The Mozilla team reached a major milestone Friday by making available the first release candidate of Firefox 3.5.
As expected, version 3.5 Release Candidate 2 was released after 4 pm on June 19th.
Earlier in the week, the Firefox team released second builds of RC1 to about 800,000 existing beta testers. On Friday, RC2 became officially available for download.
Mozilla is pitching it as the fastest Firefox ever. But version 3.5 also comes equipped with many features not originally planned for the first update to Firefox 3.0, which shipped last June.
These include private browsing mode, a new TraceMoneky javascxript engine and support for the HTML5 and elements including native support for Ogg Theora encoded video and Vorbis encoded audio.
Observers agree that the surprise release of Google's open source browser called Chome last year altered the release plans and feature set of Firefox 3.X. And though Chome has enjoyed a nice uptick since its introduction, it appears that the first and most popular open source browser has remained strong in terms of market share and support.
According to Net Applications data for this quarter, Firefox holds more than 22 percent market share next to Microsoft Internet Explorer's 66 percent, while Chrome has amassed just about 1.7 percent market share.
Chris Maresca, an open source consultant, said Firefox is still the preferred browser in the open source community.
"Regarding Chrome -- I think the jury is still out," Maresca said. "What makes Firefox great is the ecosystem and the community. The produce all kinds of addons, extensions and themes that allow people to make it into whatever they want. I don't know if Google will be able to reproduce this, particularly since the most popular Firefox extensions would take away some of [Google's] business (eg. AdBlock)."