Mozilla has pushed out the first major update for Firefox 5, opening the new beta channel for early adopters. Firefox 5 beta 1 is the first release in the beta channel, which is part of Mozilla’s move to a faster release cycle designed to get experimental builds of the web browser out to a wider audience.
If you’d like to take the new beta for a spin, head over to the Firefox channels page and download a copy. Also note, if you’ve been using the Aurora channel, recent updates to that pre-beta release mean you can now switch to the new beta simply by heading to the “About Aurora” menu and choosing “change.”
The new beta release means that Firefox now has three major channels you can use: Aurora, Beta and Release (there’s also a nightly builds channel, but it tends to be very unstable). The three main Firefox channels correspond to Google Chrome’s dev, beta and stable releases.
The first beta release of Firefox 5 adds support for CSS animations, which allow developers to animate transitions between CSS states. For a list of all the animations Firefox 5 currently supports, head over to the Mozilla developer page (note that all the supported rules currently require the -moz prefix).
Other new features include improved support for web standards like HTML5, XHR, MathML and SMIL, along with the usual bug fixes that come with any beta release.
To go along with the new desktop beta, there’s also a new beta of Firefox 5 for mobile devices. Firefox 5 beta for mobile adds support for the Do Not Track header and offers some speed improvements, particularly on 3G networks. To grab the latest version of Firefox 5 for Android, head over to the Android market.
Firefox 4 was originally scheduled for release in November of last year, but bugs and last minute features have seen the next version of Firefox delayed several months. However, Firefox 4 has finally entered the home stretch and should be available in release candidate form on February 25, with the final release a few weeks after that.
Never one to rest, Mozilla has already set its sights on Firefox 5. The company is hoping to avoid the delays that plagued Firefox 4 by moving future releases to a rolling update schedule, which resembles Google’s approach for its Chrome web browser.
Mozilla’s goal is to deliver a total of four major releases in 2011, pushing Firefox to version 7 by the end of the year. Mozilla is hoping that faster development times will mean new features can be rolled out as they are completed. Among the priorities for Firefox 5 are 64 bit support on Windows, a revamped Account Manager and the usual performance and speed improvements.
Whether or not Mozilla can meet its rather ambitious goals for the future of Firefox remains to be seen, but work has already begun on Firefox 5.
The first mockups on Mozilla’s AreWePrettyYet design showcase show off what Mozilla calls “a site-specific browser.” Widely used websites, like Twitter and Facebook, would get drop-down menus within dedicated tabs. As shown in the mockup above, the tab would add a site’s top level menu links in a drop-down menu.
Naturally these mockups and possible features are very much a work in progress and there’s no guarantee that Firefox 5 will actually incorporate these ideas. There are also, thus far, no firm release dates to go along with Firefox 5′s roadmap.