The non-profit Mozilla has just released the first beta of the next generation of Firefox earlier today. Firefox 4.0 Beta 1 features a brand new user interface, support for multiple new future web technologies including enhanced HTML support, WebSockets, and a more aggressive update schedule. This marks Mozilla’s first release of their plan for the future of the world’s second most popular browser.
Unless you are someone like me who’s been playing around with nightly builds and/or the Strata40 theme, the new theme will take a while to get used to. Tabs are on top in the Windows version, a feature started by Google Chrome, then adapted by Safari 4 beta builds (but removed in the final) and Opera. Mozilla had also followed Opera’s lead by compacting the classic menu bar into a single Firefox button in the top left corner.
Top tabs will come to Mac and Linux versions when their default themes are updated to support this.
The add-ons interface has received a major overhaul, but according to Mozilla, it will change in the final version, so don’t get too used to it. The final version will integrate the JetPack SDK, which will allow add-ons to be installed without restarting the browser.
Of course, Firefox 4 packs in much more than just the obvious visual appearance changes. There are hundreds of under the hood changes, including a new HTML5 parser and support for more HTML5 form controls. Firefox now also natively supports the HTML5 WebM HD video format, therefore allowing Firefox to use YouTube’s new HTML5 on some WebM enabled videos.
Other features include improved APIs for WebSockets and HTML history. There is also partial support for CSS transitions.
Windows 7 jumplist support is also included in this release.
Firefox 4.0 also includes a Windows 7 taskbar icon download progress bar overlay, similar to Opera and Internet Explorer.
Firefox 4.0 Beta 1 scores 97/100 on the Acid3 Web Standards test. Almost there Mozilla!
As promised, the Out-of-Process Plugin feature is now available to Mac users.
In security so far, Firefox 4 introduces a small but useful change. CSS “.visited” selectors now prevent web sites from checking a user’s browsing history.
Mozilla says to expect updates every two weeks. As part of the beta, an add-on named ‘Feedback’ is installed and adds a Feedback button onto the toolbar which Mozilla uses to conduct optional feedback surveys about the new browser to help development.
Want to try Firefox 4.0 Beta for yourself? Please note that this is a beta release and features are subject to change and may not work properly.
What do you think of this first public beta of the next generation of Firefox? Leave your thoughts in the comments.