Mozilla is on schedule with the Firefox 5 beta, but getting there meant leaving out the fancy future features we've previously heard about.
The Firefox 5 beta is now available for download. Its two major additions are CSS animation standard support and a channel switcher that lets users move between Aurora, Beta and eventually final builds. The rest of the changes are bug fixes; Mozilla's Firefox 5 beta release notes describe more than a thousand squashed bugs and minor adjustments.
Following the launch of Firefox 4, Mozilla switched to a faster development cycle, allowing the company to quickly add new features to the browser. Whereas the gap between Firefox 3 and Firefox 4 was three years, Firefox 5 will launch around June 21, roughly three months after its predecessor.
Future Firefox versions may include a permanent home tab, Website sharing on social networks, an in-browser PDF viewer and site menus similar to Internet Explorer 9's jumplists. But none of these features showed up in Firefox 5 Aurora, a new type of channel that sits between Firefox's experimental nightly builds and the beta. If new features don't appear in Aurora, they won't appear in the beta or stable releases, so the lack of major features in Firefox 5 is not a big surprise.
Still, the new channel switcher is a neat feature for browser geeks, allowing them to move between builds without manually reinstalling software. To access this feature, open the "About" page in Firefox 5, click the "Change" link, use the drop-down box to switch channels and click "Apply and Update." Note that you won't be able to switch back to the Firefox 4 release channel using this method for now.