Firefox 5 Released

The Mozilla Foundation has released Firefox 5, coming very soon after the release of Firefox 4 in March.

Mozilla was infamous in the past for having long gaps between major releases, but Google Chrome seems to have lit a fire under their feet. Not only are they trying to keep pace in terms of features, they’ve shifted to a rapid development cycle, similar to Chrome’s. The new version comes about 3 months after the last one.

At first glance, it doesn’t look that much different than Firefox 4. Mozilla claims to offer over 1,000 improvements, and  most of them seem to be under the hood.  But one change is more obvious. The “Do Not Track” option is made more prominent in the preferences menu, allowing users to keep Web sites that agree to participate from taking their personal information. It’s also showing up in the Android version of Firefox, and Mozilla says that the new version of Firefox is the first cross-platform browser with Do Not Track.

The new version also has support for CSS animations, and performance improvements in the core browser, networking, and JavaScript performance. Since a lot of Web 2.0 sites use JavaScript as part of AJAX, to display and update the page, it should help sites like Facebook and Twitter run a bit faster. Firefox 5 also improves support for various Web standards, including HTML 5, which is going to become more important in the future.

Although this feels more like a maintenance release than a full version, you’ll want to keep your browser up to date, since old versions are a major security risk. Just ask any Windows administrator stuck supporting IE6!

Installing is easy from within the browser, and you can download a copy if you don’t already have one. We covered the Web Console in Firefox 4, but the info applies to the new version. You’ll also like the Top 25 Firefox Extensions for Web Developers and the Tor Browser Bundle, a version of Firefox customized so you can surf privately.