Mozilla sets a date for Firefox 4

Mozilla will whisk away the safety net from under Firefox 4 and push the browser out to the public at large next week, barring any unforeseen complications.

After 12 betas, 1 release candidate, and more than 10 months of work, Mozilla has determined that Firefox 4 is ready to join the competing high-wire acts of modernized browsers. The company has announced a release date of March 22. The current Firefox 4 release candidate is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Mozilla's Web o' Wonder notifies you at the top of the page if your graphics card drivers are out of date, an essential upgrade to perform to take advantage of hardware-accelerated browsing.

(Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

Firefox 4 was originally projected to arrive around October or November of last year, but was delayed as work on new features and integrating graphics card-powered hardware acceleration took longer than expected. GPU hardware acceleration is the short-term Holy Grail for modern browsers because it allows them to leverage high-powered graphics cards to give the browser an edge in rendering complicated in-site graphics faster.

The current stable release of Chrome 10 only offers partial hardware acceleration, while Internet Explorer 9 won't work on Windows XP precisely because of the hardware acceleration hang-up.

Internet Explorer 9, released earlier this week, touted a first-day download count of 2.3 million. That's a strong number, although Firefox 3 scored more than 7 million downloads on its first day, around two and a half years ago.

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