Today we’re releasing the first beta-quality version of Firefox 4, which starts us down the path to a final release of Firefox 4. We’re handling this beta differently than we’ve done other releases. In previous betas we’ve made milestone-like releases. For this beta we’ll be making more frequent updates during the beta program. So if you download the beta build and run it you’ll likely get updates every two to three weeks, instead of a couple of months apart. We believe that this will give us the ability to reply to people’s feedback quickly and get fixes and changes tested earlier. This, in turn, will mean we’ll be able to release a much higher quality browser as a result.
I installed it on my Mac alongside my “production” version (3.6.7 beta – pretty stable and fast and my add-ons work) and this first Firefox 4 beta is clearly a beta and not at all ready to replace your day to day browser. It seems to work ok although it is a little slow. This version enables tabs on top but the UI has not been optimised or changed beyond the 3.6.x UI for the most part.
This is very much a developer test build and while it may browse the Web just fine, for the most part, don’t expect the speed and other enhancements we will likely see in the release candidates and final release version. That said, Christopher Blizzard did say this version should exhibit performance boosts over 3.6.x in his post on the Mozilla Hacks blog.
I ran it very briefly and noticed that almost none of my add-ons were working. That isn’t surprising at all. It will take a little time for developers to update their add-ons for the new version and that is usually around the time I switch versions for my day to day use. At the moment I have the new beta installed and will fudge around and test newer versions as they are released.
I am pretty excited about Firefox 4. With all the work Mozilla is doing around identity and Web services, Firefox 4 may even crack a few browser paradigms.