Mozilla Rolls Out Firefox 3.6 Release Candidate

The release candidate for Firefox 3.6, the latest version of Mozilla's Web browser, contains a variety of new features, including user alerts about out-of-date plug-ins, improved JavaScript performance and browser speed, and the ability to display native video in full-screen mode. The browser previously went through two beta versions, with community feedback leading to dozens of fixes.

Mozilla unveiled the release candidate for Firefox 3.6 on Jan. 10, offering the browser both as a free download from its site and as an automatic update for all Firefox 3.6 Beta users.

According to the open-source organization's Jan. 10 statement, "Over 75 percent of ... Firefox add-ons have now been upgraded by their authors to be compatible with Firefox 3.6," which is built on the Gecko 1.9.2 platform. The release candidate can be downloaded from this site.

Mozilla released Firefox 3.6 Beta 2 on Nov. 11, a little under two weeks after it released the first Firefox 3.6 beta. That second beta contained "over 190 fixes based on feedback Mozilla obtained from the previous data," claimed an organization spokesperson.

Firefox 3.6 contains a variety of new features, including the ability to display native video in full-screen mode, integrated Personas-browser themes that can be applied with one click through the Firefox Add-ons Manager's Themes tab-and a streamlined way to update plug-ins through a Plugin Check Web page. Mozilla also said JavaScript performance, browser responsiveness and startup speed have all been improved.

Firefox 3.6 Beta 2 included a mechanism to "prevent incompatible software from crashing Firefox," in response to discovery of a bug that caused such a problem, as well as tweaks to other new features. Firefox 3.6 also apparently alerts users about any out-of-date plug-ins and changes how third-party software integrates with Firefox in order to boost the browser's stability.

Now just over five years old, Firefox occupies about 25 percent of the browser market, according to statistics company Net Applications. By comparison, Microsoft's Internet Explorer holds around 63 percent of the market, while Apple Safari and Google Chrome occupy roughly 4 percent each.

Mozilla's user community generally moves quickly to patch the browser's vulnerabilities. In October, the organization moved to block a pair of Microsoft add-ons because they had vulnerabilities that could have potentially affected Firefox users; in response, Microsoft patched flaws affecting the Microsoft .NET Framework Assistant and Windows Presentation Foundation in a Patch Tuesday update.

Mozilla recently updated its Thunderbird open-source e-mail application, as well. Compatible with Windows, Mac OS X and open-source platforms, Thunderbird 3 includes new features such as filtered search, tabbed e-mail, a one-click address book and a streamlined mail account setup wizard.