Fresh Mozilla Firefox Beta 4 Drops for Testing

Mozilla Jan. 14 rolled out its latest Firefox 4 beta version for users to test. Expect much better speed and performance, as well as Panorama technology for better group tabbing.

Mozilla released its new Firefox 4 browser beta to the public Jan. 14, offering a new look with an emphasis on speed for users to play with on Windows, Mac and Linux.

Performance enhancements rev up start-up time, page-loading and accelerate Web application and games. Mozilla's Kraken performance benchmark shows it to be more than three times faster than the current Firefox 3.6.13 build.

The latest Firefox 4 beta includes Panorama technology, which allows open tabs to be grouped for easier Web surfing. Users may move Websites they always keep open to their tab bar with App Tabs.

Firefox Beta 4 also includes Firefox Sync, allowing users to port their Awesome Bar history, bookmarks, open tabs and passwords across multiple computers and smartphones.

Developers will benefit from support for HTML5, WebM and HD video, 3D graphic rendering with WebGL, hardware acceleration and the Mozilla Audio API for sound.

Calling the latest beta a "huge pile of awesome," Chris Blizzard, director of product platform management, offered this developer tool overview of the Firefox 4 beta.

With the official launch expected for February, the latest Firefox 4 beta launch comes a few months after Mozilla launched its Firefox 4 beta 1 for Android and Nokia's Maemo OS, and several months after releasing the initial Firefox 4 beta.

As the open source Web browser with the second biggest share of the Web browser market behind Microsoft Internet Explorer, Firefox can hardly be said to be struggling.

But its market share, along with IE, has stopped growing. Firefox commands just shy of 23 percent of the worldwide market, where once it held nearly 25 percent, according to Net Applications.

Thank Google's Chrome Web browser, which the search engine has managed to bring to 10 percent market share in two and a half years through aggressive advertising on major publications, word of mouth, and its recent push to blast Chrome out via its Chrome OS-based Cr-48 test notebooks.

Many Firefox users jumped ship for Chrome in the last two years. Will Firefox's market share continue to decrease? Probably. Browser users who follow high-tech tend to go with the hot hand and right now that's Chrome.

But if Chrome development should slip, Firefox will be there to catch users. From what we've seen and heard about Firefox 4, it's the group's best work yet.

Mozilla is asking users to keep testing the Firefox 4 beta on Websites and report issues with "anything from games, video and music to graphics and forms through the Feedback button on the browser."