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Firefox 4 Unleashed Onto The Masses

The 22nd of March saw the release of Firefox 4, the next incantation of the world’s premier open-source browser. Along with a redesigned interface, there are a huge number of performance improvements, with hardware acceleration being a key new feature.

Firefox’s new interface (coutesy of ghacks.net)

The new interface breathes new life into the browser, with previous versions starting to look a little bit long in the tooth, especially on Windows machines. The design takes many cues from Google Chrome, particularly with the tabs ‘on top’ (although this can be reverted back by right-clicking on an empty space on the tab area).

Firefox Panorama is a new feature that allows various tabs to be placed into groups to help alleviate the crowding up of tab bar for power users.  As with all Firefox releases, upgrades under the hood come all come as standard, and with Firefox 4, the performance increase is much larger than that of previous releases.

Firefox Panorama (courtesy of Ars Technica)

Web applications should run more rapidly with the introduction of a new JavaScript engine codenamed, Jaegermonkey. In one particular test (Google’s V8), the browser is up to 6x faster! As well, as the speeding up of web applications, webpage rendering should also be speeded up with the use of hardware acceleration. Wheras most of the grunt work in the past was carried out by the CPU, hardware acceleration allows offsetting of the work to the GPU. As they are specifically designed for rendering graphics and the like, faster rendering and the freeing up of CPU resources should happen (theoretically, of course!).

All in all, this is very well polished release by Mozilla. There haven’t seem to be any serious bugs plaguing the program (yet!), but that’s be due to the prolonged beta testing period. And it seems the browser is already popular, already racking up more than 5 million downloads, according to the stats page.

But you won’t have to wait long for Firefox 5 though. Mozilla have stated that they want to speed up their release cycles in order to combat Google Chrome. As well as this, Microsoft have released IE9, a hugely improved and impressive browser, and Opera with their release of Opera 11. Only time will tell whether Firefox 4 will make inroads amongst the group.

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