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Firefox 4 beta review

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.

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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.

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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