First Firefox 4 beta arrives with tabs on top


— 6:00 AM on July 7, 2010

Between Chrome, Opera, and this latest pre-release version of Firefox, web browsers are starting to look more alike than ever. Mozilla put up the initial public Firefox 4 beta late yesterday, giving folks their first hands-on look at the new browser and its revamped user interface. Like Chrome and its other followers, Firefox 4 puts tabs at the very top of the window behind a translucent frame and does away with the menu bar. The result looks like so:

 

Firefox was admittedly overdue for a visual overhaul, having dragged along the exact same UI since 2008. For folks who don't like the tabs-on-top look, Mozilla offers a tabs-below-the-address-bar toggle via the big, orange "Firefox" menu. Too bad Firefox hasn't embraced Chrome's all-purpose address bar and still includes a separate Google search field. Otherwise, though, one could almost mistake this for Chrome—or newer version of Opera, which actually look almost identical to the new Firefox by default.

Firefox 4 is about more than just a snazzy new UI, of course. Feature highlights include a new add-ons manager, support for Google's WebM video format, support for newer web technologies like CSS3, and crash protection, so that plug-ins like Adobe Flash shouldn't take the browser down when they fail. Performance has improved, too. Firefox 4 beta 1 completes the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark in 658 ms on my system, a nice improvement over Firefox 3.6 (1001 ms), although still not quite as good as the latest version of Chrome (344 ms).

   
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