The open-source Mozilla Foundation released the latest iteration of its Firefox Web browsing software on Friday, promising faster navigation, increased customization and improved security in the third beta version of its upcoming application.
Labelled Firefox 1.5 Release Candidate 3, the new installment of the Web browsing software claims many of the same types of improvements as the last several test versions of the application.
Those additions include faster navigation, with upgrades to back and forward button performance, as well as drag-and-drop reordering for browser tabs, and improvements in general usability, such as more descriptive error pages, a further redesigned options menu, RSS feed discovery capabilities and a "safe mode" for enhanced protection against potential threats.
In addition to launching the new beta, Mozilla representatives confirmed that the group hopes to introduce the final version of Firefox 1.5 sometime during the last week of November, or within the first several days of December.
The second beta version of the browser was released during the first week of October. Mozilla said previously that it plans to adopt a more aggressive product introduction cycle in 2006, with Firefox 2 launching by mid-year, and Firefox 3 expected out some time during the first quarter of 2007.
As part of the Release Candidate 3 introduction, Mozilla also added new automated updating features for the software in an effort to streamline transitions to future editions of the browser.
Mozilla said that update notifications have also been made more prominent in the software, including the addition of pop-ups that inform users of new features.
Mozilla has said that it plans to begin releasing regularly scheduled security and stability updates for Firefox 1.5 every six to eight weeks after the final version of the application is introduced.
Other improvements promised in Release Candidate 3 include improved pop-up ad blocking tools, the addition of the Answers.com site to the browsers search engine listings, extended capabilities for reporting Web sites that do not work with the software and new support for Apple Inc.s Mac OS X operating system, including profile migration from the Safari and Mac Internet Explorer browsers.
Since launching just over one year ago, Firefox has garnered significant attention for attracting over 100 million downloads and siphoning market share away from Microsoft Corp.s dominant Explorer browser.
According to Onestat.com, which analyzes Internet traffic, Firefoxs slice of the worldwide browser market is currently holding at 11 percent, compared to Internet Explorers 85 percent market share.
Once a hotly contended market with well-known players such as Netscape and America Online Inc. challenging Microsoft for dominance, competition for Explorer had tailed off noticeably over the last five years before the introduction of Firefox in 2004.
Mozilla representatives said that customers are responding to the notion of again having a choice in which browsers they may use to go online.
"Weve had a year to collect feedback from our users, and weve seen that people are really responding to having a choice again," said Paul Kim, director of product marketing for Mozilla.
"Were really focusing on improving the overall user experience; you wont see a lot of changes in the user interface as we dont want to add features just for the sake of doing so, but we want to make sure that we integrate the best of the user feedback we receive, and refine other areas of the product."