December 18, 2008
Despite the enedible take over of Googles chrome because of it’s less nazi like (ssl) system and better performance then Firefox… Firefox still holds it’s own. (For now)
Mozilla has announced the official release of the second Firefox 3.1 beta. This version introduces the new private browsing mode feature and several other noteworthy changes.
The 3.1 roadmap began to coalesce after the release of 3.0 earlier this year. Firefox 3.1, which is codenamed Shiretoko, will include many improvements and several important features that were originally planned for the 3.0 release but were deferred for various reasons. Mozilla released the first 3.1 alpha in July with some new CSS features, AwesomeBar completion enhancements, and a new user interface for switching between tabs. The second alpha, which arrived in September, introduced support for the HTML 5 video element.
The most significant addition in beta 2 is the new private browsing mode, which will not store any of the user’s session information while it is enabled. The feature is similar to the Incognito mode that is offered in Google’s Chrome browser and Safari’s Private Browsing. The feature was first requested for Firefox back in 2004, but extensive reengineering was required to make the feature work.
The developers drafted a functional specification to document the expected behaviors. Developer Ehasan Akhgari, who participated in making the private browsing feature, wrote several blog entries about the feature at various stages of development. In October, User interaction expert Alex Faaborg discussed some of the relevant user interface issues and revealed that Mozilla would be using a mask icon as the visual metaphor for privacy in Firefox.
Private browsing mode can be toggled by selecting an item on the browser’s Tools menu. When the mode is activated, the browser will save and close the user’s current session and display an empty window with the private browsing launch screen. The screen also has a button that will allow users to clear their recent history. When the user disengages private browsing mode, their previous session will be fully restored and the browser will not retain a record of what the user did while private browsing mode was active. I have tested the feature extensively in nightly builds leading up to this release, and I have found it to be reliable and effective.
One of the most significant user interface changes that was planned for Firefox 3.1 was a new tab switching implementation. Originally introduced in the first alpha, the new tab switcher displayed thumbnail previews of pages and also changed the behavior of the default tab switching shortcut so that it would rotate through tabs based on most recent usage. Although these user interface adjustments were very promising, the developers determined that more work will be needed before the graphical tab switcher can be included. It was pulled out in this beta release and probably won’t be in the final release.
A few other minor enhancements are also available in beta 2, including support for hyperlinks in the source viewer. This is a very strong beta release and reflects the rapid pace at which 3.1 is maturing. Mozilla plans to do one more beta release before it launches the 3.1 release candidate.