Four Things To Know About Mozilla's Firefox 4 Beta

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Mike Beltzner, director of Firefox for Mozilla, said Tuesday that the Firefox 4 Beta 1 includes dozens of major features and improvements. Here's a quick rundown of what to expect:

1. A Facelift: The most noticeable, Beltzner noted in a blog post announcing the Firefox 4 Beta, is the updated interface -- although that's only immediately visible to Windows users.

"We moved the tabs to the top to make it easier to focus on the Web content and easier to control tools in your Web browser," Beltzner wrote, saying that the changes will be "coming soon" for Mac and Linux users as well.

2. HD Video Ready: According to Beltzner, users can watch HD-quality HTML5 video on YouTube in a WebM format on the new Firefox. Mozilla is also promising better performance, uninterrupted browsing for when a plug-in crashes or freezes, and an add-ons manager that lets users better customize their browser.

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3. Under The Hood: Some of the changes targeted to web developers, Beltzner notes, are WebSockets to enable real-time interactions such as gaming, IndexedDB, to provide structured storage, an HTML5 Parser, and a "heads up display" analysis tool in Web Console.

4. Secure Package: According to Beltzner, Firefox 4 Beta features privacy improvements, including fixes to a number of Web standard flaws detailed on MozillaHacks.

Users can download the Firefox 4 Beta from Mozilla now. The beta, Beltzner said, also includes a Feedback button that allows users to enter compliments and criticism as they explore the beta.

Firefox has been holding steady as the No. 2 web browser by usage, but according to Web researcher, there's increasing competition from Google Chrome.

According to a report by released July 1, Chrome claimed 7.24 percent of worldwide browser usage for the month of June (up from 7.04 percent in May), and was up from 30 million active users in June 2009 to 70 million active users in June 2010. Firefox, at No. 2, declined to 23.81 percent from 24.31 percent in May, and Internet Explorer, still at No. 1, gained to 60.32 percent from 59.75 percent in May.