The Mozilla Foundation has announced the first beta version of Firefox 4, the next generation of its cross-platform web browser.
Although the final release date is unclear, as Mozilla aim to engage up to 4 million users in an interactive test run in order to mould the final release, the beta is considered to be stable and safe enough for daily test drives.
As a result of setting Firefox 4 free, developers are prompting users to submit thoughts and feedback to Mozilla, who are hoping the response opportunities help to critically analyse the browser's developers and keep encouraging user interface.
The popular browser is undergoing many changes, both visible and under the bonnet. The Windows release has seen the most apparent refinements, with tabs moved above the address bar as well as a single Firefox button to replace the menu bar.
Universal changes include a Smart Location bar, updated add-ons manager, replacement of the bookmarks bar with a bookmarks button; support for high definition WebM video, extra privacy protection and crash protection against media plug ins.
For web developers, the main feature to embrace is the new HTML5 parser - which has full support for drag and drop, audio, video, file handling, and in-line SVG and MathML support
The new browser has most definitely shaken things up, one enhancement that is instantly apparent - the speed. Taking a leaf from the book of Chrome, the rendering of web pages is instantaneous and video sites such as YouTube load up in record time. However, unbeknown to the naked eye most of these websites such as YouTube, Google, and Face book are cached in your computer so they will always load ahead of the rest.
According to sources, the run around version isn't exhibiting all of the new features, as many are intended for the final release. The Mac and Linux releases have yet to adopt the new menu layout and the synchronisation and privacy controls features are yet to be seen. Mozilla claims that it is going to squeeze even more speed from the engine for the final release later in the year. So strap in, and sit back, let's hope it's one heck of a ride.
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