Mozilla releases Firefox 4 Beta 1 for Android and Maemo
The Mozilla mobile project developers have announced the arrival of the first beta for Firefox 4 for Mobile, also known as "Fennec", for the Maemo-powered Nokia N900 and various Android devices. The mobile versions of Firefox are built on the same browser engine as Firefox 4.0, version 2.0 of the Gecko rendering platform, and include several elements from their desktop counterpart, such as built-in support for Firefox Sync, add-ons and the "Awesome Bar" smart URL bar.
According to Mozilla's Director of Mobile, Stuart Parmenter, a major focus of the beta 1 release is "to increase performance and responsiveness" and big architectural changes include the Electrolysis and Layers technology frameworks. Electrolysis, also included in the first alpha, allows the browser interface to run as a separate process from the process rendering Web content, improving the browser response to user input when also loading web pages. New to the first beta, Layers improves the browsers overall graphics performance, including scrolling, zooming and animations.
Further technical information can be found in a blog post by Mozilla mobile engineer Matt Brubeck. Other changes include support for pinch-to-zoom on muti-touch-capable devices and the "Awesome Screen", which gives users access to their recent history, bookmarks and tabs by simply tapping in the Awesome Bar.
Fennec for Android requires version 2.0 of the Android OS or later. A list of supported devices is available on the Mozilla Wiki. Users testing the release are encouraged to provide feedback and report any bugs that they encounter.
More details about the release, including a short video, can be found in an announcement post on the Mozilla Blog and in the release notes. Users can download Firefox 4 Beta 1 for Mobile by visiting Firefox.com/m/beta from their Nokia N900 or Android-based device. The release notes also list downloadable versions of Firefox for Mobile on Windows, Mac OS X or Linux which allow users to evaluate the browser without using either an Android device or a Nokia N900.
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