Firefox Beta Now Features New IonMonkey JavaScript Compiler, Built-In PDF Viewer, Retina and Touch Support

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Today is beta-release day at Mozilla, and the organization is launching new beta versions of Firefox for the desktop and Android. This time around, the desktop version is set to get the most interesting updates, including the new IonMonkey just-in-time JavaScript compiler, as well as support for Macs with Retina displays and W3C Touch Event support for machines with touchscreens. On Android, Firefox now offers better phishing protection and – as an opt-in – search suggestions.

IonMonkey has been a major undertaking for Mozilla. The new JavaScript compiler made its debut in the nightly releases of Firefox 18 in September, but the project had already been underway for a good year at that point. Depending on the benchmark, IonMonkey provides up to a 26 percent performance improvement over the old TraceMonkey and JägerMonkey just-in-time compilers.

Also new in this beta are Retina support for OS X 10.7 and up, something the company announced last month. Mozilla also added preliminary WebRTC support and, after quite a bit of development time, its built-in PDF viewer for Firefox. Firefox 18 will also allow users to disable insecure content on HTTPS secure websites.

The other important new feature in Firefox 18 is support for W3C touch events, which will replace Mozilla’s own MozTouch events for users with touch-enabled screens, though just about 1.1 percent of Firefox users (and 4.4 percent of Firefox users on Windows 8) currently use touchscreens.

The Firefox 18 beta with all of these updates should find its way into the stable release channel by the second week of 2012. Until then, you can try the beta version for Windows, Mac and Linux by downloading it here.