Continuing the development of the eagerly anticipated Firefox 4, a second beta release has been made. The releases are intentionally released often to have a better and up-to-date testing experience for those involved.
Although it remains a beta, it is interesting to see how Firefox 4 matures to a stable release this year. Presently it's not recommended for normal end users to use this build for daily purposes, but it is safe to take a look at what is to come.
As usual with betas, the changes are numerous:
- Firefox 4 Beta 2 is available in 24 languages.
- Tabs are now on top by default on Windows and OSX - Linux will be changing when the theme has been modified to support the change.
- You can turn any tab into an "App Tab" by right-clicking on it and selecting "Make into App Tab" from the context menu.
- Web developers can animate content using CSS Transitions.
- Responsiveness and scrolling improvements from the new retained layers layout system.
- Changes to how XPCOM components are registered in order to help startup time and process separation.
You can find the entire release notes of this and the previous beta release at Mozilla's site. If you like new web stuff than this Firefox 4 build will make you happy. Remember to give your feedback once you've downloaded and installed it.
Continuing the normal stream of maintainence builds, Mozilla issued a new Firefox which has several stability and security fixes.
The current changelog is meager, but the Bugzilla entry has much more:
- Fixed several security issues: 8 critical, 2 high, 4 moderate
- Fixed several stability issues
You can download the entire file from Mozilla's site, existing users will be automatically updated, or by selecting it from the Help menu.
Update: Mozilla issued a new release dubbed Firefox 3.6.8 that fixes a single stability issue affecting some pages containing plug-ins.
For the most part you'll probably think that Firefox 4.0 is another sequel on catching up with the competition, and well, that cannot be denied. Regardless of who was first or last, this beta is only a rough example of what to expect sometime this year when the final product is finished.
The first thing you'll notice is the focus on platform integration. Previous releases just don't fit in well on Windows, and thus 4.0 finally leverages Aero found in Vista and 7. A new Firefox button in the top corner compresses the normal menu into a most often used mini menu, reducing vertical space used by non-browsing content. No doubt you'll find this similar to Opera's approach (which actually shares space with tabs, while Firefox does not) or the (recently combined) page/tools drop down menu buttons in Chrome. Just like the competition the tabs are now at the top on Vista and 7. For other platforms like Linux and Mac there are some small changes, but most of the work is just not finished yet (such as tabs on top).
One exciting change introduced is experimental Direct2D hardware acceleration, similar to IE9 (which is also in test phase). This may improve performance significantly if executed correctly. For Mac there is acceleration through Core Animation for plug-ins if they support it. Hopefully we'll see full hardware support for all platform in the later test releases. Of course there is more such as WebM support, separate plugin processes for all platforms (not just Windows and Linux), WebGL support, and much, much, more.
Do note that this is a rough release and certainly not polished in looks or functionality, when trying your downloaded copy. Mozilla shows that Firefox isn't at its end yet, 4.0 looks to be major leap. The question remains, will this leap be big enough against the aggressive competition like Chrome, Opera and Safari or even IE9?
Mozilla Links has a nice short post on the recent theme changes that landed on the trunk, where main development for Firefox 4 occurs.
Similar to Opera, or Opera was similar to Firefox' concept art, who cares anyway, there is now a "Firefox" button (labeled Minefield due to being a nightly) that offers the basic menu functionality which is now hidden by default. The menu button itself has a layout of menu items which is based on a hotspot (thermal) image of user activity and should host the most important functionality. The loss of the menu bar (which can be re-enabled by the way) is traded for more vertical space, which is important since we mostly have more horizontal space these days due to widescreen displays.
Other well deserved changes include support for Aero glass, which is finally coming while since Vista this has been a pain in the butt for those who like esthetically pleasing Windows apps. The tab bar is now on-top, similar to Opera and Chrome, in which Alex Faaborg goes in-depth to explain the choice (once more, yes you can change this back).
As you can see some important puzzle pieces are in place for the first beta of Firefox 4 which should appear somewhere in the coming weeks. It looks like Firefox is finally making a serious effort to be "there" in the usability area once again.
Probably the longest test run ever for a Firefox maintenance release, but then again, it's unusually interesting this time.
- Firefox 3.6.4 provides uninterrupted browsing for Windows and Linux users when there is a crash in the Adobe Flash, Apple Quicktime or Microsoft Silverlight plugins.
- If a plugin crashes or freezes, it will not affect the rest of Firefox. You will be able to reload the page to restart the plugin and try again.
- Fixed several security issues.
- Fixed several stability issues.
Update: Skipping 3.6.5 all together, Firefox 3.6.6 has been released, which increases the time-out counter to determine crashed plug-ins. Previously this was set too low, which was causing problems for older machines running Firefox.
