Firefox Upgrade Near

UPDATED: The Mozilla Foundation is set to release the first major upgrade to the Firefox 1.0 browser, featuring a number of accessibility, security and browsing improvements.

The organization expects to make Firefox 1.5 available for download at its Web site later today.

Firefox 1.0 was officially launched in November 2004 to great fanfare, and the Mozilla Foundation has subsequently launched a number of security and bug-fixing updates to the browser.

The latest, Firefox 1.0.7, was released in September.

The updated Firefox continues with security improvements, as tallied in the foundation’s notes for the latest release candidate of Firefox 1.5. This time it includes a “Clear Private Data” feature that allows users to erase personal data through a menu item or keyboard shortcut.

The pop-up blocker and extension update feature have been improved, and the new version includes a wizard that lets users report Web sites that are not working in Firefox.

According to Paul Kim, Mozilla director of marketing, the information provided by the reports will be passed to volunteer “evangelists,” long-time members of the community they’ve worked with in the past, who will contact the top-reported Web site owners and companies.

“Our evangelists offer guidance on how to ensure their sites are Firefox-friendly,” he said. “Given the widespread adoption and popularity of Firefox, we are finding that companies and content providers are happy to work with us.”

Developers improved the browser’s functionality by enhancing its automatic update feature to more prominently display product upgrades and include updates of a half megabyte or less.

The search engine was also added to the list of engines in the browser, and it includes a “safe mode” option, improved RSS discovery and a redesigned options menu.

Developers at the organization tweaked the updated browser’s navigation with improvements to the back and forward buttons, as well as included drag-and-drop reordering for browser tabs.

Firefox 1.5 incorporates a number of Web standards additions, allowing Internet surfers to view a site the way it was intended by Web developers who use the technologies. New support for JavaScript 1.6, Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG ), Cascading Style Sheets 2 (CSS ) and CSS 3 is now included.

The browser supports Dynamic HTML (DHTML) accessibility and support for technologies such as screen readers to help visually challenged surfers navigate Web sites.

Where Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) dominance was all but assured two years ago, the recent popularity of Firefox has re-opened the so-called browser war originally waged between IE and Netscape.

Six months after the launch of Firefox 1.0, the foundation amassed more than 50 million downloads; after 11 months Firefox 1.0 surpassed 100 million downloads.

The next major update to Firefox — version 2.0, code-named The Ocho — is expected some time next year.

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