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Firefox 3.5 beta 4 tested: Yup, it's much faster

The latest version of Firefox has hit its final beta-testing stage with the release of the fourth beta. We've tested it and discuss its new features and promised performance

The latest edition of Firefox -- version 3.5 -- is close to completion. Yesterday, the final beta release hit Mozilla's developer site, and marks the sixth development milestone for the new browser. As will come as absolutely no surprise to even the most mind-numblingly stupid of you, we've snagged the new version and had a poke around it.

New features

Firefox is the darling My Little Pony of Web browsers, and Mozilla has wasted little time donning the veterinary gloves to give Mrs Pony a hefty injection from the feature syringe. Following Chrome and Internet Explorer, Firefox now has a private browsing mode. This mode won't save your browsing, search or download histories, and won't store cookies or temporary Internet files.

Mozilla's new TraceMonkey JavaScript engine is built into FF 3.5, and promises to dramatically speed up the rendering of Web sites that rely heavily on Javascript, such as Gmail and Hotmail.

One feature sure to give privacy advocates a delicious worrycake is geolocation. Firefox 3.5 can tell a Web site where you're accessing the Internet from, by using integrated GPS, 3G or your computer's IP address. Sites can then offer more relevant information to you, such as nearby restaurants or the closest railway station.

"But how does this all benefit me?" you ask. We'll break things down piece by piece very quickly.

Is it really faster than Firefox 3.0.10?

Yuh huh. Standard page-load times may not be noticeably faster for Mr Average McWeb-User, but Javascript rendering in 3.5b4 is almost three times quicker than 3.0.10. Using the SunSpider benchmark, the new version scored an impressive 1,200.4ms, whereas the current major release creaked to a far more sluggish 3,160.8ms.

Why is private browsing important?

That depends. If you prefer to watch porn in front of an open window, or happily manage your bank accounts on public computers with tourists passing by, it probably isn't important to you. But privacy and security should be important to you, and it is to most people.

Does it work?

It does. We ran a quick search for 'farm sex videos', and lo and behold, our IT department won't ever know. Not if they look at this machine for evidence, anyway.

I'm a nerd: does it pass the Acid3 Web standards compliance test?

No. It scores 93/100, which is good -- and better than version 3.0.10's 71/100 -- but it's not quite a pass.

What else should I know?

There's no such thing as Santa, reading tabloids will almost certainly make you stupid, and the full Firefox 3.5 release should follow within the next few months.

If you want to try out the new beta for yourself, hit up Mozilla's download page.