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upgrading firefoxThe Firefox web browser has featured prominently in the browser wars of the past decade, and the latest incarnation of our furry friend, version 4, is tentatively scheduled for a late-February launch. We first brought you news of the Firefox 4 beta in July 2010, and now that the features that will be included have been finalized, what might make you want to upgrade if you currently use Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari or any other browser?

Let’s look at some of the individual “game changing” reasons why you might consider upgrading.

Speed

Firefox 4 improves over the speed of Firefox 3 in a number of different areas. They have rebuilt the javascript engine from the ground up, giving noticeable performance improvements specifically on script intensive sites such as Gmail.

firefox upgrade 4

Not only have the rendering times improved, but the overall speed of the browser was a major goal of this version. Your 3D graphics card is also used to assist in rendering web pages. On an older computer, I had given up using Firefox 3 because of the slowness of it – Chrome was the only way I found to speed up browsing. Loading Firefox 4 on this machine gives me at least anecdotal evidence that the speed of the browser itself has improved greatly; and it is now bearable even on older systems.

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Who might want to upgrade? Users of slower PCs who had given up on Firefox because of slowness.

Security

upgrading firefox to 4The new Firefox 4 organizes Javascript programs into compartments, further proving that Firefox takes your security concerns seriously. Moving away from Internet Explorer to just about any browser is an improvement over your personal security, but Firefox 4 has taken this to another level.

Since Firefox 4 is open source, the codebase is available for review by anyone. As with any web browser security flaws are often found and fixed – but since Firefox is more open about this I give them an edge over Internet Explorer or Safari.

Who might want to upgrade because of security? Internet Explorer holdouts.

The Cloud

firefox upgrade 4

Firefox 4 now integrates ‘cloud’ synchronization of bookmarks, passwords, preferences, history and tabs. If you choose to use this function you can have the above synchronized between Firefox browsers on different computers – and that includes Firefox on Android and iOS devices.

An oft-cited use for cloud sync is looking up directions on your desktop, then while on the road you bring up Firefox mobile and your browser with directions is already open and synced. Although I think this does have a great convenience factor, privacy is an issue you would have to consider whether you want to use this feature or not.

Who might want to upgrade? Anyone who browses the web constantly in multiple locations.

HTML5 Support

firefox upgrade 4

We have seen some of the cool things you can do with HTML5 15 Sites That Do Amazing Things With HTML5 15 Sites That Do Amazing Things With HTML5 Read More and Firefox 4 supports these just as with many other new browsers. One thing that Firefox will do that the others can not (as of yet) is the Indexed DB function which is related to offline storage of online data.

To see browser HTML5 capabilities compared check out HTML5 readiness.

Who might want to upgrade? Web standards geeks and designers.

Privacy

firefox upgrade 4The private browsing option, which is a mode where your history, clicks and cache are not saved; now takes a more prominent place in the Firefox tab ecosystem. The Firefox team has also taken it upon themselves to fix a privacy flaw in CSS which let sites know which other sites you had been visiting.

This, along with the great Security 10+ Best Firefox Security and Privacy Addons 10+ Best Firefox Security and Privacy Addons Read More and Privacy Keeping Safe on the Web: 8 Firefox Addons for Privacy and Security Keeping Safe on the Web: 8 Firefox Addons for Privacy and Security Read More addons available for Firefox, make it one of the most privacy capable browsers currently available.

Who might want to upgrade? Anyone concerned about privacy on the web, EFF members.

New Looks

upgrading firefoxTab groups, a new UI, and other small enhancements have refreshed the Firefox interface. In my opinion, it has finally moved away from its Mozilla days and have entered a new era. It is minimalist, using all available space at the top to let your web pages take up the maximum amount of screen.

Tabs can also be pinned to the opened tab list, turning them into permanent App Tabs.

Who may want to upgrade? Those tired of the looks of their old web browser.

Addons

upgrading firefoxFirefox (and Mozilla before it) have always had the best plugins available anywhere. Firefox 4 is no different, and many major addons are already compatible with version 4. Firefox’s wide range of addons give you the ability to do just about anything with the browser, from adding extra security to turning it into a kid-friendly experience.

Who might want to upgrade? Anyone who loves to tweak their browser and really get the most out of it.

In Summary…

Firefox 4 is a pretty big advancement over the old versions. There are tons of smaller features that are also in this version and from what I saw of beta 9 it is almost ready for release and is perfectly stable. If you want to be ahead of the curve, check out Firefox 4 beta today and keep an eye out for the final release towards the end of February 2011!

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