Mozilla has announced that the finished release of Firefox 4 will be available to download from next Tuesday. It will kick off a switch to a new Google-like system of regular updates.
There aren’t any revolutionary user changes to the browser, though the go, refresh and stop buttons have been combined into a single button, which makes sense given that the context will make it clear what the user is trying to do by clicking on it. The menu bar has also been removed and replaced with a drop-down menu.
Most of the changes are behind the scenes and generally involve either improved support for web standards, or improved performance and speed. One key change is hardware acceleration, which means the browser can use the computer’s graphic’s processor for part of the work in displaying pages.
It will be interesting to see what numbers Mozilla can pull for the first day of release. While Microsoft is touting the 2.35 million downloads it achieved for Internet Explorer 9′s debut day, it appears the record for first-day downloads is still held by Firefox 3 with eight million. That means there’s a good chance of Firefox 4 not only beating IE9, but doing so in such close succession that direct comparisons will be unavoidable.
The main change in Mozilla’s strategy will actually come after the release of the new edition. The company is now adopting a similar strategy to that of Google with Chrome, by which updates to the browser will come on a fixed schedule rather than as and when new features are available. The idea is to break down the development cycle into four six-week periods.
That would mean an entirely new edition would be released every four months or so. Of course, the changes would mean that a “new edition” wouldn’t necessarily have as many changes as is currently expected.