Wednesday, 07 July 2010 13:16

Firefox 4 Beta 1 arrives


The first public beta of Firefox 4, Mozilla's next-generation browser, is now available for download.

Firefox 4 beta 1 purports to be "stable and safe to use for daily web browsing" but the more cautious among us will most likely wait for the release version. But if you're keen to see what the next generation of Firefox is going to be like, or - more importantly - you're prepared to give it a test drive and report back to the development team (a feedback button is incorporated to make that as easy as possible), it's just a click and a 20-odd megabyte download away.

Firefox 4 includes a laundry list of new or improved technologies, including the Gecko 2.0 engine, Websockets, enhanced HTML5 support (including WebM video support), partial CSS Transitions support, and crash protection (for the Flash, QuickTime and Silverlight plugins).

There's also full support for WebGL (disabled by default), a Windows Direct2D rendering backend (also disabled by default), Mac OS X Core Animation support for plugins, and HTML History APIs.

Responsiveness has been improved through lazy frame construction (which reduces the number of times complex pages are reflowed) and asynchronous link history lookup.

Talking of link history, user privacy has been improved by blocking websites from reading the browsing history.

What else has changed? Please read on.

Firefox 4 also delivers a range of user interface changes.

These include 'tabs on top' (the option of showing tabs Chrome-style above the Awesome bar; currently only in the Windows version), a new Addons Manager (still under development), the merging of the Stop and Reload buttons, and a Bookmarks button in place of the Bookmarks bar (the latter can be restored by the user).

And on Windows 7 and Vista, the new (though unfinished) Firefox button groups commands such as New Window, Save Page, Print, Options, and Exit that were traditionally shown in the menu bar.

Further beta releases are planned at two to three week intervals. "There will be much more to test in future beta releases and not everything that you see in this beta is guaranteed to be in Firefox 4," said Mike Beltzner, director of Firefox at Mozilla Corporation.



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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.



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