Firefox enthusiasts have started downloading version 8 of the browser (warning: available downloads are for the non-final version) ahead of its official launch on 8 November.
For most users, the fatiguing rapid-release schedule is making new features harder and harder to spot. Mozilla’s development team signposts changes ahead of time so there are no surprises in the latest upgrade.
The most practical change is the ability to search Twitter users and trends from the search bar without having to visit the Twitter site, extending a list that by default runs through Google, Yahoo, Bing, Amazon, Wikipedia and eBay.
A useful feature is the way Firefox recovers tabs after a crash. Current versions clog the processor by trying to open every tab at the same time; from Firefox 8 tabs are only opened as they are clicked on.
More significant is the change to the way the programme handles add-ons. After upgrading, users will be presented with a list of installed add-ons, with all those installed by third-party apps without consent automatically disabled. User-installed add-ons are clearly marked.
From Firefox 8 on, users will be made aware that add-ons are installing if that is happening without notification, which could happen legitimately as part of a third-party app installation.
For the 15 percent of users that Firefox’s developers reckon routinely keep the browser open for longer than 12 hours at a stretch, the updating notification will only interrupt them if the new version includes an important security fix.
One of the small criticisms of releasing new versions ever month and a half is that it raises compatibility problems for add-ons which Mozilla counters by offering full disclosure on changes that might affects compatibility in advance.
Please note: the Firefox 8 version available for download is not final and is are used at a user's own risk.