Mozilla Releases Firefox 1.5

After several Release Candidates, Mozilla finally released the much-anticipated version of its popular open-source Web browser last evening. Firefox 1.5 is available for free download, and details about a major marketing campaign will come later this week.

“Firefox 1.5 builds upon the success of its predecessor to deliver and improved browser with significant performance and usability upgrades, as well as security and privacy enhancements, and greater customization options,” Firefox spokesperson Mary Colvig told LinuxInsider via e-mail.

Updated Feature Set

Firefox 1.5 offers several new features, including automated update, faster browser navigation with improvements to back and forward button performance, drag and drop reordering for browser tabs, and improvements to popup blocking.

The automated updated feature is designed to streamline product upgrades. Mozilla said notification of an update is more prominent in Firefox 1.5, and updates to the browser may now be half a megabyte or smaller. The open-source project said updating extensions have also been improved.

Privacy and Usability

Firefox 1.5 also offers a feature called “clear private data.” Mozilla said the feature provides an easy way to remove personal data through a menu item or keyboard shortcut.

Then there are the usability features. For starters, has been added to the search engine list. Descriptive error pages, redesigned options menu, RSS discovery, and “Safe Mode” experience are also supported in Firefox 1.5.

The latest version of Firefox even allows users to report a broken Web site, or sites that are not working with Firefox, through a wizard.

Broader Support

Mozilla said Firefox 1.5 features better accessibility support for DHTML accessibility and assistive technologies such as the Window-Eyes 5.5 beta screen reader for Microsoft Windows. Screen readers read aloud all available information in applications and documents or show the information on a Braille display, enabling blind and visually impaired users to use equivalent software functionality as their sighted peers.

Enhanced support for Mac OS X includes profile migration from Safari and Mac Internet Explorer. And new support for Web Standards including SVG, CSS 2 and CSS 3, and JavaScript 1.6 are also featured in Firefox 1.5.

Usage Jump?

Firefox launched 1.0 just over a year ago and the number of downloads have been growing exponentially since that time. In fact, Geoff Johnston, an analyst with market research firm WebSideStory, told LinuxInsider that his firm typically tracks a jump in downloads every time there is a new release.

“The beta version of Firefox gained about half a point of market share a month for about six months. When Mozilla launched the full version the browser gained almost a full point for that month — so it doubled in usage,” Johnston said. “As of late we’ve seen a leveling off and the adoption rate has been slowing.”

What’s important to remember, Johnston said, is that downloads are one thing; usage is another. Many people use multiple browsers, he said. The question is which browser is being used the most?

“I am sure Firefox 1.5 will get a lot of downloads. But it will be interesting to see if the usage goes up and if it stays up,” Johnston said.

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