Nov. 7, 2011 at 11:03 AM ET
UPDATE: Comments from a Firefox spokesperson.
Fans of Firefox who can't wait for the official release of Firefox 8 can get it now, thanks to maker Mozilla, which is offering previews of the latest update to its browser.
Tech blog Ghacks has been on top of the browser's progress, from back in mid-August, when it was first made available on the Aurora channel, to its beta stage to now, when it's about ready to hatch to a generally receptive public. Its release is expected early this week.
Everyone has a preferred browser — unless you're one of those who still default to Internet Explorer, or you couldn't care less about how you get online.
Firefox is second only to, you guessed it, Internet Explorer, even though in recent head-to-head combat, it overwhelms IE. In the spring, when Firefox 4 and IE 9 duked it out, with Firefox showing more than 7 million downloads in its first 24 hours, vs. 2.35 million for IE 9 in its first day of life.
The latest version of Firefox has a lengthy list of bug fixes, which you can see in its entirety, but here what probably matters most to users:
- Add-ons installed by third party programs are now disabled by default
- Added Twitter to the search bar
- Added a preference to load tabs on demand, improving start-up time when windows are restored
- Improved performance and memory handling when using and elements
- Added support for HTML5 context menus
- Fixed several stability issues
That first highlight — disabling add-ons installed by third party programs — will to make a lot of people happy. Add-ons are indeed popular with Firefox users, more than 1.5 million downloaded every day officially. But add-ons are also a hazard, especially with third-party apps that bundle add-ons into Firefox without asking for users' permission.
As the Mozilla Add-ons Blog tells us:
These add-ons installed by third parties present a number of problems: they can slow down Firefox start-up and page loading time, they clutter the interface with toolbars that often go unused, they lag behind on compatibility and security updates, and most importantly, they take the user out of control of their add-ons.
Upon upgrading to this upcoming version of Firefox, users will be presented with a one-time dialog to select the add-ons they wish to keep installed. By default, all of the add-ons the user has installed from within Firefox will be kept, but add-ons installed by another application will be disabled unless the user chooses to keep them.
You can try the new Firefox 8 here. Let us know what you think of it.
UPDATE: A Firefox spokesperson wanted to let us know that all of you trying the not-quite final Firefox 8 have made an impact on its FTP servers "and affects our ability to release the final version of Firefox on time. As part of Mozilla's open source development process we post our builds publicly for testing and verification. While we appreciate everyone's excitement about the Firefox release, these builds are currently NOT FINAL, and are still going through QA testing."