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Mozilla Updates Firefox 4 Beta

Firefox 4 Beta 5 features improved graphics and sound support.

Mozilla on Tuesday made the latest version of Firefox 4 available as contributors and Mozilla engineers scramble to make the open source browser ready for its planned official release in November.

Firefox 4 Beta 5 introduces new audio and graphics capabilities, specifically an audio API and support for Direct2D hardware graphics acceleration on computers running Windows 7/Vista.

The new audio API provides developers with access to raw audio data within the browser. Developers will be able to write JavaScript programs that facilitate the manipulation of audio data, by visualizing it or allowing it to be edited.

The new graphics capabilities mean a better experience with games and other rich media Web sites. By utilizing build-in hardware support, Mozilla aims to improve graphics performance for Windows users. "On supported hardware, Firefox will use Direct2D by default to speed up the display of content on graphically intensive websites, giving more power to the Web," explained Mike Beltzner, director of Firefox, in a blog post.

Mozilla isn't yet ready to enable hardware acceleration for the Mac version of Firefox. Mozilla tech evangelist Paul Rouget said in a comment on his blog that he didn't think activating Mac hardware acceleration through QuartzGL would be a good idea because Apple doesn't use it in Safari. (The Windows version of Safari, however, supports Direct2D hardware acceleration.)

Firefox 4 Beta 5 also includes support for a new security protocol, HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS), that has been designed to reduce the risk of man-in-the-middle attacks.

In a related announcement, Mozilla Labs introduced a gaming initiative, Mozilla Labs Gaming, which aims to encourage the creation of games based on "Open Web technologies." The organization is holding a game making competition called Game On 2010. Further details should be released when the contest opens toward the end of September.

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