Firefox 4 moves out of RC and is officially released to the public

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It’s been a long wait for web browser Firefox’s fourth iteration, but today is the day.

Originally scheduled as a November 2010 release, Firefox 4 hit technical snags despite a beta period that started early last July. The final version was pushed back into a vague ‘Early 2011’ period before a solid release date – March 22nd – was nailed down. Just last Friday its Release Candidate was improved, paving the way for the official launch.

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So, how much has changed within the popular browser?

Firefox 4 moves out of RC and is officially released to the public

One noticeable alteration that will likely split the fanbase is the new layout which finds tabs above the address bar (s0rry — the “awesome bar”) instead of below it. “Change is good” is a popular saying, but some Firefox fanboys may balk at the flip. At the least the switch will take some getting used to – especially for those who run numerous tabs.

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Personalizing your browsing experience is an area Firefox has some history with, and the new iteration continues support for personas, (PR-speak for downloadable backgrounds) themes and add-ons.

An obvious area for improvement is speed, and the company boasts that Firefox 4 is much quicker than 3.6. Web applications will see across the board improvements thanks to the JavaScript engine, JägerMonkey. Enhanced all-around speed thanks to hardware acceleration rounds out the promised performance boost.

The new version also takes strides in protecting users. Much like competitor IE9s security improvements, Firefox 4 pushes a ‘Do Not Track’ feature in addition to several other security fixes to reduce the possibility of unauthorized access to personal information. However, the addition of Firefox Sync promises a smoother transition for people who use the browser across multiple devices.

So far the new browser seems like a hit. Mozilla set up a site that updates in real-time to keep track of just how many downloads Firefox 4 nets. As of press time, it’s been downloaded over 1.5 million times. It seems possible Firefox 4 will surpass IE9’s impressive 2.3 million downloads in 24 hours claim.

If you haven’t downloaded Firefox 4 yet, you can find it here in addition to more details on the new version. Let us know what you think of it.

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