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Firefox 4 beta review

by Joe Brockmeier

Firefox is catching up to Internet Explorer in terms of market share, having already passed it in features years ago, but Google Chrome is nipping at its heels. Can Firefox 4 restore its glory?

This article is due to appear in issue 93 of Linux User & Developer magazine.Firefox 4 beta review Subscribe and save more than 30% and receive our exclusive money back guarantee – click here to find out more.

It was recently announced that Internet Explorer has slipped to less than 50% of the market, at least according to StatCounter. Firefox claims nearly 40% of the market, but Google Chrome has already entered double digits in just two years.

For features and speed, Chrome is rapidly becoming ‘the browser to beat’, and the Mozilla Project seems to know it. The Firefox 4 feature list and development cycle have been fairly aggressive in terms of trying to catch up to – or surpass – Chrome.

How’s it going so far? The betas of Firefox 4 have been impressive, and have revealed a few new features that you won’t find in Chrome and improvements under the hood.

Firefox 4 beta review
Here's a website that looks good on any browser!

The first and most noticeable is that Firefox is repositioning its tabs and working towards some user interface refinements that provide more space for the web, less space for toolbars. Like Chrome, Firefox now has a ‘tabs on top’ feature, and the project is working towards a single home menu similar to Chrome’s single menu button rather than the clunky standard menu Firefox has now. Sadly, this isn’t available on Linux, and may not be by the time Firefox 4 is released. It’s disappointing to see Firefox development prioritising Windows, but not surprising as that’s where the bulk of Firefox users are.

Firefox has pulled slightly ahead of Chrome with a new tab management feature called Panorama, and other tab management enhancements. Since the introduction of browser tabs we’ve been wondering how to juggle all the open tabs, the way we used to wonder about all those open windows. Panorama is an elegant solution, providing a thumbnail view of open tabs to choose from and a grouping feature that has been sorely missing from web browsers.

Page 2 – The verdict

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    • Ali

      “Consider the days of Adobe Flash severely numbered…”

      FYI, Flash is more than just a video player!

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    • Robert

      “Consider the days of Adobe Flash severely numbered…”

      History has repeated itself several times now with groups of people declaring that flash is dead with each new HTML iteration.

      Every time (and including HTML5), browser vendors haven’t been able to standardize on features. Even if you use canvas, you have to have a flash fallback for browsers that don’t have it. Enterprise markets who don’t want to upgrade internal apps will ensure that older browsers remain in use.

      Flash (maybe Silverlight, but I don’t know about their linux support) is the only platform now that is consistent across browsers. That alone will ensure a long life for it. Add to the fact that it continues to innovate while HTML5 devs are happy to have features that flash had 5-6 years ago.

      I’d be interested to see you attach an actual number for the “days that are numbered” so we can make a judgement at that time.

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