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Mozilla releases Firefox 3.5 beta

The open-source browser takes another step toward a final release of version 3.5 with what's expected to be the final beta.

Mozilla on Monday released beta 3.5 of Firefox, a revamp of the open-source Web browser designed to include better performance, several new Web programming features, and a private browsing mode.

The earlier betas had been numbered 3.1, but Mozilla switched to the version 3.5 name after concluding the changes were more significant than it envisioned earlier. Mozilla has said earlier the fourth beta will the last, with more polished release candidates expected before the final version of Firefox 3.5 is released. You can download Firefox 3.5 beta 4 from CNET for Windows and Mac.

The software emerges amid what's become a fiercely competitive browser market. Microsoft has released a significant new version, Internet Explorer 8, while Google has entered the market with Chrome and Apple is trying to secure a Windows foothold for its Safari browser. Firefox holds second place in market share to IE.

Among the changes compared with the current Firefox 3.0.x versions are the faster TraceMonkey engine for running Web sites' JavaScript programs; built-in JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) technology for exchanging data between servers and browsers; support for tags to describe audio and video content the way images have been available for years; the private browsing mode for leaving no traces on your computer while surfing; support for technology to let permitted applications know the user's location; and support for the Web workers standard for letting a browser perform processing in the background without holding back a Web application's user interface.

There are a number of known problems with Gmail and with AVG SafeSearch v8.0 on Windows, and as usual, many of those extensions that are so popular on Firefox could break. For details, check the release notes.