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08 September 2010, 09:45

Mozilla releases Firefox 4 Beta 5

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Firefox 4 Logo Two weeks after the fourth beta arrived, Mozilla has announced the release of the fifth beta of version 4.0 of the open source Firefox web browser. According to Firefox development director Mike Beltzner, the latest development preview includes new audio capabilities and "super fast graphics" by leveraging hardware acceleration.

Hardware acceleration in Firefox 4 Beta 5 is now activated by default and takes advantage of users' built-in graphics hardware – the GPU – on Windows systems using DirectX 10 to improve overall graphics performance. Using Direct2D on supported hardware under Windows Vista and 7, the browser will be able to load and display graphically intensive websites even faster. Further information about hardware acceleration, including a short video demo, can be found in a post on the Mozilla Hacks blog by Mozilla Technology Evangelist Paul Rouget.

Zoom Firefox 4 Beta 5 on Mac OS X.
The latest beta also introduces a new audio API. Beltzner says that the new API exposes "the raw audio data housed within the <video> and <audio> elements in HTML5 to redefine how people experience sound on the Web." Using the API, developers can read and write raw audio data within the browser. The Mozilla developers hope that this could allow, for example, "for example, for people to visually experience a speech or a song through Firefox." More details, including a demonstration video, are available in a blog post by Professor and Mozilla Developer Dave Humphrey.

Other changes include a two-tiered menu, replacing the previous single-column menu, and support for a new security protocol, HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS). HSTS allows website to insist that the browser always use only secured connections. Firefox 4 remembers what sites use the protocol and will then only connect to those using SSL, helping to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks.

While the developers note that they consider the release to be "stable and safe to use for daily web browsing", use in production environments and on mission critical systems is not advised. Users testing the release are encouraged to provide feedback and report any bugs that they encounter.

More details about the release can be found in the release notes, on the official Firefox 4 beta site and in the official release announcement by Beltzner. Firefox 4 Beta 5 is available to download for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. Alternatively, existing Firefox 4.0 Beta users can upgrade to the new version, either by waiting for the automated update notification or by manually selecting "Check for updates" from the Help Menu.

Firefox binaries are released under the Mozilla Firefox End-User Software License Agreement and the source code is released under disjunctive tri-licensing that includes the Mozilla Public Licence, GPLv2 and LGPLv2.1. The latest stable release of Firefox is version 3.6.9, a security and maintenance update that addressed a number of critical vulnerabilities.

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