The what, what? Yes, I know. The UX team behind Firefox have updated their plans for the in-content UI visual unification for Firefox 4 (and beyond). And if you're like me, you know that anything Stephen Horlander posts, looks gorgeous to begin with (and often makes sense).
One of the Firefox UX team’s priorities for Firefox 4 (and beyond) has been working towards moving stuff to the in-content UI. With stuff I mean dialogs like the Add-ons Manager, which is now a separate window, that appears once you select it from the menu. The in-content UI is much like the basic idea in Opera and Chrome, where for instance the bookmarks manager lives in a tab of the current browser window and not separately.
However the UX team is moving beyond just the Add-ons manager and even includes preferences, about:config, phishing detection, session restore and TabCandy. TabCandy is especially interesting, as it shows the concept of grouping tabs in a cell (area).
You can go to Stephen Horlander's blog for a multitude of concept images. Seeing this I can hardly wait for the first beta of Firefox to appear this month. Not only does it finally looks like it feels at home in Windows 7's Aero, but it also shows improvement UI concept beyond just mimicking the competition and certainly stands firm on its own.
During the first day of the Google I/O conference in San Francisco the good fellows of the search giant announced WebM a new open web media format. Why is this important? Well, it seems that this could be the end game for the HTML5 video element.
Not as in the end of HTML5, but the controversy surrounding the video element itself, which didn't limit the codec used to render video. This led to fragmentation as both Mozilla Firefox and Opera only supported open and patent-free standards like Ogg Theora. The competition, including Apple Safari and Google Chrome did add support for the software patent infested H.264, making it hard to target all browsers at once. The newly announced WebM project is here to end it. With a new standard based on the VP8 codec from the recently purchased On2 Technologies, Google is opening up a new codec that offers better quality than Ogg Theora (while still using Ogg Vorbis for audio), as well as keeping it open and patent-free.
But announcing just a new codec isn't going to help by itself. For it to succeed Google needed friends and here there! On the software side both Mozilla and Opera have joined the league, Microsoft announced that IE9 will enable VP8 if it's installed, making Apple the only one left. But there is more, yes Adobe Flash is there too. Other software parties are: (Google/OHA) Android OS, CoreCodec, Skype and more. But software isn't everything, hardware acceleration would be nice too, so the following hardware companies joined as well: AMD, ARM, Broadcom, freescale, Imagination, Logitech, Marvel, MIPS, NVIDIA, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and more. Of course, being Google means that this time all videos on YouTube will be available in an HTML 5 with WebM combination.
Google promises that tonight the new codec will be added to Chromium (and end up somewhat later in the development stream of builds), while both Mozilla and Opera already released the first test builds of their respective browsers. Hopefully the world will adopt this one standard so we can all enjoy the unity.
The folks at Mozilla finally unveiled a new roadmap for Firefox, which has been vague after the release of Firefox 3.6. Where first were talks of Firefox 3.7 and Firefox 4.0, there is now only one.
Logically the one to survive is Firefox 4.0, which is aimed to be released this year. Firefox 3.7 is no more, and the top changes of that release are scattered around other releases. For instance Firefox 3.6.4 actually contains the plug-in process separation (like Safari 4), while the theme changes require more time and will appear in Firefox 4.
With the increased competition from Chrome and Opera, but also Internet Explorer and Safari, several main goals have been set for the upcoming release. Being the second most popular web browser, that is not part of some major corporation can be though, but if most of the features will make it in the final release, there's still a lot going for.
First is of course the new theme. Firefox 4 will finally use Aero Glass in Windows Vista and 7 and less screen space, while the Mac release will look more like Safari or Finder, which less dominating buttons. Platform integration has been important for Firefox 3, but they surely lacked in the Windows department with this (Mac and Linux variants look decent).
Other changes that are planned for Firefox 4 are: Jetpack (a more simple extensions framework, that does not require reboots for instance), HTML5 and other new web technologies, a new add-on manager, Aero Peek, Aero overlays, 64-bit support, and much, much more.
According to the preliminary roadmap we can expect a first beta somewhere at the end of June, which will be followed by a long range of beta releases, with an expected release date in October/November. Exciting indeed, to see some really big changes from Mozilla!
Not much to say here, but a new release of Firefox 3.6 was made purely to address the recently demonstrated exploit in the Pwn2Own contest.
Due to the critical nature of the exploit, the developers of Firefox made the decision to release a new version solely to address it. Suffice to say that this is a highly recommended update. The exploit uses a memory corruption flaw to execute code, which occurs in the Garbage Collector for DOM.
All users are recommended to update, which should occur automatically. If you haven't seen an update notice yet you can trigger it from the Help menu. Of course you can also download the entire file.