in the release notes of Firefox 24 there is a changed-object called: Performance improvements on New Tab Page loads. Following the link brings me to a feature-object on Bugzilla telling me the new-tab page preloads the webpages.
This preloading doesn't work. The images won't show up (except the ones in cache) and checking the activity in Fiddler tells me there is no preloading (see: http://i.imgur.com/PZ51172.jpg)
To be honest. The preloading did work once when I just installed the update. Afterwards it failed every single time.
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The Webpages aren't being pre-loaded, only the new tab page is reloaded so that when you open it, you no longer get a connecting Icon and it loads instantly. The web pages on the new tab page aren't pre-loaded at all.
Pages that send a no-store or no-cache header (Tools > Page Info > General) aren't cached and thus Firefox does not generate a thumbnail. The thumbnails on the about:newtab page are generated from the cache, so if the page is not in the cache or otherwise can't be rendered as a PNG image then you will get an empty box.
Do not use "Clear Recent History" to clear data when you close Firefox.
If there is no history then you get an about:newtab page with empty boxes.
For anybody still using the Google Toolbar (while officially incompatible with Firefox it works perfectly; a minor patch is required to make it install, it originally checked for a Firefox version not beyond, I think, 4): with the Google Toolbar installed and browser.newtab.preload true, the "add tab" facility does not work since Firefox 24. Setting browser.newtab.preload false restores proper functioning. See https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/questions/967747#answer-483758