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Firefox Developer Edition Brings 64-bit Windows Builds

| by James Chesters Follow 2 Followers on Mar 10, 2015. Estimated reading time: 2 minutes |

64-bit builds for Firefox Developer Edition are now available on Windows.

Plans for the builds were announced back in November 2014, when Mozilla first released details of their browser made "by developers, for developers." Windows joins existing support for OSX and Linux.

In the article Firefox Developer Edition 38: 64-bits and more authors Dave Camp, director of developer tools at Mozilla, and Jason Weathersby, technical evangelist for Mozilla, write that a "64-bit build is a major step toward giving users rich, desktop-quality app experiences in the browser".

For game developers, a 64-bit browser is a big bonus, Camp and Weathersby say.

A 32-bit browser is limited to 4GB of address space. That address space is further whittled down by fragmentation issues. Meanwhile, web applications are getting bigger and bigger.

Browser-based games that deliver performant, native-like gameplay are often much larger than we expect from traditional web applications. These games ship with large assets that must be stored in memory so they can be synchronously loaded.

64 bits means the difference between a 2GB heap size, and a 512mb heap in a 32-bit browser when porting to asm.js. This can determine whether a game will run in a browser. Firefox Developer Edition's 64-bit builds use Emscripten to help port C and C++ code to run on the Web and deliver increased performance for games.

Ashraf Samy Hegab, founder of 3D game creation platform Playir, told InfoQ that for the current majority of web games, and the generation of mobile games to be ported to the web, Mozilla's 64-bit Firefox browser will make "no difference", as the 32bit memory limits are a factor away from being a bottleneck.

However, Hegab says this is not the case with the growing support for HTML5 games in advanced game engines.

He said:

UnrealEngine, and their new business models, allow for free entry-level development usage. Alongside the emerging platforms of VR gaming pushed by Oculus and Valve, there is an expected trend for more advanced games to be developed for the web.

With 64bit browsing, and supporting technologies such as WebGL, asm.js and WebRTC. The potential for console grade games to be distributed through web browsers is becoming more and more likely.

Security is another advantage to the 64-bit browser. Camp and Weathersby report that because of an increased address space, the effectiveness of ASLR is also improved: in turn making it more difficult for web content to exploit the browser.

The Developer Edition 38 release also brings a number of other additions. Among them are multistream and renegotiation support for WebRTC, visibility for optimised-out variables in Debugger UI and  visual labelling in the command logs for XMLHttpRequest logs.

The Network Monitor tool gives details of network requests from Firefox, how long each request takes, and details of each request -- and because it is a useful for debugging code, filtering XMLHttpRequests within console logging is now available.

In addition, Firefox Developer Edition 38 brings fresh support for Ruby, with CSS Ruby enabled by default, and support of HTML5 ruby tags. More information about this can be found in the post Ruby support in Firefox Developer Edition 38 by Xidorn Quan.

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