Mozilla has launched the initial beta of Firefox 4, and promises additional beta versions of the open-source browser every few weeks as it refines features. Although Firefox holds a healthy portion of the browser market, it faces a growing challenge from Google Chrome as well as pressure from Internet Explorer.
Mozilla has launched the initial beta of Firefox 4, promising additional
beta versions every few weeks as it works on refining the browser. And
refinement is crucial, given the increasingly competitive nature of the Web browser
"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,"
Mike Beltzner, director of Firefox development at Mozilla, posted July
6 on the Mozilla blog.
New beta versions, he said, will be released
"every two to three weeks." You can download the Firefox 4 beta
The beta's new features offer a mix of aesthetic
and performance improvements.
In the design category, tabs now exist atop
the browser windows by default in the Windows builds, a feature that is expected
soon for the Mac and Linux versions. In all three browser versions, the Stop
and Reload icons have been merged into a single button, and the Smart Location
Bar lets the user search for-and switch to-any open tabs.
The browser also includes native support for HTML5, and segregates browser
plug-ins into separate processes, the better to protect browser sessions from
certain types of crashes. The Firefox Bookmarks tool bar has been replaced with
a Bookmarks button by default.
a look at Firefox 4 Beta 1, click here.
For Web developers, the big changes to Firefox 4 include an "experimental
'Heads Up Display'" analysis tool that lets developers "peek into dynamic
Websites"; "simpler add-on development" with the new Jetpack SDK
(software development kit); the ability to "build real-time, online
interactions," such as chatting, through WebSockets; and an HTML5 parser.
Although most software products are intentionally kept under wraps
throughout their development, Mozilla has made a point of making Firefox 4's
gestation as open an event as possible. "We work in the open, socializing
our plans early and often to gather feedback and build excitement in our
worldwide community," Beltzner wrote May 10 on his personal blog, going on
to say the organization's goals for Firefox 4
included making it
"super-duper fast" and "enabling new open, standard Web
technologies (HTML5 and beyond)."
to research company Net Applications, Microsoft's Internet Explorer holds 60.32 percent of the browser market,
followed by Firefox at 23.81 percent, Chrome at 7.24 percent, Safari at 4.85
percent and Opera at 2.27 percent.
first glance, that places Firefox in a comfortable position-and apparently gaining
ground against Internet Explorer, as the latter's share has declined from 66.97
percent in August 2009. However, adoption of Chrome is steadily increasing-from
2.84 percent in August 2009 to the current 7.24 percent. Safari
and Opera are also trending upward,
but much more slowly.
Chrome's rise, as much as Internet Explorer's decline, suggests the
fundamental fluidity of the browser market. And that fact alone would drive
Mozilla to develop a new version of Firefox that's been streamlined with
performance optimizations and faster navigation; as other tech companies have
learned, a product's dominance of a particular sector can slip away within the
course of a year, or even months, if new versions aren't pushed into the