Firefox 2.0 hits the Web

Browser war 2.0 heats up

The next generation of the open source Firefox Web browser, version 2.0, has been released and is sporting a slew of feature and security enhancements.

What began as a sub-project of the Mozilla browser and communications suite, Firefox is now in its third major release cycle after versions 1.0 and 1.5, and has risen to become a significant competitor to Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

Visually, the Firefox 2 theme and user interface have been updated to improve usability without altering the familiarity of the browsing experience, according to Mozilla.

As one of the first browsers to include tabbed browsing, Firefox will now by default open links in new tabs instead of new windows, and each tab will now have a close tab button.

"Power users who open more tabs than can fit in a single window will see arrows on the left and right side of the tab strip that let them scroll back and forth between their tabs," according to Mozilla. "The History menu will keep a list of recently closed tabs, and a shortcut lets users quickly re-open an accidentally closed tab."

Furthermore, it is now possible to resume a browsing session with the "session restore" feature which restores windows, tabs, text typed in forms, and in-progress downloads.

Session restore is activated automatically when installing an application update or extension, and users will be asked if they want to resume their previous session after a system crash.

Inline spell checking is now built into Firefox which helps Web surfers check the spelling of text entered into Web forms without the need for a separate application.

While exact numbers are difficult to determine, Firefox now may have as many as 80 million users and over 10 percent of the browser market.

Other feature enhancements in version 2.0 include interactive search capabilities, more flexible handling of RSS Web feeds, "Live Title" bookmarks with a summary of the Web site, support for JavaScript 1.7 and SVG text, and new support for storing structured data on the client side, to enable better handling of online transactions and improved performance when dealing with large amounts of data, such as documents and mailboxes.

For security, Firefox now includes built-in phishing protection which warns users when they encounter suspected Web forgeries, and offers to return the user to their home page.

Phishing protection is turned on by default, and works by checking sites against either a local or online list of known phishing sites. This list is automatically downloaded and regularly updated when the Phishing Protection feature is enabled.

Firefox 2.0 is available for download for Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows from the Firefox Web site.

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Rodney Gedda

Computerworld

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