Firefox 4 mock ups got the rumor mills spinning
In early May, a few mock ups released by Mike Beltzner got the public wondering what the next generation of Firefox would look like and, more importantly, what features it would support. They didn’t reveal much at that time, except that there would be native support for CSS effects and HTML5. What the mock ups did confirm, however, was that the latest Firefox iteration would borrow its UI heavily from browsers like Chrome and Opera.
The most striking difference is that the tabs are now on top. While this was achievable in previous Firefox version by using the Chromifox Extreme theme, there was no default support for it. In the current beta release, this change is only visible in the Windows version. Rest assured, they are working on bringing the same look to Mac OS X and Linux too.
Other visual differences include the combination of ‘go’, ‘stop’ and ‘reload’ buttons into a single button as well as a changed menu structure and bookmarks tab. To summarize, the new look of Mozilla Firefox is absolutely stunning and is the biggest change of any single iteration.
Beta up for download
Earlier today, Mozilla put the fourth generation Firefox up for download. The beta tag confirms that it is not a stable release yet. In fact, there is even a feedback tab in the current version, which will likely disappear in the final release. Users who have tried it, though, say it runs pretty smooth.
Apart from the striking visual differences, the backend also sports what is probably the longest and surely the most major changelog ever in a single update. Here’s a look at some of the new features:
- Smart location bar allows you to search for and switch between tabs
- API improvements
- Crash protection against Flash, Quicktime and Silverlight plug-ins
- Full support for WebGL and WebM video format
- Direct2D rendering backend on the Windows version (turned off by default)
- New HTML5 parser and support for more HTML5 form controls
The entire changelog can be found HERE.
Is it slower?
Webworkerdaily.com would have you believe that Firefox is sluggish at best. There are some horrifying charts, such as the one posted above, for good measure. It seems Chrome and Opera both significantly outperform Firefox. However, these tests might be a little misleading, since a more comprehensive test performed by techradar.com using an earlier version of Firefox shows that Firefox is just as fast as, if not faster than, Google Chrome. Regardless, keep in mind that this is just a beta release and speeds might improve further in the final release
The latest version of Firefox is exciting, to say the least. With the huge changelog and the stunning updates to the UI, this is likely to give Chrome and Safari some serious challenge. Remember IE regaining a little market share last month at Firefox’s expense? Well, it can forget regaining any more if this is what Firefox is going to bring in a month or so.