New Firefox 2.0 Features Line Up For Release

Mozilla developers continue to make progress on the highly anticipated
Firefox 2.0 browser.

A second development milestone release is now
available for testing, boasting a raft of new features, as the next-generation
open source browser races to a final release and late-year showdown with its
arch-nemesis Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.

Whereas previously IE may well have been playing catch-up with Firefox in
terms of tabs and search, Firefox 2.0, at least at this
early development stage, may be playing a little bit of catch-up with IE

Firefox 2.0 alpha 2 actually includes a few changes that have already
been instituted in Microsoft’s latest Internet Explorer Beta 2 build, which
was recently releasedto a wider audience.

Among the most noticeable user aspects of Firefox 2 alpha 2 is that each tab now has a close button. IE7 beta 2 has a close option on each tab as well.

Firefox 2.0 alpha 2 also introduces Amazon’s A9 OpenSearch search format
approach for the open source browser, which has already been deployed in
Microsoft’s IE 7 beta 2.

Firefox includes an inline search function as part of its default browser.
To date, Apple’s Sherlock search format has been the method used.

IE 7 Beta
2 includes an inline search feature as well, though it uses OpenSearch as
its format. The battle for space in the inline browser search box is
already heating up, as Google has recently levied anti-competitive accusations against Microsoft.

The gist
of Google’s argument is that Microsoft is unfairly promoting its own MSN
Search, since it is the default plug-in for IE 7.

Firefox will continue to support both Sherlock- and OpenSearch-based
search engines which will allow for a wider group of search plug-ins than
that which IE 7 is able to support. The Firefox beta also includes a search plug-in
manager, which allows users to more easily order or remove search engines.

Among the other new features in the Firefox beta is a new add-ons manager intended to improve the user experience of managing both themes, as well as
browser extensions.

Browser crashes are no longer a major cause of concern in Firefox, thanks to the new
Session Restore feature, which is supposed to automatically restore a
browsing session after a crash.

According to the Firefox 2 schedule, alpha 2 is supposed to be feature complete.

But a number of features didn’t make it into the release, and an alpha 3 version is now set to pick up the outstanding features, such as safe browsing, which will offer a degree of protection against phishing-related sites.

One key feature that isn’t in alpha 2 and won’t be alpha 3 is the
“Places,” which was supposed to make it easier to access and manage
history and bookmarks.

Places was actually part of the Alpha 1 release, but was cut due to quality concerns.

When Places was cut, Firefox developer Michael Schroepfer wrote in a mailing list posting that it is a complex feature with the
potential to change the way people navigate through their private space of
the Web.

“Rather than rush it to market — we’d prefer to spend the time it takes to
get it right,” Schroepfer wrote.

The omission of Places from Firefox 2.0 in Schroepfer’s view doesn’t make Firefox 2.0 any less relevant or innovative.

“We’re also confident that the other features and enhancements slated for
FF2 will provide a great upgrade for 1.5 users and continue to be a
compelling browser choice for new users,” Schroepfer wrote.

“Firefox 2 will
improve security, tabbed browsing, search, RSS/structured content discovery,
performance, and extension support.”

“In order words, all the reasons people love Firefox will get demonstrably
better in this release.”

The next development release of Firefox 2.0, Alpha 3 is now set for a May
25 release.

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