If you aspire to be an early adopter, here’s your chance. An alpha version of Firefox 2.0 called “Bon Echo” is available on Mozilla’s FTP servers, and you can choose from the Windows version, Mac OS X version, or Linux version.
Due out later this year, Firefox 2.0 promises a handful of improvements and new features over what is already a very solid browser. (By way of disclosure, I use Firefox 1.5 exclusively on my PCs and the Mozilla-derived Camino 1.0 on my non-Intel Macs.)
It’s alpha software, so be prepared for crashes and other unpleasant experiences while using it. Having said that, I’ve been using it for a couple of hours without any problems. A handful of my extensions don’t work with 2.0a1, so if you have become reliant on one or two Firefox extensions, you’ll probably find yourself reverting to 1.5 before long.
Version 2.0 has a handful of new features. One of the more interesting features is the revamped places menu, which is accessible from the bookmarks toolbar. Clicking on that brings up a box that will allow you to search your history, bookmarks, and RSS subscriptions for a keyword. Very useful if you remember reading about something interesting earlier in the day and need to quickly locate the web page again. Aesthetically speaking, there are a few minor tweaks to the UI, such as Xs on inactive tabs for easy closing.
Google’s antiphishing tech is also planned for inclusion in a future version of Firefox. Although it does not appear to be incorporated into this early alpha of 2.0, Google Safe Browsing—which uses a combination of blacklisting and “best guesses” about a site’s intention—may yet make it into the final release of Firefox 2.0.
According to Asa Dotzler of Mozilla, this isn’t an official release. Official or not, it’s out, and the curious are already testing and commenting on it. The official Firefox roadmap has a “pre-feature complete alpha” scheduled for the first quarter of this year, followed by a feature-complete beta during the second quarter. Firefox 2.0 should be officially released at some point this summer (if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere). And if you’re not a Firefox fan at all, there’s Internet Explorer 7.0 and Opera 9.0 to look forward to later this year.
If you decide to become an intrepid early adopter of Firefox 2.0, we welcome your experiences and thoughts on the next big thing from Mozilla in the discussion thread.