Mozilla Firefox 4 finally exits beta

Ronny Kerr · March 22, 2011 · Short URL:

Aesthetic changes match Google Chrome, faster iterations to be seen going forward

Mozilla Firefox 4 has landed. This is not a beta, this is not a test. Firefox 4 has launched.

It's a relieving moment for Mozilla because its newest browser had been plagued by delays. The first beta for Firefox 4 launched in early July 2010. Though at one time slated for a November 2010 release, Firefox 4 was pushed back multiple times, first to January and then to some vague time in early 2011. Nearly a year and 10 candidates later, the final version is out in the wild.

This is also a crucial release for Mozilla because it marks the last time the browser will go through such a large release cycle. Going forward, the organization has decided to iterate much more quickly, so as to keep up in today’s competitive browser market. Firefox 5, 6, and 7--none with as many updates as we’re seeing today in Firefox 4--are all planned to be released this year. The idea is that smaller, more focused changes are more efficient for the user and developers, as opposed to grand, overarching changes.

Already, the new browser has been downloaded over a million times, but it has a ways to go before catching up with Firefox 3, which holds the Guinness World Record for most software downloads in 24 hours: 8,002,530.

Firefox 4 builds upon the best of previous releases, while also introducing notable changes influenced by other browsers. The biggest of these has to be the design alteration, which shifts the focus from the address bar (or “awesome bar,” as Mozilla calls it) at top to the tabs. This is an obvious cue taken from Google Chrome and it makes perfect sense; tabbed browsing has become the norm for most Web users, so it only makes sense to place the emphasis there.

The new browser also lets users create "app tabs" for regularly used sites and services, as demonstrated at right with Pandora, Twitter and Yahoo. App tabs are shorter and more permanent than regular tabs, leaving more room for the hustle and bustle of opening and closing tabs that regularly happens while Web surfing.

One of the most-often lobbed complaints against Firefox was its sluggishness, from the minute it opens to running Web applications. Firefox 4 is supposed to address these issues with a number of performance enhancements. So far, it does feel faster, but we’ll have to wait on benchmarks to see if it beats the lightning-fast Google Chrome.

Beyond speed upgrades and aesthetic changes, Firefox 4 also gets with the times by adding more privacy and security tools, as well as options for syncing with mobile devices.

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