Mozilla Firefox, the second most widely-used Web browser, has released version 4 for the public to beta test. The notable changes include a revamped user-interface and an easier to use preference and add-on manager. It also supports the newer HTML5 and CSS3 features that Website designers love. One standout HTML5 feature that Firefox has been touting is their unrivaled support for the WebM media format, which will allow Internet users to employ one (open-source) video and audio file format over the Internet. This will replace the need for users to install different programs (which require them to accept licensing agreements and/or fees) to play .wmv, .mov, .mp4 and .m4v files.
There’s also WebGL support included in the beta, but it isn’t enabled by default due to the fact that it’s still the development stage. WebGL provides Web designers access to utilize users’ graphics cards, which show an advanced graphic presentation (3d, intricate animations, displaying and managing a large number of images at once, etc). It is also a sister-project to OpenGL, one of the most widely used technologies for game graphics.
What’s more, a group of people at Google came together and actually ported Quake 2 to WebGL so that it can be run within your Web browser. This is a nice touch, considering the multi-player focus of the game. Users can now go to a Website (even if it’s their first time there), click play and start competing with other players over the Internet.
Mozilla’s biggest concern is whether the public will appreciate its new user interface, which is comparable to the current interface of its competitor, Google Chrome. Realizing that some users may favor Firefox’s traditional interface, they’ve included preferences that allow people to change the layout back to the way it was before the update. This is a smart decision because it shows they’ve done their research ahead of time and value the needs of both their present and future users.
Mock-ups for the new user interface were shown back in September of last year. So how could something that seems so simple take over half a year to tweak? They’ve spent some serious time preparing answers to such questions, as the following video will show:
The Firefox 4 beta is publicly available for download at their Website. Remember that it’s a beta version when you try it out, because the new user interface is the most fully-realized for Windows users. For all you Mac and Linux users, you’ll have to wait a little longer until the team gets feedback from the Windows beta testers.