Firefox 4 beta (revision 1) based on the Gecko 2.0 Web platform is available for trail from Mozilla website and is ready for Windows, OS X and Linux.  The version released to public on 7th July, 2010 boasts some amazing first time features and enhanced crash protection.

Cosmetic

The overall look of the browser is mainly improved cosmetically by having the Tabs point upward from the previously downward hanging effect of Firefox 3.6 version and earlier.  This effect is currently set as default and is in use only for Windows platform, while OS X and Linux will be have to wait either until the final version is released or until modifications are made to support this change.

The other changes are made to the bookmark option, which is no longer a toolbar but a button, again set automatically as default and can changed to alter according to personal use. Rather than having two separate buttons for refresh and stop, the new browser now combines both into one. The stop button transforms to refresh, as soon the page is fully loaded.  Also the Menu bar for Windows Vista and Windows 7 has been replaced with the Firefox button.

Technical

There is a new Add-on manager, although not all current add-ons have been fully tested. Users can download the Add-on Compatibility Reporter to test Add-on’s and themes from previous versions of FireFox.  Full WebGL support and a test Direct2 rendering backend (for Windows platform only) is included, but both has to be enabled manually.

For the first time out-of-process plugins (OOPP) is been supported for MAC OS X. The browser supports HTML5 parser and form models for video control playback by incorporating Google’s video codec –WebM.

Web Developers

For low complexity, low latency and Bidirectional communication API, Websockets are used. The URL field can be used without actually reloading the page using HTML History API’s. The UI will be changed or modified before the final release.  Also, page rendering is improved with the use of lazy frame construction.

There are already some known issues, which the Firefox team is aware of, like the glitch with bookmark options, which by default without asking the users changes to the button mode and if there are locked profiles, the browser crashes.

The highlight of the version is certainly it’s crash protection feature, effective on  all platforms (Windows, OS X and Linux), ensuring an uninterrupted performance when Flash, Quicktime and Microsoft Silverlight plugins unexpectedly crashes.  But what I like the most is the increased security features like having the browsing history hidden and not letting hackers or blocked websites access those information.