Yesterday marked another milestone for VR as Mozilla Firefox launched its newest browser update which brings WebVR in as a feature for enhanced web-based experiences.
It was in 2014 when Firefox put together the WebVR concept and released its first ever prototype version. That time, the company wanted to integrate virtual reality into browsers and make it easier for developers to create a VR world that would work on all kinds of devices.#MozillaFirefox finally release #Firefox55! New update to support #WebVR.Click To Tweet
However, the concept failed to materialize, and saw WebVR developer Vladimir Vukicevic leaving Mozilla to join game engine maker Unity. In February this year, Google Chrome launched its WebVR support, followed by Microsoft Edge in April-both beating Mozilla.
Firefox 55 to Support WebVR for Rift and Vive
WebVR is a crucial part of VR development. The technology makes it possible to create and access VR content such as games on the web. WebVR eliminates the need to download standalone apps to view each website that users visit.
In essence, WebVR can make any browser act as a portal to virtual reality experiences.
The Firefox 55 update will only be supporting HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. As the updates started rolling out yesterday, all Firefox browsers will start supporting WebVR 1.1 which only means that there will no longer be add-ons and developer switches.
Talking about partnering with Mozilla, Nate Mitchell, Oculus Co-founder and Head of Rift said:
“We believe WebVR will be a key factor in the progress toward mass adoption of VR and a powerful channel for creators seeking the broadest distribution.
Through our work with Mozilla, we’re making it even easier for Oculus Rift owners to have access to a growing collection of amazing WebVR content, whether it be the countless immersive experiences already available or an optimized 2D browsing experience.”
Rikard Steiber, President of Viveport and SVP Virtual Reality at HTC also echoed the same thoughts:
“VR will change the world as we know it and WebVR will be a great platform for a new generation of immersive cross-platform experiences for the HTC Vive and others. We look forward to continuing the work with Mozilla and our Vive developer community to deliver mind blowing WebVR experiences.”
Unlike Chrome and Edge who both released WebVR exclusively on the developers end, Firefox’s update is a general user focused release. In a post published on Medium by Sean White, Senior Vice President of Emerging Technologies at Mozilla, he was quoted as saying:
“It’s remarkable how many years people have been working toward this new kind of online virtual experience. For the entire history of the web, we’ve been looking at computer screens and navigating with mouse, keyboard, and touch. Now we have the tools and technologies we need to create and experience a whole new mode of interaction — with evocative, immersive content that can finally be shared on the web.”
Aside from the WebVR feature, the Firefox 55 will also have a performance panel which will allow users to set preferences like how many processes they want running and a pipeline for restoring lots of tabs in a jiffy.
In one of Mozilla’s test, developers reloaded a browser session with over 1,600 tabs open and were able to start the session in just 15 seconds, a far cry from the recorded 8-minute loading time of its previous builds. Aside from that, Firefox users will now also be able to search any website using the address bar.