released Firefox 3.7 Alpha 5 (or Preview 1.9.3 Number 5) on June 14 featuring support for WebM / VP8 open video format, new Addons Manager, and HTML 5 support. This release also introduced Hardware Acceleration for video playback taking some of the heavy work off the CPU and placing it where it belongs on the GPU. Mozilla hopes to have acceleration fully developed for the upcoming 4.0 release but users can test the first steps with full-screen HTML 5 video now. Users can also see the amount of memory in use by typing about:memory into the address bar. 64-bit versions are available for Windows, Linux, and Mac as well, although 32-bit plug-ins are not supported.

Opera 10.60 beta was released July 16 featuring what Opera claims is as much as 75% faster browsing due to fine tuning of the JavaScript Engine. Opera also includes support for WebM / VP8 and improvements to their HTML 5 code. Users can also take advantage of AppCache which will allow Web applications to be run while off-line. Other user enhancements include wide-screen Speed Dial, improved tab previews, optional location awareness, and improved KDE and GNOME skinning.

Flock 3.0 beta was also announced July 16. Unlike previous versions which were based on Mozilla Firefox, this release is built on Google's open source Chromium browser. Chromium began including WebM / VP8 support in their developmental builds as early as May 20. Clayton Stark, Flock VP of Engineering, said of their decision,

"I believe would not even exist had not come before it. We didn't choose Chromium over Mozilla as much as we chose Chromium after Mozilla. It was a natural evolution."

Greater performance and improved Web integration were cited among the reasons for the change and most Chrome extensions are said to be compatible. Google is now the default search engine for Flock as well. Unfortunately, Linux and Mac versions have yet to appear.

The VP8 codec reference implementation was open sourced by Google on May 19 and is regulated under a BSD license.

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