Mozilla launches the initial beta of Firefox 4, the next major version of its popular open-source Web browser. Mozilla is eager to get user and developer feedback on the beta, as the company plans a steady cadence of updates leading up to a general release once the technology has been hardened.
Mozilla has launched the initial beta of
Firefox 4, the next major version of its popular open-source Web browser.
Although the new Beta 1 gives a good early look at what Mozilla is planning
to deliver in Firefox 4, "Stay tuned, because there is more to come and we plan
to release new beta versions every two to three weeks," said Mike
Beltzner, director of Firefox development at Mozilla, in a July
6 blog post.
Beltzner called for users and developers to download and test the Firefox 4
beta, saying, "Your feedback
is essential to help shape the product, which is why we're launching now to
hear from you early in our development process." Moreover, with early testing
of the dozens of new features in the Firefox 4 beta, Mozilla will be able to hone
future versions of the technology to better suit user needs. Beltzner said.
Of some of the key changes delivered in the Firefox 4 beta, Beltzner said:
"If you are using a Windows PC, the most noticeable new feature will be the
look of the browser. We moved the tabs to the top to make it easier to focus on
the Web content and easier to control the tools in your Web browser. Also, if
you have Windows 7 or Windows Vista, the Menu bar was replaced with a single
Firefox button so you can get to the most used options with just one click.
These changes will be coming soon for Mac and Linux."
Other new features include a new add-ons manager to give users more space to
manage their Add-Ons, Themes and Plug-ins. New HD video support enables users
to watch hardware-accelerated, HD-quality HTML5 video on YouTube using the new WebM format.
The beta also features privacy and performance improvements, as well as crash
protection so that users can experience uninterrupted browsing on all platforms.
When a plug-in crashes or freezes, you can resume browsing by simply refreshing
In addition, Beltzner said, "Web developers will be interested in some of
the changes we've made under the hood." These changes include:
Parser: Run the best Web apps of today and tomorrow-if a user's
browser doesn't support HTML5, they still won't miss out on your content.
Build real-time, online interactions like gaming and chatting.
Use structured storage in your Web applications to speed them up or
provide offline support.
Web Console: Peek into
dynamic Websites with this experimental "Heads Up Display" analysis tool.
Simpler Add-On Development:
Authors can create Add-Ons that don't require a restart to install,
develop their Add-Ons more quickly using the new powerful Jetpack SDK, and safely
connect to existing libraries using js-ctypes.
Beltzner said to make it easier to give feedback, "Firefox 4 Beta includes a
new Feedback Add-On.
Any time you run across something you like or don't like, just click the Feedback button and
tell us about it. The Add-On also includes Mozilla Labs' Test Pilot, and will ask you to
take part in anonymous studies. You can choose to opt out of any or all
studies by managing your settings in the Feedback button (no data will be sent
to Mozilla without your permission)."
More information on Firefox 4 Beta 1 is available in the release notes
and the FAQ.
Firefox 4 Beta 1 is available for download here.
Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.