First Look: Firefox 1.5 Beta 1 2

Mozilla's popular browser Firefox undergoes its first major upgrade, but the company is being careful to tweak rather than overhaul.
Site Not Found?
With this version, Mozilla seems more aware of the continuing problems of sites that don't work with Firefox. It has added a tool in the Help menu that lets you report a broken Web site, or a site that blocks you because you are using Firefox. The wizard wasn't working yet when I tried it; when I attempted to send a report, I got a host exception error. Presumably, that will not happen in later versions.

If a Web site doesn't work with Firefox, you can now report it via a wizard.
(Click to enlarge image.)

When a site can't be found, you now get a more fully explanatory page rather than the little pop-up alert that Firefox offered before. And if you're a fan of the site, it has now been added to the list of search engines available on the Navigation toolbar.

There are a number of other additions touted in the Firefox 1.5 Beta 1 release notes that aren't immediately obvious. One of the most exciting is streamlined product upgrades via automated update — which will be welcome to those of us tired of having to uninstall and reinstall every time a minor upgrade appears.

Other enhancements include faster navigation; improvements to pop-up blocking; DHTML support; better support for Mac OS X; support for SVG, CSS2, CSS3, and JavaScript 1.6; and improvements to RSS discovery and the Safe Mode interface. The release notes also tout "many security enhancements," a claim that is somewhat soured by the announcement of a buffer overflow vulnerability in the new beta as well as other versions of Firefox, Mozilla, and Netscape browsers.

Upgrades to popular applications can be tricky things. On the one hand, almost any app can use some improvements (and in the software world, if you stand still, you die); but on the other, you don't want to improve a popular program until it is no longer recognizable. It looks like Mozilla is taking the conservative route by offering some improvements to Firefox, but not messing with their original, and successful, formula. Whether it will be enough to keep the open-source browser ahead of Microsoft's new-and-improved IE7 remains to be seen.

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