After many rounds of beta candidates, the open-source Firefox 1.5 browser was offered for download to the masses late Tuesday. Not resting on its laurels, however, the Mozilla Foundation programming team is now eyeing the feature set for Version 2.0.

The anticipated Version 1.5 offers performance gains, usability enhancements and support for new Web graphics standards through a beefier version of the Gecko layout engine.

On the security front, the update offers a new "safe mode" for enhanced protection against potential threats and daily, automated checks for security updates.

According to Firefox Lead Engineer Ben Goodger, Release 2.0 will provide "significant improvements to the user interface."

While apologizing in his Weblog for the long development time for Version 1.5, he said the focus in Tuesday's release was in "developing various underlying sections of the application to provide a better overall user experience."

According to the Firefox product planning wiki, the targeted release for Version 2.0 is July 27, 2006. However, some onlookers in Mozilla message boards described the proposed schedule as "ambitious."

However, Goodger said the new timetable is still under development.

On the Mozilla site, the download page for Firefox offers versions in 39 languages running on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux on Intel 686 platforms.

Launched about a year ago, the Mozilla browser is now used by an estimated 45 million individual users.

Mozilla Corp. in October said that the software had been downloaded 100 million times.

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