Firefox 4 has taken another step on its long road to a final, production-ready release. This time, the folks at Mozilla have ditched the beta label and served up the first release candidate of the new browser. Firefox 4 RC1 is available right now for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux in a variety of languages.
According to the official release notes, Firefox 4 RC1 only brings "general stability, performance, and compatibility improvements" over the previous betas. A complete list of those improvements can be seen here, although I wouldn't bother to check it out unless you find obscure bug listings fascinating. The point is, the exciting new features and enhancements were already available in Firefox 4 beta 12.
What's next? Well, if no major bugs are found in RC1, Mozilla could make it available as the final Firefox 4.0 release. Otherwise, we'll be treated to additional release candidates as we draw closer to the one-year birthday of the initial Firefox 4 beta, which hit download mirrors in early July 2010. As we noted last month, Mozilla is planning a faster-paced release schedule for future versions of Firefox. If all goes well, we may see Firefox 7 by the end of the year. (Thanks to TR reader SH SOTN for the tip.)