A second beta version of Firefox 2.0 has been released.

Firefox 2.0 Beta 2 has an improved user interface and a limited version of the phishing protection feature that Mozilla is developing for the browser. It also comes with improved search capabilities, a spellchecker for Web forms, and jazzed-up tabbed browsing.

This second beta release should be the last beta version but developers are also planning a nearly final "release candidate" of the open-source browser on 19 September, with the finished product going out the door by the end of October.

Mozilla had been hoping to have Firefox 2.0 finished by September, but the date was pushed back recently to give developers more time to squash the growing list of bugs in the beta code.

Microsoft is also rushing to finish a major update to its browser, the ubiquitous Internet Explorer. Late last week, Microsoft posted the first release-candidate version of Explorer 7, and it is expecting to ship the final version of the next-generation browser by the end of the year.

Research company OneStat.com estimates that about 13 percent of Web surfers now use Firefox, with Explorer users pegged at 83 percent.