Mozilla continues to iron out bugs and tweak the underlying code of its upcoming Firefox 4 browser, and if you want to see where things are at, you can now download Firefox 4 beta 10. This 10th beta focuses mainly on stability and includes the following handful of changes:
Compatibility and stability improvements when using Adobe Flash on Mac OS X
Improvements in memory usage
Support for a graphics driver blacklist to improve stability
See here for a complete list of changes and bug fixes since the last beta, and if you're brand new to Firefox 4, see here for the complete feature-set.
Skype is an awesome VoIP app. Firefox is still one of our favorite browsers. What happens when you put the two together? You get a buggy combination, Mozilla says.
"The current shipping version of the Skype Toolbar is one of the top crashers of Mozilla Firefox 3.6.13, and was involved in almost 40,000 crashes of Firefox last week," Mozilla stated in a blog post. "Additionally, depending on the version of the Skype Toolbar you're using, the methods it uses to detect and re-render phone numbers can make DOM manipulation up to 300 times slower, which drastically affects the page rendering times of a large percentage of Web content served today (plan English: to the user, it appears Firefox is slow loading Web pages)."
According to Mozilla, this constitutes a "major, user-facing issue" and meets the company's established criteria for blocking an add-on, which it's done. All versions of the Skype Toolbar, including beta releases, have been added to Firefox's blocklist.
Mozilla says this is a "soft block," meaning users are notified of what's happening and have the option of manually re-enabling the add-on. In the meantime, Mozilla said it's working with the Skype Toolbar team to "identify the issues that should be corrected, and will lift the soft block on future versions that address those issues."
Mozilla's getting close to unleashing a Release Candidate version of Firefox 4, but in the meantime, you can play around with the latest beta version, the browser maker announced in a blog post.
"The latest Firefox 4 Beta is available to test the cool features and improvements in the next version of Firefox," Mozilla said. "As we continue to refine features and performance in Firefox 4 Beta, this release includes faster start-up time, bookmarking, and makes complex animations smoother."
The beta also gives longtime Firefox users some time to get used to the new look, which now bears a strong resemblance to Google's Chrome browser. Underneath the hood, Firefox 4 boasts a boatload of changes and additions, including HTML5 support, multi-touch support, WebM and HD video, full hardware acceleration, and more.
With Chrome quickly adding browser market share and Internet Explorer still way out in front, Mozilla is eager to get Firefox 4 in the hands of its users sooner than later. It's Mozilla's hope that Firefox 4 will be ready for prime time by the end of February, the browser maker revealed in an email to its developers.
"We've worked tremendously hard on Firefox 4, and it's time to ship it," Mozilla's Damon Sicore wrote in an email. "I'm seeing the same burst of excitement and activity that we've seen in the endgame of every release... To finish, we have to reach Release Candidate status as quickly as possible, ideally finish the hard blockers by the beginning of February and shipping final before the end of February."
Hard blockers are bugs that would prevent a final release, and right now there are about 160 of them, Sicore said. He added that it's historically taken six weeks to reach a Release Candidate once there are 100 hard blockers left.
To help move things along, Mozilla is urging developers and testers not to disable Flash, Silverlight, or other major plugins.
"Windows users: We need to know if you are affected by hardware acceleration causing crashes or other issues," Sicore said. "Don't just assume that someone else has filed a bug already. Make sure. Ask someone if you don't know how. This is very important."
Call it merely a regional victory if you will, but Firefox's rise to become the most used browser in Europe is a victory nonetheless. According to the free website analytics firm StatCounter, Firefox took 38.11 percent of the European browser market in December 2010, enough to inch ahead of Internet Explorer (37.52 percent).
"This is the first time that IE has been dethroned from the number one spot in a major territory," commented Aodhan Cullen, CEO, StatCounter. "This appears to be happening because Google's Chrome is stealing share from Internet Explorer while Firefox is mainly maintaining its existing share."
A similar trend was noted by Net Market Share, whose data showed Chrome nearly doubling its market share in 2010 while IE dropped 5 percentage points. But as far as Europe is concerned, it's pretty clear the so-called Browser Ballot is having an impact on browser usage.
Google's Chrome browser is now the go-to browser for 1 out of every 10 PC users, suggests new data by Net Market Share. Let's put that in perspective. At the beginning of 2010, Chrome's share of the browser market hovered around 5.6 percent. By the end of December 2010, Chrome's share has almost doubled, finishing the year with just under 10 percent.
Much of that has come at the expense of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser, still the most used browser on the planet, but no longer uncatchable. It's hard to scoff at a 57.08 percent share of the market, which is where IE ended 2010 at, but that's more than 5 percentage points down from January 2010.
It's also been a rocky year for Mozilla's Firefox browser, which started 2010 with a 24.43 percent share of the market and ended with 22.81 percent. As for the other browsers, Opera barely budged (dropping slightly from 2.38 percent to 2.23 percent), while Safari climbed more than a percentage point from 4.53 percent in January 2010 to 5.89 percent in December 2010.
After failing to keep up with the original Firefox 4 release schedule due to “regressions and sources of instability,” Mozilla had to revise its initial estimates and push back the launch of the stable version to 2011. The open source outfit on Wednesday shipped Mozilla Firefox 4 Beta 8. The actual release of the latest beta comes nearly a month later than originally anticipated.
According to the release notes, the latest build boasts a vastly improved Firefox Sync setup experience across desktop and mobile devices; speed, compatibility and functionality enhancements to WebGL; and a much more polished Add-Ons Manager, which now updates extensions automatically. Furthermore, Mozilla has fixed more than 1,400 bugs.
Google's Chrome browser didn't gain full extension support until late in the game, but developers have apparently stepped up to the plate in a big way. After looking over the Chrome Extension Gallery, TechCrunch is reporting that Chrome has surpassed 10,000 extensions. It's only been a year, and Chrome is closing in on Firefox with nearly 13,000 extensions.
Chrome has always been admired for its raw speed, but many users held back due to the lack of extensions support. Firefox tends to be a little slower, but the huge number of add-ons kept users locked in. The recent surge in Chrome usage could have a lot to do with the roll out of full extension support. The ball is really in Mozilla's court now, but early reports on Firefox 4 are very positive.
Google pushes out new versions of Chrome at warp speed, and Firefox has a reputation for slow, steady development. Even if Firefox 4 is a winner, Chrome might fly past it again in short order. Do you think extension numbers are telling a tale?
Those of you rocking Firefox 3.6.x, go ahead and check to see if you've automagically downloaded the latest update, version 3.6.13 (or 3.5.16 if you're still sitting pretty with Firefox 3.5). The latest update plugs more than a dozen security holes, including 11 deemed "critical," meaning the "vulnerability can be used to run attacker code and install software, requiring no user interaction beyond normal browser," Mozilla says.
Mozilla addressed a variety of security issues, including Java security, crash and remote code execution using HTML tags inside a XUL tree, buffer overflows, and more.
You can install the latest update by navigating to Help > Check for Updates... or by grabbing the newest version here.
Tabs? You use tabs within Firefox? The heck with that. Tabs are old-school once you see the power and prowess of one of the latest add-ons to cross my browser radar, Fox Splitter. It would be difficult to conceal exactly what this extension does in some kind of overextended metaphor or unnecessary build-up, given its name, so I’ll get right to the point: Why use new browser windows—or tabs themselves—when you can just split your current screen… in two!