Firefox 4 beta 2 arrives as open source browser use grows

Firefox 4 beta 2 release on Tuesday --  a fulfillment of its developers' plans to offer up more frequent releases during the development process -- demonstrates the project's  intent to compete hard against Google and Microsoft.Beta 2, after all, comes only three weeks after Firefox 4 beta 1 made its debut -- and only five days later than originally promised.

Firefox 4 beta 2 release on Tuesday --  a fulfillment of its developers' plans to offer up more frequent releases during the development process -- demonstrates the project's  intent to compete hard against Google and Microsoft.

Beta 2, after all, comes only three weeks after Firefox 4 beta 1 made its debut -- and only five days later than originally promised.

Many observers laud the project's efforts to overhaul the user interface and address performance gaps in Firefox in an effort to become more competitive against the other big open soure browser -- Google Chrome.

As described by ZDNet's Jason Hiner yesterday, plans for a next generation UI innovation -- dubbed Tab Candy by Mozilla -- promises to  leapfrog Google's browser if properly implemented -- and in timely fashion.

The enhanced UI in these early Firefox 4 betas -- which is optimized for Windows 7 and Mac OSX -- already make a huge dent in overcoming its feature deficits vis-a-vis Chrome.

The Firefox team no doubt still has some work to do against its chief open source rival on the technical and marketing side.  But its so-called loss of mindshare to Chrome is more perception than reality.

According to NetApplications, Firefox share has gained slightly and remained at roughly 24 percent since Chrome debuted in the fall of 2008. True, Firefox's share has "plummeted" .05 percent over the past six months -- to 23.81 percent at the end of June 2010.

Microsoft's Internet Explorer has lost far more market share since Google entered the browser market. In December of 2008, just months after Chrome's release, Microsoft held 75 percent share of the browser market.

By the end of June, IE's share was down to 60.32, which was down substantially -- by six percent -- from January of 2009 (66.35%). During the same period, Chrome's share increased to 7 percent, from a mere 3 percent in January of 2009.

Sure, Mozilla faces a strong battle against its chief open source rival -- which is preparing to release Chrome 6.  But isn't the real loser Microsoft -- given that its browser share has been cut by 15 percent even before Google's Chrome OS hits the streets?

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