Mozilla delivers first Firefox 4 release candidate
8 months and 8,000 bugs later...
Mozilla has announced the first Firefox 4 release candidate, after eight months of beta testing on the latest version of its open source browser.
The RC is available for Windows, Linux, and Mac in 79 different languages. You can download it here. If you're already testing the beta, you'll be automatically updated.
The new build offers "general stability, performance, and compatibility improvements" as well as myriad bug fixes. According to Mozilla, it has fixed more than 8,000 bugs since the first beta was released in July of last year.
The open source outfit says that more than 70 per cent of Firefox add-ons are now compatible with the new browser. You can help test additional add-ons using Mozilla's Firefox Add-ons Compatibility Reporter.
This is the last version of Firefox to be built over such a release cycle. After Firefox 4, Mozilla will switch to a quarterly release cycle, planning to launch four versions of its desktop browser in 2011.
In the past, the open source outfit has released a new version of the browser every 12 to 18 months or so. Presumably, the change to a quarterly cycle is a response to Google, which now releases a new version of Chrome every six to eight weeks.
I want to like it...
Firefox 4 beta (I've been using it since b9) has been very stable for me. I've had no major memory issues (though I'll admit, my desktop and laptop each have 8GB of RAM).
That said, I found tabs-on-top annoying (I moved it, but why try to be like Chrome?). I also found it annoying that they switched the Home/Refresh button locations, and the "Open In New Tab"/"Open In New Window" contextual clicks. Some of this is just being a curmudgeon, but some of it really is making me move my mouse further from the web page I want it to be on. The tab behavior and home/refresh seem especially counter-intuitive.
Finally, page rendering is barely faster than FF 3.6. While page loads are acceptable, in comparison, IE9 RC is lightning-fast, and Chrome is quick as well. This is the true disappointment. I hope it's just debugging code, but I doubt it.
Still, without Adblock Plus for (insert browser here), Firefox still wins. While I've loved Firefox since 2.xx days, I find it a bit ironic that a single add-on is the biggest reason I'm still using it. I really hope they'll work on page load speeds.
I've been using FF4 for a couple of weeks now. I have found it more stable than any of the later versions of FF3: for instance, it doesn't seem to keep tripping over the Flash add-on, which I was having with FF3. There are still several of my favourite add-ons that don't work with FF4, but I'm assuming the devs are waiting until they know what their target is.
It does seem to be a bit quicker loading from cold, but pages don't seem to render any quicker. Annoyingly, Mozilla have shifted buttons around from the places they used to be (Home and Refresh, for instance), and tabs are over the navigation bar by default, which seems to be odd, though it is probably just what I got used to. However, a few minutes looking through various menus got it all back to the way I like it.
Unfortunately, we are never going back to the days of FF2, which was just about the best iteration of the program I used. Bling counts, and unless another browser comes along that is as secure and configurable comes along (and I haven't found one yet, though I'm open to suggestions), I'll stick with FF.
The whole idea behind Google's development cycle is that they *do not* oblige to specific features in each version. That way they evade the programming death march. The Mozilla leadership missed the whole point.