The new version of the Firefox Web browser, Firefox 8 for Windows, Mac and Linux, has officially gone live. The update, which actually became available a couple of days ago via Mozilla's FTP servers, introduces several new features, including a built-in Twitter search option, better management of add-ons and tabs, plus the usual performance and stability fixes.
Mozilla has also updated Firefox for Android, which offers password management and support for saving bookmarks to the device's homescreen.
The newly added Twitter search functionality is probably the most immediately useful feature of the updated browser, as it lets you search for topics, @usernames and #hashtags directly from Firefox's combined search/address bar. At launch, Twitter search is available in the English, Portuguese, Slovenian and Japanese versions of Firefox, with plans to roll out to others languages in future releases.
Other new settings include the ability to load tabs on demand (via the Menu –> Options/Preferences, General Tab), a feature that makes it faster to restore windows with many tabs, and improved add-on management. Previously, third-party developers could install add-ons into your browser without your permission, which is now (thankfully!), no longer the case. Firefox 8 will disable add-ons installed by third-parties by default, and you have to pick the ones you want to keep.
Under the hood, Firefox has added support for Cross-Origin Resource Sharing (CORS), which allows developers to load WebGL textures more securely. (WebGL is a Web standard that allows sites to display hardware-accelerated 3D graphics without third-party software). The browser continues to support HTML5 markup as well, and Mozilla has listed a number of changes that will affect Web developers here.
On the Android platform, Mozilla is introducing a new “Master Password” feature that allows users to save all their usernames and passwords privately within the app, and says those will remain private even if your phone is lost or stolen. A second Android-only feature involves being able to now save bookmarks to the mobile device's homescreen for quick access.
Overall, Firefox 8 isn't a major update for the browser, nor is it introducing any features that seem compelling enough to convince a happy Chrome user to switch back. However, the release is a notable given Mozilla's earlier promise to ship its technology to users in smaller, more frequent bundles. On its roadmap, Mozilla said it planned to ship Firefox 4, 5, 6 and 7 this calendar year. Here it is October, and Mozilla has already shipped Firefox 8.0. Nice word on the speedy progress, guys.