Firefox 5.0 Rapid Release

Yesterday, June 21, Firefox 5.0 was released, just 3 months after Firefox 4.0. The rapid release model certainly follows that of Google Chrome, but has the advantage of keeping up with the latest. Though many review the new version as nothing more than a bump in version number there are a few updates that may be game changers for some.

One concern for Firefox users is that Mozilla will no longer be releasing security updates for Firefox 4. Users who don’t want to upgrade to Firefox 5 to prevent add-ons from breaking are then put in a bind. However, one fact that is not commonly mentioned is that “add-ons hosted on Mozilla’s add-on page that are compatible with the previous major release will be automatically marked as compatible with a new version,” PC Magazine writes. In other words, unless their Add-on Compatibility Reporter shows an add-on is broken in the beta or alpha releases then it will be marked as compatible with the new release.

It follows that Firefox users should have no trouble in upgrading to the new version. And it should be encouraged even if just for security reasons. Computerworld quotes Christian Legnitto, the Firefox release manager, saying, “Firefox 5 will be the security update for Firefox 4.” As many reviews comment, the big question is what the benefits are of upgrading.

One PC Magazine article writes that Firefox 5 is just an updated version number and little else. The version is just a small jump in some ways: it implements CSS animations, has better support for various we standards, and addresses some security concerns regarding WebGL. Yet, one change, in my opinion, is a game changer: better performance for background tabs. The idea of grouping tabs, introduced in Firefox 4, is an idea that changes how people browse the internet. It is extremely handy for tasks like researching, but it has been too slow to be useful. In Firefox 5 the issue is fixed. It is faster and more reliable; this benefit is worth the upgrade.

Performance is still lacking compared to Google Chrome according to PC Magazine’s full review. It doesn’t offer synchonization of ad-ons like Chrome, nor themes. But, many of Firefox’s other features hold its position as one of the leading web browsers today.

Those who haven’t even upgraded to Firefox 4, the incentive is all the more true with Firefox 5. There are many great features introduced in Firefox 4, and improved on in Firefox 5. Those who have already done so, be sure to learn all the tips and tricks, such as smart bookmark folders and opening mailto: links with webmail services (like Gmail). One great tip for minimalists is to hide the menu bar, which used to disappear, but now it appears as a tab!

By Joe Purcell

Joe Purcell is a technology virtuoso, cyberspace frontiersman, and connoisseur of Linux, Mac, and Windows alike.

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