Applications developer Mozilla announced the release of Firefox 4 beta, the latest version of the company’s popular Web browsing application. The beta offers easier account and new device setup for Firefox Sync, expanded support for three-dimensional graphics in the browser, and a revamped Firefox Add-ons Manager, among other features.
The streamlined Firefox Sync setup is designed to make it easier to bring Awesome bar history, bookmarks, open tabs and passwords across a user’s computers and smartphones. Based on user feedback, Mozilla also made it much easier to set up Firefox Sync while still securing Firefox data with the same encryption.
In addition, Firefox 4 beta supports WebGL for most modern built-in graphics cards, which is designed to make it easier for developers to create interactive 3D games, vivid graphics and new visual experiences for the Web without the use of third-party plug-ins. WebGL is an open standard for accelerated 3D graphic rendering on the Web that enables developers to build applications that until now required a user to install plug-ins.
With the revamped Firefox Add-ons Manager, add-ons now update automatically. The Add-ons Manager is available on Windows, Mac and Linux platforms.
“Combined with our previous work to bring open HTML5 technologies for animation, video, and sound to the Web, developers can now create amazing experiences that are rendered directly in the browser, combining themselves with live data from the Internet,” wrote Mozilla’s Mike Beltzner. “We are working with the amazing community of add-ons developers to get the gallery of thousands of beneficial and fun add-ons ready to customize the features, look and functionality of Firefox 4 Beta.”
In October, Mozilla released its Firefox 4 beta 1 for Google’s Android and Nokia’s Maemo mobile platforms. It includes features familiar to users of Firefox’s desktop version, including Add-ons and the Awesome Bar, which displays frequently visited and bookmarked URLs. By tapping the Awesome Bar, users can access the Awesome Screen, which displays history, bookmarks and tabs.
A recent malware security report by NSS Labs found Firefox 3.6 caught 19 percent of the live threats thrown at the browser, down 10 percent from the NSS Labs test conducted in the first quarter of 2010. Trends show Safari and Firefox converging at a protection rate of just under 20 percent, indicating that while they share the Google Safe Browser feed, there is a difference in each browser’s implementation.
From an initial list of 8,000 new suspicious sites, 1,209 potentially malicious URLs were prescreened for inclusion in the test and were available at the time of entry into the test. These were successfully accessed by the browsers in at least one run. On average, 124 new URLs were added to the test set per day.
NSS Labs then assessed the browsers’ ability to block malicious URLs as quickly as they found them on the Internet, and continued testing them every 6 hours to determine how long it took a vendor to add protection.