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by Mike Zazaian October 23, 2006 - 7:01pm, 3 Comments

Firefox 2 Final Available for Download

Despite the fact that Mozilla’s Firefox 2 wasn’t supposed to be available for download until later today, a final build of the browser is readily available on Mozilla’s FTP servers.

As reported at ars technica, an apparently final build of Firefox 2.0 has already been published to a folder on Mozilla’s public FTP server. The final build of Firefox 2.0 doesn’t bring any substantial improvements over previous release candidates of the browser, but rather brings the complete stability and performance that had been absent in earlier builds. For anyone who hasn’t been using a pre-release build of Firefox 2.0, here are some of the improvements over th 1.5.x generation of Firefox:

  • Improved interface - new icons, tab appearance and overall fit and finish.
  • Search recommendation - Firefox automatically makes suggestions for a search based on the first few letters entered.
  • Phishing filter - automatically detects and alerts users when a fradulent ‘phishing’ site is accessed.
  • Dropdown list of all available tabs to the right of tab toolbar.
  • Spell-checking for website forms.
  • Session restore after browser crash or shutdown.

These are just a hand full of the features in the new build, all of which amount to a solid 2.0 release for Firefox. Granted, the set of features won’t completely change the way users browser the internet, but they certainly offer increased usability over 1.5.x versions of Firefox.

Microsoft Internet Explorer, Firefox’s primary competitor, was released in its version 7 incarnate last week. Internet Explorer 7 does mark an enormous improvement over the long-lived IE6. Not only has Microsoft added tabbed browsing, multiple search engines and other such Firefox-like features, Microsoft has actually done some innovating of their own on the browser front. Microsoft’s new Quick Tabs feature allows users to display all of their tabs as thumbnails in a single browser window, a feature absent in its competitors. In addition, IE7 was actually the first browser to implement the phishing filter that is now showing up on Firefox, Opera and others.

While Microsoft’s complete browser flaccidness over the past two years allowed Firefox to claim nearly 13 percent of browser market share, the improvements in IE7 should completely hamper Firefox’s progress. Users of IE6 were driven to Firefox for basic features like tabbed browsing and multiple search engine options, which Microsoft didn’t take note of until Firefox had claimed nearly 5 percent of its users within its first year of use.

But now with an updated interface, and with the full gamut of features that one might expect from a browser in 2006, Microsoft should keep more of the users they claim with the IE7 icon that appears on the desktop of all shipped Windows versions. Luckily for Mozilla, their increased mobility should allow several new versions of the Firefox before Internet Explorer even releases. A new open suggestion page where users can recommend features for Firefox 3 in a wiki format may also help to accelerate the growth and user base of the browser. But even with such innovation on its side, Firefox may never be able to re-claim the rapid growth it once had.