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 the page.
In addition, Beltzner said, "Web developers will be interested in some of the changes we've made under the hood." These changes include:
- HTML5 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.
- WebSockets: Build real-time, online interactions like gaming and chatting.
- IndexedDB: 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.
- For a full list of Web technologies supported by Firefox check out the "big chart o' features."
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)."