Firefox 2.0 released a day early

RC3 was Gold

Geeks around the world were quick to discover that Mozilla has released version 2.0 of its popular Firefox web browser a day early. The release comes after an eleven month development cycle, and the version put up for download is actually Release Candidate 3 renamed.

Firefox 2.0 sports a number of visual enhancements such as glossy icons, rounded corners and a new colour scheme. The user interface has been reorganised compared to the 1.x version too. Browser window tabs have a close button now and they now "overflow" properly if you have many open. Furthermore, users can undo closed tabs, should users accidentally close them.

Other changes include themes and extensions that now are managed from the same place, and a number of configuration options have been moved more logical places in the settings dialogs.

Taking a leaf out of competing browser vendor Opera's book, Firefox 2.0 can now restore a session should it crash.

A spelling checker is now integrated into the browser, helping users to spot typos entered into webforms. On the security side of things, Firefox 2.0 comes with a phishing filter that checks with Google's live blacklist of suspicious sites, and support for the weak SSL 2 version has been removed.

Microsummaries — a short summary of web page content — are supported in Firefox 2.0 for labelling bookmarks. These give users an at-a-glance view of updated content on the site in question, such as auction prices, forum and blog postings, and news.

Feeds in RSS/ATOM format are now handled by the browser itself, much like Internet Explorer 7 does, with content displayed formatted instead of raw XML. When clicking on a feed URI, users are given an option of subscribing to it in the browser with Live Bookmarks, with Bloglines, My Yahoo and Google Reader as ready-installed options. Further feedreaders can also be installed.

Also similar to IE7, Firefox 2.0 can discover search plugins on websites and offer to add them to the browser. Suggested searches from providers such as Google and Yahoo are now also supported in Firefox 2.0.

For developers, Javascript has been updated to support version 1.7, and Firefox 2.0 for Windows, its biggest platform, is packaged with the Open Source Nullsoft Scriptable Installer System (NSIS); furthermore, refinements have been made to the automatic updates over the Internet of the browser.

Update A Mozilla release engineer writes in his blog that Firefox 2.0 will be officially released tomorrow, and not today (Tuesday October 24, NZT). He also asks people not to link directly to the download sites, and we have therefore removed the URL to it.

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