Not to be outdone by Microsoft's recent release of Internet Explorer 7, Mozilla will release the second major version of its rival Firefox browser on October 24.
According to Mozilla Vice President of Products Christopher Beard, Firefox 2.0, which should be available on Tuesday if all goes according to schedule, includes key new usability features missing in the new IE 7.
Updated Mozilla Features
Mozilla has also enhanced the popular tabbed browsing feature in 2.0 that Firefox introduced when it emerged two years ago as the first significant rival to IE in years, Beard adds. Tabs allow users to navigate more easily between multiple Web pages when browsing the Internet, and Microsoft added tabs to IE 7 after Firefox's success with the feature.
In Firefox 2.0, Mozilla has added a "close" button on its tabs, as well as new visual features to make the tabs appear more obvious to the user, Beard says.
New usability features in Firefox 2.0 that differentiate it from IE 7 include one that will restore the browser to pages where the user was working if a sudden OS restart is required. "If your browser needs a restart or the OS asks you to reboot, losing all of those Web pages and content is pretty disruptive," Beard notes.
Firefox 2.0 is offering two options for enabling this feature. One way is that, by default, the browser will give the user an option to restore his or her browser sessions if there is an unexpected shutdown; the other is an advanced option to set the browser so that it always restores the last five pages visited before a sudden reboot.
Antiphishing Filters in Both Browsers
Like IE 7, Firefox 2.0 also has an antiphishing filter that will help protect users from divulging personal information to fraudulent Web sites. But Mozilla has taken a different approach to its antiphishing filter than Microsoft has, Beard says.
Instead of checking individual Web pages users visit against lists of known phishing sites, thus sending information from the site to third parties that keep lists of such sites, Firefox updates its blacklist of known fraudulent Web sites automatically every half-hour to an hour. Beard said this better protects users' privacy because no information from the sites they've visited is sent to any third parties.
Mozilla also has added spell-checking features to the browser similar to those found in word-processing applications. Whenever a user is typing text in the browser--as when typing the name of a Web site, a blog entry, or an e-mail--Firefox's spell checker will underline in red words that appear misspelled. Right-clicking on the word will give a user options for a corrected spelling.
In addition, Firefox 2.0 has a new feature in its integrated search box that will suggest a list of search terms after a user types a few letters of a word, depending on the search engine being used. Firefox 2.0 uses Google, Yahoo, and Ask.com search engines as options for the search box, and each uses a different algorithm to suggest search terms, Beard explains. To ensure that this feature is not disruptive to the user experience, the suggested search terms will appear in a separate pane below the search box, he adds.
Though recent figures by Web analytics company OneStat.com show Firefox market share declining 1.44 percent since July--from 12.93 percent to 11.4 percent--Beard says Mozilla partners and users are reporting that the browser is more popular than ever.
"We're not seeing a decline at all," he says. "All of our partners and friends are reporting very strong growth recently." Beard adds he expects that growth to continue with the introduction of Firefox 2.0. Firefox currently has 70 million to 80 million users, he estimates.